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 Habib Chaab Executed: Another Murder by Iran’s Regime

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Iran’s regime today executed Ahwazi Arab dissident Habib Chaab, a Swedish citizen, in the regime’s infamous Evin Prison in Tehran by hanging him. News of his execution came the day after it was reported that the regime had executed at least 42 people in the previous 15 days, mostly from the ethnic Balochi minority who participated in the recent anti-regime demonstrations, with many believing the regime is now escalating the rate of executions in a bid to terrorise protesters and dissidents into silence. 

Chaab’s wife and young children in Sweden were not even notified that his execution was about to take place, with his widow only finding out that he had been executed when a friend he had managed to call briefly a few hours before the execution was due to take place phoned her at home to break the news to her. She reportedly screamed and collapsed on being informed of his death.

Chaab, aged 50, a longtime human rights activist, former political prisoner, and campaigner for Ahwazi freedom, who had managed to escape Ahwaz and flee to Europe in the early 2000s, was kidnapped by Iranian regime agents in October 2020 during a visit to Turkey where he was drugged before being smuggled across the border into Iran. There he was held for months in one of the regime’s infamous ‘secret’ prisons, where he was subjected to torture and accused of orchestrating a 2018 armed attack on a military parade by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Ahwaz, although the attack took place while he was thousands of miles away in Sweden, with no evidence at all tying him to it.

 

 

 

 

As usual in the Iranian regime’s trials of dissidents, the only ‘evidence’ produced by the regime to substantiate its tissue-thin allegations was a confession obtained from Chaab through torture and coercion. In his ‘confession’, broadcast on state TV, bruises could clearly be seen on Chaab’s face as he read from an autocue. His ‘trial’ took a few minutes; as with most trials in regime courts, it was a formality held to rubber-stamp the regime’s decision, with the verdict and death sentence known from the moment he was kidnapped.

While Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told the BBC that his government had urged Iran’s regime not to execute Chaab, saying, “The death penalty is an inhuman and irreversible punishment and Sweden, together with the rest of the EU, condemns its application under all circumstances,” Ahwazi activists say that Sweden’s government showed no meaningful support for Chaab or his family despite his citizenship. 

At the time of his abduction in Turkey, Chaab was the leader of Harakat al-Nidal, or the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), an Ahwazi movement calling for freedom and human rights and broader self-autonomy and right to self-determination for Ahwazi people. Regime assassins have targeted a number of prominent Ahwazi dissidents connected with the movement, including Ahmad Mola Nissi, who lived in exile in the Hague; Nissi was killed in 2017 by an Iranian regime assassin, who shot him several times in the face at point-blank range on his doorstep. Nissi had warned Dutch police that his life was in danger at least seven times before he was assassinated, according to the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant.  

Chaab took over the leadership of the ASMLA in 2019 shortly after its head, Habib Jabor, another Ahwazi dissident in exile, living in Denmark, who had made great strides in raising awareness of the Ahwazi cause and been targeted by thankfully failed Iranian regime assassination attempts in retaliation for this, was imprisoned in Denmark along with a fellow Ahwazi dissident there, Yaqoub Hor, on vague charges of espionage against Iranian regime interests; the Ahwazi groups in exile believe that the Danish government colluded with Iran’s regime in bringing the charges against the two Ahwazi dissidents, both of whom were subjected to persecution and torture in Ahwaz. 

Only a few months after being appointed to replace Jabor as the ASMLA head, Chaab was persuaded to travel to Turkey in what some suspect was a ‘honeypot’ operation by Iran’s regime, and kidnapped. 

Those media which did report Chaab’s execution, including the BBC and Iranian opposition media, all unquestioningly repeated the Iranian regime’s allegations of terrorism against him, despite the fact that these allegations remain unproven and that such smears and coerced ‘confessions’ are routinely used against any dissidents opposing the regime to justify imprisonment and the death penalty; indeed, the regime has levelled “terrorism” charges against many of the protesters arrested in recent months for participating in peaceful protests calling for freedom. 

For Ahwazis, as for members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Iran, their frustration at the regime’s murderous brutality is intensified by the fact that they face similar vilification and insulting racist or sectarian stereotypes from the Persian opposition in exile; rather than finding allies to support one another against the regime who they can trust and unite with in support of freedom and human rights, non-Persian minorities find themselves subjected to equally virulent abuse and racist stereotyping by the Persian opposition groups and parties who they should be able to trust. It should be noted that while the current regime and its predecessor differ on the subject of theocracy vs secularism, both share the same Persian supremacist worldview, according to which minorities, particularly Arabs, are viewed as troublemakers and insurgents to be controlled and dominated; indeed, the anger of minorities at this supremacist abuse under the Pahlavi monarchy was one of the drivers behind the 1979 revolution that brought the current, theocratic regime to power, although this systemic racism is a taboo subject among Persians.  

While proclaiming nominally egalitarian values, the regime finds this supremacism a useful tool in justifying its repression and regional expansionism in the name of rebuilding the Persian empire, as well as in maintaining domestic division and creating scapegoats to deflect criticism away from its own endemic corruption. While the regime outlaws dissenting groups and parties, a number of regime-affiliated far-right ethnosupremacist Persian parties practice freely, including the Pan-Iranian Party. In a disturbing and inflammatory interview broadcast by an Iranian media on Friday, which some suggest demonstrated foreknowledge of Chaab’s upcoming execution, Hojjat Kalashi, the virulently racist head of the Pan-Iranian Party’s youth wing, said that every Ahwazi Arab calling for national rights and identity must be “exterminated,” and the Iranian regime must continue executing “these Ahwazi Arabs who want to rule our lands.” 

 

 

Similarly, despite running Iran as a theocratic ‘Islamic Republic’ and being a longtime sponsor and ally of various terror groups, including Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, the regime finds that promoting itself as an ally in the War on Terror and cultivating sectarianism and Islamophobia towards Arabs, particularly Sunni Arabs, pays off in winning support and legitimacy with Iran’s predominantly Shiite population, as well as with the international community.  

 

 

Given the escalating rate of regime executions of dissidents and the increasingly brutal nature of the Iranian regime’s rhetoric towards Ahwazis and other non-Persian peoples, there are fears that Habib Chaab is simply the best known of the regime’s latest Ahwazi victims, with several other Ahwazi dissidents, including Ali Mojaddam, Mohammad Reza Moghaddam, Moien Khanfari, Salem Mosawi, Adnan Mosawi, and Habib Edris, also feared to be in imminent danger of execution. 

Speaking to DIRS about Chaab’s execution, American journalist Irina Tsukerman, an American human rights and national security lawyer dedicated to actionable analysis, who’s also the Editor-in-Chief of The Washington Outsider said, “The fact that Iran is using intelligence operations to attack the opposition, dissidents, journalists, and non-Persians like Ahwazi Arabs living outside the country for abduction, torture, kangaroo courts, and murder deserve not only international condemnation, but complete isolation. Yet, despite the fact that Iran’s intelligence services and terrorists are active all over Europe and globally, with no one being safe from their plot, the international community still dithers over designating the IRGC as terrorists, continues engaging in business transactions with Tehran, and for the most part the regime’s still part of the international forums. In fact, most of the Middle East is now returning to normal relations with Iran as if nothing happened, proving once again that all the flowery talk about human rights and international peace and stability are for nothing. 

“The fact that the mind-boggling situation with Habib Chaab and his execution failed to compel anyone in the world to pressure Iran, especially his home country, Sweden, shows that all the international human rights work is nothing but a self-serving money-making scheme to promote certain types of people. In reality, racism and the soft bigotry of low expectations about the lives of Arabs, particularly from Iran, prevails. Moreover, the lives of individuals are treated as worthless compared to the huge profits Europe and others will continue making from business with Iranian entities. No wonder they stayed largely silent about Chaab’s fate and went on with life as usual.”

Another activist, Scottish writer and editor Ruth Riegler, told DIRS that she was disgusted but not surprised at the regime’s bloodthirstiness and the world’s indifference. “Successive Iranian regimes have persecuted Ahwazis for a century, destroyed their land, stolen their resources, including their water, treated the people as subhuman, and got away with this because, let’s be honest, that anti-Arab racism strikes a chord with Western governments. In a decent world, brave people like Habib Chaab, who speak out for justice, freedom and human rights would be lionised while Iran’s regime and all other authoritarian regimes would be treated as pariahs. Habib Chaab told truths about Iran’s regime, exposed its rottenness and symbolised the courage of Ahwazis; rather than being praised, he’s been smeared even in death by media who know the Iranian regime’s lies and slanders and know how it persecutes dissidents and labels them as ‘terrorist’ simply for speaking out, yet still repeat those lies. At present, it seems like the supposedly civilised Western world is shunning decency, once again throwing the door open to tyrants and totalitarians like Khamenei and his gang of ghouls in the name of ‘realism’, empowering them and giving them carte blanche for evil. We know where this road leads. It seems like the West forgot history again.”  

 

 

With the international community silent and complicit as ever, there seems to be little standing in the Iranian regime’s way as it ratchets up its campaign of state terror against dissent, with the family and friends of Habib Chaab and all the regime’s other victims left to mourn and protest alone. 

 

 

 

Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi freelance journalist and human rights advocate. Hamid tweets under @Samireza42

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