"I have tried to defend the legitimate right of every person in this world ... to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen," wrote Hashem Shaabani, a young Iranian Ahwazi Arab poet from an Iranian prison. On Jan. 27, he was hanged along with 14 other prisoners, accused of "waging war on God."

Radio Free Europe reported that he had been sentenced by an Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal. Dozens of other Ahwazis shared Shaabani's fate. There have been demonstrations in Iran against government discrimination against its Arab minority with regard to employment, housing and basic civil rights.

Repression against Ahwazis has been brutal. Human Rights Watch has called on Iranian authorities to allow independent international media and human rights organizations to investigate allegations of rights violations in Khuzestan Province, where most Ahwazi Arabs live. It is in the southwest and is rich in oil and gas.