The right to education is universally recognized under international law. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party, guarantee a right to education. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also enshrines such a right but contrary to this, Iran is violating its pledges, which are enshrined in its current constitution to allowing ethnic groups in having same standard of education in their mother language under equivalent conditions.
The new year of education started in Ahwaz and the rest of regions in Iran on 23rd of December while many of Ahwazi Arab students like other oppressed ethnic groups who were denied to have education in their native language, have to endure the same hardships and discrimination imposed on the previous generations in Iran’s educational system.
Educational facility is an unfamiliar term for Ahwazi Arab rural students
The share of Ahwazi Arab student in remote rural areas from the colorful world provided for students in the Persian central regions of Iran, like Isfahan, is only one crammed coat with plastic slippers as he/ she has to walk long distances to reach to the nearest schools. The backpacks of Ahwazi student children are not full of notebooks and colored pencils but they are going to schools with severe fatigue and exhaustion caused by the daily long walking between home and school. Lack of educational space, lack of 8 thousands well-qualified teachers, students’ mobility by van in rural areas, and lengthy traveling by more than 3 kilometer for reaching classrooms, is only part of the educational problems which block the progress of students.
There are unequal conditions in regard to shortage of classroom, cooling equipment, drinking water machine, hygienic restrooms, audio and visual equipment, recreational facilities and sport halls. The scarcity of school construction in Ahwazi rural communities is part of government’s policies to press the Ahwazi rural population and imposes more pressure on the rural families with children to delete the right of education for their children from their minds due to the enormous hardship placed on them systematically.
In recent years, three factors were major contributors to the high rate of dropping out of rural students from education in the early stages. The first factor is denial of the right in education in their mother language. This makes the Arab students fall behind because of difficulties in learning the Persian language. The students feel forced to study in the Persian language, and the teachers do not motivate the Arab students to study. Second, there are not enough schools in the area and poor school facilities forces the rural students to travel over long distances. Third, severe poverty of families and their inability to fulfill the basic needs of their children such as books, notebooks, pens, pencils, shoes and decent clothing.
Rural students with disability
The rural students with disability are more forgotten and neglected as they suffer double hardship because there are no special services or schools designed for children with a particular disability in the entire Ahwazi rural region. For instance, rural students with hearing problems do not have access to special schools. Like the rest of the Arab students they have to travel long distances to attend in the neighboring schools if available but due to above-said factors they give up soon as their families have only one option and it is to keep their disabled children at home. The disabled children will be deprived of basic education, and they will face hardships in life because they cannot take care of themselves due to lack of education.
Discrimination against girls
We should not forget to say that the Ahwazi Arab rural girls are subjected to domestic discrimination among their families as many of them are prevented to go to school or continue their higher education due to the rooted prejudiced cultural attitudes. When girls do not get a proper education they will not be positive members in their society. They cannot teach their children or help them in school while the father works to earn a living. This strategy used by the Persian government will hurt the Arabs as a whole because those girls are a part of society, and when they grow up they will not be able to depend on themselves or help their children. This wrong attitude have not been addressed or cured neither by the government nor by Ahwazi intellectuals because the Iranian government seems so contented to see that families are preventing their children especially their girls from going to schools. They place the blame of high rate of illiteracy among Ahwazi Arab rural communities on the Ahwazi Arab rural people to exonerate itself from obligation and responsibility for constructing schools. Denial of educational facilities is as a policy for excluding and depriving the Ahwazi Arab people of social, cultural enlightenment, and educational prosperity. At the other hand, the government views the Ahwazi Arab intellectuals as a threat for continuing its policy toward the Ahwazi Arab people as a whole.
Oppression against Ahwazi Arab teachers and intellectuals by the government
In the recent years, many Ahwazi Arab intellectuals who were striving to remediate the rooted social and cultural problems of Ahwazi Arabs have been arrested and many of them executed or sentenced to life imprisonment. For instance, two member of Susa cultural youth institution named Ali Chebeyshat and Syed Khaled Mousavi who had very significant role in promoting the importance of education among rural and urban Ahwazi Arabs were arrested and then executed. Since 2005, the civil and cultural activity of Wefagh party was banned in Ahwaz. This Arabic reformist party was acting in the framework of Iran’s constitution and its demands were implementing the 15 and 19 articles of Iran constitution, which are emphasizing on having equal basic rights for various non-Persian ethnic groups including Ahwazi people for education in their mother language. Also having media and publication in their native language, and demand for political, economic, and cultural prosperity. Fahima Esmaili Badawi, the Ahwazi woman teacher who was a member of Al-Wefagh party was arrested in 2005 and is still in prison to this day. The clerical regime executed her husband, Ali Matouri. Hashem Shabani and Hadi Rashdi, two Ahwazi Arab teachers who had been engaged in teaching language and Arabic literature and remedial programs related to social and cultural issues in rural and urban areas and the founders of the Al- Hiwar intellectual and cultural institute were arrested on 13 February 2011 along with other Al-Hiwar members and activists. After enduring months of savage torture in solitary confinement in the Intelligence detention center, they were sentenced to death in June 2012 by Branch 2 of Revolutionary court and charged with terrorism –related activities and in December 2012, Branch 32 of the Supreme Court confirmed and finally executed in 2014.
Out-of-school rural children
The Iranian government is responsible for the whole oppression committed against the Ahwazi Arabs particularly the Arab rural people who are isolated and deprived of the basic human rights like schools, educational facilities, and material training. In some Ahwazi Arab rural areas, students even do not have access to classrooms or benches and have to be seated on the ground under severe cold or hot temperatures. In addition to the long journey and difficulty in daily commuting between home and school. Imagine how it is hard for the rural students to bear this wretched situation. This caused almost all those students to drop out of school during elementary and primary education. One of the major causes for dropping out of rural students is the poor families who need their children to work and contribute to household income. Also another cause of students dropping out is the discrimination and stereotyping in schools against them by the Persian teachers and students.
Watch the following pictorial report on Ahwazi Arab rural students