After it was announced that UNEP Executive Director, Erik Solheim will visit Iran from 24th to 26th February of this year , Ahwazi people took on Instagram and Twitter to ask Mr.Solheim to visit Ahwaz wetlands and called international organisations to find a solution for the problem of sand storms ,which for the past months has interrupted their everyday lives ,closed the schools and caused power outages throughout the province .
As Iranian officials are reluctant to address these issues , civilians took on themselves to raise awareness about their situation in one of World’s most polluted cities according to World Heath Organisation (WHO) . Ahwaz is the center of oil industries and the producer of up to 80% of Iran’s crud oil ,meanwhile not even 1% of the oil revenues are assigned to the protection of the environment or the welfare of its habitants and the cities of the province which till this day carry the scars of the eight year war between Iraq and Iran.
Majority Arab province of Khuzestan is without a doubt one of the most deprived provinces in Iran which has been systematically sidelined and marginalised both in the reign of the shah of Iran and by larger scale after the Iranian revolution 38 years ago .
Without a doubt Instagram is one of the most popular apps that is used inside Iran and the people of Ahwaz use Instagram on daily bases to share their everyday struggle in the absence of clean air and water .
Thousands of #Ahvaz could be seen under the videos and photos that were posted by UNEP Director ,asking Mr.Solheim to visit Ahwaz and shared their concerns with the worsening environmental situation in the province ,some users wrote “Ahwaz needs your help “, “we can’t breath “ while others posted emojis in masks .
Unfortunately visit to Ahwaz was not scheduled in Mr. Solheim’s agenda .He stated in a video which he eventually posted after receiving the many comments of Ahwazis on Twitter and Instagram ,”he could only visit lake Urmia which was also hit by the sand and dust storms” .
He stated the following in a video “A message to Khuzestan “ which he posted on his personal Instagram account :
“ A big thanks to all you from great city of Ahwaz who have written to me to alert me about the horrible dust and sand storm which hit your city last week . I can’t visit you this time because we long agreed to go here “lake Urmia” which also was severely hit by the phenomenon of sand and dust storm ,but rest assure that i have used every opportunity to discuss the sand and dust storm with Iranian authorities and rest assure that Iranian officials and UN have agreed to do whatever we can to uplift this issue in the international agenda and get it stopped or reduced in the years to come , and for sure I know you all good people in Ahwaz and Khuzestan really want to know what we can do to avoid future sand and dust storms , I have two suggestions : Iran managing wetlands ,manage water better than they are able to do today , and i know that the government of iran is really adamant to make sure this happens , added building broad coalition ,Turkey ,Saudi Arabia ,Iraq all those other nations ,that also have impact on the situation right here in Iran and together I am sure we can have enormous progress and thank you for all you are doing and please for sure don't hesitate to contact us in United Nations and give suggestions about what we can do better.”
Ahwazis also used the same medium to alert and contact the head of UNDP Iran ,Mr. Gary Lewis
and sent him photos which demonstrated the magnitude of the pollution in the city .
Link to the video message by UNEP Executive Director to Ahwazi people :
photos posted by Instagram users from Ahwaz