25 June, 2007

Cleric assassinated by Ahwazi militants in Iran

Armed Ahwazi Arabs assassinated a mullah close to the Iranian regime on Sunday in response to the pledge by the newly appointed governor of Khuzestan, Jaafar Hijazi, to attack "saboteurs, evildoers and Wahhabis."

The Iraqi-born cleric, named Hisham Saimeri, was involved in recruiting Ahwazi youth into the Bassij paramilitary forces and was a local spokesman for hardliners in the Iranian regime. He was a known agent of the Iranian intelligence services while serving as the imam of Zahraa mosque in the Hey al-Thawra district of Ahwaz City.

Saimeri preached against Ahwazi Arab rights at Zahraa mosque and had described Ahwazi rights activists as Wahhabis and separatists.

Hijazi was appointed provincial governor on 21 June. During the hand-over ceremony, his predecessor, Amir Hayati-Moghadam, denounced the Ahmadinejad administration for drinking water shortages in the region and accused the government of withholding development aid he had promised. However, over one million Ahwazi Arabs wrote letters of complaint to President Ahmadinejad over government policies, particularly endemic employment, during a visit to the region in January. Ahmadinejad appears to be scapegoating local politicians for government failures, which have fuelled unrest among Arabs. Jaafar Hijazi is the third person to occupy the position of governor of Khuzestan, known locally as Al-Ahwaz or Arabistan, in the space of a year, indicating that Tehran is in a state of panic.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Ahwazi Renaissance Party (ARP) has welcomed the assassination and warned Hijazi of "the consequences of continuing the criminal policies committed against Ahwazis."

 
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