Searing temperatures of over 50 degrees Celsius (122°F) are making the already harsh living conditions for millions of Ahwazi Arabs unbearable, with one man dying so far as a result of the heat and medical sources warning of more possible deaths as humidity levels in the impoverished Ahwaz region of Iran (also known by the Farsi name of Khuzestan province) currently rise to between 80 and 90 percent, according to state media.
The regional city of Khafajiyeh (a.k.a. Susangerd in Farsi) has registered a record daytime temperature of 53 degrees Celsius (127.4°F), while in the regional capital, also named Ahwaz, the temperature is only one degree lower at 52°C (125°F). In the port city of Mahshor, the population of around 110,000 are suffering record temperatures, with the stifling humidity bringing air temperatures to an oven-like 74°C (165°F).
Speaking to the Rahyab News Agency, the director of the Ahwaz University of Medical Sciences reported that six people had been rushed to medical centres in the city for treatment as a result of the searing temperatures, with one of the patients, a construction worker, dying of a combination of heatstroke and a brain hemorrhage which was also believed to be connected to exposure to the severe heat. The five other patients had subsequently been discharged, he added. Medical authorities are warning of further suffering as a result of the record heatwave, with the regime’s crisis management unit announcing that working hours will be reduced to 13 hours per day if the daytime temperatures remain above 50°C.
The severe weather adds to the misery of the indigenous Ahwazi peoples, most of whom already live in grinding poverty despite the region housing over 90 percent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran, meaning that air conditioning is a luxury item that few can afford. With unemployment rates amongst Ahwazis currently standing at around 60 percent, far above the national average, many struggle to pay the electricity bills which are increased in summer by the regime to cover the rise in a/c usage, with most households in the region below the poverty line.
The massive and unrestricted pollution from the oilfields, refineries and steelworks in the region is a primary contributor to regional climate change, with environmental activists warning that without urgent action to restrict pollution and to stop the regime’s river-damming and diversion program which is further exacerbating the environmental crisis, conditions will continue to worsen, with increased aridity bringing further dust storms and desertification in addition to the existing problems.
Activists in Ahwaz are appealing to the regime for cuts in electricity bills and for the regime to install air conditioning in the poorest residents’ homes in order to make the searing heat bearable, particularly for those on low incomes.