Ahwazis protest over Iran's land, water theft

by The Region    


For the second week in a row, Ahwazi demonstrators poured into the streets across the Arab region of south-western Iran earlier this week to protest against the injustice they are subjected to by Iran.  

Iran's worsening repression comes despite repeated warnings by officials over the devastating effects of its current policies of deprivation, land-theft and the damming and rerouting of regional rivers to non-Arab areas.

A parliamentarian for the region slammed Iran's unjust and discriminatory policies there, likening them to Israel’s injustices against Palestinians, with Ahwazi activists on social media and news websites at home and abroad sharing a video showing the MP in question, Qassem Al-Saeedi, lambasting the head of the Iran's environmental affairs office, Eisa Klanter, who is an aide of President Hassan Rouhani, and comparing the Iranian ‘resistance’ government’s anti-Arab policies to those of Israel. 

Al-Saeedi further revealed that Klanter had signed off on a document approving the transfer of more water from Ahwaz to central parts of Iran, despite the fact that Ahwaz is already suffering from horrendous droughts and widespread desertification due to the Iran damming other rivers in the once verdant region and redirecting them to other, non-Arab areas of the country.

This document once again exposes the horrendous and unprecedented injustice practised by the Iranian state against Arabs.

The MP added that the arable lands of Ahwazi farmers around the remaining rivers which the Iran plans to reroute will now be vulnerable to desertification. 

In the video footage spreading across social media, al-Saeedi called on the Ahwazi people to take to streets in protest at the government's policies. 

Klanter, once Iran's minister of agriculture, who also serves as Rouhani’s aide with responsibility for water affairs, has said that Iran is facing an acute threat due to the declining amounts of underground water and rainfall.  In the case of the status quo continuing, he argues, the whole of Iran will turn into a barren wasteland in the next 30 years. 

In related news, activists have also circulated controversial audio recordings of secret discussions in Ahwaz between senior state officials, including Khamenei's representative in the region. The recordings were corroborated by news sites inside Iran. 

In these recordings, which were corroborated by news websites in Iran,  Khamenei's representative Moussawi Jazaeri warns of the deteriorating situation in the Arab Ahwaz region, with the Iranian official openly admitting that Iran has stripped the indigenous people of their lands and helped large numbers of Persians to resettle in the region under the pretence of requiring them to live there in order to work for government firms, despite the widespread unemployment amongst Ahwazi people, the highest in the country. 

Two days before Wednesday’s protests, on Monday, Iran's security forces beat and arrested 60 people from Jelaizi, most of them women, after they protested angrily at the army's confiscation of their family’s farmlands. Video footage from a phone camera showed the regime forces’ brutality towards the unarmed villagers showing the security officers using tear gas, batons, live ammunition and rubber bullets against the people, including women and children, and beating them mercilessly.   The footage quickly went viral, causing outrage across the region. Iranian forces also waged a large-scale crackdown on the village, randomly arresting dozens of residents, including many who weren’t involved in the protests.

Iran’s latest illegitimate confiscation of Ahwazis’ land and brutality towards the people prompted widespread protests across the Ahwaz region in solidarity with the people of Jelaizi. Thousands of Arab citizens demonstrated in the streets of Ahwaz, the centre of the Ahwaz region, for demonstrations against the confiscation of their lands by the Iranian army and in solidarity with the people of the village of Jalizi in the north of the province.   The protesters were violently attacked by Iranian internal security forces in retaliation for holding the peaceful demonstration. 

On the previous Friday afternoon, protesters took to the streets, chanting slogans against the Iranian state and condemning the security forces' repression of the residents of Jalizi village, who were beaten and insulted for the ‘crime’ of objecting to the Iran's confiscation of their farmland without any prior notification and with no compensation for those robbed of the land that was both their food source and livelihoods. 

A number of Ahwazi Arab activists have published reports and photos on social media networks showing the vicious attacks by  Iranian internal security forces firing tear gas at the protesting farmers and their families, including women and children,  and using clubs and truncheons to beat them.  Many of the protesters were also arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.  Many of victims who sustained horrendous injuries in the Iranian forces’ assaults were women.  

The Iran' latest confiscation of land, over 3,000 hectares in this case (with only 1000 hectares left to the owners), is part of a pattern going back to the 1980s,  when President Rafsanjani  introduced the policy of land theft under the pretext of requiring it for regime use following the 1980-88 war; much of the stolen land was then given to military veterans as a ‘reward’ for their service, with the victimised farmers and other landowners receiving no notice or compensation and having no recourse to legal action then as now.  

Iran's grotesque policy has left many of the people from the Musian district of the Ilam province in Ahwaz, where Jalizi village is situated, destitute, homeless and unemployed, with their land “redistributed” to non-Arab settlers.    

Any effort to protest against this policy of unofficial ethnic cleansing as a means of enforcing demographic change is met with savage retaliation by the security forces, with  protesters at last week’s demonstration, including old people, women and children, being brutally beaten for the ‘crime’ of protesting against the theft of their land.  Some of the female protesters were deliberately hit in their chests and mouths with gun-butts and batons.