Human Rights

Iranian Minority Group Stepping Up Anti-Government Protests

Iran’s Arab minority has recently begun to intensify its protests against government discrimination, The Tower has learned from Iranian opposition media sites and organizations.

The Ahwazi Arab minority living in Iran’s oil-rich southwest region is protesting pervasive unemployment, lack of basic urban services, severe shortage of appropriate infrastructure- including basic teaching equipment in schools- and mismanagement of local governing bodies.

On Monday, December 1, hundreds of Ahwazi residents of Kut Abdullah gathered in front of local government offices to protest the systematic discrimination practiced against them by Iranian officials, the Ahwazna website reported.

An Ahwazian activist, Yusuf Azizi, wrote (Arabic link):

“The Arab Ahwazi activists started taking the way of struggle, a peaceful mass struggle style, first and foremost in order to teach Arab masses (in Iran) methods of modern civil struggle, (and to have an) impact on progressive actors in Iranian society to win the battle for fundamental rights which is essential in the ethnic forces balance that is not in favor of Arabs in Iran.”

The Ahwazi protest movement is also urging the Iranian government to stop the water diversion projects on rivers in the Ahwazi region, which activists say negatively impacts the availability of clean water. Last week, Iranian security forces carried out mass arrests following a peaceful protest against the water diversion policy.

Iran’s Ahwazi Arab residents claim that lack of responsibility by government officials and lack of funding have left their residential areas in states of extreme neglect in all sectors. For decades, this ethnic minority has not been allowed genuine local or national representation, as all governmental positions have consistently been filled by non-Arab appointees. According to the Ahwazna movement, even historical Ahwazi names of the region, cities, villages, streets, neighborhoods, swamps, rivers and other geographical landmarks in Arabic have changed into Persian.

Ethnic minorities in Iran continue to face discrimination in Iran under the presidency of Hassan Rouhani.

[Photo: Sarah Carr / Flickr]