A commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards died after an ambush on Sept. 20 by Ahwazi militants. Mehdi Bayat was killed near the Revolutionary Guards base in Hamidiyah, near Ahwaz City in western Khuzestan province, where Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority have launched a struggle for autonomy or independence. Bayat was a commanding officer responsible for training members of the Bassij militia in Khaffajiyah. The town of Khaffajiyah has witnessed a number of disturbances by Ahwazi Arab groups which have been brutally put down by the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Ashura Brigades.
A number of assassinations and attempted assassinations have been carried out in Ahwaz in recent months with members of the Revolutionary Guards, the police and clerics targeted. In June, militants assassinated Hisham Saimeri, the imam of Zahraa mosque in the Hay al-Thawra district of Ahwaz City, which has experienced the highest levels of Arab unrest. The provincial governor blamed “saboteurs, evildoers and Wahhabis.” (click here for further details)
At the time, the Canada-based Hizb al-Nahda al-Ahwaziya (Ahwazi Renaissance Party (ARP) welcomed the assassination and warned Hijazi of “the consequences of continuing the criminal policies committed against Ahwazis.” The ARP has also welcomed the assassination of Bayat, stating that “Ahwazis have proved through this heroic act to the Persian invader authorities that their repressive practices and executions would not stop their struggle to regain their usurped rights.”
It is unclear what, if any, links the ARP has with the assassins. It is a separate group from the Harkat al-Nedhal Alarabi (Arabic Struggle Movement for Liberation of Al-Ahwaz-ASMLA), which has claimed responsibility for a number of bomb attacks in Ahwaz City.
Iranian officials claim a group called Jebheyia Khalghi Al-Ahwazyeh (Ahwazi Nation or People Front) was responsible. No group has claimed responsibility for the killing. (Al-Ahwaz News, UK, Sept. 26)
On Sept. 26, the US Senate approved a resolution urging the Bush administration to designate the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization. The White House is considering whether to label the entire Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group or to take a narrower step focused only on the Quds Force, an elite unit of the corps. (NYT, Sept. 27)