The daughter of an Iranian Arab activist killed in the Netherlands last month linked his death to political conflict in the Middle East, and warned other exiles in Europe to be on their guard, Reuters reports. Ahmad Mola Nissi, 52, was gunned down by an unidentified assailant in front of his home in The Hague on Nov. 8 in a suspected political killing.
Hawra Ahmad Nissi said her father’s death was reminiscent of a string of murders of Iranian dissidents in Europe in the 1990s.
“Europe seems safe, but be careful. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is not confined to the Middle East. It is spreading into Europe,” she told Reuters in an interview.
Mola Nissi established the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), which seeks a separate state in Iran’s oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan province, in 1999. Since his murder, his family has been under Dutch police protection at a safe house.
“We came here to be safe but we don’t feel safe. European governments should do more to secure the safety of activists,” Hawra Nissi, 25, said.
Tehran, which has condemned Mola Nissi’s killing and promised to investigate it, accuses Riyadh of funding separatist groups active in Iran, a charge the Saudis deny. A source close to Mola Nissi’s family, who asked not to be named due to security concerns, said he had accepted Saudi financial support but did not want the Ahvazi cause to be used as a pawn in the proxy war. This attitude could have made him an obstacle to efforts to bring the ASMLA movement under Saudi influence, the source said.
Ahvazi Arabs are a minority in mainly ethnic Persian Iran, and some see themselves as victims of occupation and want independence or autonomy. Ahmad Mola escaped Ahwaz after the 2005 protest, where thousands of political and human rights activists were killed or captured and brutally tortured before being put to death by the Iranian regime.
The biggest demonstration in Ahwaz was on the 15th of April 2005. It was brought about by the publication of a letter that outlined how the government planned to change the population of Al-Ahwaz via ethnic cleansing and forced migration of Arabs from the region.
Amongst the prominent Ahwazi dissidents in exile previously targeted across the Middle East was the then-leader of the Ahwaz Liberation Party who was assassinated at the movement’s office in Baghdad on May 3, 1991. There was also an unsuccessful assassination attempt on his successor in the United Arab Emirates in 1998, while another prominent Ahwazi dissident, Doayer Bostan, was assassinated in 2006 in Iraq.
In addition to using its customary methods of lethal torture and execution by various means, including poison and hanging, domestically, the regime also has a network of operatives who carry out assassinations of dissidents regionally and internationally.
Ahmad Mola had been on Iran’s ‘wanted list’ for a long time. The Iranian regime even tried to bring Mola back to Iran, through Interpol, to execute him in Iran. Mola’s family said that he had received regular death threats from the Iran regime, which routinely attempts to silence dissent both inside and outside Iran by killing dissidents or terrorizing them into silence.
“The family is open to all scenarios. Iran is a prime suspect, but not the only suspect,” Hawra Nissi said.
Police are exploring a possible link between Mola Nissi’s killing and the unsolved murder of another Iranian near Amsterdam in December 2015, a spokeswoman said. They are looking for two suspects believed to have gunned down Ali Motamed. The police declined to comment on the circumstances of Motamed‘s death or a motive, but Iranian media have linked him to exiled Iranian opposition Shi’ite group the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), which would have made him a potential target. A man detained in relation to Mola Nissi’s death has since been released, the spokeswoman added.
The most prominent among a string of killings and disappearances of Iranian dissidents in the 1980s and 1990s was the shooting of three Iranian Kurdish opposition leaders in Berlin in 1992, which a German court ruled had been ordered by the government in Tehran.