The Iranian regime has launched a violent crackdown on the Arab people of Ahwaz this week. Dozens of farming men and women in the village of Jalizi of Ilam province have been arrested, sources have told the media office of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA).
Thousands of Arab citizens subsequently demonstrated this Friday afternoon in the streets of Ahwaz, the capital of the region, in protest against the confiscation of their lands by the Iranian regime and in solidarity with the people from Jalizi that were violently attacked by the Iranian army earlier in the week. Demonstrators in Ahwaz chanted slogans condemning the army’s harassment and assault of dissidents from Jalizi. The protesters in Ahwaz also raised pictures and banners demanding the release of Jalizi detainees and the return of their confiscated lands.
The Ahwazi human rights groups said 60 people from the village of Jalizi, including women, were still being detained by the Iranian army following their arrests that Sunday and Monday. A number of activists from Ahwaz have circulated footage through social networks showing the Iranian army violently attacking the Jalizi farmers, including women, with batons and guns before launching a mass arrest campaign against them.
So how exactly did this all begin? Arab farmers in Ilam province’s Jalizi village went to their own lands and began to plow them. At this time, the villagers were attacked by Iranian army who then informed them that their lands were to be confiscated and handed over to the Iranian regime. Many men and women on the scene were then beaten and arrested. Even those women injured and brought to the local Dahlran Hospital were taken away by the army in the middle of receiving medical treatment.
After this egregious assault, the Jalizi villagers started to protest. Anger broke out among the local residents – both in regards to the confiscation of their lands and the assault perpetrated against them by the Iranian army. Locals cautioned the army against going ahead with their plans to take the land, while others burst into tears. Some of the Arab farmers at the scene, out of rage, then started to pelt stones at the Iranian army.
At this point, the Iranian army began to harshly disperse the protesting locals. The regime forces used teargas, batons, rubber bullets, and even live ammunition to break up the angry protesters. Ahwazi rights groups have said over 50 men were arrested in this latest crackdown. They also asserted the regime deliberately used excessive force against the defenseless people.
Rahim Hamid, the prominent Ahwazi freelance journalist and human rights activist, said in an interview with Ahwazna, that the Iranian regime has tailored a law to strip all the Ahwazi people of their lands. “By virtue of this law, all the Arab people of Ahwaz have become refugees on this soil. The regime has the authority to evict them from their lands at will,” he stated. Hamid also added that this is not the first time in which the lands of the Ahwazi people have been confiscated. “Lands where oil wells exist have been confiscated, as well as sugar cane lands.” He further noted that “the violent dispersal of the protesters is reminiscent of what the Israeli occupation do with the Palestinians.”
According to Hamid, the Iranian authorities have confiscated 4,000 hectares from Jalizi’s farmers, leaving only 1,000 hectares now for them to use. He stated that the regime is fearful Arab presence in this area. So the state’s apparatuses have moved to expel them. “There is only one aim behind this orgy of repression: changing the demographic makeup of the Arab areas,” Hamid explained.
Since annexing Ahwaz in 1925, the Iranian regime has been working to uproot Arabs from the region and obliterate their presence from the area. Reports indicate the regime’s land grabbing methods are not confined to only confiscations. In each village that the Iranian regime decides to remove from Arab ownership, agricultural lands, orchards, and palm trees are often set ablaze by the army. In 2015, the Iranian regime launched a campaign to confiscate the lands of Ahwazis. 765,000 hectares were illegally seized at this time.
According to Adel Daris, director general of al-Muhammarah port, lands are most often confiscated in villages where people had been forced from their homes during the war with Iraq. According to a report published on Ahwazna, the regime has also wrested to gain control over strips of land and public facilities in the area of Krichan, eight kilometers south-west of Ahwaz. It added the authorities confiscated these lands under the pretense that they fall within the boundaries of “Imam Hussein Camp”, despite the fact that locals have been using these lands for years.
As the Iranian regime moves to steal more land from Ahwazi Arabs, the Ahwazi Arabs only seem to become more unified in their opposition to these oppressive tactics. The regime, fearful of an organized uprising, has taken a stance against any dissidence. This stance has only become increasingly more violence as the years pass. It is only a matter of time before things between the Iranian regime and the Arab people of Ahwaz become explosive.