Unlike teenage boys around the world, a young man named Ali Rashedi had the misfortune to be born an Ahwazi Arab, living under an increasingly brutal and murderous Iranian regime, which occupies the ethnically Arab region of Ahwaz. And several hours ago, while riding his motorcycle in the city of Khalafiyeh, he was shot in the neck and back by the Basiji, forces linked to Iran’s infamous IRGC, and killed. Sources in Ahwaz report that he was bringing dinner to his uncle when he panicked at seeing one of the many ad hoc Basiji ‘checkpoints’ erected throughout Khalafiyeh. The Basiji’s response was to open fire at him.
As Dur Untash Centre has repeatedly documented, this is merely the latest of a string of state-sanctioned murders aimed at younger Ahwazis, particularly youths, now totalling six in the past month alone. This is a direct and foreseeable consequence of a 2017 proclamation issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader known as the Atash Be Akhteyar, which means free right to fire and shot by regime forces; this order has fully implemented in Ahwaz, Kurdistan, and Baluchistan, and has resulted in hundreds of deaths since its issuance.
Still worse, young Ali’s murder was not his family’s first at the hands of the regime. In 2013, his maternal uncle, Hadi Rashedi, who was a 40-year-old teacher imprisoned and executed by the regime for daring to found Al-Hiwar Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which sought to preserve Arab language and culture, along with women’s rights. This affront was too much for the ethnosupremacist regime to tolerate, and he was murdered for several of the regime’s favourite ‘crimes,’ namely ‘war on God’, ‘acting against state security’ and ‘corruption on earth’.
This young man’s death is yet another black mark in a decades-long occupation, but may provide the spark for open protest. Tonight, devastated and enraged local citizens poured into the streets to protest this callous murder, setting fire to police vehicles and demanding justice that they know the regime cannot and will not provide.
Predictably, the regime’s response was to arrest protesters, whose families now live in fear, wondering whether they will be released or taken to any of Iran’s infamous prisons, where torture and death are rampant. And even those who are released to their homes will not sleep soundly, knowing that in the dark of any night, they may hear a Gestapo-Esque knock on the door, armed men coming to disappear their loved ones.
While the world must now keep its eye on those who were arrested to ensure their safety, particular compassion should be paid to the devastated family of this young man. Following Hadi Rashedi’s state-sanctioned murder, they – including his uncle Habib Rashedi, who suffered imprisonment himself for five long years – were able to flee Ahwaz to the United States. But as early evening fell on America’s East Coast, they were horrifically reminded that their family remains under Iran’s deadly rule.
Habib Rashedi implored the Dur Untash Studies Centre (DUSC), and the world, saying, “Ali is only 17 years old, for what crime must he be killed in such a brutal way? How many of my family and our people must be killed till the world opens its eyes to take note of regime crimes in Ahwaz? Hadi Rashedi’s death was not enough for the regime to be pleased, and the tragedy facing the Ahwazi Arab people is a defining global injustice issue of our time. It is an occupation by a powerful military state, against an impoverished, stateless and displaced people.”
Habib added that the regime is committing a genuine massacre of Ahwazis by various type of crimes; “each month we hear and see dozens of innocent people are killed, either executed or shot dead like Ali and dozens of other Ahwazi youth, why is the UN staying inactive? I know many Western countries only care about their economic interests with Iran but why is the UN not taking the regime’s crimes in Ahwaz seriously and investigate it fairly? Are Ali and other killed Ahwazi youth not human? Where is the human dignity, where are the noble words written in UN charters?”
The only remaining question for the moment is indeed whether the world will finally say enough and take direct action against the regime for its continuing crimes. Sanctions and condemnation are woefully insufficient. The rule of law and fundamental morality demand immediate action, with substantial consequences not only should the regime continue these attacks, but direct accountability for its litany of crimes against the Ahwazi people, and especially its youth. It is long past time for the world, western and eastern nations alike, to live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and what is referred to as international law.
Reported by Rahim Hamid, an Ahwazi human rights activist and Aaron Meyer, New York-based attorney and rights activist.