A young Ahwazi Arab student was critically injured on Friday when he was brutally assaulted by Iranian regime municipal officers while selling flowers in order to help feed his family.
According to Ahwazi human rights activists, the student, identified as Alireza Sawari, was selling flowers and plants at the entrance to the Behesht Abad cemetery when municipal officials arrived and confiscated his wares before beating him. Sawari, a student at Ahwaz University in the regional capital, also named Ahwaz, pleaded with the officials to return the flowers and plants to him, explaining that he relied on this income, vowing to leave as soon as he got them back. In response to Sawari’s pleas, one of the officials from the District 8 municipal office in the capital intensified the beating, using a large truncheon to club the defenceless youth unconscious, repeatedly hitting him around the head, chest and legs. Sawari was subsequently rushed to hospital where he remains in a critical condition.
This is, unfortunately, not a rare occurrence, with Ahwazi Arab people effectively subjected to an apartheid system by the regime, under which they are denied the most basic of human rights. Despite the fact that the ethnically Arab Ahwaz region contains over 90 percent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran, which earn the regime billions of dollars annually, as well as having steel manufacturing and sugarcane farming industries, the Ahwazi people live in conditions of medieval poverty, with the job opportunities in the aforementioned sectors, like all others, being reserved by the regime for Persian settlers in the area, while Ahwazis, as Arabs, are treated with racist contempt. Many young Ahwazis, like Sawari, are forced to become street vendors in order to help feed their families, being denied all other employment.
In recent years, a number of international NGO officials, including outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have intermittently spoken out against the abuses inflicted by the regime on Ahwazi people, with Ban condemning the regime’s abuse which resulted in the self-immolation of another young Ahwazi street vendor, Younes Asakere from the city of Mohammareh, who set himself alight in protest after municipal officials in the city confiscated the small grocer’s stall and goods which he relied upon to make a living. These raids by municipal officials are common, usually under the pretext of the street vendors lacking licenses; in reality, the raids are used to extort money from the already desperately poor vendors or simply to humiliate and intimidate them.
Increasing levels of hopelessness, frustration and despair at sharply rising unemployment and poverty and a steadily worsening economic situation have driven more and more young Ahwazis to attempt suicide. Many in Ahwaz believe that this is a wholly deliberate policy on the part of the regime to ratchet up pressure on the already oppressed people in an effort to force them to succumb to despair and wholly break their spirits, forcing them to abandon their homeland to Persian settlers and change its demographic balance by driving the region’s indigenous Arab people out.
This is the ongoing plight of Ahwazi nation that is occupied by Iran since 1925. Ever since, undermining the dignity of Ahwazi peoples, demeaning, humiliating and denying their basic rights, are among the principal tools used by the Iranian aggressive regimes to dominate and subjugate the Ahwazis intellectually, culturally, economically, and in every other way, in order to crush their resistance.
The consecutive Iranian regimes have sought to systematically force the Ahwazi people to accept their subjugation. They have done this by criminalizing their language and culture in order to force the Ahwazis to accept a mindset of being vanquished, passing from generation to generation.
Under such discriminatory policies, the oppressed people of Ahwaz have been left to face two choices: either they continue to accept absolute subjugation under the Iranians’ effectively apartheid, Persian-centric rule inflicted under the pretext of ‘maintaining Iran’s territorial integrity’, and continue to submit themselves to brutal oppression, discrimination, humiliation and systemic injustice, deprived of their political, and human rights. Or they tear off the chains of captivity and tyranny imposed by this racist state and fight to attain their rights to freedom and self-determination.
Written by Rahim Hamid, an Ahwazi freelance journalist based in the USA.