Iranian Intelligence Ministry authorities have violently arrested a 17-year-old ethnic Arab activist in the southeastern province of Khuzestan on February 8, the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today. Iranian intelligence agents reportedly first questioned Ali Kab-Aomair for his activism and about his ethnicity before breaking his arm and detaining him.

 “Ali went there and the officials asked him why he wore traditional Arab clothing in rallies for the protection of the Karoon River and carried signs in Arabic,” Aomair’s cousin told the Campaign on February 12. “The officials told him that his friends had been arrested for carrying Arabic banners in Al-Ghadir Stadium in Ahwaz (during a soccer match) to protest Iran’s support for the war in Syria.” The authorities have warned Aomair’s family not to enquire about him, and his parents are worried that he may be tortured. The report adds that Aomair is a high student in Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzestan, who has peacefully protested against air pollution and against Iran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Comment: The brutal arrest of Aomair, a juvenile, is the latest example of the Iranian regime’s suppression of its ethnic and religious minority groups. Iran’s security and intelligence authorities see any forms of social and political activism as a threat to the regime. But while acts of discrimination and persecution against minority groups such as the Baha’is often make headlines, the marginalization and oppression of the Arab ethnic group living in Iran have drawn little international attention.  

The Arab community constitutes about two percent of Iran’s 80 million population and predominantly live in oil-rich Khuzestan Province in the country’s south. Although Khuzestan accounts for a vast majority of Iran’s oil production and government revenues, its Arab residents have been subjected to economic, social and political marginalization for decades.