The Speech of the Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights at the Meeting held in Geneva on 2nd July 2018 that was coincided with the UNHRC 38th Sessi

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13 Jul 2018

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for your participation in this meeting in the UN Human Rights Council to listen to a brief account of the situation of Ahwazi people in Iran.

Initially, the people of Al-Ahwaz were independent and free until the mid-1920s when Reza Pahlavi, the leader of the Persian army and the Prime Minster of Iran, invaded their territory and ruled out the self-determination of Arabs. Reza Khan declared himself as the king of the Persia after the annexation of various ethnic regions such as Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Baluchistan, Turkmen Sahara and Al-Ahwaz.

This marked a new era in the contemporary Iranian history when Persian-centric Iranian nationalism was followed to change the makeup of the country. Consequently, Persian language has become the soul of Iranian-ness itself that illustrates the rule of chauvinism in Iran by undermining more than half of the population that lost their freedom. In addition, the King pursued social homogenization and control by violently crushing ethnic autonomies, Persianizing non-Persian nations and marginalizing local elites. [1]

Similarly, the cultural repression of Ahwazis by Persian government was followed by the forced displacement, forced assimilation and land confiscation. Nonetheless, the social engineering in Iran proved ineffective in the long term and Ahwazi nation has demonstrated unrest and resistance to this approach since the goal behind such policy was biased. [2]

In addition, the extreme levels of illiteracy, poverty and unemployment have been the common discontents of Arabs since their land contains one of the largest oil reserve on the planet that is exploited exclusively to build Persian provinces, depriving Ahwazis from the development.

Above all, the diverting water from Karun and Karkheh rivers in Al-Ahwaz to central part of the country, is threatening the livelihoods of the farmers and the native environment and causing regular sand storms and pollution for Arab population as a result of drying Hur Alazim and Hur Alfalahiya marshlands. [3] Moreover, the Iranian authority has placed restriction on the teaching and learning of Arabic language in public and private schools, including suppression of Arabic tongue in public places. Correspondingly, the use of traditional Arabic clothing has become prohibited, as well as the Arabic names of the region and its cities were replaced by Persian names. [4]

The violation of national and international laws including the severe restrictions on the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of Ahwazi people in Iran can be examined within the scope of human rights abuses in the state concerned. The political, cultural and religious activists belonging to Ahwazi people are subject to the wide-ranging persecution, abuse and torture in comparison with Persian-speaking population, demonstrating that Arabs are the most persecuted people in Iran.

Also, the vulnerability of Ahwazis to human rights violations is disproportionate as a result of the government’s complete denial of linguistic, publication and educational rights, including the extreme subjugation on the economic and political freedoms as well as the mass imprisonment and systematic persecution of the people in question.

In addition to the neglect for International rules, the Iranian state violates its own national law [5] such as the equality before the law provided by Article 3; the right to education in mother tongue under Article 15; and the equality of all citizens under Article 19 of Iran’s Constitution. [6]

I would like to take the opportunity to urge the Human Rights Council and its human rights treaty bodies and special rapporteurs and experts to consult with Ahwazi non-governmental organisations to have a clear picture of what is happening on the ground in Al-Ahwaz and to contribute more to the Ahwazi cause in their forthcoming reports and statements.

Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights

2nd July 2018

Thank you very much for listening

References

[1] Rasmus Christian Elling, ‘Tribal hands and minority votes: ethnicity, regionalism and elections in Iran’ (2015) 38 (14) Ethnic and Racial Studies 2534, 2535-36.

[2] Stefano Casertano, Our Land, Our Oil!: Natural Resources, Local Nationalism, and Violent Secession (Springer Science & Business Media, 2012) 213-14; See also ibid 2536.

[3] Corinne Lennox, ‘Natural Resource Development and the Rights of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples’ [2012] State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 10, 12.

[4] Nick Middleton, An Atlas of Countries That Don’t Exist: A Compendium of 50 Unrecognized and Largely Unnoticed States (Pan Macmillan, 2015) 146.

[5] Nazila Ghanea-Hercock and Binesh Hass, Seeking Justice and an End to Neglect: Iran’s Minorities Today (Minority Rights Group International, 2011) 5.

[6] Iran (Islamic Republic of)’s Constitution of 1979 with Amendments through 1989, Articles 3, 15 and 19.

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