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Ahwazi Arab Villagers Face Water Crisis

By Rahim Hamid

A collapse in the water infrastructure around Shoush is leading to serious drinking water supply problems in Ahwazi Arab villages, according to Shoja Latifi, the head of the city's rural health department.

Latifi told the official Fars news agency that pipelines are extremely decayed and out of service and that no action was being taken to address these problems

The pipeline supplying drinking water in the Isteghlal village has been broken for two months. Villagers have suffered poor water pressure and frequent interruptions, forcing them to dig wells. Latifi stated that 20 households are faced with severe water shortages.

According to Fars News Agency, the Isteghlal village which is a part of Shavoor district in the city of Shush, has more than 100 households, all of which are complaining of water and sanitation problems.

Kazim Jabir village, another Arab suburb of Shoush with 92 households, is one of the country's deprived villages that has also faced official neglect and extremely low human development indicators, not least the lack of educational opportunities. It is also supporting from water supply problems. 

Many fear the situation will worsen in the run-up to Ramadan, which falls in summer this year when temperatures will exceed 40 Celsius. Failure to fix the pipelines could lead to deaths.

Hadi Kaab Omer, a village representative, told the Fars News Agency, that the area has been deprived of potable water for years, forcing people to dig wells to provide water for themselves and their livestock. He said: "We have presented our problems and demands to the municipality of Shoush city, but we have not received any response regarding water crisis of the village."

Ahwazi Street Vendors Harassed By Iranian Authorities

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), privy to reports from inside Iran, have reported that street vendors in Ahwaz, southwestern Iran, have been “subject to harassment by municipal agents” during the past couple of weeks.

Municipal agents surrounded the street vendors market in Naderi Street in Ahwaz on 16th May. They prevented people from entering the market, meaning that the vendors could not trade.

This is thought to be “a reprisal against vendors who recently protested their work conditions”. On 10th May some of the street vendors on Naderi Street protested against the location of their businesses which they deem unsuitable. The previous week they gathered in front of the Governor’s building, asking for an allocated place for them to trade. They carried placards which read “Vendors have no bread, have right to life” and “A piece of justly-earned bread is our right”.

Mehdi Afravi, one of these vendors, threw himself under a train on 6th May. Sadly, he lost his life. He was desperate as he has no other means of livelihood for his family after municipal agents confiscated his goods.

On 15th May, the Tasnim News Agency, affiliated to the regime’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, reported that a member of the regime’s Parliament said: “We have to acknowledge that the domestic situation, especially in the realm of livelihood and economy, is not befitting of the Islamic Iran in the region and the world. The economic growth rate is very low if not negative and the unemployment of the young, particularly the educated, is like a time bomb ticking towards zero.”

The head of the regime’s Department of Inspections, Nasser Seraj, made an announcement on 25th November 2015 via the regime’s official IRNA news agency. He said: “Someone received oil from Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum and we’re to pay the government for it, but he has taken around $30 million and run away to Canada.”

Ayatollah Condemns Iran's Anti-Arab Discrimination

Ahwaz Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Haideri has issued an unprecedented wide-ranging attack on the Iranian government's treatment of Ahwazi Arabs during a visit of the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs this week.

Haidari highlighted the impact of land confiscation for the sugar cane industry, the diversion of the River Karoon's waters to other provinces and soaring unemployment among the local population due to discrimination in the workplace. The preacher, who is an Arab, has voiced the concerns of many Ahwazi Arabs, although those who take up any activism to rectify the situation are often arrested,

Ayatollah Haidari pointed out that the government has taken hundred thousands hectares of Ahwazi farmers lands for sugar cane plantations but Ahwazi Arabs did not get received compensation and have suffered joblessness as a result. 

Haidari also indicated that the main reason behind unemployment was the policy of favouring non-local workers who are enticed with financial incentives that are not available to locals. Despite the province have large petrochemical and metal industries, human resource managers source labour from Tehran and other provinces, including those working in cleaning and security. 

He pointed out that the petrochemicals plants at Mashar and Bandar Iman Port have recruited 70 per cent of their professional workers from outside the province.

Haidari also claimed that the diversion of the Karoon River to other parts of Iran to supply drinking water was denying water for Ahwazis farmers to grow crops. As a result Ahwazi farmers suffer increased poverty and destitution.

Arvand Free Zone: Iran Profiting From Ethnic Cleansing Arabs

Iran is earning over a billion dollars a year from a free zone project that has involved the forcible displacement of thousands of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs.

Set up by ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs from their villages and lands along the Shatt al-Arab waterway, the Arvand Free Zone (AFZ) has turned into a major source of income for the Iranian government.

Iran earned more than USD1.42bn in non-oil exports from the AFZ in the previous Iranian year (1394) to 20 March, according to the zone's deputy director of economics and investment Mohammad Reza Motamaadi quoted by the official ISNA news agency. This is more than half the combined amount of all other free zones in Iran, indicating its economic importance.

Earnings from industrial plants in the AFZ amounted to USD181mn, up USD100mn from the previous Iranian year. The AFZ generated 16,000 jobs of which 3,000 are seasonal.

The creation of the AFZ involved the confiscation of land from thousands of Ahwazi Arab farmers. In 2005 Ahwaz News reported that thousands of residents of Minoo Island on the Shatt al-Arab were forced to give up their land with little or no compensation

In 2014, President Hassan Rouhani's senior economic advisor Akbar Turkan urged citizens from around the country to buy AFZ land that has been forcibly acquired from Arab farmers by the regime and turn it into their personal gardens.

When asked what would happen to the locals, Turkan suggested they be made the gardeners. Having lost their wealth and been forcibly displaced from their land to live a life of misery in slum neighbourhoods, one-time farmers are now being invited back as the slaves.

The AFZ has seen the mass expulsion of Ahwazi Arabs, the destruction of their villages and the creation of an exclusive military-industrial zone. In all, up to 500,000 indigenous Ahwazi Arabs are being displaced by the creation of a 5,000 square kilometres security zone along the left bank of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, of which the AFZ is just a part. Due to the international sanctions regime, investment in the zone has been lacklustre, but relaxations in sanctions are now drawing interest from China and there are plans for an Chinese-Iranian industrial zone in the AFZ.

"Free zones" throughout the world are often characterised by extreme violence and exempting authorities and investors of their responsibilities to the local population. Forced displacement, the waiving of labour rights, money laundering, environmental destruction, militarisation and grotesque tax-free profiteering are standard features of free zones across the world.

In its violence and the human catastrophe for the enrichment of Iran's rulers, the AFZ is on a par with the Serbian cleansing of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population. But it is merely a part of a long-standing plan by the Iranian regime to reduce the indigenous Arab to a third of the population of "Khuzestan" province, revealed in a letter by former Vice-President Mohammad-Ali Abtahi that was leaked in 2005, sparking the Ahwazi intifada.

Ahwazi Workers Strike Over Discrimination And Redundancies

Fifty Ahwazi workers have been fired from their jobs at the Abadan refinery and replaced by cheap, unskilled non-Arab migrant labour, according to credible reports received by the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization AHRO.

The Ahwazi workers are highly skilled and saw their contracts terminated at the end of the Persian year on 20 March. They have complained of discrimination in the workplace and accuse the state-owned enterprise operating the refinery of awarding financial benefits to the families of those replacing them, which are denied to indigenous workers. Most of their replacements come from the Lor ethnic group from Lorestan and are alleged to have links to the Revolutionary Guards.

The Ahwazi workers have held a 48 hour strike and held a picket outside gate 5 of the refinery, but were threatened with arrest if they continued their protest.

Working-class Ahwazis complain that racial discrimination has escalated in recent years and represents an aspect of the Iranian government's campaign to reduce Arab influence in the region. Part of this policy includes moving non-Arab migrant workers into the area and undermine its traditional Arab heritage - the region was known among Persians as Arabistan until 1936.

Human development indicators among Ahwazi Arabs are low and joblessness is persistently high, largely as a result of discrimination in the workplace.

Concerns Over Ahwazi Sunni After Abduction By Iran

An Ahwazi Arab accused of preaching Sunni Islam has been missing for nearly three months after being abducted from his home in Ahwaz City by Iranian intelligence agents, say concerned members of his family.
Bahger Gholami, who is married with two children, was arrested on March 6 2016 for his alleged religious activities and is being held at an undisclosed location. His home was also raided without a warrant and books and a computer were confiscated. The security agencies are refusing to give information on his whereabouts or well-being. 
Gholami has previously been arrested in February 2011, July 2012 and December 2013 on the basis of his Sunni faith, which differs from the Iranian government's official Shia Islam faith.
He has also served one year in prison following conviction in a Revolutionary Court for allegedly conspiring to commit crimes against national security, forming relations with foreign secessionist groups and propaganda against the regime. Such charges are routinely made against Ahwazi Arab activists and have often led to harsh punishments, including long jail terms in prisons on the other side of the country or the death penalty.
Iranian officials have been alarmed at the growing rate of Sunni conversion among Ahwazi Arabs in recent years, leading to more crackdowns from the Shia-led Iranian regime. Official harassment, continuous arrest, imprisonment and exile of Sunni activists are used to intimidate them and prevent conversion to Sunnism, which is regarded as "anti-Iranian".
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