Why are human rights NGOs silent?
By Rahim Hamid
London, UK – 6 June 2019
Ahwazi Arab human rights monitoring groups have received news of a serious deterioration in the health of political prisoner Basem Batrani; currently being detained in the notorious Shaiban (Sheyban) prison in the south region of Iran known by indigenous Arabs, as Ahwaz.
Sources in the region have confirmed that Batrani was paralysed two weeks ago following severe physical torture in an Iranian intelligence service detention centre; with regime authorities refusing to transfer him to hospital for treatment. Basem is the brother of Ali Batrani who died under torture after taking part in protests that broke out in 2005.
At present, fellow political prisoners are helping him with his basic needs, but he urgently needs proper medical treatment which prison officials are denying him.
His family has called on regime authorities and international human rights organisations to pressurise the prison officials to provide him with the treatment he needs, warning that he may die without prompt medical care.
Fellow political prisoners in ward 5 of the Shaiban Prison have also threatened to launch a general strike if Batrani is not transferred to the hospital as soon as possible.
Batrani has been arrested several times in recent years for human rights activism. He was arrested again a few months ago, along with another brother, Hassan Batrani, after participating in protests. Both have been transferred to the ward 5 of the Shaiban Prison after months of severe psychological and physical torture.
According to Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),” No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (UDHR, December 10 1948).
In a related case, human rights activists reported on Sunday, May 26, 2019 that the family of 20-year-old Ameneh Zaheri Sari, a female cultural activist imprisoned in the infamous Sepidar Prison in Ahwaz, are worried about her worsening health, again following torture.
According to the activists, Ameneh has been suffering from acute swelling in several areas of her body for some time, with medical staff at the Sepidar Prison’s clinic recommending that she be transferred to hospital as a medical emergency – a recommendation rejected by the prison management. The clinic personnel did not specify the cause of the inflammation.
Ameneh’s family said that despite their tireless efforts to secure her release on medical grounds, including the payment of bail totalling three billion Iranian rials (US$71,250) to officials at Branch 12 of the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court, judiciary and security authorities are still preventing her release from the infamous prison. Ameneh’s relatives say her health condition is worsening daily day, especially after she was kept for several months in solitary confinement and subjected to torture, sleep deprivation and malnutrition.
Prison clinic officials say they could not determine the cause of swelling all over her body because of the lack of medical equipment, adding that the young woman needs urgent and continuous medical care in a well-equipped hospital.
Ameneh Sari, a graduate in accountancy from the Thoureh (Alawi) neighbourhood of the regional capital Ahwaz city, was arrested on Tuesday, 6 November 2018 by intelligence agents, one day after both her brothers Ali and Amin, and her 58-year-old father Hattab were detained, also for human rights activism.
Branch 12 of the Revolutionary Court of Ahwaz set extortionate sums as bail to secure the family members’ release, with her father and brother Amin’s bail set at seven billion rials each, whilst Branch 12 set the bail for her brother Ali at three billion rials, the same sum as Ameneh.
This means that the total sum demanded to secure the release of the family members, who have committed no crime, is 20 billion rials or US$475,000.
Talking about the condition of his father and three siblings, Mohammad Sari, who now lives in exile and was himself detained for his own cultural activism in Iran, told The Dur Untash Studies Centre (DUSC): “I am terribly worried about my detained family members – the regime wants to put pressure on me to give up on my political activities in exposing the human rights crimes in Ahwaz.”
Mohammed said that his family has been targeted by the regime for years, with his mother dying a few years ago as a result of a stroke, which he noted was induced largely by the trauma of his arrest by regime agents in a raid on the family home, when he was detained for participating in cultural activities.
Having been tortured in the regime’s secretive ‘black site’ torture prisons himself, Mohammad is desperately worried for his father and siblings, adding that his father has numerous health issues, including hypertension and severe asthma for which he requires medication and an inhaler, none of which are available in regime prisons.
“Three members of my family are now in prison, and I’m worried sick about their health and fear that the regime will torture and abuse them,” he said. “They’ve done nothing wrong, but the regime wants to use them to pressure me to stop my human rights activism and political activities here. I’m calling on all human rights organisations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch to urge the Iranian regime authorities to release my family and all other innocent Ahwazi citizens.”
New York-based international human rights lawyer Irina Tsukerman has condemned the continued human rights abuses of the Iranian regime in Ahwaz. She told DUSC:
“The incidents of torture and deliberate neglect after the torture of Ahwazi men and women receive no attention in the media, from human rights organisations, and few comments from Western governments. Every political campaign is aimed at Persian prisoners; very rarely is anything reported about the fate of Ahwazi prisoners. Many of them are not themselves political activists, just relatives of activists.”
“Consistent abuses and discrimination of the Ahwazi population and systemic arrests of activists and their family members, as well as torture and discriminatory treatment in prisons, are illegal and unconscionable. Every one of them has a story, every face and name of these unjustly accused or convicted people deserves to be known to the Western public. Each deserves maximum pressure against the regime by world powers and masses of people, as has been done for several well-known Persian prisoners of conscience in the past. Every one of them should become a household name, just like Ahmed Batebi at one point or Natan Sharansky back in the Soviet Union.”
“The situation is actually comparable to the fate of Jewish prisoners of conscience who were often arrested for studying their own language or for wishing to leave the country. Yet today, with more information available to the public than ever before with every detail coming from these horrific prisons verifiable by the accounts of the many refugees mainly from non-Persian ethnic minorities, the world continues to remain silent as if nothing is going on. We have seen the same level of indifference in other places. It is no coincidence that Nazi Germans considered “Aryans” a name referring to Iran. Aided by a similar mishmash of the ideology, they focused their racial hatred primarily on extermination of Jews, and other groups and ethnicities deemed racially inferior”.
“Before WWII, Iran, welcomed Gestapo agents into the country the blatant racism found a home as Nazism spread through the world and agitated hatred until it became possible to massacre millions of people, just as the world stayed silent at Stalin’s plans to eliminate its Jewish population and displace many others, including Greeks and Tatars. They continue staying silent today when Iranian regime treats its Ahwazi population the same way – including ethnic cleansing and depopulation.”
“Such passivity gives tacit support and approval to human rights abusers, emboldens wartime atrocities, and makes genocides possible. By turning a blind eye to the fates of Ahwazis who are being essentially forced into Iran’s brutal prison system, sometimes entire families at a time where young people are brutally tortured and left to die without medical treatment – a way of spreading fear and ensuring population control – the world once again emboldens totalitarianism and colonialist and the likely genocidal ambitions of the regime which was directly inspired by its historical predecessors.”
“If Germany and others are serious about confronting their dark past, they should not let the same events unfold in the present. It was the relationship between Germany and Iran that increased the level of destructive ethnocentrism we see today; Khomeini and other Revolutionaries used racist and anti-Semitic slogans. As a result, we now have whole swathes of non-Persian populations dehumanised on the basis of their ethnic identity.”
Tsukerman added: “Khomeini cleverly used the Palestinian cause to distract from the regime’s persecution of its own non-Persian nations. Now that millions of lives have been taken in various genocides and mass atrocities, the world makes proclamations of “Never again”, signs off documents, and creates NGOs, allegedly with the goal of combating hate. However, in reality, these NGOs make money from attacking the victims and covering for the oppressors or fake causes that generate publicity. Not one NGO has spent time uncovering the Nazi influence in Iran or exposing the oppression of non-Persians by the Shah, and then by the Islamic Republic regime. At crucial points in time, when it was possible to prevent mass atrocities, these human rights organisations and think tanks have stayed disgracefully silent. They have, in fact, enabled the spread of hatred because the repugnant regime feeds off the cowardly silence and hypocritical indifference of major international and Western institutions.”
In all the above cases and in the relentless racist abuse which is a thread running through all the regime’s mistreatment of Ahwazis, the regime is breaching the terms of all the human rights treaties and legislative articles to which it is a signatory.
According to the terms of the UN General Assembly Resolution 45/111 issued on December 14, 1990:
1: All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.
2: There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
3: Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation.
For Iran’s regime and its fellow regional human rights abusers, however, treaties and UN resolutions concerning human rights are largely meaningless and disregarded bureaucratic formalities, with no penalties for effectively ignoring them.
Meanwhile, human rights organisations domestically and internationally maintain their complicit silence on the regime’s crimes. Without any change in this policy, the latest Ahwazi victims are likely to join their predecessors among the faceless victims of Iran’s killing machine.
Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi author, freelance journalist and human rights advocate. You can follow him on his twitter account: @samireza42