The Iranian regime is stepping up its land confiscation programme in order to expand Persian settlements in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan), despite condemnation by the UNCHR and European Parliament last year.
The Shahinshahr and Ramin settlements are the focus of a new wave of land confiscations, in addition to the ethnic cleansing being carried out along the Arvand Free Trade Zone along the Shatt Al-Arab.
The regime is encouraging ethnic Persians to settle on the land confiscated from Ahwazi Arab farmers by placing advertisements in Faris-speaking provinces and cities. The adverts promise cheap fully furnished apartments with all amenities, which is in stark contrast to the squalor of the slums and villages where most Ahwazi Arabs reside.
A number of exclusively Persian settlements have already been built on Ahwazi Arab land, including the Ramin-1 and Ramin-2 townships, Shahinshahr, Shirinshar and Jufir. New Persian townships are being constructed on a daily basis. Similar ones are being built daily.
Some of these settlements were highlighted by Miloon Kothari, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, following a visit to Al-Ahwaz last year (click here for report).
In an interview, Kothari said: "when you visit Ahwaz ... there are thousands of people living with open sewers, no sanitation, no regular access to water, electricity and no gas connections ... why is that? Why have certain groups not benefited? ... Again in Khuzestan, ... we drove outside the city about 20 km and we visited the areas where large development projects are coming up - sugar cane plantations and other projects along the river - and the estimate we received is that between 200,000-250,000 Arab people are being displaced from their villages because of these projects. And the question that comes up in my mind is, why is it that these projects are placed directly on the lands that have been homes for these people for generations? I asked the officials, I asked the people we were with. And there is other land in Khuzestan where projects could have been placed which would have minimised the displacement."
A recent official announcement by the Iranian regime states: "The new company that oversees the new city of Ramin (outside Ahwaz) in accordance with the article 2 of the below law and other laws pertaining to purchase and confiscation of lands for building cities and other military and civilian developments, law # 1358/11/117, issued and approved by the respected revolutionary council, is planning to expand the first phase of the New city of Ramin, and needs take over and possess parts of area of Sanicheh and Jalieah, plaque # 29 and 42 of zone 5 of Ahwaz, in accordance with the attached layout [pictured].
"Therefore, this announcement will be published only twice in one month, for informing the owners of said properties, who must repond within 15 days from the publication of this announcement, with their ownership documents, to this location, for their submittal (relinquishment) of their properties to us. Attend the office of this company located in Kianpars corner of Sixth Street West, 2nd floor.
"If owners do not visit the office, the expropriation and confiscation will continue to take place according to the law."
The land confiscation programme - including the Arvand Free Zone - is in line with the "ethnic restructuring" programme outlined in a top secret letter written by Sayed Mohammad-Ali Abtahi when he served as Iran's Vice-President. The letter was leaked to the international media last year, prompting the April intifada in Al-Ahwaz. (click here to download the letter)