Concern rises for Ahwazi protesters ‘disappeared’ by Iran’s regime as Female activist’s body found in Karaj
The bruised and tortured body of Atefeh Naami, a 37-year-old Ahwazi civil rights activist, was found in the early hours of Saturday, 26 November, discarded inside the doorway of her home in Karaj, eight days after she was arrested by Iranian regime security forces over her participation in peaceful anti-regime protests.
Naami, an Ahwazi civil activist, had moved to Karaj near Tehran to advance her professional career and pursue further education. Fellow activists reported that her body was clearly discarded by regime security forces in her home in the city’s Azimiyeh area in a bid to disclaim any connection with or responsibility for her death, although many others at the protest had seen her being arrested, and nobody had seen or heard from her since then.
Suspicions of regime involvement in her death were further confirmed by the regime authorities’ actions following the shockingly callous dumping of her body, which was quickly returned to her parents in Ahwaz city with no inquiry or investigation ordered into this obvious murder, and with her shocked and traumatised family being ordered by regime security and intelligence agencies to hold an immediate private funeral service without any mourners but close family present. Knowing that any complaint, demand for investigation or failure to comply would mean their daughter’s body would be taken away and buried without any notification of her whereabouts, her family were forced to agree to these conditions, and she was buried on Monday, 28 November in the Behesht Abad cemetery in Ahwaz.
Naami is one of many Ahwazi activists who ‘disappeared’ by regime authorities over their participation in the anti-regime protests, with desperately worried families left in an agonising limbo, denied any information about their loved ones’ detention, conditions or whereabouts, not knowing if they’re alive or dead, and forbidden from having any contact with them; usually, the regime simply denies having arrested them, even when numerous witnesses saw them being detained. Any families viewed by the regime as being a nuisance or ‘asking too many questions’ about their missing loved ones may themselves be targeted for arrest.
Among others who recently ‘disappeared’ for their support for the latest protests is Saeed Hamidi, a well-known and popular Ahwazi Arab singer and santur (traditional Arab instrument) player from Mollathani county near Ahwaz city, who was arrested on 9 November. Although Hamidi, a married 43-year-old father of three known for his support for Ahwazi freedom and for the recent protests, suffers from high blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes, his desperately worried family have been unable to make any contact with him or even to secure any acknowledgement from the regime of his imprisonment, with security and intelligence agencies flatly denying any knowledge of his whereabouts.
In the early hours of the same day, 9 November, regime security services stormed the home of 28-year-old Ahwazi activist Ali Ghezi, his wife and their young child. Ali, who recently graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, was dragged out of the house in front of his wife and child who were terrified by the masked and heavily armed regime personnel, whose ‘arrests’ were in reality more akin to kidnappings. Then, adding insult to injury, the regime officials, who had no warrant for Ghezi’s arrest or for a search, ransacked the couple’s home, tearing furniture apart and taking his laptop and phone. As with Hamdi, Ghezi’s wife, parents, and other family members have had no success in their efforts to make contact with him, with regime authorities denying any knowledge of his whereabouts.
Similarly, on 13 November, Masoumeh Hamid, a 22-year-old Ahwazi chemical engineering student at Ahwaz’ Chamran University, was dragged out of her parent’s home in the regional capital by regime security personnel over her participation in a peaceful anti-regime protest with her university classmates earlier that day. She similarly has not been seen since, with regime authorities, as usual, responding to any enquiries by denying any knowledge of her.
Nineteen-year-old Maedeh Afrawi, another young female Ahwazi student, this time studying at Abadan University, was arrested while participating in a peaceful protest in front of the university on 16 November.
Again, the regime has met all enquiries from her desperately worried family by flatly denying any knowledge of her.
On the same day, 16 November, another of the ‘disappeared’, 32-year-old Hadi Manabi, an activist and photojournalist focusing particularly on environmental issues in Ahwaz, was also detained during a peaceful protest in Ahwaz. This was not the first time regime security services had targeted target Manabi, who’s been arrested a number of times for his involvement in environmental projects to raise awareness of the choking pollution caused to the once-vast Ahwazi marshlands by oil and gas drilling and the regime’s massively destructive policies.
— Dialogue Institute for Research and Studies (@DialogueInstit1) November 9, 2022
Unsurprisingly, the Iranian regime’s extrajudicial killing of young Ahwazis, both men and women, and its accelerated brutality following the latest nationwide anti-regime protests means there are even greater fears than usual among the families of the ‘disappeared’ and Ahwazi rights groups over their fate.
— Dialogue Institute for Research and Studies (@DialogueInstit1) October 8, 2022
As with Kurds, Balochis, Azerbaijanis and other ethnic minorities in Iran, Ahwazis, as Arabs, are doubly victimised, targeted not only for their opposition to the regime’s repression, extremism and brutality but for their ethnic minority status, which is viewed by the dominant Persians as ‘inferior’. As more Ahwazis ‘disappear’ into the regime’s infamous network of prisons, the death of Atefeh Naami is one more alarm bell for the international community to remind the world that Iran’s regime views its silence as tacit approval to continue with its barbarism.
By Rahim Hamid
Rahim Hamid, an Ahwazi author, freelance journalist and human rights advocate. Hamid tweets under @Samireza42.