Iran: Water Mismanagement Negatively Affects Ethnic Minorities
On 22 May 2019, the Brussels International Center for Research and Human Rights (BIC) published a report titled Iran and Climate Refugees: An Alarming Situation. The report identified the severe environmental challenges that Iran is facing, which are largely the result of Iran’s mismanagement of its water and natural resources. Combined with the effects of climate change, these policies have also severely affected UNPO members the Iranian Kurds, Southern Azerbaijanis, Baloch and Ahwazi Arabs, who already find themselves in a marginal position in Iran.
For the past two months [April/May 2019], floods have destroyed hundreds of towns and villages in Iran, severely affecting local communities. As a result, many people from these local communities have emigrated to already overcrowded cities in other provinces. Moreover, tensions have also risen as a result of Iran’s water mismanagement policies, most notably in the province of Khuzestan, which is primarily inhabited by Ahwazi Arabs.
Accordingly, the BIC observed that ‘the regions which are environmentally damaged and neglected are mostly inhabited by the ethnic or religious minorities’, with Iranian Kurds, Southern Azerbaijanis and the Baloch facing enormous negative effects on their social order, health and agriculture.
The BIC identified the main cause for the widespread problems to be Iran’s water management policies, as the government has dammed rivers across Iran to divert water from minority regions to central parts of the country. These catastrophic water policies not only threaten the water and food security of Iran but also lead to both internal and external displacement of its ethnic and religious minorities.
Ultimately, the BIC recommended that relevant EU institutions should undertake action in order to protect Iran’s minorities; the UN Human Rights Council to increase its efforts to prevent Iran from continuing its water mismanagement policies; and Iran to develop water management policies that also include the needs and interests of ethnic and religious minorities in the country.
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons