Ahwaz City Council has axed around 400 Ahwazi Arab workers on the orders of the city's new mayor, Mansour Katanbaf.
The decision to sack the workers was ostensibly because the council is in financial hardship and is seeking to reduce costs, but all those made redundant are believed to be ethnically Arab. There are suspicions that the jobs will be filled by non-Arab personnel, possibly from outside the Ahwaz region.
Katanbaf was born in Ahwaz City in 1960 and had previously served as a civil servant in one of Tehran's borough councils. The new mayor, who was appointed three months ago, is regarded as one of the most extreme supporters of the Iranian regime and is a former member of the Revolutionary Guard. He is an ethnic Shushtari, a non-Arab whose family originate from Shushtar city about 70km from Ahwaz. Historically, powerful members of the Shushtari community have had uneasy relations with the Arabs and Lurs who live in the region.
Katanbaf's decision is a major blow to the Ahwazi community following a series of redundancies in the industrial sector. Two weeks ago, 38 Arabs were summarily dismissed from a sugar producing company after complaining about the axing of Ahwazi jobs. There are also reports that around 10,000 Ahwazi workers, the majority of whom are Arab, have lost their jobs at local brickworks following the completion of a number of construction projects.
Alastair Burt, the British foreign minister responsible for relations with Iran, has condemned the killing of Ahwazi Arab protesters following the uprising of April 15. Below are excerpts of his statement to the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network: "I was deeply disturbed by the reports of violence against protesters in Ahwaz on 15 April, including reports of deaths of 20-30 protesters at the hands of security forces and 700 arrests. This is grossly hypocritical when Iran claims to support protests elsewhere in the region. Government officials raised our concern about the protests in Ahwaz with the Iranian Chargé d'Affaires in London on 28 April. I further condemn the nine reported executions in Ahwaz mentioned in your letter of 27 May. I am deeply concerned about reports that they were executed for political offences ...
"On 17 June, the UN Human Rights Council announced the appointment of former Maldivian Foreign Minister, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, as UN Special Rapporteur on Iran ... In his mandate, Dr Ahmed Shaheed will be able to make recommendations for future action to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council ... I firmly believe that the appointment of a Special Rapporteur and the EU sanctions against human rights violators will provide strong encouragement to the many Iranians, including the Ahwazi Arabs, who bravely continue to speak up for their rights and the rights of others, and will send a strong international message to Iran that its human rights record is being closely watched as well as being condemned."