By: Kamil Alboshoka
According to Ahwazna, a large number of Iranian security forces raided the village of Jalizi in Musian area in the northwest of Al-Ahwaz, at Iran’s borders with Iraq on the 3rd December arresting dozens of Ahwazi citizens from Arab minority.
A large number of Ahwazi farmers were arrested for resisting Iranian security forces which used of tear gas to disperse them while dozens of the wounded, including women, were transferred to Dahlran hospital. Ahwazna stated that the number of those arrested including women reached 60 individuals. [[i]]
The Iranian government has confiscated more than 3,000 hectares out of 4000 hectares of agricultural land from their owners in the village of “Jalizi”. The land confiscation policy has forced many people in Ahwa’s Musian district to live in poverty, homeless and unemployed. Ahwazi activists argue that ‘’this policy is intended to marginalize Arab citizens’’. [[ii]]
The Iranian regime’s land confiscation policy against farmers from the Arab Ahwazi minority started during Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. During the tenure of Iran’s former President Rafsanjani, the policy was implemented extensively. Over the last few days the people of Musian district, particularly from Jalizi, including women, senior and youth have protested against confiscating their lands and have been forced to confront the Iranian security forces.
The Iranian security forces in their turn attacked the protesters, including Ahwazi women and childern, for protesting against the seizure of their agricultural land. They also violently hit women on mouths and chests with their batons and rifle butts. [iii]
Hassan Radhi, the Director of Ahwaz Centre for Media and Strategic Studies, in an interview, said that the unfair land confiscation policy came within the context of Iran’s occupation policies aiming at displacing Arabs from their homeland and replacing them with citizens of other ethnicities in order to cause a demographic change against the Arab minority.
Mr Radhi thinks that Iran has worked on this policy since it annexed Ahwaz in 1925, from Iraq’s territories. Iran then confiscated large agricultural lands under various pretexts, with a political agenda aiming to weaken the Arabic identity and cause a demographic change against the Arab Ahwazis. For example, the Iran government has destroyed more than 120 Arab villages close to Karun River since the end of Iran-Iraq war in 1988.
Radhi argues that the Iranian authorities have imposed aggressive policies towards the Ahwazi people since 1979. Many Ahwazis faced numerous and integrated policies of forced displacement, deportation, dispersion, repression, arrests, or even death sentences, denial of Ahwazi from work and diversion of the Ahwazi water through the construction of dams, destruction of the environment and other racist policies.
He pointed out that shortly after taking power in 1979, the theocratic regime in Iran committed many crimes against humanity in the city of the majority Arab- dominated Al-Muhammara, leading to the death of hundreds of innocent people, the arrest of thousands, the displacement of others by bombing their city during a massive military offensive (Black Wednesday in 1979).
On the other hand, Hassan Radhi has urged the Iranian government to release all the detainees from the village of Jalizi; asking ti to be committed to the resolutions of the International Human Rights Council and respect the right of Arab people in peaceful gathering and protesting, and stop the land confiscation policy against the Arab Ahwazis which has caused their impoverishment.
The Ahwazi farmers face two problems because of the Iranian regime’s land policy against them: either taking land by force or land drought. For example, up to 60% of the agricultural lands in Ahwaz have experienced drought and crop damage since the regime started the implementation of the scheme of diverting rivers in Ahwaz to majority Persian cities. It is estimated that about two million Arab citizens depend on agriculture. Consequently, this big population has been forced to live in harsh poverty. [iv]
This aggressive land policy has forced many farmers and people live in Ahwaz’s rural areas to migrate to cities. The problem is exacerbated by the government’s growing exploitation and negligence of Ahwaz’s natural resources. The problem has contributed to water shortages and desertification in the Ahwazi lands. The internal displacement from rural to urban areas which led to a discontent among farming-dependent communities has been a major factor that caused social and political unrest in Ahwaz region. [v]
[[i]] Ahwazna, 6th December 2017: https://www.ahwazna.net/516/
[iii] Counter Currents, 8th December2017: https://goo.gl/ophLrV
[iv] Queen Mary University of London, 2015: https://goo.gl/S59z36