May 12, 2022

UNPO welcomes the UN Special Rapporteurs's Letter to the Government of Iran Raising Concerns on the Situation in the Khuzestan/Al-Ahwaz Province

2 Working Groups for Arbitrary Detention and Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances at the UN as well as 7 UN Special Rapporteurs - including those on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Assembly, Right to Food and more - have written a Joint Allegation Letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran on the water crisis in Al-Ahwaz, also known as Khuzestan. If follows UNPO’s joint submission with the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization to the UN Special Rapporteurs detailing the abuses of the Iranian government in the water management of the region and the handling of the subsequent protests.

The Special Rapporteurs who signed the Joint Allegation Letter addressed to the Iranian Government include the following :

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

the Special Rapporteur on the issues of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe , clean, healthy and sustainable environment

the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to food

the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association

the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression

the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

the Special Rapporteur on minority issues

the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation


Al-Ahwaz/Khuzestan has a large of population of Ahwazi people, who speak Arab as a mother tongue, amongst other ethnic minroities in the area. Al-Ahwaz/Khuzestan also happens to be one of Iran’s richest regions in terms of natural resources and a key strategic hold

Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the central government of Iran via the Ministry of Energy, the National Iranian Oil Company, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have taken control of the rich traditional natural resources of Khuzestan. Discriminatory water policies have resulted in long-term droughts, water shortages, increased poverty and the displacement of villagers, leaving the region in a disastrous environmental condition. State run energy and farming companies have allowed the diversion of water resources from Ahwazi communities to farming development projects. Water has been transferred to the central Iranian plateau for industrial purposes and to permit the cheap extraction of oil through the drying of the Hoor Al-Azim marshland.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard in particular have been found to be using dam-building as a way to cut off water resources under the pretext of energy production, when in fact many of the dams are useless in terms of energy production and serve to launder money or cut off water access to certain communities.

Between July and August 2021 protests took place in more than a dozen cities in the Khuzestan province of the Islamic Republic of Iran over an ever-rising water crisis. These protests were suppressed by the government, with over 300 people, including children, being arbitrarily arrested and detained. The protests highlight both an urgent environmental disaster in the province and the systemic marginalization of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority, who are indigenous to the region.

UNPO and AHRO hope this latest Joint Allegation Letter serves as pressure for the Iranian government to stop its blatant violation of Ahwazi land rights and access to water. Arbitrary detentions and arrests following protests on the subject must be fully investigated by independent international observers.