When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013, he acknowledged, on multiple occasions, that the rights and freedom of Iranians had been ignored in the past and wanted a better progressive environment in the country.
However, nearly three years down the lane, it seems nothing has really changed in Iran as far as human rights are concerned. In fact, when it comes to the rights of ethnic minorities, the situation has deteriorated.
As the world is praising both the United States and Iranian governments for their diplomatic efforts that led to a historic nuclear deal in July, the plight of minority groups in Iran has taken a back seat.
The Ahwazi Arab community is a case in point.
Years before the Arab Spring spread across the Middle East in 2011, a massive demonstration in the Iranian province of Khuzestan — where most of the country’s oil and gas reserves are located — broke out in 2005.
The movement was eventually quelled with force, with at least 50 protesters killed and hundreds of others detained. Since then, Iranian intelligence and security officers have executed nearly 40 Awazi Arabs, without fair trials, and detained hundreds without warrants, including several children.
“The Iranian authorities view me and all Ahwazi Arabs as sub-humans, subversives and criminals on account of our Arab ethnicity and desire for freedom,” wrote Rahim Hamid, an Ahwazi Arab, in a firsthand account for the Telegraph. “Ahwazi daily life is tainted by open racism and bigotry. It is encouraged by the Tehran regime, with Arabs being commonly being depicted as ‘uncivilized barbarians’ and ‘barefoot nomadic peoples.’”
Hamid also explained how, before fleeing to Turkey, he was brutally beaten and raped by in solitary confinement for his political activism.
“They raped me violently and repeatedly with the large whip handle, so brutally that the rape did permanent injury to my rectum, for which I still need medical treatment,” he added.
In April 2015, Human Rights Watch reported at least 78 members of the embattled minority group, or possibly more than 100, were arrested by Iranian security forces.
“The reported scale of the arrests against Ahwazi Arab activists in recent weeks is deeply alarming,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International, was quoted as saying by HRW. “Instead of relying on arbitrary arrests, Iranian authorities should release those detained for peacefully demonstrating or speaking out and promptly charge any others with a recognizably criminal offense and ensure they receive a fair trial or release them.”
Just as striking a nuclear deal with Iran was important, it is equally important for the international community to push Rouhani’s government to put an end to the persecution of minorities in the country.