Iran regime’s violations against Ahwazis raised at Geneva conference


Middle Eastern and international human rights organizations have called for sending an international mission to probe the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Iranian regime in predominantly Arab Ahwaz region.

The call was issued during a major human rights seminar held by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, which was organized by the Ahwaz Organization for the Defence of Human Rights (AODHR).

Delegates at the event, which was attended by a number of prominent human rights activists and representatives of Arab and international human rights organizations, centered on discussion of the multiple abuses and crimes perpetrated against the Ahwazi people by the Iranian regime.

The timing of the symposium meant that a primary focus was the regime’s brutal response to protests in recent days when thousands of Ahwazi people took to the streets of towns and cities across the region in what’s being called the ‘Uprising of Thirst’ to denounce the deteriorating quality of the drinking water in the region, which is brackish, saline and widely viewed as undrinkable.  The Iranian regime reacted to the protests with brutal attacks on the protesters, killing one and injuring dozens more. Many were also arrested.

 

One of the speakers at the event, Yaqoub Hor Al-Tostari, the representative of the Arab struggle for the liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), urged the international community and Arab and international human rights organizations to convene an urgent meeting to discuss possible action and to immediately intervene, sending an international mission to investigate the aforementioned killing and the injuries and arrests during the protests five days earlier.

 

Al-Tostari also emphasized that these are not isolated events, drawing attention to the daily suffering of the Ahwazi people due to the regime’s systemic and unrelenting brutal anti-Arab persecution and repression, along with its longstanding theft of their lands and resources, contamination of their natural environment, and diversion of the region’s once-bounteous Karoon and Karkheh rivers to other, ethnically Persian areas of Iran, which has led to widespread desertification and further intensified the environmental crisis.

 

 

The movement called on world powers and freedom-lovers worldwide to support the struggle of the Ahwazi people in the face of the racist policies of the Iranian regime.

Another speaker at the event, Abdel-Rahman Hatteh, representing the Ahwaz Organization for the Defence of Human Rights, stressed the need to formally document the Iranian regime’s violations in the Ahwaz region and to provide far greater and better informed media coverage in order to bring the suffering of the Ahwazi people to the attention of regional and international human rights organizations and the wider international community.

In his address at the event, Hatteth recounted a brief history of Ahwaz, saying: “Initially, the people of Al-Ahwaz were independent and free until the mid-1920s when Reza Pahlavi, the leader of the Persia army and the then-Prime Minster of Iran, invaded their territory and ended self-determination for Arabs. Reza Khan declared himself the king of the Persia after the annexation of various ethnic regions, such as south Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Baluchistan, Turkmen Sahara and Al-Ahwaz[Arabistan]. This marked a new era in contemporary Iranian history when Persian-centric Iranian nationalism was enforced to change the demographic composition of the country.

Consequently, the Farsi language has become ‘the soul of “Iranian-ness” itself’ which illustrates the chauvinist rule in Iran by undermining more than half of the population who lost their freedom. In addition, the King pursued social homogenization and control by violently crushing ethnic autonomies, Persianizing non-Persian nations and marginalizing local elites.

Similarly, the cultural repression of Ahwazis by Persia government was followed by forced displacement, forced assimilation and land confiscation. Despite all this, attempts at social engineering in Iran proved ineffective in the long term and the Ahwazi nation has demonstrated discontent and resistance to this approach since the goal behind this policy was one of bigotry.  In addition, extremely high levels of illiteracy, poverty and unemployment have become the most common sources of discontent for Arabs since their land contains one of the largest oil reserve on the planet, one which has been exploited exclusively to develop Persian provinces, depriving Ahwazis of development.

Above all, the diversion of water from the Karoon and Karkheh rivers in Al-Ahwaz to central part of the country threatens both the livelihoods of the farmers and the natural environment and causes regular sandstorms and pollution for the Arab population as a result of drying Hur Al-Azim and Hur Al-Falahiyeh marshlands. Moreover, the Iranian authority has placed restriction on the teaching and learning of Arabic language in public and private schools, including the suppression of speaking the Arabic language in public places. Correspondingly, the use of traditional Arab clothing has been prohibited, in addition to the Arabic names of regional cities and landmarks being replaced by Persian names.

The violation of national and international laws including the severe restrictions on the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of Ahwazi people in Iran can be examined within the scope of human rights abuses in the state concerned. Ahwazi political, cultural and religious activists are subject to wide-ranging persecution, abuse and torture in comparison with the Persian-speaking population, demonstrating that Arabs are the most persecuted people in Iran. Also, the vulnerability of Ahwazis to human rights violations is disproportionate as a result of the government’s complete denial of linguistic, publication and educational rights, including extreme subjugation of economic and political freedoms as well as the mass imprisonment and systematic persecution of the people in question. In addition to its neglect for International rules, the Iranian state violates its own national laws, such as the guarantee of equality before the law provided by Article 3; the right to education in the mother tongue under Article 15; and the equality of all citizens under Article 19 of Iran’s Constitution.

I would like to take the opportunity to urge the Human Rights Council and its human rights treaty bodies and special rapporteurs and experts to consult with Ahwazi non-governmental organizations to have a clear picture of what is happening on the ground in Al-Ahwaz and to contribute more to the Ahwazi cause in their forthcoming reports and statements.”

Another of the distinguished speakers at the seminar was Madeleine Sharp of the United Nations Environment Program, who spoke at length about the Iranian regime’s violations of the Ahwazi people’s natural environment, especially in terms of intentional environmental pollution and the theft of fresh water, which she warned serious environmental and health risks that directly affect the lives of millions of Ahwazis.

She also raised concern about the plight of the cities of Muhammarah and Abadan due to the severe lack of fresh water which are siphoned off by the regime.

 

Another speaker, international lawyer Anwar Malik spoke movingly about what he called the tragedy of the Ahwazis under racist Iranian occupation for decades, calling on the Arab League to recognize Ahwazis’ national and human rights and work with the Ahwazis and all interested parties to regain their stolen rights. Malik pointed out that successive Iranian regimes have worked to keep the oil-rich region under the Iranian control, depriving the people of its own resources and basic rights.

In her speech at the event, Belqis Yassin, a representative of the Ahwaz Organization for the Defence of Human Rights, focused on the woes of female Ahwazi prisoners in the regime’s infamous prison system.

Despite the Arab Ahwaz region being naturally blessed with massive water resources, containing 33 percent of the total water resources of Iran, the region is suffering a catastrophic and worsening water crisis due to the cruel and inhuman policies of the Iranian regime, which has deliberately worked to dry up the region’s two main rivers.

The communication team within the US Department of State posted the below video featuring the poor quality of water offered to the Ahwazis.

Activists circulated the following video showing the quality of water given to the residents of Muhammarah city in the Arab region of Ahwaz southern Iran, the team said in a Twitter post.

It also added the Iranian regime is squandering the state’s colossal resources on backing terror groups in the Middle East, while paying no heed to providing the basic needs for the people.

 

This policy has had equally devastating side effects, primarily soaring pollution, combining sandstorms with the unchecked pollution from the oil and gas wells across Ahwaz to make a toxic atmosphere. Since 1970, the Karoon river alone has seen more than 400 documented dangerous pollution incidents. The Iranian regime has also deliberately diverted the courses of other rivers in Ahwaz such as the Karkheh and Jarrahi to the Persian central cities of Isfahan, Yazd and Qom. This has also devastated the Ahwaz region’s once-thriving farming community, with farmers unable to irrigate their crops or provide water for livestock.

The people are facing policies specifically intended to impoverish, isolate and displace them, which have turned Ahwaz, which was once known as the regional breadbasket into one of the most heavily polluted regions on earth, with Iran being one of the top ten producers of greenhouse gases globally.   Seven dams and tunnels already divert the course of the Karoon river, as well as an additional 19 dams under construction. Other dams divert the courses of Karkheh and Jarrahi waterways.  All these dams have played a significant role in increasing pollution in Ahwaz. Calculations published after the most recent Paris meeting on climate have shown Iran is among the seven heaviest polluting countries in the world, with pollution of the earth, air and water in Ahwaz reaching staggering levels and rapidly making the region uninhabitable.

By: Rahim Hamid 

Ahwazi Arab freelance journalist and human rights advocate who mainly writes about the plight of his people in Iran.

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