Ahwazi people facing mass migration to survive, animals face massive extinction

bufallo

The Lives of the people in many areas of the Al-Ahwaz region depend on raising buffalo and other animals as well as the cultivation of crops, a way of lifestyle inherited from their ancestors for hundreds of years. Buffalo life and other animals largely depend on a supply of water. However, the drainage of Karoon River and wetlands, because of the transfer of water to the Persian provinces, has resulted in the scarcity of fodder and water for the buffalos. As a consequence, people of this region are facing acute economic and environmental problems.

Drought, desertification and the associated lack of vegetation are also endangering other indigenous species, including water buffalo, the traditional symbol of al-Ahwaz, which cannot survive in these conditions.

Water buffalo requires regular access to freshwater, but the ever-worsening critical water scarcity has led to many deaths, with pregnant females miscarrying their calves. There is a high risk that the species may die out altogether in the region which it symbolised for millennia.

An Ahwazi livestock farmer who owns a herd of buffalos said: “due to a lack of freshwater as rivers dry up, we’ve been forced to create an artificial pond for the buffalos to provide them with drinking water and keep them cool.  The expense of creating and maintaining this means we can’t even pay the water bills.  The government provides no agricultural subsidies for Ahwazi farmers to help with fodder or anything else.  As a result, we have no choice but to sell our buffalos, with the sale of their milk bringing in half the money that it costs us to feed and keep them so that we’ve ended up falling into debt. We will be left destitute with no source of earnings”.

Moreover, this constitutes a significant threat to the only source of livelihood for thousands of families in the region. No one cares about them as they suffer from extreme poverty and large-scale deprivation. Wetlands and rivers are important to all of Ahwazi Arab people because it is from wetlands and streams and Rivers that they have their fresh water for cooking, for eating, for washing.

Besides providing resources for fishing, farming, water and fodder for their domestic animals, wetlands function a buffer to protect people from natural disasters. Ahwazi people depend on wetlands and rivers because they earn a living from the aquaculture and the fishery industries.

Due to the destructive industrial policy of the Iranian occupation, especially oil prospecting in the wetlands, the Al-Ahwaz region is facing a massive loss of wetlands as 80 percent of plant, animal, birds and fish species in the wetlands have been disappearing.

Also, urban sewage and toxic industrial materials flow directly into Ahwazi Rivers and wetlands has increased to a point that most fish species have gone and often lay dead on the surface of rivers and wetlands that have suffered from huge pollution and have become a stinking sewer.

The level of pollution is so high that even migratory birds which would migrate to Ahwazi wetlands and rivers during the winter season have abandoned the region due to pollution and loss of vegetation.

If this situation persists, no doubt we will witness the death of Ahwazi Rivers like Karoon and all the wetlands that used to help store enormous amounts of carbon and prevent it from entering the atmosphere. The drainage of rivers and wetlands has triggered massive sand storms recently in Al-Ahwaz crippling life and causing the emergence of many chronic diseases for the people of the region.

According to Ahwaz human rights groups, in the past five years, over 65% of Ahwaz Arab lands have experienced the worst ever seen in long-term drought since the occupying regime embarked on its plan of water diversion of Ahwazi Rivers.

The results appeared in huge crop failure and massive loss of livestock including cow, sheep, and water buffalo that are domesticated for providing meat or milk as primary earning of livelihood adopted by the majority of Ahwazis.

A massive exodus, estimated at one to 1.5 million, of farmers and families from the countryside (in particular, Howeyzeh, Mohammareh, Falahiyeh, Omidyah and Romhormoz and Khalafiya) to cities has been fueled by extreme poverty.

The plight of the Ahwazi people is made worse via the exploitation and neglect by the Iranian regime of Ahwazi natural resources which have contributed to water shortages and land desertification in the region.

The Ahwazi wetlands used to be home to not only hundreds of thousands of Ahwazi people, who lived fulfilling lives in the region, but also to thousands of varieties of fish, birds, reptiles, mammals and seasonal migratory birds. The wetlands are now exposed to Tehran’s racist-motivated program to drain and dry them out.

The remaining areas of wetlands that could be saved are now exploited by oil companies under the control of the Revolutionary Guards, who race to drill and explore for oil in the middle of the wetlands, destroying all that remains of the marshes and swamps of Ahwaz.

Such compelling evidence shows that Iranian occupation is deliberately subjecting Ahwazis to deep socioeconomic marginalization policies aiming at constraining Ahwazi Arab life and pushing Ahwazis to leave their lands and homes.  These violations that mostly go unnoticed and under-reported are amounted to a systematic ethnic cleansing crime.

The negligence by the international community toward such grave abuses perpetrated against Ahwazi people merely encourages the Iranian authorities to commit more heinous practices of this kind.

Historically Ahwazi Arabs have been subjected to summary executions, forced displacement, migration, and the confiscation and destruction of homes and personal property since 1925. In the current sectarian fundamentalist regime in Iran, the Ahwazi Arab people live in constant fear of repression. The Iranian mullahs’ regime is continuing the current program of ethnic cleansing, which began at the hands of Pahlavi regime.

 

Main source: http://www.isna.ir/news/94033016822

Translated by Ahwaz Monitor

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