Syria and Iran have forged a closer alliance following the US invasion of Iraq, fearing that their sovereignty may also be undermined. The arrest of Ahwazis in Syria, two weeks after an Ahwazi uprising in the Iranian province of Khuzestan, has raised fears that the Syrian government may be targetting Ahwazis on behalf of Iran.
The families of those detained have reportedly been denied access. Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera TV network says the men are alleged to be affiliated with the Al-Ahwaz Arab Peoples Democratic Popular Front, a separatist Arab group involved in the uprising. The group has called for their release of the prisoners, but has not confirmed whether they are members.
The transfer of the prisoners to Iran could constitute a violation of international law, which states that no country is allowed to hand over prisoners to their country of origin if it endangers their lives. Al-Jazeera reports that the Syrian Human Rights Organisation has called on the UNHCR to intervene to prevent their deportation to Iran, claiming that they face imminent danger to their lives if they are handed over.
The death toll of Ahwazi Arabs at the hands of security forces in Khuzestan over the past two weeks is over 160, according to the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation, which is in contact with local hospitals, tribal leaders and victims' relatives.