Relative Of Hanged Ahwazis Calls for International Prosecution Of Judges

A relative of two executed Ahwazi Arabs is calling on the international community to issue a warrant for the arrest of two Iranian judge...

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.