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After coerced confession, Iran’s regime threatens kidnapped Ahwazi activist with public execution

Iran’s regime has reportedly notified the family of Ahwazi political leader Habib Chaab, who was recently abducted in Turkey, that he is to be publicly executed. The shocking threat follows interrogation and torture in a regime prison, with Chaab, who had lived in exile in Sweden for 14 years, forced to make a clearly coerced false ‘confession’ on Iranian state TV. 

Chaab’s abduction by Iranian intelligence agents, during a visit to Turkey is, in fact, only the latest such operation carried out by the Iranian regime which threatens not only Ahwazi and other dissidents in Iran, but ultimately threatens the national security of many European countries. 

After receiving confirmation from Habib Farajallah Chaab’s wife about his abduction by the regime in Turkey, a number of media published the report of his kidnapping, with some human rights organisations condemning Iran’s kidnapping, forced ‘confessions’ and other attempts to silence and intimidate political opponents in exile in European countries and the United States.

Habib Farajallah Chaab, known as Habib Asyoud, is a popular and widely respected Ahwazi political activist, who has spoken out against the Iranian regime’s oppressive rule and its numerous crimes against the Ahwazi people since first becoming involved in human rights activism as a student in the 1990s. His wife, as well as friends and colleagues, said that since first arriving in Sweden in 2006, he had felt compelled to continue his activism and advocacy for freedom and human rights, feeling it was his duty to speak out against Iran’s regime on behalf of his fellow Ahwazis. 

Habib Chaab was born on 1 July, 1973, in a village near Shoaibiyeh in the county of Tostar (Shushtar), Ahwaz. After graduating from Tester University with a BA in Sociology, he played an active role in the 2005 protests, which became known as the Nissan Intifada or ‘April Uprising’ when thousands of Ahwazis took to the streets to protest against the regime’s brutality, oppression and racism, and to demand freedom and justice. [1] Despite the peaceful nature of the demonstrations, the regime took brutal revenge against the protesters, with thousands imprisoned and tortured and a number executed or ‘disappeared’. Knowing that his activism meant his life was in danger if he remained in Ahwaz, Habib sought asylum in Sweden, eventually becoming a Swedish citizen and a respected member of his local community in the city of Norrkoping, where he settled with his wife and children.  

Chaab is an impassioned democracy activist, and opponent of all forms of injustice, who has devoted his life to raising awareness of the Iranian regime’s persecution and racist targeting of the Ahwazi people, speaking out for equality, justice, freedom and social responsibility, and always prioritising the need for a just peace to end injustice, tyranny and terror. 

He disappeared a few days after his arrival in Istanbul on 9 October, 2020. Shortly after his disappearance, the worst fears of his family and friends were realised when the head of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee, Mojtaba Zolnouri, announced that he had been arrested and transferred to Iran. [2] There is no doubt that his abduction is a violation of all legal rulings and international legislation; especially concerning the text of Articles 18, 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Habib Chaab’s abduction is also a violation of all international norms and laws that prohibit enforced disappearance and political abduction, as well as those against subjecting detainees to systematic torture or execution. 

A few weeks after Chaab’s abduction, Iranian state TV has broadcast a short video clip of him making a clearly forced confession, in which he claimed to have been involved in an attack on a military parade held by the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Ahwaz in September 2018; this was an obvious falsehood since he was in Sweden at the time and the attackers were killed during the attack. The Iranian regime is indifferent to the implausibility of the allegations, with the objective of such regular and grotesque televised ‘confessions’ being to intimidate dissidents and to slander all Ahwazi activists, as well as sending a threatening message to dissidents in exile in an effort to stop them speaking out. [3]

Habib Chaab’s wife, Hoda Hawashmi, told BBC Persian that he had disappeared since October 15 in Istanbul, saying, “The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is confident that Iranian intelligence agents, in cooperation with Turkey, have transferred [her husband] to Iran via the West Azerbaijan border.” 

Mrs Hawashmi also said that the Turkish police had informed the Swedish authorities that Chaab had arrived at Istanbul airport on 9 October and was scheduled to leave Turkey on 15 October, but this did not happen, and nobody had heard anything from him since this date. [4]

In an exclusive interview with DUSC, Hoda Hawashmi said that Sweden’s ambassador in Iran is trying to arrange a meeting with Habib Chaab in Tehran as a first step to ensure his psychological and physical health, and will demand his release as a Swedish citizen since Iran has no right to kidnap a citizen of a European country. She indicated that Sweden is also investigating the parties that lured Habib Asyoud to Turkey. 

Hawashmi explained that Habib Asyoud entered Turkey using his Swedish passport, rather than an Iranian one since he no longer has an Iranian passport and is not a dual national. Therefore, she said, his kidnapping in Turkey has outraged the Swedish authorities who view the abduction of a Swedish citizen from a third country as a violation of the sovereignty of the Swedish State. As she noted, “Habib is a political activist and dissident, so according to Swedish laws, Iran has no right to kidnap him or any other political dissidents.”  

Speaking about her own stress and the suffering of the couple’s children as a result of the traumatic events, Hawashmi said, “Our three children – especially our daughter – and I have been under severe psychological pressure since Habib was abducted”. She urged the Swedish authorities to increase their political pressure on Iran to secure her husband’s release from the secret detention centre where he’s being held and to ensure his safe return to Sweden. Hawashmi emphasised that Iran is a lethally dangerous country for political activists like Chaab, adding that she is desperately worried about her husband’s health and his fate at the hands of the notoriously brutal regime.   

Saeid Hamidan, another Ahwazi dissident and close friend of Chaab’s, told DUSC he has no doubt about Turkey’s central role in his friend’s abduction, saying: “Turkish intelligence services played an important role in abducting Habib and handing over this Swedish citizen to the Iranian regime.” He added that the televised ‘confessions’ broadcast on Iranian state TV, in which Chaab clearly showed signs of torture, provided further proof of the Iranian regime’s criminality: “The Iranian regime’s media broadcasted new footage and photos of Habib, confirming his arrest. This indicates that Iran severely tortured him. The European Union and Sweden should condemn Iran and Turkey; and end their ties with the Iranian regime.” 

Hamidan added that Turkey and Iran had clearly coordinated in imposing a news blackout on the fate of Habib Chaab following his abduction in order to extradite him to Iran without media fanfare or political pressure. Hamidan emphasised that he is “deeply concerned” about Chaab’s wellbeing and fate following the abduction in Turkey, warning that it may signal the start of a new regime policy of kidnapping exiled Ahwazi and other dissidents and activists in Europe: “We fear that the policy of kidnapping opponents will become a culture against Ahwazi activists as this harm the national security of the Swedish State.”

There is no doubt that the kidnapping of a Swedish citizen from Turkey is a dangerous precedent and a wholly criminal act, Hamidan stated, adding, “Sweden will launch an investigation into the kidnapping of Habib Chaab to determine the countries, individuals and parties involved in the crime.” 

Hamidan further confirmed that Habib’s case will be placed before the international community, the United Nations Security Council and the European Union, which he said must condemn Iran and punish it in order to prevent such crimes from being normalised. 

“The Ahwazi community in Sweden, through the alliance with legal organisations and other state institutions, has called on the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to pressure Iran to release the Swedish citizen, Habib, from prison. It’s also called on the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to conduct investigations in order to ensure prosecution of those who helped commit this crime.” 

Hamidan warned of the repercussions of allowing Iran’s regime to continue with its criminal policy towards political activists, which violate human rights and threatens security and social peace.

Condemning the Iranian regime’s coerced interview of Chaab broadcast on state TV, Hamidian said, “The interview is a violation of international law. Iran and the countries that supported it in the kidnapping of Habib Chaab must be condemned by the Swedish government, the European Union and the international community.” 

He warned, “There is no doubt that Iran is seeking to continue torturing Habib Chaab with the aim of extracting confessions by force in order to impose a death sentence on false charges. For this reason, providing a lawyer for him and putting pressure on Iran are the best available ways to protect Mr Chaab’s life.” 

Speaking about similar abductions in the past, Hamidan recalled Iranian intelligence services’ abduction of refugee Ruhollah Zam, the founder of the dissident Telegram channel, AMAD News, who lived in exile in France, during a trip to Iraq in 2019. The regime also kidnapped another dissident named Jamshid Sharmahd who had gained German citizenship and residency in the United States.   

Hamidan also mentioned the Iranian intelligence services’ assassinations of exiled dissidents such as Ahwazi leader, Ahmad Molla Nissi, who was shot dead in November 2017 outside his home the city of The Hague in the Netherlands. [5] Hamidan noted that Iranian security services had assassinated several exiled dissidents and activists in Turkey, through coordination with their embassy staff in the country, suggesting that this history of assassinations suggested that staff at the embassy in Istanbul were involved in kidnapping Chaab.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a European security expert told DUSC, “Habib Chaab entered Turkish territory on 9 October and was kidnapped from the Ibis Hotel in Istanbul by Turkish intelligence services.” The source added that unidentified parties had played an important role in providing information to Iranian and Turkish intelligence services on Chaab’s movements, further claiming that Turkey transferred Chaab to Iran in exchange for three prominent Kurdish dissidents who have been detained in Iran for some time. 

Dr Mohammad al-Sheikhili, the director of the Arabic Centre for Justice, told the DUSC, “The abduction of Habib Chaab is a crime of political kidnapping and state terrorism,” adding, “The Iranian regime uses a particular strategy in terrorist crimes against opponents who live outside Iran’s political geography.” 

Al-Sheikhili called Chaab’s coerced confessions broadcast on Iranian state TV “a crime in international law”, pointing out that the clearly forced nature of the confessions means they have no legal admissibility. 

Noting that such confessions are a standard regime strategy, Al-Sheikhili said, “The Iranian authorities always force the detainees to confess due to the severity of torture, with the Iranian regime infamous in every country of the world for its policy of torturing detainees. So, Habib Chaab is currently a prisoner in Iran, and thus Habib is forced to recognise all the requirements of the Iranian authorities. Thus, any confession extracted through torture, intimidation and threats is unacceptable in international law.”

Al-Sheikhili further noted that the Iranian regime bears full legal responsibility for the life and safety of Chaab, a Swedish citizen, adding that international human rights organisations should launch a human rights campaign exposing the Iranian regime and demanding his release. Al-Sheikhili also called for high-level coordination in Europe and internationally to put pressure on Iran to secure Chaab’s release, adding that the Human Rights Council in Geneva should condemn the Iranian regime, since “the kidnapping of dissidents is a violation of Human Rights Council resolutions.” 

Al-Sheikhili further condemned the Iranian regime’s routine use of illegal methods to target dissidents and opposition figure, citing the regime’s aforementioned assassination of Ahwazi leader, Ahmad Molla Nissi, in 2017 in the Netherlands, emphasising that urgent action is required to confront the regime. 

“According to the Rome Statute of 1998, crimes of enforced disappearance are a crime against humanity,” Al-Sheikhili stated. “Therefore, the kidnapping of Habib Chaab is an illegal operation on the territory of a sovereign state. Hence, the kidnapping of Chaab is a violation of the Rome Statute.” Al-Sheikhili added that “the Swedish government should bear the responsibility towards its citizens, and there is no room for silence regarding this political crime. Therefore, the Swedish government must provide a lawyer associated with the Swedish embassy in Tehran to follow up Habib Chaab’s case and the Swedish embassy has the right to meet Habib, and to see the conditions of his arrest and transfer to Iran.”  

The kidnapping of Habib Chaab by the Iranian security services is a violation of all international treaties, more especially since Habib Chaab holds Swedish citizenship. Iran. This is an act of international terrorism, in which Iran kidnapped Habib Chaab without the knowledge of the Swedish authorities. Therefore, the Swedish government must deal with Iran as a supporter of international terrorism which has pursued arbitrary and illegal actions against citizens of a European country. Thus, the Swedish government has the right to demand the immediate release of Habib Asyoud, because Iran’s contraventions of human rights file are internationally infamous. 

Also, the forced confessions that were taken from Habib Asyoud clearly show that, as regime officials have warned his already traumatised family in Iran, the regime aims to issue a death sentence against him, despite his Swedish citizenship. It is also worth noting that the Dutch security authorities announced a few days ago that Dutch citizens originally from Iran might face the risk of kidnapping if they travel to countries outside the European Union. This further confirms that, under the present ruling regime, Iran is not a democratic nation that respects international, but is instead a rogue state that uses international terrorism to suppress or target dissidents.

 

 

By Kamil Alboshoka & Rahim Hamid

 Kamil Alboshoka is an Ahwazi researcher and international law specialist. He tweets under @KAlboshoka

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

Sources

[1] Middle East Monitor, April 2015. Link <https://bit.ly/330aiaT>

[2] Radio Farda, 12 November 2020. Link <https://bit.ly/391s7u2>

[3] Hamshahri Online Newspaper, 14 November 2020. Link <https://bit.ly/3nKEYob>

[4] BBC Persian, 31 October 2020. Link <https://www.bbc.com/persian/iran-54765228>

[5] The Independent, 2017. Link <http://bit.ly/2TMqQzf>

[6] OHCHR. Link <https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx>

[7] OHCHR. Link <https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/ced/pages/conventionced.aspx     

  

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