Attack in Iran; militant group traced to Delft

Iranian Flag in Abshar Park, Tehran, Iran
Iranian Flag in Abshar Park, Tehran, Iran. (Photo: ak ba / Wikimedia Commons)

The Iranian government called the Dutch ambassador in the country to account after an attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz on Friday morning. One of the groups that claimed the attack, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz (ASMLA) can be found on the Dutch Chamber of Commerce and is based in Delft, NOS reports.

During the military parade in Ahvaz, four attackers on motorcycles opened fire on participants and spectators. According to Iranian media, at least 25 people were killed and around 70 were injured. Two groups claimed the attack - ASMLA and Islamic State. Neither group offered any proof of their involvement, according to the broadcaster.

Iran accused the Netherlands, as well as Denmark and the United Kingdom, of sheltering Iranian opposition groups. The country considers it unacceptable that these opposition groups are not considered terrorist organizations in the European Union. The Iranian government condemned these three countries for the attack and call on them to deal with the people behind it, a spokesperson for the Iranian government said, according to NOS.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that there was a conversation with Iran. "We have heard the Iranian lecture and conveyed condolences for the attack", the Ministry said in a written reaction. 

Iran's accusations against the Netherlands do not come from nowhere and can be explained, historian and Iran expert Peyman Jafari said to NOS. "The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz, as the group is called, can simply be found through the Chamber of Commerce. They're in Delft", Jafari said. "Moreover, it is an organization that carries out an armed struggle. The supporters are not secretive about it either." The group's website shows pictures of attacks on oil pipelines and armed militants.

Jafari doesn't think it strange that Iran responded in this way. "That is not new either, they've been saying for a long time that it is hypocritical how the Netherlands deals with this. These types of groups from other countries would never be allowed. If it comes to Iran, they are overlooked, is Tehran's complaint." The historian thinks that ASMLA in the Netherlands consists of dozens of people. "Not hundreds. But I admit: it's very difficult to put a number on it."

On Sunday ASMLA denied involvement in the attack in Ahvaz. According to ASMLA, a splinter group that left ASMLA in 2015 falsely used the organization's name in claiming the attack. ASMLA is part of the Ahvaz National Resistance, a kind of umbrella organization for all armed organizations that want to separate Khuzestan from Iran. 

The largely Arab population of Iran lives in poverty and feels discriminated against, Jafari explained. "There are often peaceful demonstrations in the region, but a very small part of the population takes up arms." Members of ASMLA and other independence groups are regarded as terrorists by Iran. For that reason many members flee the country and end up in the Netherlands, Great Britain and Denmark, among others