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Ahwazi Arab child killed in Ramadan dish clamp-down

A 12 year old Ahwazi Arab girl was killed and four members of her family were severely injured after Iranian security forces opened fire during raids on their village of Sariya in Khafajiya (Susangerd) on July 21.

The attacks occurred after locals protested against security personnel confiscating satellite dishes. Lilla Ghasen Hamid Obaidawi was hit by live ammunition and was rushed to Golestan hospital in Ahwaz city. The other members of her family - Ghasem Hamid Obaidawi (29), Ibrahim Hamid Obaidawi (26), Rahim Hamid Obaidawi (24) and Karim Hamid Obaidawi (19) - were sent to the local hospital and are being kept under armed guard. The government has cut internet access in the district.

The reasons for the satellite dish clamp-down are unclear. The government may be attempting to prevent Ahwazi Arabs from watching Arabic satellite channels. It fears the popularity of a big budget television series aired by Dubai-based MBC on the life of Caliph Omar, who is revered among Arab Sunnis but viewed negatively by the Persian Shi'ite establishment; Omar defeated Persia's Sassanid empire in the seventh century. The series is being broadcast each night throughout Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. The government fears the rise in conversions of Ahwazi Arabs from Shi'ism to Sunnism.

The government could also be using it as an excuse to intimidate the local population, which is increasingly restive amid growing unease over living conditions. Sariya is facing severe drought with low water levels in the Karkhe river affecting the productivity of water buffalo herds, the villagers' main agricultural activity. As a result, residents are becoming more concerned about their livelihood and the government's indifference.