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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.