They were members of a dissident Iranian group, the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan (DRFLA). The group demanded the release of 91 prisoners in Iran's southern Khuzestan Province, where the DRFLA wanted Arab national sovereignty.
Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Arabs living in Khuzestan Province rose up and demanded autonomy. A crackdown by Iranian security forces left more than a hundred Arab protesters dead and many more were jailed. More than a dozen elite troops from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were also killed in the clashes.