CHRI – Thirteen Sunni Arabs have been beaten by security and plainclothes agents and arrested for publicly praying in Ahvaz, the capital of Iran’s Khuzestan Province, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
The men, all between the ages of 20 and 27, were taken into custody on August 11, 2017 for holding a traditional Sunni group prayer, Arab ethnic rights activist Karim Dahimi told CHRI on August 15.
“They were on an excursion in the Karkheh area west of the city of Shush,” said Dahimi. “At noon, they held a group prayer based on Sunni rituals out in the open in public view. Suddenly the security forces and plainclothes agents attacked and beat them with batons and took them all away.”
“The families first went to the Intelligence Ministry’s office in Shush, but were told the detainees had been transferred to the ministry’s branch in Ahvaz,” added Dahimi. “But the authorities in Ahvaz are claiming to have no information either.”
The detainees are: Riyaz Zoheiri, Javad Hashemi, Hossein Hiavi al-Haei, Hassan Dalfi, Heidar Sari Savari, Milad Afravi, Yousef Khasarji, Yaser Silavi, Sajjad al-Hai Nasiri, Ali Bavi, Shaker Sharifi, Abbas Sharifi and Ahmad Heidari.
The Arab rights activist told CHRI that attacks on Sunni group prayers are common throughout the province.
Khuzestan Province is home to Iran’s largest ethnic Arab population, at an estimated 2.5-5 million. Iran’s security establishment views domestic activism—especially by non-ethnic Persians who could be accused of harboring separatist ambitions—as a potential threat to the Islamic Republic and have arrested and imprisoned activists.
In June 2017, security forces arrested 13 people, including Arab ethnic rights activists and poets, in Ahvaz and blocked an annual demonstration in defense of Arab ethnic rights in Iran.