Ahwazis and BAFS members have received a number of death threats since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power last year, although some appear to have come from Persian ultra-nationalists opposed to the regime. However, most activists have ignored the threats or passed on details to the police. The latest reports along with an attempted abduction of an Ahwazi at a European airport appear to confirm that some of the threats may be serious.
BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "The latest information from Iran suggests that the threats are serious. We are urging exiled Ahwazi opposition activists, particularly in London, to keep travel plans and address details secret, maintain a low profile when visiting the Middle East and not to use Iranian-owned airlines. Ahwazis living in Europe who receive death threats or see signs of suspicious activity should report to the police immediately. This will help the authorities identify trends in threats and take appropriate action. We also urged Ahwazis not to panic. Co-operation with the police will help prevent harm to Ahwazis and British citizens. The worst anyone can do is hide away and remain silent."
The threats to Ahwazis in the Middle East are well-known. Recently, a number of UN-registered Ahwazi refugees and a Dutch national have been detained by the Syrian authorities in Damascus and one has been sent back to Iran to face interrogation through torture (click here for Amnesty International report). Earlier this year, an Ahwazi political leader living in Iraq's Basra province was abducted by Iranian-backed militias and was tortured and killed before his mutilated body was handed back to his family (click here for details). Ahwazis fleeing to other Arab states, including Kuwait and the UAE, have also told of threats to their lives and the lives of their relatives in Iran.
Until now, Europe has been seen as a safe-haven for Ahwazi refugees. The regime has carried out killings in Europe the past. In 1993, three Iranian Kurdish leaders were murdered by agents of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Vienna while they were involved in negotiations with Iranian representatives. Austrian politicians have alleged that Ahmadinejad himself assisted the assassination operation while serving as a Revolutionary Guards commander. Ahmadinejad is likely to favour similar assassinations of dissidents in Europe.
There is concern in the UK over the security threat posed by Iran. British intelligence agencies have informed the UK's parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee that the regime poses a threat to British interests. A report published this week by the ISC states that "there is a possibility of an increased threat to UK interests from Iranian state-sponsored terrorism should the diplomatic situation deteriorate."