The Ahwaz MP confirmed that around 150 protesters who had participated in recent demonstrations in this town were still in detention. In an interview published Saturday in the state-run Etemad Daily, Kazem Nasab al-Baji called the Ahwaz protests “peaceful” and “controlled”.
Major discontent flared up on March 30 in the city of Ahwaz, the Khuzestan provincial capital, protesting what locals called the Iranian authorities’ marginalization of Iranians of Arab origin and their efforts to erase their Arab identity. Soon, other cities across the region including Abadan, Mahshahr, Hamidiyeh and Sheyban joined the protests.
The State Security forces violently responded in the early hours with the arrest of at least 26 protesters including three women.
The videos circulating on social media showed state forces firing extensive bird shots and arresting several Ahwazi Arabs as random shots are being fired.
The number of detainees has so far reached at least 400 people, and possibly more than 500. At least 15 children between 11 to 15 years old are amongst those arrested. A number of parents and family members were also arrested when they referred to the IRGC intelligence office to pursue the situation of their loved ones.
Reports indicate hundreds of Ahwazi Arab activists suspected of playing roles in mobilizing local protests and who had previous records of rights activism or detention for their peaceful activism, were arrested usually following home raids during the late evening or early morning hours.
Iranian authorities have not given a reason for the arrests or revealed the status and whereabouts of the detainees, placing them at increased risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
Some human rights organisations expressed concern that people may have been tortured as suspicious death reports coincided with the sweeping arrests across the Arab-populated province.
At least three corpses with clear scars of torture were found during April in nearby towns or villages of Khuzestan Province. The state media have not yet reported any news of the deaths.