Reporters Without Borders has condemned last week’s “crackdown” on anti-government protests in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, accusing the Islamic Republic of enforcing a news blackout around these demonstrations.

The press rights group reports that news coverage of “bloody clashes” in Khuzestan was banned, and the “crackdown has continued this week with several arrests of netizens and media contributors.”

“The Iranian government hypocritically defends freedom of information about the violence taking place in neighbouring countries such as Bahrain, where blood has been shed to crush anti-government demonstrations, but imposes a complete news blackout on the deadly clashes between members of the Arab minority and security forces in Khuzestan, cutting it off from the rest of the world and denying access to both independent and state media reporters," Reporters Without Borders said.

The group goes on to report that at least 97 people were arrested in the demonstrations, including Ali Badri of Shataljarhi blog and Ali Torofi of Karoniat blog, as well as Hamin Hairi and Shahid Amori, who contribute to various media.

Last week’s demonstrations were organized to mark the sixth anniversary of violent clashes in the province between security forces and members of the Arab community that forms the majority in Khuzestan. That incident six years ago was to protest alleged government policies that would change the proportion of Khuzestan’s Arab population. The government has denied the existence of such policies.

Iranian human rights groups have condemned the crackdown on the protests, calling for the immediate release of detainees and peaceful and just policies toward Khuzestan’s Arab community.

Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel Peace laureate, also wrote to UN High Commisioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay, calling for a review of the situation in Khuzestan.

On Thursday, Khuzestan security forces announced that eight members of the Arab People’s Organizations in Khuzestan had been arrested and charged with killing police officers and other citizens in Ahvaz.

Last week, Manouchehr Tamay, a columnist with a Khuzestan branch of the Islamic Republic News Agency, was arrested at his home in Sanandaj after receiving warnings from the intelligence ministry about his coverage of news in the province.