Iranian security forces recently clashed with ethnic Arab Iranian protestors in the southwestern province of Khuzestan. News organizations reported that the cause of the unrest was a purported plan by the Iranian government to move ethnic Arabs out of the oil-rich area. Iranian officials deny the existence of such a plan.
The human rights organization Amnesty International said that more than one-hundred thirty people were arrested by Iranian security forces "and are at risk of torture." Amnesty International also said that there are "unconfirmed reports that at least twenty-nine people have been killed in the disturbances, and up to five-hundred injured." U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli commented on the issue:
"In our view, this unrest and these arrests involve the denial of rights of minority groups in Iran."
Iranian Arabs are in the majority in Khuzestan's capital, Ahwaz, and they make up about three percent of the total population of Iran. Mr. Ereli said the incident "is not the first time" the rights of an ethnic minority group have been violated in Iran. He says that such violations are discussed in the latest human rights report issued by the State Department.
The State Department report cites abuses against Iranian Kurds and Azeris, as well as against Ahwazi Arabs. Abuses include imprisonment and killing of political activists who advocate minority cultural and language rights. In the case of the Ahwazi Arabs, the Iranian government also dismissed an appeal to de-mine large areas of Khuzestan, which were mined during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980's. "Suppression of minority rights is obviously to be denounced," said State Department deputy spokesman Ereli; "the United States calls upon the Iranian authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with this minority in Khuzestan, and to respect the peaceful exercise by the Iranian people of their democratic rights."
The preceeding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.