Wednesday, 29 October 2008

IMHRO: an exclusive interview with Habib Nabgan about the arrest and deportation of his family from Syria to Iran

Iranian Minorities’ Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO)



In an exclusive interview with IMHRO, Habib Nabgan talks about his family’s deportation from Syria back to Iran, where they are being unlawfully detained by the Iranian government.

“My family entered Syria in May 2008. A week later they were registered by UNHCR. A week after that, they were also given permission by the Danish government to settle in Denmark. However, before they could move to Denmark, they were deported back to Iran by the Syrian government”, Habib Nabgan told IMHRO.

“Once deported, the Iranian government arrested my wife, Ma’soumeh (DOB 1977) and our five children Shima (DOB 1994), Asia (DOB 1995), Asma (DOB 1997), Iyad (DOB 2000) and Emad (DOB 2003). They arrested them to pressure me into handing myself over to them.”

This is a common practice of Iranian government toward Ahwazi Arabs; especially in cases where the father of the family cannot be found or arrested revenge is taken by punishing their family.

“My wife was previously arrested in 2006 along with our little son Emad; they were both detained for four months. At that time my son was just 2 1/2 years old. One day an Iranian intelligence officer, who called himself Ahmadi, called me when I was in the UAE and warned me that if I did not hand myself over, they would make my whole family disappear. I replied; ‘execute them’. My wife has since told me that they played my recorded voice to them every day during those four months; they used it to pressure them into disclosing information about me”.

It is against all international laws to return registered asylum seekers to countries like Iran. This is especially true in cases where there are records that a person has been previously unlawfully arrested, kept in solitary confinement and subjected to torture.

“As a result of the last arrest and because of the way he was treated by the Iranian intelligence, my little boy has changed. He has become very aggressive. My wife has also developed depression and other psychological problems. During the detention my wife was continually questioned about me and my whereabouts. Then after four months, without any explanation about her arrest or release, she was allowed to leave”.

The Syrian government repeatedly break international laws and ignore the objections of the international community by deporting registered refugees. Many others have suffered in a similar way to Habib Nabgan’s family, such as; Jamal Obaidawi, Taher Ali Mazra’a, Rasool Ali Mazrae Saeed Hamadi, Faleh Abdullah Al-Mansouri and Saeed Saki. These are all indigenous Arabs in Iran and are registered by UNHCR as refugees.

“My family were due to fly to Denmark on 18th September, but first they had to get permission from the Syrian Immigration office to leave the country. Everyone who wishes to leave Syria must be first granted permission. But at the Immigration and Visa office, they were arrested. I spoke to her over the phone once and she told me that they were going to arrest us all. Since that conversation I have heard nothing else from them. I do not know what has happened to them since.”

After his wife’s arrest the Syrian government separated his wife from her children and took her to their intelligence centre for interrogation. On 27th September they deported her and their five children back to Iran. On 29th of September my family called me from the city of Ahwaz and told me that Iranian intelligence service have put my family in prison.

IMHRO questioned Nabgan about the allegation of his involvement in the bombing which took place in 06/2005 in Ahwaz.

He replied: “I was never involved in the bombing; this allegation was made up by the Iranian government. I was a political activist and leader of the April 2005 uprising of Ahwazi Arabs. My wife was never involved in any political or cultural activism; they are punishing my family to punish me. I don’t know who was behind those bombing.

Recently Nabgan’s sister, Jamila Nabgan age 43 and mother of seven children, was also arrested by the Iranian government in Ahwaz.

“My sister was also arrested to put further pressure on me to ‘confess’. On the 19th October, about 6pm, the Iranian Intelligence came to my sister’s house and started searching. They did not find anything incriminating, but they still took my sister with them. This has terrified the whole family.”

IMHRO asked Nabgan what he would like the international community to do to help his family.

“Habib Nabgan: Why should I by punished, especially through the maltreatment of my wife and children? I was just a political activist. Everyone should have the civil right to free speech. The United Nations is responsible for protecting my family in Iran and should have also held Syria to account. The Danish government should also help in my family’s release as they permitted us to settle in Denmark. I have not known for over a month where my family is being kept or how they are being treated.”

IMHRO are renewing Nabgan’s appeal to the international community in relation to Ma’soumeh Ka’bi and her five children. Pressure needs to be put on the Iranian government for their immediate release.

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