Ahwazi: Demands for Detainees’ Release after Week of Protests Met With Government Repression
After seven days of protest against government-sponsored racism, marginalisation, persecution and discrimination, Ahwazi Arabs are urging the Iranian government to release political prisoners who had been arrested in the course of the week-long protests. Denouncing the manipulation of demographic maps and its impacts on Iranian minorities’ perception and representation, these protests have been repressed by anti-riots forces. The Iranian government, with the support of other, mostly Persian-dominated provinces, used arbitrary arrests and violence to crack-down on dissent in the region. UNPO joins the Ahwazi Human Rights Organization in condemning this repressive behaviour and demands respect for the right to peaceful assembly.
This article has been published by Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation:
Ahwaz Human Rights Organization condemns the arrest of Ahwazi Arabs who have been peacefully demonstrating against racism and discrimination for the past week in different cities of Ahwaz / Arabistan.
By April 2, 2018, a week had passed since peaceful Ahwaz uprising against racism, marginalisation and continued persecution and discrimination exercised by Iranian government and its media, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). The Iranian authorities responded to the demands of masses by sending anti-riot forces and have turned Ahwaz to a military barrack.
In recent days, military reinforcements have been dispatched from Lorestan province (North of Ahwaz) and neighbouring provinces. Internal security units and riot police were seen heading towards the area as protests continued in various cities of Ahwaz where rallies continued to the night and people protested against the authorities' practices and demanded the release of political prisoners.
According to the reports of the Ahwazi human rights organization, raids were carried out in various cities and about 100 Arab citizens, including women and girls, were arrested on charges of participating in peaceful protests. The names will be published as soon as they are confirmed.
The protests started after Arabs were insulted on national television. On the second day of the Newruz, on March 23, Channel 2 broadcasted a children’s show with a national music “Ey Iran” in the background to show Iran's ethnic diversity, but the Ahwazi Arabs were not on the map, and instead a Luri male and female doll was placed on Ahwaz’s map.
Ahwazi Arabs who have been witnessing government’s efforts for demographic change for years through forced migration of marsh Arabs out of marshlands following oil projects, and influx of immigrants from central areas of Iran to Ahwaz for job opportunities in heavily industrialised and polluted Arab cities in short felt threaten as each day they become more of a minority in their own homeland.
Arab activists initially launched an online campaign on websites, and applications such as Telegram and Instagram to demand an apology from the Arab Ahwazi people by radio and television officials but there was no response. The Ahwaz deputies in the Iranian parliament and the council of experts, including Ayatollah Abbas Ka’abi, also called on government agencies to apologise, but none of the government officials took the responsibility.
For these reasons and other evidence such as the accumulation of problems and water and air pollution crises and the continuation of plans to eliminate the Arab people of Ahwaz, people been taking the streets for the past week.
The first protests began with a gathering of thousands of Arab citizens in the city of Ahwaz, on Wednesday morning March 28, 2018, in front of IRIB building( Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) in Ahwaz demanding an apology.
In the following days, the protests spread to other cities such as Abadan, Muhammerah, Ma’ashour, Falahiya, Khawain, Koura, Shaiban, Al Ain, Qal'at Kanaan, Kut Abdullah, and other regions to denounce the anti-Arab wave of racism in Ahwaz particularly and in Iran generally.
In several rallies Iranian security forces backed by units of riot police and the Revolutionary Guard Corps , attacked the demonstrations, threw teargas and beat demonstrators to disperse them.
Demonstrations continued until the early hours of Sunday, amid reports that Farhani Street was closed and cordoned off by security forces, police and riot police and the arrest of a large number of unknown youths.
Security forces have launched raids in various cities and the number of detainees has so far reached more than 100.
On the sixth day of protests, in a video recorded by a citizen journalist we see a security force taking off an Arab man’s #Kufieh and #Agal from his head at a checkpoint. Other shapes of racism has been witnessed in different cities. Ahwazi Arabs who have been wearing their traditional clothes in the street as a sign of protest say they feel threatened when they go out wearing #Dishdasheh these days.
The Ahwazi Human Rights Organization condemns these practices and this repressive behaviour and demands that the Iranian authorities respect the right of the people for a peaceful assembly to express their demands in accordance with the laws and international treaties and most importantly calls for the release of all detainees.
AHRO calls upon United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and all other human rights organisations to report on the matter and pressure Iranian government to stop its destruction of indigenous marsh Arabs lands and source of income in Iran and put an end to systematic discrimination and racism practiced by the Iranian government and its media IRIB.