Iran: Protests in Ahwaz against Discrimination
Thousands of people took it to the streets in Ahwaz Iranian province protesting what they called the Iranian authority’s marginalization of Iranians of Arab origin and its efforts to erase their Arab identity.
Eye witnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat that thousands of Iranians participated for the second day in protests and chanted slogans in Farsi and Arabic against what they called organized state alienation of people and rejecting any attempts to change the demographic combination in the area. The demonstrators also accused officials of systematically alienating Iranian citizens of Arab ethnicity.
Last April, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani promised to reconsider the projects transferring water outside of Ahwaz.
Clashes with police broke out in various Ahwazi cities in protest against a cartoon TV show that used figurines to misrepresent various ethnicity in Iran. The segment completely ignored the Arab origins of the city and dolls symbolizing Ahwazi Arabs were nowhere to be found.
The discontent grew after a video circulated on social media showing a number of young Arabs protesting against a play in Mashour city, after showing a man in Arab dress begging for money from another wearing a traditional costume of another national.
The videos on social media showed Iranian forces shooting live ammunition extensively in the air and another showed Iranian forces arresting several protesters as random shots being fired.
Ahwaz sources said that in the early hours more than 26 people were arrested, including three women.
According to activists, over the past decade Ahwaz has witnessed growth in non-Arab migration into their residential areas with government support, at the aim of disrupting the demographic composition and turning Arabs into a minority.
In April 2005, large-scale uprisings began in Ahwaz following the leak of a document from reformist President Mohammad Khatami's office showing a formal approach to change the demographic formation in Arab regions.
Over the past few days, activists have launched an "I'm Arab" campaign through social networks before protest organized by activists in front of the Iranian Radio and Television Corporation
Abadan, the largest oil city in the southwest of Iran, similar protests erupted and local opposition websites reported workers' protests earlier this week were they chanted: "We are hungry."
Over the past year, about 397 protests took place mostly against the policy of diverting rivers, and over 80 Iranian cities, including Ahwaz, witnessed widespread popular protests against high prices and the deteriorating living conditions.
According to Iranian agencies, officials of the Iranian Radio and Television Corporation tried to speak to representatives of the demonstrators in an attempt to contain the tension, stressing "their legitimate and legal rights." Officials have promised to follow up on the demands of the protesters, demanding that demonstrators end peaceful protests and return to homes.
In turn, demonstrators demanded ending all "racist behavior" and "denial of Arab identity" in television programs, the apology of Iranian officials and holding the “abusive” program accountable.
According to official numbers, population of Ahwaz is 1.4 million, the center of Khuzestan province in southeastern Iran, and one of the three provinces along with Bushehr and Hormozgan, with Arab majority estimated to be over eight million.