14 Jul 2018
On 2 July 2018, the Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights (AODHR) held a meeting at the United Nations Human Rights Council on the 38th Human Rights Session at Palais des Nations – Geneva, Switzerland. The AODHR organised the meeting in the presence of some international and Arabhuman rights organisations and experts, including Dr Anouar Malek, the writer, journalist and international observer for human rights, Dr Smail Khalafallah the lawyer and the secretary-general of Global Peace Without Borders, Ms Madeline Sharpe, the president of the Health and Environmental Program(HEP), Ahwazi Observatory for Human Rights (A Obs HR), Ahwazi Organisation for Human Rights (A Org HR), the deputy chairman and the representative of the women rights at European Ahwazi Human Rights Organisation (EAHRO) to take part and provide their observations about the violations of Ahwazi human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The speakers have focused mainly on the uprising of Arabs in the two cities of Mohammarah and Abadan due to the deterioration of the quality of the drinking water and the shortages of water in these cities. According to the local videos and eyewitnesses, the level of salinity, stench and dirt in the water has reached the highest point that the household water purifications have become ineffective and inadequate. Accordingly, Ahwazi people in Mohammarah and Abadan are so desperately looking for drinking water in the Summer time when the temperature reaches 50 degrees.
According to Ahwazi activists, the problem with drinking water can be traced back to two decades ago. Thirteen years ago, the authorities dug the streets in Mohammarah and installed new pipelines. They promised to improve the condition of the water. On the ground, nothing has changed and people are still consuming unhealthy water. During this acute crisis in the Ahwazi region, the authorities tried to silence people by using temporary solutions or false promises. On one occasion, the government delivered water by trucks to the affected people and claimed that the water is fit for human consumption. However, after the use of this water many of the children and elderly suffered from severe diarrhoea and were hospitalised.
There are two main causes for the aggravation of the water crisis in Mohammarah and Abadan in particular and in Al-Ahwaz in general. First, the sugar cane national companies and authorities have polluted the water by channelling the drainages that contain chemical substances as well as the urban sewages into the Karun River. Second, diverting water from Karun River in Ahwaz to the central part of Iran including Isfahan, Kerman and Yazdprovinces for agricultural and industrial uses has caused the shortages of water and the violation of the right to water and sanitation for Ahwazi people that is explicitly recognized and acknowledged by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 64/292. According to this resolution, states are under obligation to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. Having said that, not only the government did not take any effective measures to alleviate the water crisis, it has faced the protestors with live bullets, tear gas, indiscriminate arrests and intimidation.
At the Geneva meeting, the speakers outlined the human rights violations of Ahwaz people under the Iranian authority. The first speaker was the representative of the Ahwazi Organisation for the Defence of Human Rights (AODHR). The speaker provided historical view about the root of the human rights problem in Ahwaz and its connection with the state of Iran, followed by some of the main concerns of Ahwazis about the discrimination, injustice and the lack of equality that have undermined the enjoyment of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for Ahwazi people in Iran. The denial of linguistic right, the policy of diverting water from Ahwazi rivers to central part of Iran and the disruption in the Ahwazi environment and livelihood of the farmers are believed to have tremendous impact on the quality of life in Ahwaz and have caused great suffering for Arab population, not to mention that their civil and political rights are grossly being abused by the state of Iran. 
Accordingly, Dr Anouar Malek the expert on human rights, stated that the people in Mohammarah have demonstrated after the Iranian occupation controlled their water resources and stripped them of their rights including the drinking water, the right to food, cultural practices, the right to self-determination and the right to life. The current human catastrophe of Ahwazis has intensified since the Iranian state occupied the territories of Ahwazi Arabs in 1925. Dr Malek emphasised the responsibility of the United Nations to protect human rights and international peace and security that are being violated by the current clerical regime in Iran, the regime which supports sectarian militias and terrorist organisations in different countries in Middle East. Mr Malek concluded that the international community should pay more attention to the situation of human rights of Ahwazi people and to open international investigation on the violations that are carried out against the defenceless Arab population. 
On the other hand, the lawyer and the secretary-general of the Global Peace Without Borders indicated that the number of executions in Iran has increased to 3,200 in particular under President Hassan Rouhani. Nonetheless, the majority of Iranian courts prosecute the victims without the presence of the lawyers. The information is being obtained from the victims under duress. The courts are not qualified and biased against the victims. The juvenile offenders are being executed and the human rights experts are being barred from entering Iran to investigate the aforementioned violations. Mr Khalfallah urged Human Rights Council to consider these executions as crimes against humanity according to Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (RS) and to hold accountable those responsible for these crimes under Article 5 of the RS. Finally, Mr Khalfallah asked all the United Nations bodies and international community to include the Ahwazi cause as the decolonisation case in their programs. Too, he requested the Arab League to offer an official chair to Ahwaz at the League. 
Then, Belghais Taha, the representative of the women rights at EAHRO, said that Ahwazi woman is being ‘discriminated against and unfairly prosecuted by Iranian occupation due to her race, ethnicity and gender. This unjust system affects woman in multiple ways including her education, health, well-being, social life and her political life.’ Ms Taha called for urgently creating of Ahwazi organisations to help Ahwazi women gain progress and improvement in less discriminative environment. She continued that ‘the freedom of all Ahwazi women and Ahwazi Arabs depends on the freedom of women, who are half of the population. Women’s rights should be central to the Ahwazi struggle.’ 
In addition, A Org HR pointed out that the international treaties guarantee the protection and the enjoyment of all rights and freedoms in various societies in which a person should not be treated discriminately as due to her/his affiliations in race, colour, gender, language, religion and political or other opinion. She also, emphasised the interrelation between the protection of human rights and the protection of the environment and the necessity for realising the right to clean and healthy environment for the next generations. 
Moreover, the A Obs HR revealed that the Iranian security forces have arrested a large number of people that are demonstrating in the streets of Mohammarah and other cities of Al-Ahwaz in order to silence the voice of Ahwazi Arabs. The chief executive of A Obs HR referred to the unfair policies of the Iranian authority that render demonstrations and unrest in Ahwaz ongoing and continuous. These policies are as follows: ‘1) The policy of diverting the water of the rivers in Ahwaz to central part of the country. 2) Confiscation of Ahwazi Arabs agricultural lands. 3) Persianisation policy against Ahwazi language and culture. 4) Arbitrary arrest and execution. 5) The policy of systematic improvisation and unemployment. 6) The policy of promoting and distributing drugs in the region.’ 
Furthermore, the deputy chair of the EAHRO emphasised in his speech, the need for the recognition of the right to learn Arabic language at school and public places in Ahwaz since the language is ‘a tool for reflection, expression, communication and creativity,’ and that the Iranian state breaches the international law by imposing restrictions on the enjoyment of such fundamental right for Ahwazi children. 
Finally, the president of the HEP, Ms Madeline Sharpe, acknowledged the sufferings of the Ahwazi people in the cities of Mohammarah and Abadan are on account of the shortages of the water caused by various illegal and discriminatory policies including the diversion of the water from Ahwaz to be central part of the country. She warned that ‘if the Iranian and the international community continue to ignore the daily protest of the local farmers, the world will witness a new waive of refugees from Iran, the climate refugees.’ 
 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSwuh2o9Suo> accessed 14 July 2018.
 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLx9AKE6R6c> accessed 14 July 2018.
 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG0QgRC3axw> accessed 14 July 2018.
 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UITD0aIRRNs> accessed 14 July 2018.
 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmSdXr0udQ4> accessed 14 July 2018.
 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23kxixZYyI4> accessed 14 July 2018.
 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xJOKaRYW80> accessed 14 July 2018.
 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye5uzY9CZvM> accessed 14 July 2018.