On the morning of Saturday, January 21st, dozens of vehicles of Iranian security forces and municipality officials descended on a popular street market being held along the International road that connects Ahwaz and Muhammarah.
Ahwazi activists reported that the security forces and municipal officers then set about closing down the stalls and attacking and arresting a number of the vendors who were taken away to detention centres.
There is not yet accurate information as to the names of the Ahwazi citizens arrested, but the activists who witnessed the scene have published images of the arrests and beatings on social media.
The street vendors are largely unemployed Ahwazis who are forced to sell perishable produce such as fruit, poultry and fish in these markets in order to provide for their families. However, the regime forces are always cracking down on them, removing their stalls, arresting and jailing them.
This is, unfortunately, not a rare occurrence, with Ahwazi Arab people effectively subjected to an apartheid system by the regime, under which they are denied the most basic of human rights. Despite the fact that the ethnically Arab Ahwaz region contains over 90 percent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran, which earn the regime billions of dollars annually, as well as having steel manufacturing and sugarcane farming industries, the Ahwazi people live in conditions of medieval poverty, with the job opportunities in the aforementioned sectors, like all others, being reserved by the regime for Persian settlers in the area, while Ahwazis, as Arabs, are treated with racist contempt. Many young Ahwazis, like Sawari, are forced to become street vendors in order to help feed their families, being denied all other employment.
On November 13, 2016, a young Ahwazi Arab student was critically injured when he was brutally assaulted by Iranian regime municipal officers while selling flowers in order to help feed his family. According to Ahwazi human rights activists, the student, identified as Alireza Sawari, was selling flowers and plants at the entrance to the Behesht Abad cemetery when municipal officials arrived and confiscated his wares before beating him. Sawari, a student at Ahwaz University in the regional capital, also named Ahwaz, pleaded with the officials to return the flowers and plants to him, explaining that he relied on this income, vowing to leave as soon as he got them back. In response to Sawari’s pleas, one of the officials from the District 8 municipal office in the capital intensified the beating, using a large truncheon to club the defenceless youth unconscious, repeatedly hitting him around the head, chest and legs. Sawari was subsequently rushed to hospital where he remained in a critical condition.
In mid-May 2016, a young Ahwazi street vendor named Mehdi Afrawi committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train in the city of Ahwaz in a final act of despair and protest after Iranian regime forces confiscated his merchandise, depriving him of his sole means of making a living to feed his family. Afrawi was a street vendor in the Nader Bazaar in Ahwaz.
An unarmed 17-year-old Ahwazi Arab boy, named as Ali Jalali, was shot dead by Iranian security forces in the Nahdhe( known also as Lashkarabad) neighbourhood of the regional capital, Ahwaz, on the evening of Monday, November 9, 2015, with a number of other residents injured in the regime forces’ indiscriminate gunfire. The teenager died while he was attempting to prevent the regime security forces from confiscating his food stall and the foodstuffs he was selling, which were his sole source of income.
The shooting followed peaceful demonstrations by residents protesting against orders by the regime to shut down popular Arab restaurants and cafés in the district, which were followed by brutal raids by regime forces. The closures and raids on the restaurants, which specialised in the popular local seafood dishes and falafel, and were popular with tourists as well as locals, were another demonstration of the excessive restrictions placed on Ahwazi Arabs by the regime.
On 15 March 2015, an Ahwazi Arab Street vendor, Younes Asakere from Muhammarah, set himself on fire in protest against the actions of the regime’s municipal officials who confiscated his small grocery stall in one of their arbitrary raids on the street vendors in Muhammarah City.These frequent attacks on the poorest members of the Ahwaz community are despicable. The majority of Ahwazi people are denied any Government job opportunities and have no other way to make a living, but to sell perishable goods on temporary stalls without a permit.The work is far from physically or financially secure and is made worse by constant threats also from rogue security officials out to extort protection money from the stallholders. Still, as conditions worsen, more and more poor Ahwazi Arabs turn to street selling in a last-ditch effort to pay for the growing costs of healthcare and household management.
The sellers represent a wide spectrum of people in desperate circumstances, street children, struggling students, disabled people, and mothers with children in tow, often trying to sell their goods on the high boulevards, to the people walking past.They are a growing thorn in the side of the regime’s authorities who frequently stage harsh crackdowns against them.This reached new lows last month when regime officers tasked with alleviating “street congestion” brutally assaulted a 79-year-old Ahwazi Arab woman, a street seller in Ahwaz.
Increasing levels of hopelessness, frustration and despair at sharply rising unemployment and poverty and a steadily worsening economic situation have driven more and more young Ahwazis to attempt suicide. Many in Ahwaz believe that this is a wholly deliberate policy on the part of the regime to ratchet up pressure on the already oppressed people in an effort to force them to succumb to despair and wholly break their spirits, forcing them to abandon their homeland to Persian settlers and change its demographic balance by driving the region’s indigenous Arab people out.
This is the ongoing plight of Ahwazi nation that is occupied by Iran since 1925. Ever since, undermining the dignity of Ahwazi peoples, demeaning, humiliating and denying their basic rights, are among the principal tools used by the Iranian aggressive regimes to dominate and subjugate the Ahwazis intellectually, culturally, economically, and in every other way, in order to crush their resistance.The consecutive Iranian regimes have sought to systematically force the Ahwazi people to accept their subjugation. They have done this by criminalizing their language and culture in order to force the Ahwazis to accept a mindset of being vanquished, passing from generation to generation.