By: Rahim Hamid
In the past, Ahwazi people were rarely hearing about cancer but cancer is now more common than flu among Ahwazi people. The air pollution in Ahwaz led to a sharp increase of leukemia, liver cancer, skin cancer and birth defects and panicked residents are fear for their health as it has come to light that the air Ahwazi people breathes is laced with carcinogenic substances and depleted uranium.
Air pollution crisis in more than a decade in the region has caused cancer and chronic breathing disorders while the solution is still unclear as the environmental health problems are skyrocketing that are likely threatening the lives of an estimated eight million Ahwazi Arab in the south and south west of Iran.
Shafa ill-equipped state hospital, the only specialized cancer treatment center in Ahwaz, today is the last chance for people who are tired with war and environmental pollution to undergo chemotherapy treatments. Almost 90 percent of children and adults, who suffer from cancer in Ahwaz, go to the Shafa hospital for treatment.
Cancer is claiming more and more victims in Ahwaz, according to Kaveh jaseb, Ex-chief of Shafa hospital, an oncologist and pediatric cancer in Ahwaz region. The official statistic show that the new numbers of people diagnosed with cancer from 1996 to 2013 have increased by nearly 500 percent. This should sound the alarm for Ahwazi people, especially as it had ranked the worst in terms of air quality. He added that there is direct correlation between the increasing numbers of cancer patients and air pollution in Ahwaz region. Currently there are as many as 1000 patients diagnosed with various kinds of cancer due to the air and water pollution.
There was a growth in the number of new patients with cancer from 223 case in 1996 to 1000 in 2013, bring in mind that Al-Ahwaz population had a maximum growth of 25 percent during this period. The cancers specialists in Ahwaz warned that the rise of cancer is too overwhelming and dangerous and even if all we have had estimated are remaining just hypotheses, it must be considered more seriously.
Most recently the international Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) officially considered the air pollution as the first cause of cancer. Meanwhile, the WHO, for the second time, mentioned Ahwaz region, the oil production center in Iran, as the most polluted city in the world, like other ten polluted cities in the WHO list, Ahwaz is very industrial city. Although the weather has been awful in Ahwaz region for years but it is getting worse every year. Since 2002, Ahwaz became one of the places where the rise of air pollution and the dust storms are more frequent.
The number of days in which the dust storm event happened in Ahwaz region during 2002 to 2013 has increased the air pollution by 800 percent. Hence, the air pollution is considered as an environmental pollution factor, there will be a direct and responsible link between cancer patients and the number of days in which the dust phenomenon happened. . This air pollution has jeopardized the lives of Ahwazi people and no effective plan has been taken to remedy it so far.
It is certainly obvious that intensity and frequency of dust storm (one of the major factors of air pollution) was increased since some Ahwazi prominent ecosystems such as falahyah marshlands have been damaged deva -stately due to water diverting projects and excessive dam’s construction. Moreover, the policy of excessive dam constructing does not pursue any economical reason. Rather, they are set out to increase social pressure on Ahwazi people and destroying the ecology of Ahwaz region systematically. The water of Ahwaz is also the second reason of outbreak of cancer where the Sewage of hospitals, abattoirs and other waste waters in Ahwaz pour directly into the Karoon River where all local residents use from the same source as drinking water.
Yasemin, Morteza, Atefeh with cancer have a Painful story
Only her earrings show that she is girl. Her hair is shaved off. She is sitting exhausted and pale on her couch. Yasemin is only five years old. Her poor mother says: we live in Ahwaz and since October we realized that Yasemin has kind of blood cancer and must undergo chemotherapy. She says it may last for years. I worry that we will not able to afford the high expenses of her treatment. Do you think there is a hope for Yasemin to heal? The poor mother says: not only Yasemin, but also Hassan from Al-Mohamerah, Atefeh from Shush, Morteza from Abadan, Maryam from Khafajeyah and so many others stayed with their mothers in Shafa hospital in a hope of healing.
But the story of Maasomeh is deeply shocking and distressful, she is 6 years old. She suffers from unusual skin cancer due to the air pollution. Maasomeh lives in an area near Shush (Sousa) city of Ahwaz region, born and grown up in an Arabic poor family. All the hospitals in Ahwaz denied her treatment that caused her poor family to use from local herbal medicines for their daughter as her condition is getting worse and worse.
In fact, the lack of public health and poverty are main reasons why Maasomeh and other Ahwazi children in the area cannot receive basic health services. Deprived family cannot afford the costs for the treatment of their 6 year old girl. Local people still live with catastrophic effects of 8 year war between Iran & Iraq , with heavy financial difficulties, extensive environmental, and air pollution, due to chemical weapons used during the war, left with many human casualties.
Mother of Maasomeh describes her life as miserable, day after day, and due to sever skin problem she does not like her cloths on, because her cloths stick on her skin after a while, and taking them off would cause severe pain and her skin comes off with the cloths! The father suffers a lot, sees her pure innocent girl suffers and he has financial difficulties, as he does not have a job with regular income. The father is struggling with affording life expenditure and the cost of his daughter’s treatment. He was told by the local GP, that his daughter can get proper treatment in private hospital in Tehran, capital city of Iran, which is very difficult for him to pay the travel expenses and hospital costs.
The double- standard policy of Iran is that the Islamic Republic of Iran more than three decades preaches hypocrite slogans claiming solidarity with the Palestinians, funding the extremist Islamic groups with the oil exploited from the Ahwazi’ lands where this poor girl lives, while leaving Ahwazi Arabs live in an abject poverty and very poor health service, and this family and their little girl is just one example of many who suffer from different medical conditions and diseases due to the air -water pollution. Is helping Lebanese group like Hezb Allah, can be more expensive than helping poor people like Maasomeh’ family?
Air pollution of Ahwaz region often becomes a hot subject in media. One time for the dust phenomenon, another time for being the most polluted region in the world and recently for unknown asthma and respiratory problems of 20 thousands Ahwazi residents and the number could be much higher later. But, after a while everything will be forgotten as if nothing is happened. While the confronting ways of air pollution stop and there is no Scientific study of the pollution effects on citizens, shouldn’t we expect “cancer Tsunami” in the coming years in Ahwaz region?
The horrifying consequences of cancer, chronic asthma, birth defects and miscarriages are amounting to an alarming rate due to the air and water contamination in Ahwaz region but no effective and drastic measures have been taken so far. It is clear that Ahwazi people’ lives are absolutely ignored by Tehran government because Ahwazi Arabs are always systematically treated as third-class citizen based on their Arabic ethnicity.
As people take to street to protest over the air and water pollution, the police would arrest them under the pretext of preserving the security.
In the past few months, Ahwazi residents formed a human chain to protest against the regime plans to divert water from Karoon River to central Iran. The protestors chanted that water diversion project will likely increase the illness and air pollution in the region but Iranian regime is turning a blind eye to people’ sufferings. Instead, the regime officials seized the opportunity to crack down people and accusing the peaceful demonstration of inciting people against the national security. It says that the knock-on effects of water diversion of Karoon will be enormous, resulting into an environmental catastrophe in the region.
In the past two decades, the deterioration of the environmental situation in Ahwaz region has been resulted in a drastic reduction of water resources and drying out many wet lands that turned to be the main source of sand storm in the region amid the rapid growth of various kinds of cancer, kidney disease, breathing problems and cardiovascular diseases.
On October 14, 2008, doctor Pedram, the ex-chief of Shafa hospital maintained that the number of cancer patients in Ahwaz is increasing every year as more than one thousand new cases of cancer in children and adults have been recorded officially. Doctor Shahram Ibrahimi, a specialist cancer in health center department of Ahwaz also said that 52 type of cancer have been identified among Ahwazi residents who diagnosed with cancer and the death toll caused by cancer is more than the death toll caused due to Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. How it is interesting that other official statement by the officials about the dramatic rise of cancer in Ahwaz cannot be found .Iranian regime not only underestimates and neglects the rise of cancer linked to air and water pollution but also prohibits publicizing of any full official statistics about cancer and other diseases related to the current environmental scourge in Ahwaz region.
In the past, Ahwazi people were rarely hearing about cancer but cancer is now more common than flu among Ahwazi people. The air pollution in Ahwaz led to a sharp increase of leukemia, liver cancer, skin cancer and birth defects and panicked residents are fear for their health as it has come to light that the air Ahwazi people breathes is laced with carcinogenic substances and depleted uranium. Air pollution crisis in more than a decade in the region caused cancer and chronic breathing disorders while the solution is still unclear as the environmental health problems are skyrocketing that are likely threatening the lives of an estimated eight million Ahwazi Arab in the south and south west of Iran.