An Ahwazi

The following letter was written by Ahwazi Arab death row prisoner Hashem Shabani, who is facing imminent execution for "enmity with God" along with four other friends and colleagues. His conviction followed a Revolutionary Court trial that has been condemned by the international community, including UN experts and human rights NGOs, as falling well short of all standards of justice. Shabani was tortured into making a confession, which was broadcast on Iran's English-language Press TV channel in December 2011. He was forced to confess to receiving assistance from Hosni Mubarak and Muammer al-Qadafi, the former rulers of Egypt and Libya. Aged 32, he is married with one child and took care of his elderly parents, including his father Khalaf Shaabani was disabled while fighting Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq War. He has written poetry in Arabic and Farsi and taught Arabic language in high schools. Before his incarceration, he was a cultural, civil and student activist and also a blogger. Those who know him state that he has never supported armed insurgency against the Iranian state, let alone had contact with foreign governments.

To Whoever is Concerned About Humanity,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I started my journey wielding my pen against the tyranny that is trying to enslave and imprison minds and thoughts; colonising people's minds before colonising their lands and destroying people's thoughts before destroying their region.

I was mainly driven to raising awareness of tragedies and hardships of Iran's nations, particularly the Ahwazi Arabs. During the time [reformist government] which enabled the [non-Persian] nations to express their views via the newspapers and institutions, a number of my friends established an NGO called "Al-Hiwar". We managed to organise events, but the authorities blocked our peaceful activities. We hoped that the Iranian government had opened the way to enable us to achieve some of these nations' legitimate demands, especially the right to study in the mother tongue and civil rights. However, there was never any hope, it was only an illusion and it became clear that the aim [giving opportunities to non-Persian people to be active in the reform movement] was to identify anyone who has these kinds of demands.

The first page of Shabani's appeal

After 2005, I realised that the avenues for expression via the official and local media were blocked. Consequently, I continued my activities via internet by publishing my essays and poems which reflected the suffering of Ahwazi people through websites using my nickname "Abo Ala Al-Ofoghi". I have published two poems named "Al-eteraf be-alofoghiyeh" [Horizontal confession] and “Eghaa Mazarib Al-dam” [the rhythm of the blood gutters]. I produced a study on the Black Wednesday massacre, which the regime perpetrated in May 1979, although I did not have time to publish it. Also, I had started a linguistic-intellectual study about Ahwazi Arab society named “Thawrat al-mofradat al-shatheh” [Irregular Vocabularies Revolution] which remains incomplete due to my arrest. I highlighted the Iranian authorities' policies to bombard the thought and mind of Ahwazi Arab society through planting three ways of suffering:

1. Using irregular vocabularies

2. Bilingual

3. Ambivalent language.

This is done to stop freeing the society's thought through several mechanisms and dirty methods, such as:

1. Framing thoughts

2. Maintaining thoughts

3. Misleading thoughts

4. Limiting thoughts

While I was studying a Masters degree in Political Science (Science and Research), I met a few Ahwazi activists through the internet and contacted with them using different names but mainly “Abo Ala Al-Ofoghi”. I published my essays using the name “Al-Moghawema Al-Shabiya Le-tahrir Al-Ahwaz” [Popular Resistance for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz] and named myself as Abo Walid Al-Ahwazi, the spokesperson of this movement. These contacts were personal and without anyone else's involvement and were used to raise awareness of the hideous crimes against Ahwazis perpetrated by the Iranian authorities, particularly “arbitrary and unjust executions”. Through this reporting, I was defending the legitimate right that every nation in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights.

With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.

On 11 February 2011, after I had come home from work at Shaihk Ansari High school (I used to teach at Khalafyeh secondary and high schools), I was arrested by the Iranian intelligence service and the first accusation put against me was forming the "Al-Moghawema Al-Shabiya". As I mentioned above, I told the Iranian security service that this name is only a nickname which I used to try explain my feeling about the tragedies that my people suffer, but they were not convinced. After being put under various forms of physical and psychological torture, I was forced to take their orders and confessed to stating that are member of this (fake) movement. I accepted these allegations and said anything they liked. After spending five months in detention by the secret intelligence service - plus two further months - I was transferred to Karoun prison.

I first appeared in court on 21 May 2012 where I told the truth before the judge and denied the allegations made by the Iranian intelligence, stating that there was no movement, and it was only me "Hashem Shabani" and I was forced under physical and mental torture by the intelligence service to accuse other people according to their dictations.

After explaining the situation in full detail in three hearings in which I gave my testimony and stated the truth, I was surprised and became angry when I and four of my friends were sentenced to unfair and arbitrary death sentences and another friend, Rahman Asakereh, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in exile.

I would like to confirm that I have never participated in any armed activity whatever the motives. I disagree with armed activities if there are other peaceful channels to make demands and express our wishes and aspirations.

This is an urgent appeal to all relevant human rights organisations to act. We demand a retrial before a neutral, just, non-biased and public court. I plead with you to do your very best to achieve that.

Best regards,

Your friend, Hashem Shabani, Abo Ala Al-Ofoghi.

Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (Ahro)