The persecution of Yazidis and Kurds (along with Christians) by the Islamic State terror group has been so horrific, systematic and widespread that it has not escaped the notice of Western media outlets (although the UN has stayed shy of calling it genocide). Major outlets have devoted extensive coverage to the Yazidis’ plight, especially the suffering endured by thousands of captive Yazidi women.
And yet, political and religious persecution – albeit on a smaller scale – continues to take place elsewhere in the Middle East without attracting too much media attention. In Iran, for example, 75 Ahwazi Arab activists from Iran’s oil-rich (but destitute) Khuzestan province were arrested en masse following a protest last month; according to Human Rights Watch, their whereabouts are unknown.
The activists belonged to Iran’s much-persecuted Arab minority, which, according to Amnesty International, routinely faces threats such as unfair trials, torture, imprisonment and execution. The grounds for their arrest? Possibly “merely in connection with their perceived political opinions, for peacefully expressing dissent or for openly exhibiting their Arab identity and culture,” Human Rights Watch speculated with concern.
Outside of the websites of human rights groups, we could barely find mentions of the protests (which took place during and after football matches the locals attended in Arab dress) and the arrests that followed in the Western press. The Huffington Post’s Daniel Brett devoted a lengthy blog post to Ahwazi persecution, which has intensified under “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani, while James Dorsey tied it to the wider “Saudi-Iranian proxy war.”
The massive surge in executions since the Iranian new year (March 21) also barely found mention outside of sites associated with Iranian opposition groups, nor did Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s outlandish declaration that Iran, unlike the US, is “not after Hollywood-style policing” (said with reference to the police response to racially-charged protests in the US). Maybe the Ahwazis can tell us a thing or two about Iran-style policing – mass arrests, forced confessions and all.