Poverty and Marginalisation: The Life of Ahwazis under the Grip of Iran’s Clerical Regime

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Perhaps the most alarming phenomena in Ahwazi cities has been the transformation of many neighborhoods into isolated ghettos where poverty and deprivation are the norms.   When you visit the Mallashiyeh neighborhood, southernmost of the western part of Ahwaz city, the first thing you encounter is the stench from huge piles of garbage.

The garbage is spread all over the area and gives the impression that the local residents are used to it, as though it was an integral part of their miserable lives. Lives that have been neglected and abused for years.

In Mallashiyeh, as in other Ahwazi neighborhoods, underground sewer systems are nonexistent, the streets and alleys are open sewers, and channels split the narrow streets and alleys into smaller sewage lines.  If you have children, you must constantly watch that they do not to fall into these channels that have turned into breeding places for mice and rats that are easily confused with cats because of their size. Small streams of sewage are everywhere. The photographer who accompanied me commented: “My nose is numb from the stink!”

Spring, summer, and winter for Mallashiyeh and its Arab residents, do not offer welcome change or reprieve. There are no green spaces to sit or enjoy, and no areas fit enough for children to play and have fun.  Alleys are choking with dust, everything is black and white, and asphalt is rarely seen.  As far as the human eye can see all there is are the huge piles of stinking garbage.

A middle-aged woman with a heartbreaking smile, turned to us saying that day and night they deal with this spewed wastewater in front of houses.  Weeks of trash may, if they are lucky, be collected by municipality truck. But, no one counts on it.  A young girl who appeared to be her daughter, was trying to push with a shovel sewage that was stuck in one of the open channels, she said to us, “Please take note that we do not have safe drinking water from the tap, something like sewage comes out.  Please write it down so the officials might read our long problems, even though I know it’s unlikely to happen, because most of them are not local, they are not from here.”

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Standing with the support of a walking stick was an elderly man who called to us, and as we approached him, he said: “we just taste bitterness.”  His name was Haj Khalaf, and he told us about the rampant poverty and the long ignored misery of their lives.  He shared how unemployment was widespread.  His three sons were married with children, but they do not have jobs, in fact, they had been jobless for years.  Sometimes they were forced to do street vending.  They did not have appropriate shelter for themselves and their families and were forced to live with him.  He said: “I was farming my land around Ahwaz city and was able to make a living.  But the sugar cane company confiscated my land by force.  My only compensation from this company is the thick, acrid smoke from burning the sugar cane after cultivation, it goes into our noses and burns our eyes”.  Haj Khalaf went on to say that some 18 companies exist in Mallashiyeh, but his sons have never managed to get a job in any of them.  As with other Ahwazi Arabs, their applications for work are always denied.  “Every morning we watch with yearning as the bus service drops off workers and employees for these companies, most of them are not local.”  Choking back his tears Haj Khalaf asked, “Where are the authorities, why are we excluded and marginalised, tell us what is our sin?”

The Mallashiyeh residents say that their situation is getting worse and worse, with most men unemployed and their families living from hand to mouth.  Poverty is endemic, with education suffering severely as families are unable to afford the textbooks or other materials needed for school.  Although the area has a population of over 50,000, it has no emergency services, hospitals, medical coverage or even an emergency clinic.  There are no recreational facilities like a library or cultural centre, not even a park.

The horrendous deprivation of Ahwazi Arab people is not new, but part of a history of suffering and deliberate neglect by successive regimes.  These grotesquely unjust and discriminatory policies towards Ahwazis are systemic, with the theocratic regime only the latest to legitimise this legacy of suffering, which has passed from generation to generation.

Main source: http://www.fardanews.com/fa/news/532902/

Translated by Ahwaz Monitor

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