Surprising and sudden news is shaking an already-heated pre-election process in Iran. No single person or poll can claim to reflect the popular mood, meaning the election process in Iran always remains unpredictable.
However, the Iranian people remain determined that one day, this “democratic process” will turn in the right direction. Among those people who believe that true democracy in Iran will change their fate are non-Persian ethnic groups.
These people are even more desperate than the average Iranian for the regime’s polar models (scholar versus reformist) to change. This is because all regimes in the past have dismissed ethics and the identity crisis in Iran, wooing non-Persian voters and campaigning on a “minorities’ plight” platform only to gain seats and business.
Article 19 of the Iranian constitution declares, “All people of Iran, regardless of ethnic group or tribe, enjoy equal rights. Color, race, language and the like do not bestow any privilege to one group over another.”
However, ethnic groups comprising more than half the Iranian population are still deprived of cultural, social and political representation in national and local politics.
A notable change this year in the Iranian pre-election registration process was a symbolic and independent step taken by three young Ahwazi men. They traveled a long distance from Ahwaz to Tehran and wore their traditional Arab clothing during their registration for the upcoming presidential election.
Of course, their goal is not to win the pre-determined election but rather to raise their people’s voice and concerns, because the situation of the economy, health and other public services in Ahwaz is dire.
These three young men took this step despite knowing the candidacy requirement in Iran is controlled by the Council of Guardians, who will reject any non-Persian candidates.
These three candidates were attempting to deliver several messages domestically and abroad, including:
- There is a lack of sustainable state development for the Ahwazi region in terms of building roads, schools and a healthcare system;
- Unbalanced allocation of resources to the Ahwazi region despite the oil and gas extracted from there;
- Effects of air pollution caused by extensive oil extraction that dried up the marshlands;
- Denial of Ahwazi Arab existence and identity by state officials and state-sponsored media;
- Lack of respect for Ahwazi Arab history;
- Prohibition of studying in Arabic in local schools despite Article 15 of the constitution which recognizes non-Persian ethnic groups.
Minority groups in Iran, such as those living in non-Persian regions of Ahwaz (Khuzestan), Kurdistan and Baluchistan (among others), are hoping the next president of the country will put ethnic issues on his main agenda and choose a cabinet that reflects Iran’s ethnic and cultural diversity.