Herald Activist Op Ed - Iranian Affairs

ASMLA holds Conference in Copenhagen on Iranian Regime Terror

Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz speaks to the Danish public opinion as it marks founding anniversary.

Almost one month since the foiled assassination attempt against one of its leaders, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) held its annual conference in Copenhagen on November 24 and 25, marking the 19th anniversary of the ASMLA’s establishment.

A primary objective of this year’s conference, entitled ‘With Ahwaz in the face of the Iranian terror’, was to more clearly explain to the Danish and wider European public the lethal threat posed by the Iranian regime’s extremist activities both regionally and internationally.

Arab and other politicians and human rights activists from nearly 20 countries participated in the conference, with the first-day seeing discussions of the Ahwazi cause and the most recent assassination attempt against one of the movement’s leaders. The conference was held amid intensified security measures as tensions grow between the Scandinavian countries and Iran’s regime following the foiled assassination attempt by a regime operative against the head of the movement Habib Jaber, now living in exile in Denmark.

Yaqub Hor Al-Tostari, a spokesman for the movement, told the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the conference aims to address public opinion in Denmark and Europe regarding the Iranian regime’s terrorism, adding Iran is perpetrating state-sponsored terrorist crimes against minorities, which have spilled over into Europe.

Denmark’s government last week urged support from EU states to impose sanctions on Iran’s regime, with the thwarting of the recent assassination attempt against the ASMLA chief overshadowing this year’s conference.  This year’s event saw a greater presence of journalists representing local and global media outlets than usual, as more media focus on the Ahwazi cause.

Danish authorities’ arrest last month of an Iranian national bearing Norwegian citizenship on suspicion of being part of an Iranian assassination cell has strained diplomatic relations between Tehran and Copenhagen, with Denmark recalling its ambassador from Tehran for consultation before announcing his return last weekend.

Danish media outlets cited a statement from the police who said that more personnel would be deployed around the conference venue this year throughout the two-day forum as an additional security measure following the assassination attempt.

The deputy police chief in Copenhagen said the situation was under control, indicating that the police had set up several checkpoints near the Park Inn by Radisson hotel as a security measure.

In light of this, speakers at the conference focused on the importance of ensuring the safety of activists and dissidents opposing the Iranian regime under the current circumstances, as well as the need to support the demands of the Ahwazi people for freedom and democracy as part of a comprehensive Arab response to the plans of the Iranian regime targeting the Arab countries.

Some of the conference delegates called for increasing the levels of support for Ahwazis in both the political and media arenas, and for recognizing Ahwazis right to self-determination and having   representatives in the Arab League and other Arab and international political, rights and media forums.

The first day of the conference featured addresses by distinguished international figures and human rights activists from the US, Austria and other European countries attending the event.

The global media coverage of this year’s conference was notably greater than that at last year’s event in Brussels, with journalists from the Wall Street Journal and from Danish and Norwegian media outlets amongst those covering the 2018 event.

A political panel was formed by delegates to discuss the importance of the Ahwazi cause in the context of the wider Arab struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights, with the panelists also discussing ways to increase Arab commitment to supporting the just cause of Ahwaz.  The panelists also shed light on the negative impact of the Iranian regime’s efforts to undermine society in all Arab countries.

Another issue discussed by the panelists was the centrality of the Ahwazi issue to the wider Arab conflict with the Iranian regime, and the importance of exposing the terrorist practices sponsored by the regime leadership in light of their destructive impact on peace and security regionally and globally.

Meanwhile another panel of legal experts attending the event discussed the legal aspects of the Ahwazi cause, with particular focus on international law and on the importance of classifying the Iranian regime as a serial offender and labeling its terrorist behaviors as state-sponsored terror and cross-border terror at all Arab and global rights events.

Members of the legal panel emphasized the importance of clarifying historical facts that corroborate the Arab identity of Ahwaz and its people and reiterate its status as a territory illegitimately occupied by the Iranian regime. This recognition strengthens the rights of the Ahwazi people in their struggle to liberate their occupied homeland.

The panelists also put forward a number of proposals to create and work with Arab and international lobbies to gain support for the Ahwazi cause in order to bring it to the fore amongst the crucial issues in the Arab and global arenas.

The panelists also underlined the importance of continuing to assert the legal right of the Arab people of Ahwaz to resist the illegitimate occupation of their lands, to support self-determination and to use all available means in order to achieve their legitimate goals according to international laws and norms.

The panels’ discussions are expected to result in a number of recommendations arising from the proposals put forward by delegates on the first day of the conference.

The conference comes amid an escalating and increasingly brutal crackdown by the Iranian regime against the Arab minority in Ahwaz, which is subject to multiple heinous forms of repression, ranging from racist persecution to unjustified detention and extrajudicial killing.

The Iranian regime reportedly hanged 22 more Ahwazi Arabs in mass executions on November 10th. The shocking move followed the arrest of over 1,000 Ahwazis, including women and children, in recent weeks in a brutal crackdown in the region in southwestern Iran. Those executed include a 58-year-old man, who was killed along with his son aged 30.

The detainees were accused of being complicit in an attack on a military parade by Iranian forces in Ahwaz on September 22, in which several Iranian military personnel were killed.

The executions drew a barrage of criticism from international rights organizations, including Amnesty International, which condemned them and called on the regime to issue information about the remaining detainees’ well-being and whereabouts.

Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Philip Luther said: “If the reports of executions are true, the secret execution of those people will not only constitute a crime in accordance with international law, but will also be a despicable violation of their right to life and a demonstration of sheer contempt for all values based on the Iranian judicial system which is of poor standards.”

Despite the fact that none of those executed were connected in any way with the attack on the IRGC or with the ASMLA, the regime has exploited the attack on its forces to increase its persecution of minorities, especially Ahwazis, who have been taking to the streets in large numbers in recent months to protest against the regime’s violations against them. The protesters assert that they are defending their identity and their right to freedom and independence, and demanding an end to their decades-long ordeal.

Data collated by pro-regime agencies suggests that the Ahwaz region, which suffers from horrendous poverty despite being the site of the oil and gas wealth claimed by the regime, has the third highest unemployment rate across the country.

The Ahwazi people’s nine-decade struggle has prompted a number of international organizations to speak up for Ahwazi rights. Amnesty called for the immediate release of all Ahwazi Arab activists detained for no reason but practicing their freedom of expression, right to assembly, or peaceful defending of their Arab identity.

Experts familiar with the Ahwazi issue said the objective behind the latest assassination attempt against the ASMLA chief in exile, as well as the mass arrests and executions of  Ahwazis, is to crush the resilience displayed by the Arab minority, both the grassroots and leadership, and to silence their calls for freedom.

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