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...

Deadly Ahwaz Flood Costs Escalate to USD350mn

The floods that hit the Ahwaz region earlier this year and devastated farms and homes have caused IRR10.5 trillion  (USD350mn) of damage, according to the latest estimates by the provincial assistant director of construction and civil engineering.

The situation is worsened by the failure to invest in adequate drainage. Ahwazi farmers complain that corruption by Jahad Nasr Hamzeh, a civil engineering company, meant that only 10% of the IRR220mn of funds dedicated to drainage projects over a 550 hectare region were actually spent. They have had to foot the bill for the destruction of their homes and farms as a result of maladministration and corruption.

Floods also carry a death toll, claiming a record number of lives through drowning this year. According to Khouz News, Khuzestan province has the highest number of deaths through drowning.

In the first three months of this year, 56 people died in the rivers of the province, according to the head of the region's Red Crescent Ali Khoda Dadi. He claimed that the lack of medical equipment and safeguards contributes to the deaths.

Iran's Oil Industry Intensifies, But Ahwazis Are Marginalised

Iran has ramped up its crude oil exports to 2.1mn barrels per day (bpd) in its drive to become OPEC's second biggest oil producer, but indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in the country's main oil producing region continue to suffer extreme poverty.

Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said he hoped that Iran - currently the third largest OPEC producer - will shortly surpass Iraq's production amid intensified foreign investor interest in the Ahwaz region's oilfields.

Oil export growth is exponential. In 2015, Iran exported around 500,000-600,000bpd and exports reached 1.7mn bpd in March.

However, there are renewed calls among local Majlis (parliament) members and the indigenous Arab population for the development of the oil industry to employ more local workers and redistribute oil revenues to invest in social projects for the poor.

Decline of Iranian oil

Sanctions had cut Iran's oil output by 1mn bpd to 2.7mn bpd, while exports were hampered by restrictions on oil cargo, hull insurance, foreign exchange problems and the refusal of banks to issue lines of credit. The lifting of sanctions in January enabled the regime to trade oil freely on the global markets.

However, the oil industry is in a state of disrepair and productivity of oilfields has declined. The Iranian government has found it difficult to acquire technology, such as gas reinjection, to raise oil flows while the pipeline infrastructure is in a state of decay with frequent breaches.

New contract model

The Ministry of Petroleum is now waiting approval for the new Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) that works around constitutional restrictions that ban foreigners from owning oil assets, but boosts investment. The government hopes that the offers will spur interest. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) expects to sign USD25bn in IPC deals with foreign oil companies over coming years.

Russia and China are in line to nab some IPCs, but they are competing with European majors such as BP, Shell, Total and OMV. Russian and Chinese oil officials facilitated illicit oil exports while Iran was under sanctions.

Under the Ahmadinejad administration, the deals were facilitated by UAE-based Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani. However, he failed to transfer much of the oil revenue traded with Russia and China to the Iranian government. In 2013, he was arrested for embezzlement of EUR2.7bn and in March was sentenced to death for "spreading corruption on the earth" - a charge usually used against political opponents of the regime.

Ahwaz: Key to Iran's revival

The Ministry is initially targeting the development of oil and gas fields that straddle the Ahwaz-Iran border, namely Yaran, Azadegan and Yadavaran. Crude production from these fields has risen from 70,000bpd in 2013 to 215,000bpd and there are hopes to reach 300,000bpd by the end of the current Iranian year in March 2017. By the end of the decade, the Ministry hopes to target 700,000bpd.

China is currently the main investor in Ahwaz's oil fields. Production from phase 1 of the Yadavaran field (85,000bpd) has started, while a second phase expansion adding 95,000bpd is being discussed with China's Sinopec. Production was launched from China's CNPC-led North Azadegan field in April. Output is currently at 75,000bpd.

The National Iranian Drilling Company has this month announced the completion of drilling of 20 new wells in the South Azadegan field out of a total 40 planned for the year.

Paranoia over foreign interests

Approval of the IPC model had been expected in December 2015 but has been continually delayed due to internal paranoia. Domestic disagreement centres on fears that the IPC could emulate the 1901 D'Arcy Agreement that led to significant British involvement in Ahwaz's oilfields, facilitated by the local Arab ruler Sheikh Khazaal, the sheikh of Mohammerah (Khorramshahr).

The D'Arcy Agreement formed the basis for the development of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which became BP, and saw much of the wealth taken from Ahwaz for British profits at the expense of Iran.

After seizing power, the Khomeini regime appropriated all oil assets, although many Ahwazis believed that revenues continued to be squandered by an elite - in this case, a domestic cabal instead of foreign companies.

Ahwaz poverty: a consequence of oil production?

Meanwhile, the Arabs inhabitants of the Ahwaz region are suffering levels of poverty comparable to sub-Saharan Africa - a stark contrast to Arabs in nearby Gulf states who enjoy Western standards of living. This is in spite of the region's oil fields containing more oil reserves than Kuwait and the UAE combined.

Growth in the oil industry that marginalises Ahwazi Arabs and destroys the natural environment will create tensions between the indigenous population and foreign investors. Many compare the situation to Nigeria's Delta region, where indigenous populations have suffered deprivation and environmental destruction due to Western oil extraction. This has led to direct conflict between indigenous people and Western oil corporations, notably Shell and Chevron.

Masoud Kanani: The Courage Of Ahwazi Arab Non-Violent Resistance

Ahwazi campaigner Masoud Kanani is running a courageous one-man protest outside the Iranian Drilling Company to demand an end to poverty and environmental destruction.

The 40 year old is camping in a tent in blistering temperatures that regularly exceed 50 Celsius to highlight the destruction of date palm groves. Date palms have been cultivated in the Ahwaz region for thousands of years, but are now being felled or are suffering as a result of environmental problems caused by the oil industry.

Mr Kanani's simple non-violent campaign began with the visit of the oil minister of Ahwaz City this week. He has written his own placards which state "Dear Minister: Listen to our call for bread and breath" and "stop chopping down palm trees".

He claims to represent all those in the region who are unemployed and ill in his campaign to highlight the destruction of the natural environment and lack of job opportunities for the local population.

Members of his family have been taken sick with respiratory problems as a result of oil drilling near his home, prompting him to take action.

Non-violent resistance is the method favoured by many Ahwazis to raise their voice when all political means have failed. Some have resorted to dramatic methods, such as self-immolation, in acts of desperation. However, Mr Kanani's tactic emulates the methods of the Occupy movement in the West and he rejects suicide or use of violence.

Arab Protests Erupt Over Land Confiscation For Sugar Production

Ahwazi Arab farmers this week staged protests against land confiscation for Iran's cash crop sugar plantations.

Holding up copies of their land titles, scores of farmers in the villages of Al-Shemria and Tel-Aswad, which lie between Ahwaz City and Muhammerah (Khorramshahr), stated their opposition to the compulsory acquisition orders by the Iranian government.

The sugar industry has already come under attack from local members of parliament for contributing to the region's growing ecological disaster as well as racial discrimination in employment practices.

Waste water from sugar processing factories is polluting underground aquifers, claimed Abdullah Sameri, Mohammerah (Khorramshahr) representative in the Iranian parliament, at a press conference in July.

Sameri accused the Mirza Kochak Khan sugar factory of failing to abide by its responsibilities and meeting environmental regulations. He claimed that waste water was causing salination of nearby agricultural land and underground water reservoirs, which affected the quality of drinking water and prevented farm productivity. The Mira Kochak Khan sugar company is one of seven sugar agribusiness enterprise development projects and manages 14,000 hectares of land southwest of the Ahwaz-Mohammerah highway.

Iran's sugar growing regions
Ahwazi Arabs also fear that the loss of their land to the sugar industry will lead to poor compensation, while failing to improve employment prospects.

In June 2016, the member of parliament for Falahieh (Shadegan) member Majid Naseri attacked systematic discrimination in sugarcane projects, accusing employers of moving in non-indigenous populations from other provinces.

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.

At Least 20 Arrested In Dezful In Iran's Social Media Clamp-Down

Over 20 Ahwazi Arabs, including an academic and a poet, were arrested in Dezful in the early hours of Tuesday morning (23 August) as part of the Iranian regime's clamp-down on social media.

It is unclear why the men were arrested, but the Gherdab website, which is associated with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, claims 450 social media users have been arrested or summoned. Gherdab claims they were arrested for immorality, insulting Islam and for "crimes involving fashion", usually relating to immodest dress or modelling.

Instagram, Telegram and WhatsApp users have been targeted. It is unclear how or why the security services identified those arrested, but they all now face trial.

President Rouhani has demanded that foreign social media organisations hand over data on their Iranian users by May 2017.

Facebook and Twitter are banned in Iran, although access is available through censor-evading software. More than half of Iran's 40 million internet users use the Telegram instant messaging app.

Ahwaz News has received a list of those allegedly arrested by the security services:
Dr Ashour Khazraji, specialist in Arabic literature
Karim Saedi
Jamil Sawari
Hamid Sawari
Ali Chenabi
Qasim Chenani son of Marjan
Kamal Sawari son of Reza
Saad Abidawi son of Mehbas
Ahmed Haidari
Mukhtar Silawi son of Hanoon
Mohammed Sawari son of Mezeher
Jassim Gharbawi son Mohammed
Qasim Gharbawi son of Muhammad
Fadel Abidawi son Qais
Seyed Mousa Musawi son of Seyed Rahim
Saeed Haidari, poet and son of Mehdi 

Three Ahwazi Arabs Executed

Three Ahwazi Arabs were executed in secret today following convictions for threatening national security, according to the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO).

Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i, first deputy of the Chief Justice, announced in June the death sentences against the three - Ghais Obidawi, Ahmad Obidawi and Sajad Balawi. Four others were given lengthy prison sentences and internal exile - Muhammad Helfi Yabagh (35 years in prison in Yazd), Mehdi Abbas Zayer Saahi (35 years in prison in Yazd), Mehdi Marabiye (25 years in prison) and Ali Hassan Saleh Obidawi (25 years in prison).

Mohseni-Eje'i accused them of "enmity with God", "corruption on the Earth", and "threatening national security" for alleged membership of an armed group that assassinated three members of the Revolutionary Guards. The attack on the Revolutionary Guards occured in April 2015 in the village of Alkamboah, Hamidiyah, west of Ahwaz City. No evidence has been presented to show that the men were political activists, let alone involved in militant activities.

The seven were tried in secret without access to lawyers and were forced into making confessions following lengthy torture sessions. The confessions were broadcast on the English language Press TV station in May 2015. Press TV is notorious for filming confessions following torture, which are then used in secret trials as evidence for capital crimes.

AHRO notes that the executions come in the context of an escalation of state killings of Ahwazi Arabs and Kurds and accused the courts of failing to provide even the minimum standards of justice.

China Plunders Ahwaz While Iran's Regime Profits

By Nasser Bani Assad

Resource grabbing in Ahwaz will be the central theme of the 16th Iran-China Joint Economic Commission meeting, which starts today in Beijing.

Oil is central to the Iranian regime's security. Under international sanctions, China offered an economic lifeline, raising its trade to over US$50 billion from 2014 - a rapid change from the US$300mn reported in the mid-1990s.

Oil exports have been the crucial to relations between the two countries, totalling 500,000 to 600,000 barrels per day in 2015 at an estimated value of US$7-8 billion. Revenue was at least twice this level when oil prices were high and trade was unimpeded.

Following sanctions, Iranian oil exports are booming, reaching 1.7 million barrels per day in March. Most of this oil is pumped from the Ahwaz region, the first oil producing region in the Middle East. None of the revenue is directly transferred to assist with alleviating endemic poverty among the indigenous Ahwazi Arab population, which numbers four to five million. As such, the development of the Iranian economy and the stability of successive regime has always required the impoverishment, displacement and persecution of Ahwazi Arabs.

China secures prize Ahwazi oilfields

Iran holds the world's fourth largest oil reserves. Onshore reserves account for 70% of Iran's reserves and 80% of these are located in the Ahwaz region. The three largest oilfields in the Ahwaz region are: Marun (22 billion barrels), Ahwaz (18 billion barrels) and Aghajari (17 billion barrels).

China is in an aggressive drive to acquire these resources. Last month, Chinese oil producer Sinopec announced it would undertake the development of Phase II of the Yadavaran field, which is partly shared with Iraq and currently yields 100,000 barrels per day of oil. Yadavaran is 70km southwest of Ahwaz. Phase II will increase daily output to 180,000 barrels, worth up to US$3 billion per annum. Yadavaran field alone is estimated to contain up to 31 billion barrels, potentially worth around US$1.5 trillion.

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which owns oil company PetroChina, is also involved in Phase I of the North Azadegan project, which is expected to yield 75,000 barrels per day. CNPC has agreed on a US$2 billion deal to eventually expand daily production to 120,000 barrels. It is already the operator of the Masjed-e Suleiman field with design capacity of 20,000 barrels per day and there were pre-sanctions plans to improve recovery rates.

Petrochemicals: Ahwaz central to global manufacturing

China is also a major destination for Iran's petrochemicals industry, which utilises oil and gas resources to make chemicals such as ethylene and raw materials for the Chinese plastics industry. Iran has the Middle East's second largest petrochemicals industry after Saudi Arabia. Around 40 per cent of Iran's petrochemicals exports are sold in Asia, mostly on the Chinese market.

Chinese industry transforms the petrochemicals products into finished goods for export to Europe, North America and elsewhere. Petrochemicals are used to manufacture car parts, white goods, construction materials, packaging and electronics

In the Ahwaz region, petrochemicals complexes produce a large bulk of Iran's petrochemicals output using the country's oil and gas resources. In Mahshahr, PETZONE is Iran's first specialised economic zone with seven complexes representing a total of 40 per cent of the country's polymer capacity, making it one of the world's biggest concentrations of petrochemicals production.

Chinese investors are reportedly preparing to back at total of 21 petrochemicals plants in Iran. By 2016, US$12 billion of the finance had been referred to the Central Bank of Iran for receiving facilities. In March 2016, Chinese investors agreed to back the US$4 billion Masjed Soleyman's petrochemical plant, which should come onstream in 2018 and become the world's largest producer of chemical fertiliser.

Consumer products in the West are produced with resources plundered from the Ahwaz region. Yet, these petrochemicals plants stand accused of contributing to environmental problems, dangerous working practices and ethnic discrimination against Ahwazi Arabs.

New contracts: marginalising Ahwazi Arabs

Iran requires a substantial amount of investment to support growth in its oil and gas sector, with the oil ministry estimating around US$200 billion of foreign investment is required. Iran is planning to introduce new oil contracts to achieve the production target of 4.7 million barrels per day by March 2021. This will be crucial to maintaining the

However, proposed new contracts have proven controversial within the establishment. The constitution forbids direct foreign ownership of oil resources, but oil producers are insisting on more favourable terms than the previous buy-back arrangements.

The terms of the new contracts are not yet fully known, but will include full cost recovery, fee-per-barrel linked to the oil price and extraction complexity and contracts will be extended to up to 25 years, including exploration and production periods.

However, the Iranian government continues to cast aside demands for oil revenue redistribution lodged by members of parliament for the Ahwaz region. Majlis members have repeatedly requested 1.5 per cent of oil revenue be held for poverty alleviation and social development in the Arab populated areas, but this has been blocked by parliament.

Meanwhile, the powerful Guardian Council - the group of clergy who determine whether legislation is constitutional and Islamic - has stated that oil contracts do not need to be voted on by parliament. Ahwazi Arabs and their representatives in the Iranian parliament have been denied a voice as China and other nations continue to acquire resources for profit.

Boris Johnson Capitulates To Iran Over Ethnic Rights For The Sake Of Business

By Abu Mousa al-Zafrani

The UK Foreign Office's latest human rights report on Iran has removed all mention of ethnic rights in a move of blatant appeasement by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, according to Ahwazi activists.

Previous human rights reports have acknowledged Iran's systematic contravention of ethnic rights enshrined in Article 15 and have highlighted the plight of Kurds and Ahwazi Arabs.

Powerful interests are using top-level lobbying to pillage resources from the Ahwazi Arab homeland, ultimately entrenching the poverty, persecution and cultural subjugation of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs. Boris Johnson's refusal to acknowledge Ahwazi grievances and the watering down of the Foreign Office's human rights concerns has caused alarm among Ahwazi human rights advocates. They see this as a prelude to an investment drive that will further alienate and impoverish Ahwazi Arabs, who have for nearly a century suffered as the government in Tehran and its foreign allies have plundered local resources.

A Century of British Interest in Ahwaz

The British oil industry began in the Ahwaz region. A deal with the Sheikh of Mohammerah - Sheikh Khazaal (pictured) - enabled the British to establish oil drilling and refining operations in what was then known as Arabistan, now Khuzestan. The deal with Khazaal created the Anglo-Persian Oil Company which eventually became British Petroleum (BP).

A century ago, Khazaal provided the land for the massive Abadan refinery, which continues to be a major refining centre in the Middle East. The Ahwaz region contains more oil than Kuwait and the UAE combined and generates 80 to 90 per cent of Iran's oil revenue.

The British promised to protect Khazaal's interests and accorded his sheikhdom equal status with the local rulers of Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Fearing the influence of Bolshevism in the Middle East due to the weak Qajar government and the loss of Ahwaz's resources to Russia, the British reneged on their deal with Khazaal.

The British empire supported Reza Khan's coup to create his own invented Pahlavi dynasty. He deposed Khazaal in 1925, ended the autonomy enjoyed by Arabistan and began a racist process of aggressive Persianisation, which deemed Arabs as outsiders and a malign influence in Iranian history. Since 1925, Ahwazi Arabs have been subjected to discrimination and violent persecution, which continued under the Islamic Republic from 1979. 

The revenue generated in the Ahwazi Arab region has been central to Iran's economic development, the consolidation of successive regimes and funding the Islamic Republic's terrorist network. However, Ahwazi Arabs have seen little improvement in their living standards. They are denied linguistic rights and suffer endemic discrimination in the workplace. 

UK Seeks Re-Entry into Iran

Annually, the UK approves over £800mn of exports of strategic controlled goods to Iran, including hardware used to oppress the people and launch attacks on neighbouring countries - even during the sanctions. Iran is Britain's fourth largest destination for arms exports, representing seven per cent of total arms exports. This level is set to rise following the end of sanctions and efforts to ally with Iran in military activities in Syria and Iraq. Many of the exports could be used for internal repression.

British oil majors are seeking to head investment in the Ahwaz region's oilfields. In November 2015, BP and Royal Dutch Shell were represented at a major two-day oil conference in Tehran. The conference came after the first of several trade delegations run by the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce (BICC), which supports British involvement in Iran's exploitation of Ahwaz.

Before the sanctions, the EU was importing over 700,000 barrels per day of oil taken from the Ahwaz region generating revenue of around US$30bn per annum. This revenue is used to enrich the the ruling elite, which has turned down efforts by the region's members of parliament to secure just 1.5% of revenue for the benefit of social and education projects for local Ahwazi Arabs.

Ahwazi Arabs fear that European investment in oil resources in their land will fund weapons for their repression, instead of alleviating poverty.

The Iranian clergy and European governments are together conducting an anti-human campaign of destruction and they are not listening to Ahwazi pleas to end poverty and brutality.

Role of Lord Lamont and the British Conservative Party

Since the end of sanctions, the British Conservative government has appointed former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lamont as trade envoy to Iran. Lamont has been a long-standing member of the pro-Iranian lobby in the UK, indicating that he is not an independent of the Iranian government. 

According to Intelligence Online, the pro-Iran lobby in Britain operates through two organisations: the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) and the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce (BICC), which is headed by Lord Lamont. 

The IHF purports to be a cultural organisation, but has been a connecting place for rich Iranian and British businessmen and aristocracy. It is chaired by Vahid Alaghband, the head of Balli Group, which trades between London and Tehran. Lamont is an IHF board member and a former advisor to Alaghband. Alaghband is also a donor to the British Conservative Party. 

The Balli Group broke the embargo against Iran by leasing a jet to Iran's Mahan Air. Another IHF board member is Saman Ahsani, the heir of the plutocratic Ahsani family who controls Unaoil. Ahsani was the head of Alaghband's consulting firm, Aria Investments.

According to Intelligence Online, Lamont has been working to assist British billionaire Nadhim Auchi via his General Mediterranean Holding company. Auchi has been an intermediary for French oil major Elf and potentially seeks investments in the Iranian oil industry.

Lamont is also involved in the Tehran-based "think tank" the Ravand Institute for International and Economic Studies. It was founded in early 2015 by Rafsanjani's associate Seyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli, also a member of IHF and a former Iranian ambassador to the UK.

The organisation is said to be a corporate consulting service for foreign investors. Adeli is now the secretary-general of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), a gas cartel. Ravand is run by Kia Tabatabaee, the former Iranian ambassador to Switzerland and the UN in Geneva, who negotiated on several major trade disputes between Iran and the European Union.

Ahwazis Fight Back

Ahwazi Arabs are challenging the inequity of the oil industry on many fronts. Local members of parliament have sought to raise local employment in the oil and downstream petrochemicals industries and secure social justice. However, their efforts have largely been ignored.

Non-violent activism by the Ahwazi community in London has targeted the Iran lobby. Last July, activists supported by leading British human rights activist Peter Tatchell stormed the Westminster headquarters of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to confront Lord Lamont and Iranian officials over oil deals in Ahwaz. Iranian intelligence officials violently attacked the activists in an effort to remove them from the building.

In Ahwaz itself, growing frustration with the lack of progress in social justice and political freedoms has led to frequent bomb attacks on pipelines as part of the low-intensity conflict in the restive region.

The failure of the British government to address Ahwazi rights while promoting British investment in Ahwaz's oil sector could create another cauldron of hate towards Western interests in the Middle East. To avoid conflict, Ahwazi activists are calling on the Foreign Office to take a more critical line in relation to British investment.

Instead of bringing the Iranian lobby led by Lord Lamont into the centre of power in Westminster, the Foreign Office should acknowledge the role of economic development in the subjugation of Ahwazi Arabs and ensure greater corporate social responsibility. Unless development and the oil industry empower Ahwazis, investors will be regarded as enemies.

Bakhtiari Farmers Clash with Security Forces, One Dead

Demonstrations by farmers over water diversion projects in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province led to violent clashes with the Iranian security forces last week, leading to one death and the torching of the local court house.

A peaceful demonstration by locals in Boldaji, a town of around 10,000 people, descended into violence on 19 July as government forces brought in riot police to stifle the protesters.

In running battles, angry protesters chased riot police through the streets with wooden sticks and stones with the Iranian government temporarily losing control of the town.

Water resource disputes are growing throughout southwest Iran, which is home to indigenous non-Persian groups such as the Bakhtiari, Lor and Ahwazi Arabs, as rivers are being diverted to ethnic Persian provinces such as Esfahan. Dams in the Zagros mountains have taken significant amount of water from rivers such as the Karoun and Karkheh, leaving once verdant land further downstream parched and undermining farm productivity.

In Ahwaz City, protests have been popular and angry, but non-violent. However, as livelihoods are increasingly affected by river diversion in regions were unemployment is running at 30-50%, environmental problems are prompting increasing unrest.

The dams are used to produce hydroelectricity so that the Iranian government can maximise the amount of crude oil for export. The diverted waters are intended to sustain cash crop production in Isfahan and Yazd, which themselves are suffering the effects of global climate change with lower rainfall.

However, the desertification of southwest Iran, particularly the drying of the ancient marshlands, is leading to dust storms, reduced humidity and lower rainfall. The toxic dust storms, which now stretch as far as the capital Tehran, are also causing widespread respiratory problems and increasing the incidence of cancer. The loss of farm output is raising the price of staple foods, not just in the southwest but throughout Iran.