By Rahim Hamid*
Hundreds of Ahwazi Arabs led a demonstration in front of the European Union headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday in solidarity with the Arab people of Ahwaz currently experiencing the worst brutality to date in another crackdown by the Iranian regime.
The protesters, originally from the Arab Ahwaz region, which has been brutally occupied by successive Iranian regimes for almost a century to date, were joined by hundreds of other Arab and non-Arab human rights activists at the invitation of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), which organized the demonstration in protest at the Iranian regime’s brutality against the Ahwazi people. The region has witnessed renewed widespread protests in recent weeks as the long-brutalized and marginalized Ahwazi people expressing their anger at the Iranian regime’s systematic and brutal apartheid-style racism, and at the countless crimes perpetrated against the indigenous Arab people and their lands; these calculated policies have resulted in massive poverty amongst Ahwazis, despite the region hosting over 90 percent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran, as well as large-scale desertification and toxic levels of pollution of the region’s air and water.
Protesters at Tuesday’s peaceful demonstration in the Belgian capital carried placards and banners bearing a number of messages and chanted slogans including “Down with Iranian occupation”, “End the Iranian occupation”, “End crimes against Ahwazis”, and “Ahwazi Arabs are slaughtered in many ways – where is the world’s conscience?” The demonstrators also protested against the Iranian regime’s massively destructive environmental policies in the region, including a large-scale program of damming and diversion of the rivers that once made Ahwaz a fertile agricultural area; with those waters now being redirected to other, ethnically Persian areas of Iran, Ahwaz is now plagued by desertification and ever-worsening sandstorms which, accompanied by the existing heavy pollution from the oil and gas refineries in the region, make for a toxic environmentally lethal cocktail. Protesters’ chants and banners also reflected their concern at this environmental devastation, with slogans including “Stop destroying Ahwaz’ environment”, “Stop the destruction of Ahwaz’ heritage and historic monuments”, “End water theft in Ahwaz”, and “Patience, patience people of Ahwaz, victory is coming”.
The protesters at the demonstration outside the EU headquarters confirmed that the protest was taking place to express solidarity with the people of Ahwaz who are paying a terrible price for renewing their uprising for freedom and justice, and for rejecting the Iranian regime’s brutal policies and racism, with many Ahwazi activists being arrested, imprisoned, tortured and often killed simply for calling for freedom and human rights. The most recent protests in the town of Falahiyeh saw demonstrators attacked by police, with two of the protesters, all of whom were unarmed, shot dead and dozens imprisoned for protesting.
The protesters at Tuesday’s event in Brussels urged the European Union to meet its humanitarian responsibilities by opposing the inhuman and oppressive policies of the Iranian regime towards the Ahwazi people and to reject any connection with the regime’s savage racist policies, urging the EU to instead take a principled stance in supporting the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Ahwazi people in their struggle to preserve their existence in the face of the Iranian regime’s state terror, despite being subjected to relentless injustice, oppression, persecution and murder.
The demonstrators pointed out that the Iranian regime not only denies the Ahwazi people their lands and Arab heritage, dispossessing and persecuting them for their Arab ethnicity, but even attempts to deny them any means of making a living, seizing farms from families which have farmed the lands for generations, forcibly evicting people from their homes for no reason before reducing the homes to rubble, expelling them from jobs, polluting the air and water or diverting the rivers so as to make massive areas uninhabitable, all with no legal recourse for the Ahwazi peoples subjected to these inhuman policies.
While the Iranian regime likes to exploit the cause of Palestinian freedom, its own policies towards Ahwazi Arabs are every bit as racist, brutal and inhuman as those of Israel towards Palestinians, with Iran also building ethnically homogenous settlements solely for “ethnically pure” Iranians on lands ethnically cleansed of the indigenous people; as in Israel these settlements are provided with all amenities for the privileged non-Arab peoples resettled there, while even the most basic of rights are denied to the indigenous Arab peoples. Even Israel does not forbid the Palestinian people from speaking their own Arabic language or wearing their Arab dress as Iran does to Ahwazis.
The protesters at Tuesday’s demonstration in Brussels said that the Iranian regime has been relentless in perpetrating acts of terror against unarmed citizens in Ahwaz in an effort to undermine the people’s steadfastness and to cow the brutalized population into silence, with their protests and demands for justice now damaging the regime’s dishonest efforts to depict itself as civilized on the international stage, even while it expands the scope of its institutionalized crimes against the Ahwazi people on a daily basis.
The demonstrators at the EU headquarters lauded the steadfastness of the Ahwazi protesters and activists in Falahiyeh and in the regional capital, also named Ahwaz, as well as in Mashhor and across the Ahwaz region who continue to risk their lives and freedom in the struggle for their legitimate rights and for justice and liberty, adding that the international community should recognize the just and fair nature of the Ahwazi people’s cause and demand that the Iranian regime comply with international law in order to finally allow Ahwazis to have the voice and justice they have been denied for so long.
The demonstrators further demanded that the international community should recognize Ahwazis’ long-denied right to self-determination, underlining the need for the UN to send an independent fact-finding delegation to Ahwaz to investigate the Iranian regime’s crimes extending back over a period of over 90 years to date, with these crimes including genocide, collective violation of human rights, ethnic cleansing, mass displacement, looting and destruction of property, persecution on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion, and efforts to enforce demographic change.
The protesters’ demands also included the right of displaced Ahwazis to return to their lands and reclaim their property, and the condemnation of the construction of ethnically homogenous settlements on stolen lands, along with the need to release unjustly imprisoned detainees from regime prisons.
The list of demands also includes the need to examine the Iranian regime’s ‘justice’ system and the grotesquely unfair sentences routinely handed down to Ahwazi activists, often or even usually after sham trials without legal representation and with detainees being tortured into signing false confessions, with the ASMLA emphasizing that these are universally recognized as grave human rights abuses, and the people of Ahwaz who have suffered for almost a century should not have to endure such monstrous systematic injustice any longer.
Tuesday’s demonstration was one of several events held by Ahwazis in recent days, in solidarity with the people of Ahwaz, in light of their suffering under the Iranian regime’s brutal oppression and persecution, with earlier demonstrations also taking place in Holland in front of the Iranian regime’s embassy in the Hague, and in Austria in front of the UN headquarters building in Vienna.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kom News.
*Rahim Hamid is a freelance journalist based in the USA.