The controversial military-industrial Arvand Free Zone (AFZ), a large zone from which thousands of local Ahwazi Arab inhabitants are being forcibly expelled, could be "physically separated" from Iran, according to the Hamsayeha newspaper
which covers the southern Iranian province of Khuzestan.
Nasser Kermani, director of Iran's custom service, told the newspaper that the AFZ should be separated from the cities of Abadan and Muhammarah (Khorammshahr) and adjacent areas along the Shatt Al-Arab waterway "to prevent people and others goods into the area." A bill has been submitted to the Majlis (parliament) to enable the AFZ, which encircles the two cities, to carry out the construction of walls and barricades.
Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The establishment of the AFZ is an act of ethnic cleansing. The walling up of the AFZ will enable the government to militarise the border with Iraq without civilians nearby. As the AFZ completely encircles the Arab majority cities of Abadan and Muhammarah, hundreds of thousands of Ahwazi Arabs will be living under a state of siege.
"The AFZ is little different from other infrastructural projects in Khuzestan, such as the Sugar Cane Project of the 1990s which made up to 250,000 Arabs homeless. The AFZ is being built at the expense of Arabs who will lose their farmland and be forced to live in city slums. Like the Sugar Cane Project, few will gain employment and compensation will be derisory.
"While the world media promotes the Iranian regime's racist claim that Ahwazi Arabs are violent terrorists, the ethnic cleansing and economic injustices go unreported. But the AFZ is of immense geopolitical importance, acting as a base for Iran to extend its influence over Iraq and organise its network of agents behind a wall of secrecy."
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