Iran’s regime is reportedly using the horrendous flooding in the Ahwaz region, much of which is due to the regime’s damming of the rivers there, as justification to carry out the long-sought demographic transfer of the Ahwazi population on a massive scale.
The regime has named the areas affected by the horrendous flooding as ‘red zones’. Speaking on Saturday, the head of the regime’s housing ministry, Masoud Ansariyan, announced: “There are currently a number of villages that are inside the red zone areas along the rivers, which must be removed and relocated. Until the situation of these villages is resolved, we cannot begin the reconstruction process.”
Ansariyan and senior ministry officials are insisting that the displaced flood victims, who are members of the Ahwazi population, should be rehomed in other areas of Iran, dispersed far from their native region.
Similarly, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Housing Foundation of the city of Toster (Shoushtar) said that the flood damaged more than 1,680 units of rural and urban housing in the Shoaybiyeh district. Akbar Hussainzadeh, referring to preliminary estimates by housing experts, said that about 230 homes damaged by the floods are to be rebuilt. He indicated that 13 villages were affected by the flooding in the district. Hussainzadeh added that the damage caused by the floods is currently being assessed for housing units in the Mian Ab district and the central areas of Toster. He said that after estimating the damage and filing, owners of these residential units will receive low-interest facilities and in some cases grants. According to IRNA, 42 villages in the Shoaybiyeh district were at risk of flooding. However, 24 villages have been catastrophically affected by the flooding.
Many Ahwazi analysts have suggested that the “reconstruction” is a euphemism for further ethnosectarian cleansing of the native Ahwazi population and resettlement of ethnically Persian settlers to the area as a means of erasing its Ahwazi history and heritage, crushing the movement for Ahwazi independence, and securing the land’s rich resources for the continued benefit of the Iranian regime.
Despite near-continuous media coverage regarding Iran, its systemic mistreatment of the Ahwazi people has received sporadic attention at best, and no major media sources have covered the issues in any real depth.
Human rights attorney condemns the regime’s actions, the world’s indifference
— Irina Tsukerman (@irinatsukerman) April 27, 2019
Speaking about the international community’s indifference towards the relentless atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated against Ahwazis as well as Iran’s regional crimes in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, Irina Tsukerman a New York-based International law attorney whose focus is on assisting human rights defenders, told the Dur Untash Studies Centre (DUSC): “We see once again the regime’s duplicity, which Tehran is no longer trying to hide. When the flooding just started, Iran claimed it would relocate people to safety temporarily and compensate them for their property. Now the regime openly admits that it wants to get rid of Ahwazis altogether and to claim the land for ethnic Persians.
“This prima facie admission of ethnic cleansing continues to remain hidden from the headlines, however. The media won’t even cover that the regime has attracted multiple terrorist organisations into the area, in part to suppress the uprising, in part to defend China-held oil fields used to circumvent US sanctions, and in part to smuggle in contraband, and possibly arms.
My podcast from the John Batchelor Show is up!
— Irina Tsukerman (@irinatsukerman) April 19, 2019
“Interestingly enough, despite numerous reports from Ahwazi sources in this regard, and despite a recent comment on the nationally syndicated John Batchelor show, no US government official has commented on the situation. No media outlet has picked up and investigated the story. No European or other government has commented about the outrage. No human rights organisation or UN body demanded to open an investigation into the regime duplicity or the apparent contravention of sanctions.
“The atrocities continue despite ample and public evidence of severe abuses that have befallen Ahwazis. In the ample videos and photos from the affected territories, we see many Ahwazi children starving, ill people lacking the basic necessities being denied treatment, women being attacked for merely asking for the kind of basic assistance any government is required to provide to its population at times of crisis.
“The totality of all these videos and photos paints a glum picture of systemic pressure on Ahwazis not just to give up their identity but to disappear altogether. What we are seeing is complete dehumanisation of a portion of the population on an ethnic basis. The regime, having failed to colonise these people and subjugate them into its long-term imperial goals, may take worse measures seeing the world’s indifference.
“Situations of this sort in the past have led to genocides, and by the time the international community has awakened to what was going on, it was too late.
“In recent years, we have seen Iran’s henchman in Damascus, Assad, slaughter over half a million of his own population while the world argued over what to do if anything, and while the US government at the time took its time during the ongoing nuclear deal negotiations with the regime, lest it got mad if Assad was attacked.
“We have also seen the catastrophe in Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthis use their own children as child soldiers and human shields, steal humanitarian aid, and attack Yemeni civilians.
“We have seen other Iran-backed groups resort to the same tactics of using their own civilians mercilessly to gain international sympathy and humanitarian aid, none of which ever reached their populations.
“Iran is doing nothing new with the Ahwazis. These horrors, this ethnic cleansing, this use of foreign militias, this cynical prioritisation of oil deals with China over fundamental human rights is tried and true.
“Iran relies on international outrage being redirected towards easy targets, while European countries are pursuing side business deals with the regime or looking for a way to outlast the Trump administration’s sanctions.
“We see a little reaction from top religious authorities such as the Vatican with regard to this rampant abuse. Why is the Church silent when so many human beings are being subject to discrimination, and violence, many imprisoned and tortured for peaceful activism in Ahwaz?
“We see everyone turning a blind eye, just as they have turned a blind eye to the fate of Yazidis, slaughtered, abducted, enslaved, and raped systematically under ISIS, deprived of their identity and utterly devastated.
“What we see now is a repetition of the same by a group of thus in power that in their methods and hateful imperialist ideology are no better than ISIS.
While #Iranregime is bringing #Iraq Gov militia into #Ahwaz to repress Arab communities there, some US experts and bureaucrats are still claiming that these militias "are allied." The @realDonaldTrump Adm should immediately designate #Hashd as perpetrators of human rights abuse.
— Walid Phares (@WalidPhares) April 13, 2019
“Iranian intelligence groups terrorise their own populations, they colonise other peoples, and they spread terror and hatred around the world.
“What has begun inside Iranian borders will not end there = indeed we have seen IRGC and other tools of the regime export the same misery abroad.
“It is time for the international community to intervene and put a stop to this madness before the effects of the regime’s reign of terror become irreversible.”
A month after the flooding began, the IRGC has taken full advantage through ecological warfare
One month since the start of the floods that hit the region in the Ahwaz region southwestern Iran, the crisis there continues to intensify, with 20 towns and 274 villages evacuated by the regime and around half a million Ahwazis displaced and living in horrendous conditions.
Prisoner Swap? Hey #IRGC, Go Flood Yourself!#Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad #Zarif, in New York for a meeting at the #UnitedNations has invited President #Trump to swap https://t.co/48cwjJ10I8 #ahwaz #Ahwazifloods @samireza42 pic.twitter.com/I2HrLOXHi1
— Archival Institute (@ArchivalTweets) April 25, 2019
Rather than helping the victims, Iranian regime security forces, intelligence personnel and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), now classified as a terror group, have arrested local Ahwazi volunteer relief workers and aid activists. The regime’s infamous and feared elite Quds Force has also brought large numbers of its brutal foreign proxy militias to the region, including the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units (Hashd al Shaabi) and Lebanese Hezbollah, as well as Afghan Fatemiyoun. The militias were brought to the region after the Quds Force’s notorious commander Qassem Soleimani visited Ahwaz under the guise of helping the flood victims. Well-informed local activists informed Durantash Studies Centre, however, that the militias had been ordered to participate in a savage crackdown on Ahwazi protests against the Iranian regime due to its deliberate flooding of many areas by damming the river courses to protect oil and gas facilities at the Delta area, its failure to help the dispossessed, and its relentless repression, anti-Arab racism and persecution.
Several videos and official documents prove that the IRGC and the Ministry of Petroleum coordinated to deliberately change the course of the floodwaters so that they would submerge villages towns, farms and rural areas of Ahwaz in order to protect the oil and gas facilities built at the Delta area downstream with the regime very literally putting profit far above human life.
— Rahim HAMID (@samireza42) December 23, 2018
The Horalazim or Azim marshlands at the Delta area running into the Arabian Gulf, which were once renowned for their natural beauty and vast diversity of wildlife, have been dried out by the regime, which has diverted the rivers that fed them, building massive dams upstream on the tributaries and diverting the waters to other, non-Arab areas. As a result, much of Ahwaz, which was once a verdant regional breadbasket, spends much of the year either suffering from water shortages and desertification or suffering from horrendous flooding when the regime opens the upstream dam floodgates to release the pressure on the poorly built dams while sealing off the Delta so that the floodwaters flow to residential areas. The IRGC controls the extraction of the regional oil and gas resources in partnership with Chinese investors, as well as taking the billions of dollars in profits. Meanwhile, the indigenous Ahwazi people already live in conditions of grinding medieval poverty, in which their only share of their vast natural resources is pollution, environmental devastation and catastrophic flooding, sandstorms and other ecological disasters, which are wholly manmade.
— Middle East Monitor (@MiddleEastMnt) August 30, 2017
After the recent torrential flooding, exacerbated by the regime opening the floodgates on the upstream dams, Ahwazi farmers attempted to protect their homes and crops by diverting the river waters away from their land by constructing berms using sacks filled with earth. The IRGC reacted by attacking the farmers and destroying the barriers, leading to hundreds of thousands more people being displaced, with their homes devastated and crops destroyed.
The devastation resulting from the flooding is multifaceted; not only must the people deal with dispossession, but the floodwaters are also contaminated with raw sewage from the often-open sewage pipes in the region, which the regime has never bothered to fix. This, in turn, makes the floodwaters unsafe for drinking, even for livestock, and is leading to outbreaks of disease.
— Nouri Hamzeh (@NouriHamzeh) July 3, 2018
Nor is sewage the only source of pollution, with the floodwaters in the oil-rich region also being heavily contaminated with highly toxic oil and gas run-off. Whilst it is possible to separate oil from water in order to make the water safe and usable, the regime and IRGC refuse to pay to have this done, viewing Ahwazis and their homes – though not their oil and gas resources – as expendable.
This latest effort to harness ecological disaster as a tool to drive out the Ahwazi population from Ahwaz (known as Khuzestan in Farsi) is not a new departure for the regime; the Islamic Republic’s leaders have used every possible tool in their efforts to change the demographic balance in Ahwaz since taking power in 1979, seeing the people’s resistance and rejection of enforced assimilation as potentially challenging Tehran’s absolute power. The regime’s attitude to the region’s people can be seen in its deliberate environmental devastation. For another instance, the aforementioned renowned marshlands situated at the Delta mouth, which cover an area of approximately 400,000 square hectares, were included on the Montreux Record, an international register of wetland sites of international importance facing possible extinction.
In addition to building oil and gas rigs and massive military bases in the region, the regime launched a sugarcane-growing initiative a few miles upstream, seizing thousands of acres of land from Ahwazi farmers and opening massive refineries which use large quantities of river water in the refining process, with the untreated effluent used in this process, including toxic chemicals, then being poured directly back into the Karoon(Karun) river. The sugarcane growing initiative has run at a loss since day one, but it has achieved what most believe is the regime’s actual plan, dispossessing even more Ahwazi people, with thousands of farms and rural communities eradicated and their peoples dispossessed, forced to move to towns and cities elsewhere in the region, often to live in squalid ghettoes.
The regime’s massive upstream damming programme the water supplies has already dried out most of the marshlands and killed off almost all the local wildlife, forcing the fishermen whose ancestors fished the marshlands for generations to abandon their homes and follow the tragic fate of the farmers. The other primary impact of allowing the Ahwazi marshlands to dry up is the horrendous sandstorms which blanket the area in a choking unbreathable smog during summer, with rates of air pollution and respiratory diseases rising steeply year by year.
While the regime promises compensation to those dispossessed, the Ahwazi people have learnt from bitter experience not to trust these promises; those driven from their homes by the most recent floods point out that they didn’t receive any of the state compensation promised the last time they faced similar cataclysmic flooding in 2015. Meanwhile, the situation for the 500,000-plus Ahwazis currently living in atrocious conditions, many without food, water, medicine, clothes, is tragic beyond words, with their future no brighter.
The displaced are suffering from severe shortages of every conceivable essential from food and medicine to household supplies, tents and basic first aid kits.
The Iranian regime intensifies the catastrophe
The Iranian government bodies have made no efforts to resolve the crisis faced by those dispossessed by the flooding; indeed, many have consciously attempted to make the dire situation worse, with regime security forces working to shut down the popular relief centres that sprang up as Ahwazis tried to get aid to their stricken compatriots.
Ahwazi rights groups have called on international relief bodies such as the Red Cross, and World Health Organisation to help the displaced population in Ahwazi villages and towns, and to condemn the mass arrests, as well as calling on international humanitarian organisations to condemn the Iranian regime’s cruelty and persecution toward the Ahwazi people, who are being criminalised by their own persecutors.
#Ahwazi people demand the #Iranian regime to free more than 40 civil activists who the regime arrested them. These activists arrested after helping people of drowned districts in #Ahwaz. @UN pic.twitter.com/deJKmQKSFH
— PADMAZ.org (@PADMAZorg) April 28, 2019
Saeed Moqadam Abu-Shorouq, a prominent Ahwazi rights activist based in the Ahwaz region, wrote in his Facebook account last week: “People left their homes in the villages of Susa, Shoaybiyeh, Hamidiyeh and Khafajiyeh, heading to the deserts. Some of them remained in their homes but climbed up to the rooftops and settled there. Some of them saw their homes submerged with water, whose depth exceeded one meter. They have become so stranded that a displaced person cannot go to pick up some items from the market and leave the tent as he fears for the lives of his family. Those who remained indoors cannot go outdoors due to the deep floodwaters. For all these reasons, Ahwazis formed popular committees to offer relief aid to the flood-affected people and deliver food and other necessities to them. Young men, old men, women and children from across Ahwaz capital and its cities including Al-Khalifiya, Ramiz, Falahieh(Falahiyeh), Khor Moussa, Maashur, Muhammarah, and Abadan from the western coast, rushed to help their brothers who are hit by the floods. About ten truckloads head every day from Muhammarah carrying cooked and canned food, medicine for children, essential items for women, mineral waters and health kits. These vehicles travel long distances, estimated to be hundreds of kilometres to reach the camps of Susa where the displaced persons reside or to Hamidiyeh and Khafajiyeh, or to those who left their homes, defying the floods and those who stood behind them.
“This aid and much more else is sent from the rest of the Ahwazi cities to the flood-hit people. The aid is collected by young people from their relatives or friends or bought via donations transferred to their bank accounts from here and there. In the absence of the Red Crescent, whose efforts were confined to handing out tents, the Ahwazi popular committees stood by the people and provided them with the necessary help. Young people say through their WhatsApp groups that their campaigns exposed the complacency of the government-run Red Crescent, which did not offer the flood-hit people any tangible support. This led the IRGC to intervene in some villages, warning people against accepting aid from the young people under the implausible claim that those providing the aid are Wahhabis and people shouldn’t accept aid from them. In other places, soldiers blocked access to the aid offered by young people in the remote areas, which can only be reached by boats, hit by the floods.
“‘Don’t you want to help the people? So, give us the goods and we will send them to the flood-hit villages’, the IRGC told the young Ahwazis. If the young people refuse to hand over the aid, the IRGC prevents them from reaching the flood-hit people. I have watched footage showing IRGC personnel raiding a house where food for the flood-hit people was being cooked. They said, ‘The military governor ordered us to prevent all forms of aid. The government is the only entity that will offer the aid and provide the people with what they need.’ But it didn’t do that! Activists believe that the aim behind the government’s blocking of aid is to prompt the Ahwazi people to flee their homes and move to the Iranian regions of Yazd, Isfahan and Shiraz.”
Now in addition to the miseries of displacement, the flood-affected people have been left with no basic aid to ease their sufferings as they face lack of clean drinking water, no toilets, bathing or showering facilities, and little-to-no medical aid. What medical aid is available is rudimentary and inadequate, with children, the disabled and the elderly worst hit by outbreaks of disease due to the horrendously unsanitary conditions. The rapidly rising temperatures are adding to the suffering and to the disease risks, with summer temperatures in the Ahwaz region regularly rising to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8o Celsius).
Probability of various diseases in Ahwaz due to floods
According to Dr Mehdi Hussainzadeh, deputy director of health at the Ahwaz-Jundishpur University of Medical Sciences, the large-scale inflow of raw sewage borne by the floodwaters into Ahwazi cities has increased the risk of a variety of potentially fatal diseases, including cholera and malaria, as well as skin diseases.
Dr Hussainzadeh said that head lice have also spread among the people in the affected areas, specifically the camps given the population density of those affected by floods and the lack of any bathing facilities, so the principles of personal hygiene should be observed in these places. He added that health experts in the camps have revealed the spread of infection among people, so they identified and treat people suffering from this disease. Lice is a vector of typhoid diseases, recurrent epidemic fever and droplet fever, he explained, and can also lead to various complications, including types of skin disease. He added that the rising temperatures as summer approaches increase the potential risk of cholera in flood areas, with the warmer temperatures creating a more favourable environment for the growth of cholera microbes, as well as spreading insectivorous sickle cell and malaria.
“The flood waters are polluted and swimming or contact with water without protection for the body, causes some health risks,” Dr Hussainzadeh explained, adding that even after the floodwaters recede, the dangers of drinking water contaminated with raw sewage and other toxic pollutants remains a serious health risk.
Bleak future for flood-affected people
The already poverty-stricken Ahwazi people, many of whom lost what meagre savings they had when regime banks shut down during the financial crisis, now face an even bleaker future with their homes destroyed by the flooding and the livestock that many depended on for food and a means of making of living drowned. The losses are massive; one example is the agriculture sector in Susa, which has suffered losses valued at around US$19 million in the floods
This #Ahwazi farmer demand the #Iranian regime to hear his voice, he lost his farm and lost everything he had. He demands the regime to finish this #disaster and bring his farm back. (You see still more than 1.5 meter #water covering his farm) @UN pic.twitter.com/IMR6SQmjMy
— PADMAZ.org (@PADMAZorg) April 28, 2019
The governor of Susa, Adnan Ghazi, said in an interview: “In the last few days, floodwaters damaged about 22,600 hectares of farmland around Sus city – that is about 19 million dollars in value.”
Speaking to a reporter from Sedayeh Karkheh, Ghazi said that the most seriously damaged crops were the wheat and rapeseed harvests, with between 80 to 100 per cent of both completely destroyed by the flooding.
“About 21,400 hectares of these ruined farmlands are growing wheat, 615 hectares are rapeseed, 164 hectares sugar beet, and 302 hectares are vegetables”, he added.
The Susa city governor further noted that over 20,000 hectares of the flooded farmlands have been wrecked by the heavily polluted floodwaters and need to undergo major clean-up operations.
Referring to the loss of 72 large and small livestock in the city of Susa, Ghazi said: “28 large livestock, including cows, buffalos, camels and horses, and 44 small livestock including sheep and goats, were killed in these floods.”
In addition, he said, “1600 bee colonies, 20,000 square meters of livestock grazing land, 600 motor pump units, 61 bridges and building units, 180 kilometres of traditional creeks, 306 kilometres of roads between farmlands and 16 kilometres of water pipeline have been damaged.”
He stated that the damage done by the floodwaters had been assessed at an early stage, saying that agricultural experts are collecting the exact statistics of the damage to issue final findings.
The regime’s decision to open the floodgates on the upstream dams as a way to reduce pressure on the poorly built structures, along with the blocking off of the Deltas downstream, means that the city of Susa, which is located near both the Karkheh and Dez rivers, was inundated along with the surrounding farmlands and rural hamlets.
Twenty-five nearby villages were evacuated to avoid the flood risks, with the total losses to small businesses there and across Ahwaz totalling around an estimated five trillion Iranian Riyals (US $40 million), according to the head of Ahwaz Industry, Mining and Commerce Organisation Amir Hussain Nazari.
Nazari said: “One of the most important industrial cities in Ahwaz is Industrial City No. 2 [an industrial zone], which was destroyed in the recent floods that caused damage to the infrastructure of many industrial units. Due to flooding, specifically of the Karkheh, Dez and Karun rivers, more than 12 [industrial] cities bordering these rivers have been flooded, along with a large number of rural areas.”. Industrial City No. 2 was flooded on 14 April this year due to the Karkheh River overflowing its banks as a result of the damming downstream. The floodwaters continue to threaten the city.
Rather than helping the displaced flood victims, meanwhile, the regime’s forces and proxy militias have continued to assault, arrest and imprison many, particularly targeting volunteer aid workers, with many reporting tortures of those trying to help the victims.
Aid workers tell Abbas Kaabi, the representative of the Ahwazis in the parliament, "The first thing we would like to say is, please don’t prevent our activists from sending aid to those affected people. We have activists who have been arrested for supporting the flood-affected. pic.twitter.com/F5JLPu48Ha
— Rahim HAMID (@samireza42) April 29, 2019
In this footage, aid workers tell Abbas Kaabi, the representative of the Ahwazi people in the parliament, “The first thing we would like to say is, please don’t prevent our activists from sending aid to those affected people. We have activists who have been arrested for supporting the flood-affected people. I am ready to give you the names of the detainees. Our charities have been prevented from working and supporting the affected people. For example, security checkpoints prevented us from entering the affected areas and prevented us from assisting and supporting those affected. People are suffering as a result of the flooding and are drowning, and we’re trying to help people, but the security services prevented us from supporting those affected. Our movement is a popular movement, not a political one, and isn’t against the regime. Our goal is to serve and support people, so we urge the authorities to not prevent us from supporting affected people”.
اعتقلت سلطات الاحتلال الفارسي الناشط الثقافي ماهر دسومي الذي كان يعمل ضمن لجان الإغاثة الشعبية لتقديم المساعدة لمنكوبي السيول المفتعلة.
ماهر دسومی، معلم و فعال فرهنگی که در طی سیل اخیر با جمع آوری کمک های مردمی، صبح امروز دوشنبه 98/2/9 و هنگام تدریس توسط لباس شخصی ها بازداشت شد. pic.twitter.com/Ip6JcFrxeU
— Faisal Maramazi (@fmaramazi) April 29, 2019
In other footage, an Ahwazi farmer who lost all his livestock because of the flooding, who’s desperately trying to save his one remaining buffalo stranded in the waters, is asked by the cameraman, “What are you doing here?”
"All our animals like this buffalo sank beneath the water and we lost all of them. We could only save one cow. Look at our homes! All our houses are damaged by the waterflood. We lost all the houses in the village, and all our money and everything has gone." #Ahwaziflood pic.twitter.com/vUMlwSJsYu
— Rahim HAMID (@samireza42) April 29, 2019
He responds, “All our animals like this buffalo sank beneath the water and we lost all of them. We could only save one cow. Look at our homes! All our houses are damaged by the waterflood. We lost all the houses in the village, and all our money and everything has gone. Floods damaged all our belongings. Look at this old man – his age is over 60 years old, but he’s travelled by boat and is towing the boat to help us. For 12 days we have been suffering from floods and since then we have been suffering from this crisis. No one from the government supported us. We live in the marshland in the village of Al-Mansoura, but no one helped us! We lost everything in the floods and all that’s left to us is this cow. Look at this old man – he lost 30 cows because of the floods!”
“The situation is very dangerous, and we demand the presence of people from the city of Falahiyeh so that we can stop the floods from affecting the city. The city now faces the danger that floods have reached the tomb of Mullah Fadhel al-Sukrani." #Ahwazifloods pic.twitter.com/h867MXbmvZ
— Rahim HAMID (@samireza42) April 29, 2019
In a third piece of footage, a despairing victim of the flooding says, “Today is April 22nd, 2019, and here is the village of Nasiri near the city of Falahiyeh, and as you can see the water’s arrived near the tomb of Mullah Fadhel Al-Sakrani in the city.
“The situation is very dangerous, and we demand the presence of people from the city of Falahiyeh so that we can stop the floods from affecting the city. The city now faces the danger that floods have reached the tomb of Mullah Fadhel al-Sukrani. So, we ask for support and help. This earth berm is all that separates the city of Falahiyeh from the tomb of Mulla Fadhel and water now is leaking from the dam that we constructed to protect the city.”
In another video report, a heartbroken Ahwazi woman says, “All our gardens and agricultural lands were destroyed. We were already miserable, but our lives have been destroyed. Even the two of our houses were destroyed. Only we are saved and alive. We need tents. We need someone to come and see our situation and see the situation of our children. They could even see that we are now in the desert and have no place to go!
This #Ahwazi mother says: we lost our home and everything to the #floods. Now we need a tent and #iran doesn’t give us even a tent! Do #irans leaders, @khamenei_ir and Rouhani, have some #humanity to come here and see my children sleep on the ground. @UN pic.twitter.com/w7mVxRoVzU
— PADMAZ.org (@PADMAZorg) April 25, 2019
“You really have to have some shred of conscience, at least to see what problems we are experiencing! Where is the conscience of Ali Khamenei and the rest of the regime’s officials? Is your conscience pleased to see these children? Is your conscience pleased to see children sleeping in the desert?”
This #Ahwazi farmer tells these pro regime Mullas: why you drowned my #farm? You are not with god. Why you drowned my #farm and after that come to me and showing off, pretending you stand with me. Just stop this! I don’t want you and stop this show! pic.twitter.com/LBV2tTUwxa
— PADMAZ.org (@PADMAZorg) April 25, 2019
In another video, an Ahwazi farmer is seen desperately trying to build barriers to stop the floodwaters reaching his farmland and destroying the crops, while bitterly condemning the few regime clerics who came to the area but did nothing to help.
He asks rhetorically, “Why are you doing this to us? Do you hear the people’s requests and problems? Don’t you fear God? Take off your religious robes! You became like thieves – a thief who wants to rob me and then wants to help me! All our agricultural lands were destroyed. Do you know the cause of the destruction??!!”
A devastated #Ahwaz -i woman with 3 disabled children,who forced to leave her home due to #AhwazFloods and stay in a camp, tells her grievances as how local welfare org refused to provide essential care to her kids because she could not afford such huge amount of money to them. https://t.co/61Z0tJxZUv
— Yaسer (@ya_assadi) April 24, 2019
In another heartbreaking video, a despairing mother of three disabled children who have been brought to the dilapidated ‘Emergency Camp’ in the city of Hamidiyeh after being displaced by the flooding, says, “I was forced to leave my home due to the flooding and move to the emergency camp,” adding, “The local welfare organisation refused to provide essential care to my kids because I could not afford to give them a huge amount of money!” Gesturing at the pitifully inadequate medicines she’s been given for her severely disabled children, she says, “Look at the medicines! I can’t buy these medications and the state charity [Behzisti] refuses to help me.”
She says the state charity asked for money in order to help her and take care of her disabled children. “How can I afford any money and how can I pay money to the State charity until they take care of my children? Why doesn’t the government help us? The government hasn’t helped us, and the state charity said, ‘You have to pay 40 million tomans [$3000] to keep a girl and two disabled boys in our shelter!’”
The despairing mother concludes by saying that she has no money to pay to the state charity, and cannot even provide money for her children’s medicines or even buy them essential clothes.
Action must be taken
As with each report this Centre has prepared on the continuing crisis, this must end with a call for action, and even a plea for help from an indifferent world.
For anyone interested in what is going on in Ahwaz, or how Iran systematically persecutes the native Ahwazi Arabs in order to consolidate its hold on their oil- and mineral rich homeland, @DuscOrg is an invaluable resource, and they are eager to comment on these issues and more.
— Aaron Eitan Meyer (@aaronemeyer) April 28, 2019
Aaron Eitan Meyer, who has been personally assisting the Dur Untash Centre, offers a number of actions that can be taken, beginning with ensuring that the Ahwazi people receive help:
“The first and overriding priority is to ensure that foreign aid actually reaches the people of Ahwaz, free from both the greedy fingers of the regime and the predations of its terrorist proxies. What has happened is that the regime has exacerbated the flood-related problems, prevented foreign aid from reaching the affected people, and then commenced a campaign to penalise the brave volunteers who privately sought to bring food and medications into the region. International pressure must be brought to bear immediately, but we cannot delude ourselves into believing that pressure on Iran will accomplish anything. Rather, China and Iran’s other trading partners must be persuaded to compel Iran to do the right thing.
“Second is what must and will come after the crisis is over. In many respects, this will depend on whether the Iranian regime is finally made to stop its campaign of ethnic cleansing, authoritarian suppression and now ecological warfare, and how quickly the Ahwazi people receive the assistance they deserve and need. There is already more than ample evidence to support international human rights charges as well as other legal action against the regime, but that is not the priority right now.
“Third is that particular attention must be paid to the fact that this is the same region the regime has been exploiting as a means of circumventing US-led international sanctions, and the regime’s response this time around has been to import terrorist groups into the area to keep the people controlled. It is mind-boggling that in this day and age a nation can embark on such an illegal and immoral campaign without direct consequence.”
When asked what steps can be taken right now, Meyer recommended “any Ahwazi who can speak out without danger of the regime should repeatedly and openly petition their governments wherever they live to exert immediate pressure on the regime and its trading partners to allow significant foreign aid to reach the people of Ahwaz. They should write repeatedly to every media source for which they can find contact information. And they must not stop. If a hundred newspapers turn down an article, submit it to two hundred more. The world does not care about their suffering because it does not know it exists. Help, followed by justice, will come when the world knows and cares about the Ahwazi people, as it should.”
We believe that bringing world attention to the plight of Ahwaz is the first step to helping our brothers and sisters who are suffering. But when the world takes notice, it must understand one more thing – Ahwaz is our homeland. Neither this regime nor any other has the right to take it from us, and no power in the world will force us from our homeland.
Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi author, freelance journalist and human rights advocate. You can follow him on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/samireza42
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Dur Untash Studies Centre.