By Benjamin Minick and Irina Tsukerman
With everything else going on in the world, many things are being covered up that should be brought to light to everyone. The Iranian regime and its so-called government continue to disrupt the political and business world far beyond their borders. This goes far beyond the geopolitical battles that they’ve had with the United States military and its allies. The recent arrests of four activists in Europe took place one day after Denmark and Iran concluded a lucrative deal on a pharmaceutical company. Why would Denmark and Netherlands give up four persecuted refugees for an insulin-producing company, when most of the Middle East is unlikely to purchase insulin originating in Iran? Why would these two countries which pride themselves on their human rights record be playing to the biases and wishes of one of the worst human rights violators in the world?
The truth is that Iran continues to carry out are untold human rights atrocities against an entire indigenous people. The unfortunate part about all of this is that none of this is new, and it has been going on seemingly forever. There is a group of people known as Ahwazi that inhabit the southern and southwestern portions of Iran, particularly the border in regions with Iraq. These are Arab people that do not identify with Iran’s regime. Culturally closer to Gulf Arab states, the Ahwazi Arab population has 2500 year history of an independent and semi/independent (autonomous) emirate which has been forcibly annexed by Reza Pahlavi in 1925 with the help of the British. Ahwaz, at the time, was a geopolitically strategic entry way into the Gulf, and a chokepoint of bitter rivalry between Russia and Britain. Eventually, the region came to be known for containing most of the oil in what became Iran. Reza Pahlavi’s ultranationalist ideology denied unique Arab culture, history, and language to the Ahwazi Arabs, as the monarch sought to impose “Persian” identity on the entire population. However, after the Islamic Revolution, things went from bad to worse for the Ahwazis. The Islamic Republic’s policies are aimed at depopulating the region through ethnic cleansing, population transfer, discrimination, and abuse. At the same time, Tehran is counting on the ignorance of the rest of the world about this community and its fate. The policy inside Iran is to deny that any Arabs live there, only Persians. Simultaneously, the Islamic Republic apparatchiks play on public fears, biases, and internal tensions to paint all of Ahwazi Arabs as dangerous separatists and terrorists who seek to undermine the country’s territorial integrity.
The International Community recognizes its sovereignty while the Iranian government wishes to steal their lands and essentially ethnically cleanse them. There have been several mishaps and disasters that have resulted in death and displacement of multitudes of people from this region. Most recently floods, that could have been avoided or assisted with by their Iranian government, but instead, the floodwaters were seemingly directed towards the Ahwazi people. Instead of helping them as promised, government forces surrounded the individuals and moved them off their land.
You see, these people’s ancestral lands comprise Approximately 80% of the oil in the region. So why wouldn’t the government want to remove them altogether? They are rounded up in droves and imprisoned throughout Iran in absolutely deplore conditions. Many of them are never even actually arrested; some of them are executed. As if it wasn’t bad enough for this to be occurring enter their homes and on their lands, Iran seems to know no bounds when it comes to trying to snuff them out.
Worse still, the regime has a history of persecuting Ahwazis, and other non-Persians well beyond its own borders. In the past several years, it has assassinated and tried to assassinate several Ahwazi activists, among others, in European countries, resulting in some tensions with European countries, which view these assassinations less as a human rights cause and more as a violation of their own national sovereignty in what they perceive as political games between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, to some extent they see Ahwazi refugees in Europe as Arab or at least foreign before European residents or citizens.
The New York-based human rights attorney Irina Tsukerman, who has attended an Ahwazi human rights conference shortly after an attempted assassination against some of the activist of ASMLA, describes her experience with the Danish press. “They asked me why an American Jewish woman would work with Ahwazi Arabs – she explained. – THe press also seemed genuinely surprised that Israel’s Mossad had intervened to prevent the assassination by providing intelligence to Denmark. They could not understand why Israel would do such a thing, implying either that Israel is somehow at war with all Arabs or that it considers Arab lives unimportant. I told them that we are all human beings before anything else, and there is no reason why Jews and Muslims, or Israelis and Arabs cannot care about preventing terrorism against one another. But that sort of thinking seemed to reflect a lot of the popular mindset in Denmark, and probably other European countries.”
In February of this year, four men were arrested in Denmark on trumped-up charges ranging from spying for Saudi Arabia to terrorism. Habib Jabor, Nasser Jabor, Yaqoub Hor Altostari, and Eissa Sawari, an Ahwazna TV presenter, were into custody without so much as a peep from the Danish authorities. The first three were the activists in Denmark who were targeted by the Norwegian terrorist connected to the IRGC and who were nearly killed in 2018. Eissa Sawari was also a target of Iranian surveillance. A Swedish-Iraqi citizen had spied on his house and provided photographs of Sawari’s residence to the Iranian intelligence, and was sentenced to 2.5 years in jail in Sweden in 2019. Denmark and Netherlands, conducting these arrests, did not seem to make the connection between Iran’s campaign against these individuals, who did not have any criminal history in Europe up until they became targets of Iran’s interest, and these dubious charges.
The Oddity of it begins here because situations involving espionage and spying generally attract large amounts of attention from the government and public. In this case, everything was strangely quiet.
So what do the Dutch and the Danish have to gain by keeping these men in custody? There has been no evidence presented; these men were simply activists for their cause, for their people. They have been kept in complete isolation. They are unable to speak to each other or other prisoners, their families have had zero communication with them, and in Denmark, their local lawyers appear to be little more than a court-appointed figureheads.
On the surface, there are a couple of things that come to mind. The nuclear deal that European powers are trying to hold Iran to is tantamount to success for the Danish and Dutch; both countries were strong supporters of the JCPOA, and also regarded Iran as a valuable ally in the war on drugs in Afghanistan.
However, there is more to the story than general geopolitical concerns.
You might find yourself asking why? The answer to that is simple; there was a massive pharmaceutical deal that was signed with the Iranians promises an entry into Middle Eastern markets, or at the very least a monopoly on the 80,000 residents of Iran. Appeasing Iran to stay in the nuclear deal is part of the answer, but profiting off the nuclear deal and related matters might be part of the calculus as well. It would seem as though these men are being held by the Danes as a favor to the Iranians.
Irina Tsukerman, who had been involved with the Ahwazi human rights cause for a number of years added: “I have seen this play out just a year ago in Poland, when the Ahwazis organized a conference on the sidelines of the US-led Warsaw summit focused on countering Iranian aggression and nuclear ambitions. The Ahwazis were there to discuss their own plight in light of Iran’s increasing reach to Europe. Tehran sent out a number of red notices and had an entire group detained. Most were released except Mr. Habib Chaabi, who ended up in a Polish lock up for months under investigation, while I worked with other counsel, the Swedish Foreign Ministry, and tried to get through to the US State Department about the absurdity of that case. It seemed from the start that Mr. Chaabi was nothing more than a political hostage to some game going on behind the scenes. Had he been returned to Iran, he would been immediately arrested, tortured, and executed. Thankfully, the judge not only released him personally but in his decision for the first time in EU legal history acknowledged systematic Iranian persecution of the Ahwazi Arabs. The same thing seems to be happening now; innocent people are being held on trumped up charges, after everything they have been through back home thanks to the regime’s brutality. Now they and their families are once again being treated like traitors and terrorists, while the regime is playing its games and making demands, using European justice systems for lawfare against the political opposition.”
There is most assuredly something rotten in Denmark, and Netherlands as well, and we aim to find out what exactly that is. Iran cannot be allowed to recklessly and aimlessly continue to manipulate global politics at the expense of their people or anyone else.
Since when is Iran in a position to be taken at its word? They don’t exactly have the best track record considering one of the primary reasons that the United States walked away from the agreement, to begin with, is that Iran was not upholding its end of the bargain. Curiously enough, this pharmaceutical deal landed at precisely the same time that these men were arrested, and Iran was re-establishing one of its heavy water reactors and wish they claimed was for medical purposes.
Benjamin Minick is a military analyst and freelance journalist, who specializes in defense and ME affairs.