Information about mass protests and violent repressions by the government forces in the Ahwaz region, on the South-West of Iran, was long reported. All this comes against the backdrop of water and environmental crisis in the region. With a request to comment on this issue, we turned to Yasser Assadi, Ahwazi human rights activist based in London.
In your opinion, what is the primary cause of the present situation? Also, what, the situation in the Ahwaz region, can lead to?
There are few reasons behind the escalation of Ahwazi protests against the Iranian regime but mainly due to regime’s extreme policies in the region which aim at changing the demographic structure of the region in favor for of non-Arabs. In short, Ahwazi live moving acutely toward the worse as results of regimes systematic approaches against Ahwazi Arabs including but not limited to Air pollution: Air pollution as a result of air dust and gas flaring remains the primary challenge that Ahwazi Arabs suffering and facing from in their daily lives without a real solution from the state. An academic study conducted by Chamran University in 2010 suggested that more than 20% of the death rate in Alahwaz caused by air pollution existence of particles in the air as a source of respiratory diseases and cancers.
Denial existence and identity of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs as the real inhabitants of Alahwaz by the state’s media as well as in the public sphere.
-Draining of marshland and diverting water from Ahwazi rivers to other Persian-dominant provinces had an impact on destroying the ecosystem by exposing it to further desertification, which ultimately led to more Ahwazi migration to other provinces.
-Land confiscation: every day more Ahwazi farmlands are taken off by the state under so-called state large projects such as Sugarcane projects or oil extraction.
-Unemployment: the unemployment rate is very high among Ahwazi Arabs youth event among graduates Ahwazis due to blatant discrimination in recruitment in public and private sectors.
All the above factors are essentially aimed at inflicting severe impoverishment, isolation, and displacement of Ahwazi people and obliterate their identity in order to achieve Persian hegemony over dominant Ahwazi Arabs.
In view of these facts, I believe the protests will continue in various forms, but mainly in peaceful manners such as public strikes, however, we cannot rule out the potential emergence of armed struggle and insurgency against regime’s institutions and settlers if the regime continues its hostilities approach against Ahwazi Arabs.
Yasser Assadi, is a freelance journalist and human rights advocate.