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...

Ahwazi MP Attacks Discrimination by Sugarcane Plantations

Sugarcane projects are a disaster for indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, the member of parliament for Falahieh (Shadegan) Majid Naseri said this week in an attack on racism.

Naseri criticised the systematic discrimination in employment practices in the Ahwaz region's massive sugar industry that favour non-indigenous populations moved in from other provinces. He attacked the marginalisation of educated and unemployed indigenous Arabs.

The plantations themselves have involved the forced relocation of thousands of native Arabs and environmental destruction due to the amount of water they require and the run-off of agro-industrial pollutants.

In response to Naseri's criticism, an official said: "We import workers from other areas due to a lack of skilled workers in the province."

However, Ahwazi Arabs have criticised the lack of training opportunities offered by the government for the numerous industrial projects in their homeland. They also point out that the local labour market has not been fully exploited before bringing in non-local workers.

The plantations were the subject of strong condemnation from UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, who said following a visit to the region in 2005: "When you visit Ahwaz in terms of the very adverse conditions in the neighbourhoods, there are thousands of people living with open sewers, no sanitation, no regular access to water, electricity and no gas connections. I think that the kind of question that arises is, why is that? Why have certain groups not benefited?

"You notice that we drove outside the city about 20 km and we visited the areas where large development projects are coming up - sugar cane plantations and other projects along the river - and the estimate we received is that between 200,000 - 250,000 Arab people are being displaced from their villages because of these projects...

"There is an attempt being made by the government to build new towns and bring in new people from other provinces. For example, there is the new town of Shirinshah where most of the people being brought into that town are people from Yazd province [in central Iran] - non-Arabs. So the question then is that these people who are being brought there, perhaps for work and lots of incentives, why is it that those jobs are not going to the locals?"

As a result of his criticism of ethnic discrimination in Iran, the Iranian regime has refused to allow any visits from any UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed, who has been banned from the country since he was appointed in 2010.

Contribution by Sheyma Ahwazi

"Astronomical" Salaries Paid to Iranian Oil Chiefs, Says Judge

Managers in the Iranian oil industry are being paid unjustifiably high salaries, Justice Naser Seraj the head of the General Inspection Office of Iran (GIO) this week, according to the Iranian website Alef.

Seraj stated that many managers of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) were earning well IRR5mn (USD165,000) per annum with the head of the oil financing corporation earning IRR6.8bn (USD226,000).

This compares to the national average household income of IRR106mn (USD6,700) in urban areas and IRR59mn (USD3,750) in rural areas.

Income inequality is a particularly sensitive issue for Ahwazi Arabs who live in oil producing areas. around Ahwaz, the indigenous Ahwazi Arab population suffers high levels of poverty due to discrimination in the workplace. Poor pay has been the focus of informal strike action by many Arab workers.

Report contributed by Sheyma Ahwazi

Ahwazi Lobbyist Leads Top Level Talks in US

Ethnic rights in Iran gained a high level congressional audience this week as Ahwazi Arab lobbyist Dr Karim Abdian led a delegation of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI) in a meeting with Chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce in Washington.

The delegation, which consisted of representatives of Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis, Turks and Azerbijanis, highlighted the economic and political problems facing cultural, ethnic and religious minorities and the dissatisfaction of these groups in Iran. They called on the US to recognise the plurality of nations in Iran as relations soften with the Islamic Republic.

Dr Abdian was joined by Balochi representative Dr. Mohammad Hasan Husseinbar and Arash Saleh, representative of Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, who brought the views of their respective nationalities.

During an interview with Al-Arabiya, Dr. Abdian highlighted the deterioration of human rights situation in Iran and especially violations against ethnic and religious minorities and persecution of non-Persian nations.

He added: "As the United States and the West rebuild relations with Iran, it is necessary to discuss the human rights violations committed by the Iranian government and especially those related to ethnic groups."

Dr Abdian, who heads the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization, stated: "There has been an escalation of human rights violations in Iran after the nuclear agreement."

Condemnation: Voice of America's Censorship

He also criticised the Voice Of America (VOA) network and stated "this network carries out the same censorship policies that the Iranian government carries in regard to the coverage of violations against ethnic groups and their rights."

According to Abdian the Iranian regime's lobbies control the Persian-speaking VOA in Washington and the network deliberately avoids interviewing or inviting ethnic right activists oppositions , a network that is being funded by the American tax payers."

While Washington Post and Associated Press have highlighted the deteriorating situation facing Arab, Kurd and Balochi areas of Iran, VOA has failed to report ongoing grievances and events. VOA self-censorship has, in turn, led to frustration and anger towards the US.

Abdian stated "Although Ahwazi Arabs number five to seven million in the southwest of Iran, a region that produces up to 90 per cent of the country's wealth, yet people are living in the worst conditions of poverty.

He added: "Three Ahwazi Arab activists are to be executed very soon and the American government has to take a stand in this matter."

During the talks, Dr Husseinbar explained the situation of Baluchs in both Iran and Pakistan and demanded United States' condemnation of human rights violations committed by both governments.

Dr. Husseinbar proposed that the US launched daily VOA programmes in the Baluchi language and urged the US to allocate aid to health and education services in Baluchistan of Pakistan.

He said: "The American government should demand the Iranian and Pakistani governments stop the execution of activists in Balochistan and join the international coalition against enforced and involuntary disappearance."

Representing the Kurds, Arash Salehi referred to the recent clashes between Peshmerga forces and the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution in Kurdish areas of Iran, where 21 members of government forces were recently killed.

Future relations with the US Congress

The delegation requested that Ed Royce invite the representatives of non-Persian nations and ethnic and religious minorities to a plenary meeting in the US Congress in order to discuss the political situation and the poor human rights situation they face. Mr Royce pledged to discuss the matter with both Republican and Democrat congressmen .

Dr Abdian stressed the need to examine the internal situation in Iran and stated that the nuclear deal has not improved the conditions for the people of Iran, but rather made the human rights situation worst.

Original article by Saleh Hamid, Al-Arabiya Farsi
Translated by Sheyma Ahwazi

Iran Blocks Ahwazi Representation in UN Forum

Backed by its allies Russia and China, the Iranian government has blocked Ahwazi representation in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in an attempt to repress the Ahwazi Arab voice.

Dr Karim Abdian, director of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO), was one of five nominees for the Asian representative in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) during the 2017-2019 term.

The UNPFII is an advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council. Half its 16 members are appointed by governments and half are selected among civil society organisations registered with the UN. Iran and its allies put pressure on non-government organisations to prevent Dr Abdian's selection.

Dr Abdian is a long-standing campaigner for Ahwazi issues. He was imprisoned by the Shah's regime for his human rights activity before relocating to the US. He has worked for decades to support non-violent activism. As a senior member of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI), supports a federal non-religious democratic state as an alternative to the centralised, chauvinistic rule of both the Pahlavi monarchy and the Islamic Republic.

His international advocacy has frequently been targeted by the Iranian government. In 2008, Iran's representatives at the seventh session of the UNPFII banged on the table throughout a speech by Dr Abdian as he detailed Iran's catalogue of human rights abuses against indigenous Ahwazi Arabs.

A delegation of Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds and Balochis had criticised Iran for failing to appoint a member of Iran's national minorities, who comprise over half Iran's population, to represent the country at the UNPFII. They claimed this was proof that the Iranian government "does not acknowledge or recognize the indigenous peoples" of Iran. In response, the Iranian delegate claimed that the ethnic minority representatives were terrorists.

Iran's Interior Minister Admits Ahwaz's Social Crisis

Ahwaz has this week been singled out by Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as one of three cities in Iran facing a crisis in living conditions.

On June 6, Fazli told a parliamentary session: "There are 11 million people who live in shantytowns in Iran, three million of whom live on the outskirts of Tehran, Mashhad and Ahwaz. We have about 2.7 million people in marginalized neighbourhoods, which is a problem that can threaten the country; and the government must monitor their condition and be more watchful about changes in the communities."

He also admitted that the fault lay with the government's budgeting system, which allocated 52 per cent of the resources to Tehran while provinces on the periphery, such as the Balochi populated Sistan va Balochistan and the Kurdish majority Ilam, suffer from a severe lack of resources.

Cities with the highest unemploymentOn the issue of unemployment, he noted: "About 3.5 million people are unemployed in the country and its distribution is not balanced and normal.

"There are areas across the country where more than 60 per cent of people are unemployed, and we should note that an unemployment rate of over 50 or 60 per cent can cause irreparable social damage."

Official government statistics routinely underestimate the true level of unemployment as they are based on the welfare claimant rate, which is likely to be well below the level indicated by standards used by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). But even official statistics cannot hide the uneven nature of poverty in Iran.

According to official figures, of the top 20 cities for unemployment, 19 are in Arab, Kurdish and Balochi areas. While Balochistan has long suffered under-development, the Ahwazi Arab region contains much of the country's oil, petrochemicals, metallurgical and agricultural industries and poverty can only be explained by systematic discrimination.

In Kurdistan, Ahwaz and Balochistan, official unemployment rates are in the 30-47 per cent range, demonstrating that indigenous populations are being subjected to institutional discrimination. Actual unemployment rates are likely to be far higher.

The worst unemployment rate at over 50 per cent, according to official statistics, is in Bashagard in Hormozgan, which is populated by the small Bashagardi ethnic group. Hormozgan also contains a significant Sunni Arab population, which suffers similar rates of poverty due to under-employment and forced displacement.

In the Ahwaz region, the effects of joblessness are compounded by forced displacement for industrial projects, including the development of oil fields, sugar cane plantations and the industrial Arvand Free Zone.

Members of parliament in the Ahwaz region have consistently argued that 1.5 per cent of oil revenues should be held in the area to improve living conditions. However, repeated attempts to secure the money through legislation have been rejected over the past decade or so.

Local politicians have also called for an end to discrimination in the workplace, which they believe is contributing to poverty. According to member of parliament Habib Aghajari, the unemployment rate in the cities of Mashour (Farsi: Mahshahr), Handian (Hendijan) and Emediyeh (Omidiyeh) has risen above 25 per cent. Aghajari called for a moratorium on recruitment of non-local people and reserve all jobs for residents of the area in order to resolve the unemployment problem. Last month, Ahwaz's Friday prayer leader lambasted the authorities for discriminatory labour and housing policies.

Facing ethnic discrimination, many Ahwazi Arabs are resort to the informal sector working as street hawkers to earn a living. However, they are routinely harassed and their stock is confiscated by the authorities, leading to destitution.

Ahwazi workers have sought to confront workplace ethnic discrimination through industrial action, but with little legal recourse this often represents a futile last-ditch effort. Trade union organising is repressed by the Iranian government and politically well-connected employers will often refuse to pay workers.

Groups in the Ahwazi Diaspora are now seeking to establish a corporate social responsibility charter for foreign investors in order to address discrimination and ensure that investment projects enhance quality of life.

Peaceful Protests by Ahwazis Against Karoun's Mega Dams

Ahwaz City residents are staging protests against the diversion of the Karoun River, which is contributing to drought, desertification and crop failure. 

Last month, Iran signed a deal with the South Korean state-owned company K-Water to construct the Karoun-2 dam. The dam will be built at Soosan, 40km north of the city of Izeh, and is set to significantly exacerbate Ahwaz's water problems

On June 2, Ahwaz residents formed a human chain in front of the Choubi Park opposite Street 17 in the Kianpars district in a protest that lasted four hours. According to the opposition National Council for Resistance in Iran (NCRI), protesters held up signs saying "Lifeless Karoun = Khuzestan’s death", "Karoun is our life", "Transfer of water = Khuzestan’s death", "No to diversion of Karoun’s water", "Do not turn Khuzestan into hell by transferring its water".

The peaceful protests have been held regularly along the banks of the Karoun, despite police repressionDemonstrators been attacked by the regime and the neo-fascist Pan-Iranist Party, which accuse the demonstrators of being aligned with "foreign terrorists" and "separatists."

On May 17, 26-year-old Ahwazi environmentalist Zakiya Neysi was arrested at her home in the Keyan Shar district of Ahwaz. She has been active in forming human chain protests against the diversion project. Her personal belongings, including books, a computer and a mobile phone, were confiscated.

The Karoun is Iran's largest and only navigable river. The dam construction project is siphoning off billions of cubic metres a year to other provinces, particularly Isfahan. In place of the constant flow of water from the Zagros mountains is toxic saline waste water from heavy industry and intensive agriculture, particularly sugar plantations, as well as human sewerage.

The untreated water is pumped into people's homes with no attempt to purify it, causing severe illnesses such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid, various cancers and dermatitis. Meanwhile, fauna and flora that rely on the the river waters are being eradicated and the ancient marshes are drying up.

Controversy surrounds the Koohrang-3 tunnel, which is currently under construction and is set to transfer 255 million cubic metres of water per annum to Zayandeh Rood in Isfahan. The diverted waters will be used for agro-industrial projects, instead of irrigating traditional Arab lands where food staples are grown, such as rice and wheat. Already, three tunnels transfer around 1.1 billion cubic metres of water from the Karoun and its tributaries to Isfahan every year.

In October 2013, Vice-President Masoumeh Ebtekar visited the protest in an attempt to reassure the protesters that the government was acting to address the environmental problems. However, she ignored their demands to deal with the effects of low river water flow on the Hor Al-Azim (Huwaizeh) and Shadegan (Falahiyeh) marshes, which are being drained in a project reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's marsh destruction in Iraq. The Ahwazi environmentalists outlined 22 key concerns over dam construction:
  1. Karoun's diversion to central provinces
  2. Dust and resulting health problems
  3. The diversion of Dez river to Qum city
  4. The crises of Goutwand dam 
  5. Catastrophic consequences of water dam building
  6. The catastrophic effects of drought on the Hor Al-Azim (Howayzeh) marshes in addition to destructive impacts of local oil companies 
  7. The effects of drought and pollution from oil, metal and chemical production on Shadegan (Falahyeh) marsh 
  8. The pollution of rivers by sugar cane projects and the effects of agricultural waste waters and stubble burning on drinking water and human health. 
  9. The catastrophic crisis affecting Zoherh River in Hendijan (Hendian) due to the low volume of water
  10. The pollution of the Jarahi and Maroun rivers by oil companies 
  11. The crisis of the marine environment at Khour Mousa (Bandar-e-Emam) 
  12. Pollution caused by petrochemical companies in Mahshahr and Emam ports 
  13. Deforestation in Izeh, Baghmalek, Behbahan and Dezful 
  14. The destruction of the Izeh marsh 
  15. The destruction of the Bamdej marsh 
  16. The effect of industrial and residential waste water on the Karoun 
  17. The deaths of many native yellow deer in Shush and Dezful
  18. Air pollution caused by smoke from the oil industry in cities such as Omidiyeh, Ahwaz, Masjed Soulayman, Haftgel and Dasht-e-azadegan (Khafajyeh) 
  19. Pollution caused by the unmonitored burial of huge quantities of rubbish, which is leading to the spread of disease 
  20. Pollution caused by the Foulad Khuzestan steel plant and the Abadan refinery 
  21. The death of hundreds of palm trees in Shadegan (Falahiyeh), Khorramshahr (Mohammerah) and Abadan 
  22. The drying of the Maleh River, a Karoun tributary, and oil pollution in the river

Concerns Mount Over Alleged Torture of Female Ahwazi Prisoner

Human Rights activists are increasingly alarmed over the fate of the female Ahwazi political prisoner Fahima Ismaili Badawi who has been in prison for over a decade.

Former school teacher Badawi was beaten unconscious by guards in the infamous Yasouj Central Prison, which is located in the Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province, southwestern Iran. Severe injuries left her hospitalised and activists fear her life is in jeopardy.

A source in Ahwaz told Ahwaz News: "She was beaten after a verbal argument with a prison guard named Ameneh Fooladi. The beating was so extreme that Mrs.Ismaeli was initially committed to the clinic inside the prison and later transferred to hospital due to deterioration of her health condition. The beating began inside the cell when, for no reason, the prison guard started to harass and insult her, which prompted an argument. As the argument escalated, she was severely beaten. After treatment, she was discharged from hospital but remains bedridden in prison. She is feeling dizzy and has bruises and cuts on her face and body."

Badawi was arrested in February 2006 in Ahwaz City with her husband Ali Matourizadeh and her mother on charges of threatening national security for his human rights activism. She was heavily pregnant at the time and gave birth to her daughter Salma in Sepidar prison, which is known for its squalid conditions and over-crowding.

Badawi's mother was released and now looks after Salma, who is now 10 years old. She remained in custody as punishment for refusing to denounce her husband and divorce him. However, Matourizadeh was tortured into confessing to be a a British secret agent involved in terrorist attacks and was executed. She was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in internal exile by the notorious judge Ali Shabani at Branch 3 of Ahwaz Revolutionary Court.

In 2010, she was forced to confess to various crimes against national security on Iran's English language channel Press TV, possibly motivated by her desire to leave prison and be reunited with her daughter. Her efforts have so far failed to bring her closer to freedom or Salma.

Yasouj Prison is notorious for poor treatment of its female detainees. In December, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) reported that Kurdish prisoner Qadriyeh Qaderi went on hunger strike in protest at her conditions. There had also been concerns over the failure to provide her with adequate medical care.

Iran Ignores Ahwazi Anger, Appoints Persian as Governor

Ignoring appeals by local members of parliament and residents, Iran's government is set to appoint a non-Ahwazi to take on the leadership of Khuzestan province.

On 29 May, Ali Asghar Ahmadi, a leader of a "reformist" party and head of the Iranian Red Crescent, was put forward by the Ministry of Interior for the position of governor of the oil-rich province.

However, a local lobby of politicians and citizens had called for a change in the centralised decision-making to enable one of five local nominees to take on the role, including Ahwazi Arab former MP Seyed Sharif Hosseini and Arab cleric Ahmad Sayahi.

Fars News claims that as he is the only candidate favoured by the government, it is highly likely he will be appointed. The decision had been postponed due to the level of local protest against the planned appointment.