Hundreds of members of the Ahwazi Arab diaspora demonstrated outside the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Feb. 17, to denounce the abuses of the Iranian regime in Ahwaz region amid a new upsurge of protest there. Overlooked by the world media, Arab residents had over the past five days repeatedly filled the streets in the city of Ahwaz, capital of Iran's Khuzestan province, and the province's second city of Falahiyeh (Shadegan in Parsi). The protest wave has focused on air and water pollution caused by the oil industry, and the lack of basic services. The region's Arab majority face water and power outages, pervasive unemployment, and under-funded schools and municipal governments, despite the fact that Ahwaz/Khuzestan is the center of Iran's oil production. Recently, the region has been hit with paralyzing dust storms, a result of aridification and ecological decline.
Demonstrators in Vienna held placards reading "Don't kill Al-Ahwaz," "Ahwaz in blackout," and "Karoon River is dead.” The Karoon, the region's main river, has been subject to a water diversion mega-project to feed the agricultural sector in central provinces such as Isfahan, leaving farmlands in Ahwaz dry.
The protests were called by the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, which issued a statement saying: "The Iranian state…has adopted repressive measures against ethnic groups who have been subjected to oppression and occupation…for several decades. These occupied and oppressed peoples should be accorded the right to self-determination. We demand the international community to intervene immediately and not to ignore the crimes against Ahwazi Arabs and other peoples in Iran under the pretext of the nuclear program agreement, which completely fails to take into account the interests of the oppressed peoples of the country."
Contributed by Rahim Hamid for CounterVortex