The detention without trial of three women - Masoumeh Kaabi (28), Sakina Naisi (40) and Soghra Khudayrawi - and two four-year-old boys - Masoumeh's son Aimad and Soghra's son Zeidan - was first reported by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) earlier this month.
Masoumeh (pictured left with her son Aimad) is the wife of political activist Habib Nabgan, who has fled the country. He has received threats that his family will be tortured or killed if he does not return to Iran. Soghra's husband, Khalaf Derhab Khudayrawi, is also wanted by the authorities in connection with his political activities.
Sakina (right)was three months at the time of her arrest on 27 February and there are concerns for her health. She is the wife of Ahmad Naisi, a prominent political activist wanted by the authorities. Following her arrest, the authorities destroyed her husband's family home in the Sho'aybiyeh district of Ahwaz with bulldozers.
In its urgent action appeal on behalf of the women and children, Amnesty International said it "believes all five are very likely to be prisoners of conscience held solely in order to force their husbands and fathers to give themselves up to the Iranian authorities. As such they should be released immediately and unconditionally."
On 11 March, Ahwazis demonstrated outside the European Commission's offices in London, calling for their release (click here for pictures). The European Commission and European Parliament were given details on the treatment of Ahwazi women and children in Iranian custody, but the Commission and the European Parliament's delegation for Iran have refused to condemn the government's use of kidnap as a weapon against opponents.
BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "The EU and UN should send investigators to Al-Ahwaz immediately to assess the situation there. We believe that the UNCHR should refer Iran to the UN Security Council over the gross human rights violations and ethnic cleansing suffered by the Ahwazi Arabs. It is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue and the UN Convention on Human Rights must be upheld."