Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has called on the United Nation’s High Commissioner of Human Rights to acknowledge recent events in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz.
In a letter to Navi Pillay, Ebadi writes that a number of Sunni Iranians in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan province, staged a peaceful demonstration on April 16 to protest “their dire conditions and discrimination” and were attacked by Iranian authorities.
Accordign to Ebadi “more than 12 people were killed, 20 wounded and dozens were arrested” in the incident.
Ebadi adds that the fate of the detainees is unknown, and the families of these prisoners have been threatened with further persecution if they speak out. It has been reported that some who gave interviews to Arab-speaking media have also been arrested.
On Saturday April 16, Al-Arabiyah website reported on two days of protests in Kuzestan province, with protesters killed and injured by government forces.
Al-Arabiyah quoted local sources writing: “Many of the wounded are refraining from going to the hospital for fear of being arrested, and security forces have raided the homes of dozens of citizens and arrested scores of young people, women and children.”
Al-Arabiyah network aired an interview with “a female human rights activist in Ahvaz” who had covered her face and did not wish to be identified. She described the forceful suppression of the people’s protests, saying: “So far 15 people have been killed and dozens have been wounded.”
Some unconfirmed reports also indicate that internet, electricity and water services in some parts of Ahvaz have been cut off.
Iranian authorities have not responded to any of these reports.
“Considering the geographic importance of Khuzestan province and the fact that Arabic-speaking Iranians in this region have been subjected to 32 years of discrimination by the Islamic Republic government, there is a possibility for widespread unrest in this part of Iran,” Ebadi writes in her letter to UN human rights commissioner.
Ebadi urged this incident to be recorded in the Islamic Republic human rights violations file.