The crackdown on Arab Ahwazis in Iran is neither new nor limited to the history of the Islamic Republic, which was founded in 1979, but the minority community has drawn more attention than usual recently.
Denmark recalled its ambassador to Tehran on October 30 after it accused the regime of plotting to assassinate Iranians of Ahwazi origin living in the Scandinavian country.
Iran had accused Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain last September of “hosting terrorists” that were responsible for an attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz (Ahwaz, to us Arabs) that killed 25 people.
The regime used the September attack as an excuse to continue cracking down on the Arab community. Iran, which is known for its state-sponsored terrorism, is claiming to be the victim of terror.
Following the incident, the Iranian regime media outlets in-line with pro-regime journalists abroad immediately started to spread the narrative that Iran was the target was of an international conspiracy, alleging a number of regional states backed by the United States were behind the attack.
The Iranian authorities blamed both Arab Ahwazis, who are traditionally Shia, and Islamic State militants, who are Sunni extremists, of carrying out the attack. When Iran throws accusations, logic or evidence is not factored in.
It is quite obvious that the Iranian regime has grip and control over Ahvaz’s security and possesses incredible security facilities to detect and avoid suspicious movements hostile to the parade.
The Iranian regime used the attack to justify the continued restrictions on the freedom and movement of individuals in the region and intensify the security situation. There was an increase in the number of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Basij personnel to track the activities and movements of Ahwazi Arab citizens in order to identify their whereabouts or their political orientations, to eventually censor and ban any kind of cultural or social activities in the region.
From a security perspective, the regime always sought to impose and tighten security restrictions on the Arab neighbourhoods such as Al-Daira, Al-Malashiya, Kut Abdullah and other major-Arab-neighbourhoods, pressuring them economically and security-wise.
Although the regime does not need an excuse to implement these policies, the incident served as a helpful way for it to justify its actions in front of the international community.
Maintaining the tight security measures in the area also helps the regime suppress more protests, such as those that broke out this year against the government’s destructive policies on the environment, water diversion, air pollution, unemployment, labour protests and so on. In this incident, the regime tried to portray the region as a threat to the country, distorting the peaceful civil demonstrations and pinning them on the Arab separatists fishing in the troubled waters.
Through this incident, the regime tried to justify the arrest of more Ahwazi activists and eliminate them from the political landscape under the pretext of belonging to terrorist movements.
Note that in 2006, the same scenario was plotted by the regime to combat Arab protesters during the popular uprising against the regime.
Depicting non-Persian inhabited areas as hotbeds of instability that could explode and threaten the territorial integrity of Iran is how the regime has always triggered Persian nationalist sentiment.
The Iranian regime has often sought to confuse peaceful Ahwazi activism for linguistic and cultural rights with a small group of people who adopt violence. By focusing on the few militants, the regime is hoping to divert attention from the legitimate demands of the wider Ahwazi community and indeed the aspirations of the people of Iran too.
Yasser Assadi, is a freelance journalist and human rights advocate.