United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Rouhani at UN on ISIS, Nukes & US

         President Hassan Rouhani arrived in New York on September 22 to attend the U.N. General Assembly opening. He spoke at several public and private events before and after delivering his address on September 25. A translation of his speech is included below, followed by excerpted remarks from other appearances on key issues. 

      Thank God, the Lord of the Two Worlds and the Prayer and peace be upon our Prophet Mohammad and his family and companions at outset, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations on your well-deserved election as the president of the 69th Session of the General Assembly. I also express my appreciation to H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, for all his efforts. It is my genuine hope that this year's Session of the General Assembly brings the world, in its current critical situation, a step closer to security and tranquility of human being, which is of course a fundamental goal of the United Nations.
Mr. President,
            I am coming from a region of the world whose many parts are currently burning in fire of extremism and radicalism. To the East and West of my country, extremists threaten our neighbors, resort to violence and shed blood. They of course do not speak a single language; they are not of a single skin color and not of a single nationality; they have come to the Middle East from around the world. They do however have a single ideology: "violence and extremism". They also have a single goal: "the destruction of civilization, giving rise to Islamophobia and creating a fertile ground for further intervention of foreign forces in our region".
            I deeply regret to say that terrorism has become globalized: "From New York to Mosul, from Damascus to Baghdad, from the Easternmost to the Westernmost parts of the world, from Al-Qaeda to Daesh". The extremists of the world have found each other and have put out the call: "extremists of the world unite". But are we united against the extremists?!
            Extremism is not a regional issue that just the nations of our region would have to grapple with; extremism is a global issue. Certain states have helped creating it and are now failing to withstand it. Currently our peoples are paying the price. Today's anti-Westernism is the offspring of yesterday's colonialism. Today's anti-Westemism is a reaction to yesterday's racism. Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hand of madmen, who now spare no one. All those who have played a role in founding and supporting these terror groups must acknowledge their errors that have led to extremism. They need to apologize not only to the past but also to the next generation.
            To fight the underlying causes of terrorism, one must know its roots and dry its source fountains. Terrorism germinates in poverty, unemployment, discrimination, humiliation and injustice. And it grows in the culture of violence. To uproot extremism, we must spread justice and development and disallow the distortion of divine teachings to justify brutality and cruelty. The pain is made greater when these terrorists spill blood in the name of religion and behead in the name of Islam. They seek to keep hidden this incontrovertible truth of history that on the basis of the teachings of all divine prophets, from Abraham and Moses and Jesus to Mohammed, taking the life of a single innocent life is akin to killing the whole humanity. I am astonished that these murderous groups call themselves Islamic. What is more astonishing is that the Western media, in line with them, repeats this false claim, which provokes the hatred of all Muslims. Muslim people who everyday recall their God as merciful and compassionate and have learned lessons of kindness and empathy from their Prophet, see this defamation as part of a Islamophobic project.
            The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle-East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists. Military aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and improper interference in the developments in Syria are clear examples of this erroneous strategic approach in the Middle East. As non-peaceful approach, aggression, and occupation target the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people, they result in different adverse psychological and behavioral consequences that are today manifested in the form of violence and murder in the Middle East and North Africa, even attracting some citizens from other parts of the world. Violence is currently being spread to other parts of the world like a contagious disease. We have always believed that democracy cannot be transplanted from abroad; democracy is the product of growth and development; not war and aggression.Democracy is not an export product that can be commercially imported from the West to the East. In an underdeveloped society, imported democracy leads only to a weak and vulnerable government.
            When Generals step into a region, do not expect diplomats to greet them warmly; when war begins, diplomacy tends to end. When sanctions set in, deep hatred for those imposing them also begins. When the atmosphere of the Middle East is securitized, the answer will be of the same nature as well.
            The interests of Western countries in our region are tied to their recognition of beliefs and the desire of the people for democratic governance in the region. Our region expects that the Western world would once and for all place itself in the company of those true seekers of democracy, and, hence, soften the bitter memories of its support for dictators. The experience of creation of A1-Qaeda, the Taliban, and modern extremist groups have demonstrated that one cannot use extremist groups to counter an opposing state and remain impervious to the consequences of rising extremism. The repetition of these mistakes despite many costly experiences is perplexing.
            Let's recall that Iran had invited everyone to "dialogue" before the criminal act of September 11th, and also called for "a world against violence and extremism" before the outbreak of the current violent atrocities. Perhaps in the past year, few people could forecast the fire that would rage today. But now uninhibited violence and extremism presents an imminent threat to the world. It is self-evident that without an accurate understanding of how the current condition came about we will not be able to find the right solutions. Today, again, I shall warn against the spread of extremism and the danger posed by the inadequate understanding and incorrect approach to this phenomenon.
            The Middle East longs for development and is weary of war. It is the natural right of the peoples of the fertile lands of the Middle East to live in peace and prosperity. In the past, colonialism denied them this right and, today, the shadow of war and violence threatens their security. There are moderate politicians and elites in our region who enjoy the confidence of their peoples. They are neither anti-Western nor pro-Western. While aware of the role of colonialism in the backwardness of their nations, they are not neglectful of the role of their nations in reaching the development they seek. They do not absolve the West from its misdeeds, but are also aware of their own failings. These leaders can take positions of active leadership by attracting the confidence of the people in their societies and establish the strongest national and international coalitions against violence.
            The voices of these leaders are the true voices of moderation in the Islamic world; the familiar sound of an Afghan tired of war; an Iraqi victim of extremism, a Syrian fearful of terrorism; and a Lebanese worried over violence and sectarianism. I believe if countries claiming leadership of the coalition, do so to continue their hegemony in the region, they would make a strategic mistake. Obviously, since the pain is better known by the countries in the region, better they can form coalition, and accept to shoulder the responsibility of leadership to counter violence and terrorism. And if other nations wish to take action against terrorism, they must come to their support.
            I warn that if we do not muster all our Strengths against extremism and violence today, and fail to entrust the job to the people in the region who can deliver, tomorrow the world will be safe for no one.
Mr. President,
            Last year, I tried to fulfill the role of my country in the realization of peace at both the regional and international levels by putting forward a proposal about, "a world against Violence and Extremism", which was met with general support. In the tumultuous and chaotic region of the Middle East, Iran is one of the most tranquil, secure and stable nations. All the nations of the region have to keep in mind that we are in the same boat. Thus, we need broad cooperation with regard to social and political as well as security and defense issues with a view to reaching common and durable understandings.
            Had we had greater cooperation and coordination in the Middle East, thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza would not have been fallen victim to Zionist regime's aggression. We in the Islamic Republic of Iran consider interaction and confidence building among states of the region as fundamentally essential for conflict resolution. We support any measure to promote cooperation between Islamic nations to combat extremism, threats, and aggression, and in this connection, are prepared to play our permanent constructive and positive role.
Mr. President,
            The oppressive sanctions against Iran go on in continuation of a strategic mistake against a moderate and independent nation under the current sensitive condition in our region. During the last year, we have engaged in the most transparent dialogue to build confidence regarding Iran's peaceful nuclear program. We placed serious and honest negotiations on the agenda, not as a result of sanctions or threat but rather because of the will of our people. We are of the view that the nuclear issue could only be resolved through negotiation, and those who may think of any other solution are committing a grave mistake. Any delay in arriving at a final agreement only raises the costs; not only at our expense but also at the expense of the economy and trade of the other parties as well as the development and security prospects of our region. No one should doubt that compromise and agreement on this issue is in the best interest of everyone especially that of the nations of the region.
            The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 have continued during the past year with seriousness and optimism on both sides. According to all international observers, the Islamic Republic of Iran has carried out its commitments in good faith. Although, some of the observations and actions of our counterparts have created certain doubts regarding their determination and realism, we hope that the current negotiations lead to a final accord in the short amount of time left. We are committed to continue our peaceful nuclear program, including enrichment, and to enjoy our full nuclear rights on Iranian soil within the framework of international law. We are determined to continue negotiations with our interlocutors in earnest and good faith, based on mutual respect and confidence, removal of concerns of both sides as well as equal footing and recognized international norms and principles. I believe mutual adherence to the strict implementation of commitments and obligations and avoidance of excessive demands in the negotiations by our counterparts is the prerequisite for the success of the negotiations. A final accord regarding Iran's peaceful nuclear program can serve as the beginning of multilateral collaboration aimed at promoting security, peace and development in our region and beyond.
            The people of Iran, who have been subjected to pressures especially in the last three years as a result of continued sanctions, cannot place trust in any security cooperation between their government with those who have imposed sanctions and created obstacles in the way of satisfying even their primary needs such as food and medicine. The sanctions will create additional impediments in the way to the future long term cooperation.
            The people of Iran are devoted to certain principles and values at the apex of which are independence, development and national pride. Our people evaluate the behavior of their government based on the same criteria. If this obvious national fact is not understood by our negotiating partners and they commit grievous miscalculations in the process, a historic and exceptional opportunity will be lost.
            As you know, during the ongoing nuclear negotiations in this year, the Iranian government took some initiatives that created new favorable conditions, which resulted, at that phase, in the Geneva Joint Plan of Action. We are determined to continue our confidence building approach and our transparency in this process. If our interlocutors are also equally motivated and flexible, and we can overcome thÿ problem and reach a longstanding agreement within the time remaining, then an entirely different environment will emerge for cooperation at regional and international levels, allowing for greater focus on some very important regional issues such as combating violence and extremism in the region.
            Arriving at a final comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran will be a historic opportunity for the West to show that it does not oppose the advancement and development of others and does not discriminate when it comes to adhering to international rules and regulations. This agreement can carry a global message of peace and security, indicating that the way to attain conflict resolution is through negotiation and respect not through conflict and sanction.
Mr. President,
Ladies, Gentlemen,
            Last year the great nation of Iran broadly participated in the calm and impressive presidential election and endorsed the discourse of "Foresight, Hope, and Prudent Moderation." Thereafter, they support their elected government in its effort in building the country. While some of the countries around Iran have fallen prey to war and turmoil, Iran remains secure, stable and calm.
            My Government's principled policy is to work towards constructive interactions with our neighbors on the basis of mutual respect and with emphasis on common interests. The notion that Iran seeks to control other Muslim countries in the region is a myth fanned in the recent years in the context of an Iranophobic project. Those who make these claims need imaginary enemies to sustain tensions and sow division and conflict, thus, in this way, pushing for the redeployment of national resources away from development. We work towards putting an end to delusional Iranophobia, setting the stage for building strategic partnerships with our neighbors.
            In conclusion, last year I warned against the expansion of violence and extremism. This year too I warn that if the right approach is not undertaken in dealing with the issue at hand, we get closer to a turbulent and tumultuous region with repercussions for the whole world. The right solution to this quandary comes from within the region and regionally provided solution with international support and not from the outside the region.
            God, the Almighty has promised those who have believed and done righteous deeds that He will surely grant them succession to authority upon the earth and that their fears will turn into peace and security.
            It is my sincerest hope that our generation endeavors to leave a more secure and developed earth as its legacy for the next generation.
I wish you all success.
Thank you.
            “Americans are very aware that the country that prevented the [Baghdad] government from falling was Iran. Iran’s role has been undeniable.”
            “Can countries [carry out this effort] without cooperation and coordination and succeed? Is a coalition needed? If so, who is best suited to lead? …Is it possible [to defeat extremism] without [addressing root causes and] without knowing the region very well?”
            “Countries in the region are much more qualified to lead [the anti-ISIS] efforts than those who are outside and don’t know the region as well.”
            “The Americans are free [to make their own] judgment, but people are aware that the strongest government that has taken the strongest fight against terrorism has been Iran.
            “Those who played a role in creating these terrorists … how can these same countries today say they want to fight these terrorists?”
            This policy is “clearly nebulous and ambiguous at best. I can assure you this will not succeed in the end. This is a very confusing behavior and policy.”
            “Bombarding a country has a legal process. It should take place within the framework of the U.N., or that country's leaders should have asked for it to be carried out officially and formally.”
            “[It’s not] legal, particularly without the authority of the government.”
            If “we want to bring an end to terrorist activities in Syria … you cannot reach that objective without a central government. First, we must drive out the terrorists.”
            Sept. 23, 2014 at a breakfast meeting with journalists (via Lobe Log, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, and Al-Monitor)
            Sept. 24, 2014 at a New America Foundation event 

            Airstrikes against ISIS are a “psychological operation,” not a military one.
            “It is a common threat for all of us. And this requires a unison effort from all of us. We need a vast campaign of operations ... the aerial bombardment campaign is mostly, I would say, a form of theater, rather than a serious battle against terrorism.”
            I would like to distance myself “from the word 'coalition' because some countries haven't come together under the umbrella of this coalition.”
            Sept. 25, 2014 in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour 
Nuclear Deal
            “I do believe we can reach an agreement in the next two months.”
            “The talks occurring [this week] will clear many things, whether we will be able to reach a final agreement or not. I believe both sides have reached the conclusion that the continuation of the current condition doesn't benefit anyone... So why not make strides to reach this agreement?”
            “After the dust settled [after the interim nuclear agreement was brokered], we [Iranians] never saw any thorns, only roses on that path [referring to domestic opposition].”
            “The differences are not so difficult as to be unresolvable, but not so simple to be resolved in a few meetings.”
“A final resolution is to the betterment of the region ... and the world at large.”
Both sides agree that the “continuation of the current agreement doesn’t benefit anyone.”
            “Without a doubt, reaching a final nuclear deal will expand our cooperation, and we can cooperate in various fields including restoring regional peace and stability and fighting against terrorism.”
            U.S-Iran relations “will be completely different [if a deal is reached].”
             “If there [is] no final agreement, there will perhaps be another way to go. For now, everything is based, God willing, on reaching an accord. [But failure to meet the deadline] doesn’t mean we will go back to the way things were before.”
            Sept. 23, 2014 at a breakfast meeting with journalists (via Lobe Log, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, and Al-Monitor)
            Sept. 24, 2014 at a New America Foundation event 
            That interim deal, “concrete proof that talks and negotiations succeed. We must all accept that there is only one way and that's the way of dialogue and talks and negotiations. This means that sanctions are an inappropriate tool. That means that threats are the wrong path.
            “I do think that if the agreement is reached, it can immediately cease and melt away -- take away these [U.S.] sanctions.”
            Sept. 25, 2014 in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour
Regional Policy
            “Our relationship with Saudi Arabia ... deserves to be warmer. Saudi Arabia's positions are getting closer and closer to us.”
            “Within the next few months, I believe our relations will grow warmer.
            “Saudi Arabia is an important country in our region, and we believe that the relationships between [Iran and the Gulf] countries must be very dignified and very strong.”
            Sept. 23, 2014 at a breakfast meeting with journalists (via Lobe Log, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, Al-Monitor)
            Iran has “delegations from Italy and France talking about considerable investments in rail and petrochemical industries.”
            Sept. 23, 2014 at a breakfast meeting with journalists (via Lobe Log, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, and Al-Monitor)
Jason Rezaian – Correspondent for The Washington Post
(a dual citizen of Iran and the United States reportedly detained in Iran since July)
            “We never wish for any individuals, Iranian or non-Iranians, be it in Iran or in other countries, to be imprisoned or detained or be put on trial. If they do go to trial, the trial will be fairly executed for them to have access to every legal defense allowed under the law, proper defensive representation through qualified attorneys, and we do hope that their families can gain the certainty that fairness and justice will be employed towards the cases and case files of their loved ones.
             “I do not believe that an individual would be detained or put in prison for being a journalist. An individual can be a reporter, a journalist, and have committed a crime. But that crime is not necessarily always related to their profession, to the profession that they're practicing.
             “My personal opinion is, and I've announced it several times when I've spoken on different occasions, we believe that the general behavior towards reporters and journalists and those who carry the heavy weight of informing our citizenry, must be quite flexible.
            “The truth of the matter is that I cannot have the time nor the inclination nor access to every single case file. But what I must... be assured of as the chief executive of my branch is that the constitution and the laws and the civil rights are being respected to the letter.”
            Sept. 25, 2014 in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour 
            “I’m not the judge of an individual being questioned by the judiciary.”
I am “hopeful and optimistic that the judiciary process will complete itself in a transparent and fair manner.”
            Sept. 23, 2014 at a breakfast meeting with journalists (via Lobe Log, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, and Al-Monitor)


             “We must not prematurely express opinions about a case that hasn't reached the court yet.”
             Sept. 24, 2014 at a New America Foundation event

            “The army of that country [Syria] was carrying out a battle against the terrorists. They kept saying that these are opposition members and we will keep asking who are these opposition members who have preferred to take up arms so swiftly and so savagely and violent, reasons rather than resorting to talks and negotiations?”
            “If the army of the Syrian people, the Syrian government, had not stood up and fought against terrorism, who do you think would have been the victor today? Let's assume no one would have rendered assistance. The victor would have been the same people that everyone is recognizing as terrorists today.”
             Sept. 25, 2014 in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour 
Internet Freedom
            “It is correct we have not yet reached a point in which we feel completely comfortable in what our people intended during the elections and voted for. But our people realize that we have taken steps forward. And our people are fully aware that in such matters, we must have a coordination with other branches of the government -- with the judiciary, with the parliament, with the legislatures.
            “What is important to keep in mind is that we've had sustainable movement forward throughout the past 12-plus months.”
            Sept. 25, 2014 in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour 
Climate Change
            “The rise in the temperature and its negative impact on rain precipitation in the Middle East, the chronic drought and water scarcity has led to an increase in poverty and the occurrence of instability and tensions in the border areas.”
            Sept. 23, 2014 in an address to the United Nations on climate change

The following is a video recording of Rouhani speaking at the New America Foundation on September 24. 


Photo credit: Robin Wright


In Tweets: Rouhani’s Trip to New York

            President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to New York for the 2014 U.N. General Assembly has been meticulously documented on his quasi-official Twitter account. The following are tweets in chronological order beginning with his arrival on September 22.

Report: Iran’s Effective Breakout

            The issue of Iran’s “breakout” capability, the time needed to obtain enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb, is a central issue in negotiations with the world’s six major powers. But a new report by the Arms Control Association argues that “effective breakout,” or the time needed to build a credible nuclear arsenal, should also be considered to find “the proper balance between verification and limitations” in a final deal. The following are highlights from the brief by Greg Thielmann with a link to the full text.

• One of the critical objectives of negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran is to lengthen the amount of time Iran would need to build a bomb if it chose to break out of its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations.
• The common definition of the term “breakout” is the time between the moment that the international community recognizes that a dash for a bomb is underway and the point at which enough fissile material for one weapon has been accumulated. The length of this timeline is a function of several factors.
- The time elapsed between the start of a breakout attempt and the discovery of that attempt.
- If the uranium path is the shortest route, the amount and enrichment level of the breakout country’s uranium stockpile.
- The state (gas or solid) and form (powder or metal) of that stockpile, and
- If gas centrifuges are used to enrich uranium, their number and efficiency.
• Although this definition of breakout has some utility, it does not provide a reliable guide to effective-breakout timelines because it excludes important steps that would be required to build and deploy even one weapon and ignores Iran’s particular real-world requirements for building a credible nuclear arsenal with multiple weapons.
• In addition to limits on the capacity to enrich weapons grade material in a given time, P5+1 negotiators must seek other elements in a final deal, including strengthened international monitoring, that taken together, can dissuade Iran from seeking to break out of the NPT.
• A satisfactory compromise agreement will enable Iran to claim success in protecting its right to develop a peaceful and independent nuclear energy sector and convince Iran that pursuing the NPT breakout option is far too risky for the regime to seriously contemplate.
Click here for the full text. 
Tags: Reports

Report: Arab Minority Faces Discrimination

           Iran’s Arab minority has suffered from political, economic and cultural discrimination under multiple administrations, according to a new report by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Arabs make up approximately two percent of Iran’s population of 80 million. But they are reportedly the majority in Khuzestan Province, which borders Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
            Arabs in the provincial capital Ahvaz and several towns held protests against Iran’s supreme leader in April 2011, following demonstrations across the Arab world. Widespread arrests and repression of political activists has further deteriorated relations between the minority and the central government. The following are excerpts from the report on two of the most recent confrontations between Arab protestors and the government.
The April 2005 Intifazeh
            On April 15, 2005, the Arab residents of Ahvaz took to the streets to protest a leaked memorandum ostensibly from the office of the President of the IRI that set forth a policy aimed at changing the ethnic makeup of the province.[63]
            The memorandum outlined measures meant to encourage the migration of Iranian citizens of Persian and Turkish ethnicities to Khuzestan province as well as the emigration of Arabs and the systematic replacement of Arabic place names with Persian equivalents. This official document bore the name and signature of Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former chief of staff and Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in the government of then-President Mohammad Khatami.
            The protests quickly expanded beyond the control of those who had originally organized them.[64] Kathem Mojaddam, an Islamic Wefagh Party activist and one of the organizers of the April 2005 protests, recalls that several banks in Ahvaz had their windows smashed. As the protests expanded to neighboring cities and counties other property was also subjected to sabotage.[65] During this escalation,[66] Abtahi quickly dismissed the document as a forgery.[67] Abtahi suggested that Khatami’s domestic political rivals had forged the document to diminish the high level of support for the reformist movement among Arabs, demonstrated by the results of previous local elections.[68]
            While some endorse this theory,[69] many do not accept Abtahi’s denial. There is widespread sentiment that whether or not the document was genuine, and whether or not it was correctly attributed to Abtahi and officials from the IRI’s reformist movement, it outlined a policy that had already been in place for years—and that continues to function to this day.[70]
Over the course of the next two weeks, much of Khuzestan was rocked by what has since been dubbed by locals as the intifazeh.[71] IRI authorities—on instructions from Tehran—cracked down on the populace. According to multiple sources, “dozens” of protesters were killed[72] and an estimated 250-360 people were arrested[73]—including many Ahwazi Arabs who had not participated in any acts of sabotage or even in the peaceful protests that had taken place in the region.[74]
            Ahwazi Arab families have continued to suffer long after the deaths of protesters. The families of many who participated in the 2005 protests still endure routine harassment, arrests and violence at the hands of the IRI’s security services. Kathem Mojaddam’s wife returns to Iran annually and is regularly summoned by the local Intelligence Office for interrogation.[78]
            The intifazeh has taken on a significant historical importance among Arabs from the region. The IRI also tightened security in the province and quickly expelled foreign journalists that reported on the April 2005 unrest.[79] The experiences of many witnesses indicate that for several years after the April 2005 protests, arrests, interrogations, and convictions of Arabs in Khuzestan and elsewhere in Iran referenced the protests and the unrest that followed.[80]
Ahvaz Bombings of 2005-06 and the ensuing reprisals
            A few days before the June 2005 presidential election, at least four consecutive bombs exploded in Ahvaz in the space of three hours.[81] Government offices and the homes and headquarters of state employees were the apparent intended targets. There were at least 11 reported fatalities and scores injured.  A couple of hours after the first bomb went off in Ahvaz, a bomb went off in Tehran as well, killing two persons.
            Successive bombs went off in Ahvaz in October 2005, January 2006, February 2006 and March 2006. The security crackdown that had followed the April 2005 unrest intensified. The IRI authorities blamed a range of alleged perpetrators including the Mujahedin-e Khalq, separatist groups like the Ahwazi Arab Peoples Democratic Popular Front and even foreign elements including the governments and armed forces of the UK, the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the Shell Oil Company for the attacks.
            Despite the IRI’s allegations of foreign involvement, most of the individuals detained on suspicion of the bombings were residents of Ahvaz. While some of those arrested were avowed separatists with links to militant groups, others blamed for the attacks were ethnic Arab citizens who played a prominent role in local politics and who had no history of militant activity or support for militant causes. Many detainees were arrested on the basis of very little evidence and reported being subjected to physical and mental torture while in detention and being denied contact with their family and access to counsel.
Continuing political marginalization: the April 2011 Protests
            Following the unrest in Ahvaz in 2005-2006, the province of Khuzestan came under increasing security control.  While the 2005 protest events were commemorated annually, the next major period of unrest occurred six years later.
            On April 15, 2011, as the world watched the protests collectively dubbed the “Arab Spring”, Arab activists using Facebook organized a protest. The protest erupted against the backdrop of the arrests of 16 Arab cultural activists (three of whom are currently on death row, two of whom were executed at the end of January 2014).
            Many Arabs in Ahvaz, Abadan, Khorramshahr, Hamidieh, Mahshahr and Shadegan took to the streets in what was dubbed a “Day of Rage” to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the 2005 protests.[82] Multiple sources allege the use of live ammunition to suppress the 2011 protests, and additionally that security services had begun raids against suspected organizers the day before the protests began.[83] Reports indicated that as many as 15 protesters were killed by security services and police during protests, with “tens” injured and “hundreds” arrested.[84]
            One report indicated that as many as 150 protesters were arrested, including 30 women, and that one protester died not as a result of live ammunition fire but from suffocation after inhaling Russian-made tear gas that was fired into the crowds.[85]
            Other reports indicated that nine protesters arrested in connection with the protests were executed within a month—three in public at Hamidieh junction and another six in prisons.[86]
            Another protest took place on June 21, 2012 in Ahvaz. At least 15 protesters were arrested on the same day,[87] and protests following the death of Arab poet Sattar al-Siahi[88] also occasioned another province-wide crackdown by IRI security services, during which it is alleged that nearly thirty people were arrested.[89]
            Five Arab cultural activists who founded and were leading members of al-Hiwar, the Arab cultural group established during Mohammad Khatami’s reformist presidency, were arrested in the April 2011 protests. They later received death sentences and were incarcerated in Karun prison. The five men—Mohammad Ali Amouri, Sayed Jaber Alboshoka, his brother Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, Hashem Sha’baninejad Amouri and Hadi Rashedi—were convicted of muharibih, or “warring against God” for allegedly killing a law enforcement official.
            Their death sentences, as confirmed by Iran’s Supreme Court in January 2013, are the most recent manifestation of the negative trend in relations between the Iranian state and the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority.[90] The men were nominated for the 2013 Civil Courage Prize.[91] At the end of January 2014, Hashem Sha’baninejad Amouri and Hadi Rashedi were executed in secret, without any prior notice to their families.[92]
Click here for the full report.
Click here for more information on Iran's ethnic minorities.
[75] Nirou-ye Entezami Jomhouri Eslami (NAJA), the force responsible for general policing throughout Iran. See their official website at: http://news.police.ir/. See Yegane Zede Shoresh Naja [Anti-Riot Police Unit], Iranian Engineers’ Club, http://www.iran-eng.com/showthread.php/322598-یگان-ضد-شورش-ناجا for photographs of the NAJA anti-riot forces. See also,Mamurāni Yigāni Vyzhi Ᾱmuzishi Zedi Shurish Mybynand [Special Units Officers Trained of Specific Anti Rebellion], Qudsonline(July 12, 2014), available at http://www.ghatreh.com/news/nn10353863/ماموران-یگان-ویژه-اموزش-ضدشورش-بینند. 
[76] IHRDC Interview with Kamil Alboshoka (Sept, 27, 2012) (on file with IHRDC).             
[77] IHRDC Interview with Hadi Batili (Oct. 8, 2012) (on file with IHRDC).
[78] Id.
[79] Cycle of Repression and Protest: Iranian Arabs in Khuzestan, Frontline (June 16, 2012, 18:32),  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2012/07/comment-cycle-of-repression-and-protest-iranian-arabs-in-khuzestan.html.
[80] IHRDC Interview with Kamil Alboshoka (Sept. 27, 2012); IHRDC Interview with Yousef Azizi Bani Torof (Sep. 29, 2012); IHRDC Witness Statement of Saied Alboghbaysh (Sept. 25, 2012), available at: http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/witness-testimony/1000000371-witness-statement-of-saied-alboghbaysh.html; IHRDC Interview with Ahmad Hamid (Jan. 8, 2012) (on file with IHRDC)
[81] See Akharin Akhbar az Enfejarhay-i Emrouz-i Ahvaz, [Latest news of today bombing in Ahvaz], Farsnews, 22 Khordad 1384, (June 12, 2005), available at: http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8403220224. According to this report, four bombs went off between 8 am and 11 am.  The first bomb went off at 8 am, the second bomb at 10:30 am, the third bomb at 10:50 am and the fourth bomb at 11 am.
[82] Golnaz Esfandiari, Iran’s Nobel Laureate Ebadi Warns of Unrest Among Ethnic Arabs in Iran, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Apr. 19, 2011), http://www.rferl.org/content/iran_nobel_ebadi_warns_unrest_ethnic_arabs_in_iran/9498400.html.
[83] Iran: Outside the Spotlight, Arab Uprising Smolders in Country’s Southwest, Los Angles Times (Apr. 30, 2011), http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/04/iran-ahvaz-protests-violence-human-rights-arab-seperatism.html.
[84] See Widespread Detention of Ahwazi Activists Mark Anniversary of 2005 Crackdown, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (Apr. 19, 2012), http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2012/04/ahwaz-crackdown/. See also, Iran: Investigate Reported Killings of Demonstrators, Human Rights Watch (Apr. 29, 2011), http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/04/29/iran-investigate-reported-killings-demonstrators.
[85] 4 Koshteh va daha Bazdashti Dar Dargiriyhaye Shadid Mardom Ahwaz Ba Nirohaye Amniyati [4 Dead and Tens Injured During the Heavy Fights of Ahwazi People with the Security Forces], AlArabiya (Apr. 14, 2011), http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/04/14/145420.html.
[86] Only One Month to Find, Sentence and Execute Suspects, Says Ahwazi Activist, International Campaign For Human Rights in Iran (May 16, 2011), http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2011/05/ahwaz-suspects-execute/.
[87] See Widespread Detentions of Ahwazi Activists Mark Anniversary of 2005 Crackdown, International Campaign For Human Rights in Iran (Apr. 19, 2012), http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2012/04/ahwaz-crackdown/. See also, Iran: Investigate Reported Killings of Demonstrators, Human Rights Watch (Apr. 29, 2014) http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/04/29/iran-investigate-reported-killings-demonstrators. See also, Ebadi Draws UN Attention Crackdown to Crackdown on Protests in Ahvaz, Radio Zamaneh (Apr. 18, 2011, 16:09),http://www.radiozamaneh.com/english/content/ebadi-draws-un-attention-crackdown-protests-ahvaz?page=2.  
[88] Although he was not in custody when he died, some Arab activists allege that Al-Siyahi died as a result of physical torture that he endured during interrogations at the Ahvaz Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS) office the previous week. See, Satar Al Siyahi, Hamaseh Saraye Ahwazi Dargozasht [Satar Al Siyahi, Epic Ahwazi Died], Iranglobal (Nov. 12, 2012), http://www.iranglobal.info/node/12098.
[89] Iran: 29 Arrested in Ahvaz, El-Yasin, Human Rights and International Affairs (Nov. 20, 2012), http://ayahra.org/en/news/1360-iran-29-arrested-in-ahvaz.html.
[90] Death Sentences for Five Ahwazi Arabs Upheld by Iran’s Supreme Court, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/news/inside-iran/1000000226-death-sentences-for-five-ahwazi-arabs-upheld-by-iran’s-supreme-court.html.
[91] Fa’alane Arab Mahkom Beh Edam, Kandidaye Jayezeh Beinolmelali Shoja’at Madani Shod/Anha Dar Etesabe Ghaza Be Sar Mibarand [Arab Activists Sentenced to Death, Were Nominated for the Award for Civil Courage/ They Are On a Hunger Strike], Justice For Iran (Mar. 17, 2013), http://justiceforiran.org/news/courage-award/?lang=en.
[92] IRI Executes Two Ahwazi Arab Men, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (Jan. 31, 2014), http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/news/press-statements/1000000428-iri-executes-two-ahwazi-arab-men.html#.U0G70sfgXEs.


US & Iran Meet in New York

      U.S. and Iranian officials have met in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss the nuclear talks and the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel for more than an hour on September 21. The two met one-on-one before they were joined by other senior officials. The following is a rundown of US-Iran meetings:

September 17-18
Press Office Director Jeff Rathke
            As you know, we have a team in New York right now for the P5+1 talks. The United States and Iran held bilateral consultations Wednesday and Thursday in New York. Those meetings were constructive, focused primarily on the nuclear issues. So with respect to your specific question, we’ve always said that the nuclear issues are separate from actions regarding ISIL, but discussion of this threat did arise on the margins of the meeting, as they have from time to time. They also happened during this – during the bilateral in this latest round. I don’t have any details on the specifics to share, but yes, it did come up.
September 21
            The following is attributable on background to a senior State Department official:

             Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif met for over an hour at the Waldorf Astoria today. They met one-on-one first, and then were joined by Deputy Secretary Burns and Under Secretary Sherman on the US side and Deputy FM Araghchi and Deputy FM Ravanchi on the Iranian side. They spent time reviewing the status of the EU-led P5+1 negotiations on Iran's nuclear program. They discussed both the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done. Secretary Kerry noted that this week is an opportunity to make additional progress and stressed that it is our intention to do so. Separate and apart from the nuclear issue, they also discussed the threat posed by ISIL.  Going forward, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Zarif agreed to meet further as needed while in New York this week.


September 25- 26
           The following are excerpted remarks attributable to a senior administration official:
           We just finished a two-hour trilateral between Secretary Kerry, Foreign Minister Zarif, and High Representative Ashton. They do this just the three of them. This meeting followed on the discussions they had last night. Indeed, the discussions this week have been – over the last several days – have been very intense, have happened in all manner of format. There have been bilaterals, trilaterals, many meetings of heads of state with President Rouhani, meetings by every delegation bilaterally with Minister Zarif. There have been staggering numbers of hours among experts because these are highly technical negotiations, as I think you all know well. And there has been an enormous amount of work that has been undertaken.
           We have not come here tonight to announce we’ve reached agreement. We did not expect to reach agreement this week.
           And the way I would summarize this week is that we do not have an understanding on all major issues. We have some understandings that are helpful to move this process forward. We have an enormous amount of details still to work through because it is highly, highly, highly technical. We have still some very, very difficult understandings yet to reach. Everyone here has to make difficult decisions, and we continue to look for Iran to make some of the ones necessary for getting to a comprehensive agreement.

           I think that it is no secret that at the core of this agreement is where Iran is, and the Iranians have spoken to this themselves, on enrichment and their capacity, and they have a concern about where we are on sanctions relief. And these are issues that are under great discussion in tremendous detail because it is very complex. In addition, of course, we have to get agreements on any number of other items, from all of the facilities to the infrastructure, to research and development to transparency monitoring, the duration, PMD. You all know the list; it’s quite long. 

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