Sunday, April 17, 2005

Iranian city of Ahvaz back to normal

Persian Journal:
The city of Ahvaz in Iran was calm Sunday, with anti-riot police cruising the streets after two days of violent demonstrations. At least one demonstrator died and eight others were wounded in the protests, sparked by rumors that Tehran planned to decrease the proportion of Arabs in the oil-rich area near the Iraqi border.

Police patrols cruised Ahvaz's neighborhoods Sunday and guarded the city's banks. Shops were open although the streets were largely empty, with vehicles of anti-riot troops lining the streets, residents said.

"Security is tight in two or three neighborhoods," said Hadi Yunesi, a local journalist. "But the city is calm, shops are open and life has returned to normal."

The fracas started Friday after hundreds of Arab residents of Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan Province, gathered to chant slogans against an alleged government plan to move more non-Arabs into the city.

The protests turned violent as people set fire to banks and police stations. Police made more than 250 arrests.

But Abtahi denied on his Web site that he was behind the letter, which reportedly said that "Arabs must emigrate, Arab names of towns and villages must become Persian [in Khuzestan]." READ MORE