Ahwazi football fans in the Ahwaz region were beaten and attacked with tear gas and batons on Monday by Iranian regime security forces in retaliation for showing their support for protesters in Iraq and for raising Iraqi flags at a football match in the region’s capital city, Ahwaz. Dozens of the fans were injured in the vicious assaults by the regime personnel, with three arrested for holding up Iraqi flags and banners in support of the revolutions in the region.
The young Ahwazi fans were beaten and attacked with tear gas
During the game between the Ahwazi Foolad team and the Perspolis team from Tehran, the Ahwazi fans chanted slogans in support of the protests in Iraq and held up banners with messages like ‘From Ahwaz to Tahrir Square in Baghdad… Our Hearts Are With You Against Iran’s Regime’. Another banner bore the slogan being used by Ahwazis on social media to voice their support for the protests: #Awazis_Support_Iraq_and_Lebanon.
The protests were the latest expression of support by the Ahwazi people for Arab revolutionaries across the region rising up for freedom, with Ahwazis themselves risking arrest, torture, and imprisonment, and many activists being executed on fabricated charges, simply for demonstrating against the Iranian regime’s brutality and anti-Arab racism and demanding freedom and basic human rights. Although Ahwazis have protested for decades against the Iranian regime’s continuing brutal colonisation of the formerly autonomous Arab emirate, first annexed by Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1925, and the regime’s racist anti-Arab abuse of the Ahwazi people, this is the first time that Iranian colonialism has been a central feature of region-wide demonstrations.
The #Ahwazis_Support_Iraq_and_Lebanon hashtag quickly went viral on social media across the region, where the Iranian regime’s efforts to suppress protests with mass arrests have failed to quell public anger at years of brutal persecution and neglect by the theocratic regime in Tehran.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by the regime, activists in Ahwaz told the the Dur Untash Studies Centre (DUSC) that they plan to expand the scope of the protests and to reach out to and interact with Iraqi and Lebanese activists to express support and solidarity for their revolutions, adding that these uprisings demonstrate the collapse of the Iranian regime’s expansionist sectarian project. Ahwazis have also been circulating videos on social media expressing their rejection of the visit to Iraq by General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the elite Al Quds Brigade, a senior unit of the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) elite Al Quds Brigade, who’s heading the Tehran-affiliated sectarian Iraqi militias’ brutal efforts to crush the protests. Suleimani also heads the Iranian regime’s military operations in Syria, Yemen and across the region.
This is not the first such protest in solidarity with the ongoing protests in Iraq and Lebanon at a football match in Ahwaz, with fans of the Ahwaz Foolad team also unfurling an Iraqi flag at another recent match against an Iranian team in the capital a few days ago, a particularly potent message during a match against an Iranian team from Tehran.
Following Monday’s match, regime security forces attacked the supporters as they left the stadium in retaliation for their peaceful expressions of solidarity for Iraqi and Lebanese protesters, using tear gas and electric cattle prods as well as shooting in the air and physically assaulting the mostly young people, with dozens injured in the brutal attacks. The security forces, who arrested three of the fans for the ‘crime’ of holding up Iraqi flags and placards in support of the Iraqi and Lebanese revolutions, were apparently particularly incensed by fans chanting “We from Ahwaz, with our blood and souls, support your struggle against Iranian colonialism.”
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.