Iran’s Ahwazi People Face Poverty Amid their Homeland’s Oil Wealth

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Ahwazi residents of Bir Salem, a village with a population of three thousand people near the city of Omideyeh in Al-Ahwaz region are suffering horrendously due to the absence of the most basic goods and services.

Despite living in a region which contains over 90 percent of Iran’s oil and gas reserves, and being located only a few miles from one of the country’s largest gas refineries, Bir Salem’s residents languish in desperate poverty, with no mains gas supply, meaning that villagers must travel long distances, usually on foot, to refill gas cylinders for cooking and heating; the women of the village frequently carry these extremely heavy cylinders on their heads.

Such medieval deprivation is the norm for Ahwazi Arab peoples, denied the benefits of the massive wealth accrued from the oil and gas resources in their own land ever since it was first colonised in 1925 and subjected to brutal apartheid-style anti-Arab policies by Tehran.

The residents of Bir Salem believe that the regime’s policies of discrimination, marginalisation and deprivation are wholly deliberate, intended to further humiliate and debase the Arab people there.

In a further deliberate insult to the local people, the regime provides neighbouring, ethnically homogenous settlements built for Iranian workers at the gas refineries with a mains gas supply and other modern amenities, which are denied to Arabs, who are not only denied these amenities but are denied jobs by the oil and gas companies making huge profits from the Ahwazis’ own resources. Ahwazis are not allowed to live in these settlements.

Other problems facing the Ahwazi people in this area are the dusty unpaved roads and a lack of basic healthcare and education facilities – again in stark contrast to the settlements which are provided with excellent roads, as well as first-rate healthcare and education facilities. These apartheid-style policies are the norm for the Ahwazi people, denied the resources from their own occupied lands and left to live in squalid poverty while the occupiers, who regard Arabs as inferior beings, reap the benefits.

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