Members of an Ahwazi Arab family were arrested after Iranian security forces beat them and ransacked their home.
On July 11, 2017, human rights activists in Arab Ahwaz region in the south and south west of Iran reported that Iranian security forces arrested an Ahwazi Arab woman, Zahra Sawari, and two of her sons, Mohammad Sawari and Ali Sawari, after completely demolishing their house under the pretext that it was built without certification.
According to reports, the Ahwazi woman and her two sons sustained injuries to their faces and heads after being beaten severely by Iranian regime forces.
This heartbreaking footage which has gone viral across social media shows the injured and despairing Ahwazi woman amid the rubble of the pitiful brick shed that was her and her five sons’ only home after security forces from Iran’s “resistance” regime demolished it, using the pretext that it was an illegal construction on state land unlicensed by the municipality. The blood running down her and her son’s faces comes from cuts inflicted by bricks from the home which were thrown at her by the regime personnel when they protested and attempted to stop the demolition and retrieve their meagre possessions.
Zahra Sawari explains that she and her family once lived in a home in Abadan, also in the Ahwaz region, which was destroyed in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. When they subsequently fled to the regional capital, also named Ahwaz, she says, they lived as refugees in a tent in the shanty town where her one of her sons was bitten by a scorpion. Donations from other Ahwazi people enabled her and her sons to build the pitiful home on empty land in the same area – the home which has now been demolished by the Iranian regime.
Now, under the scorching summer sun in the hottest region of the world, in an area where daytime temperatures regularly rise to over 60 degrees Celsius, the woman and her family have no shelter, with all their possessions destroyed in the regime’s callous demolition. As Ahwazis, the family has no legal rights to complain about the crimes perpetrated against them and will receive no compensation, with the regime using this racist system as carte blanche to carry out such crimes on a daily basis.
Ahwazi eyewitnesses reported that the regime’s personnel were shouting racist, anti-Arab abuse and threats at the family while the demolition operation took place, telling the victims that they had orders issued by the court prosecutors justifying their inhuman actions, although they produced no warrants or other documents. Following the demolition, the regime officials shot their guns into the air and subjected the already traumatised dispossessed families to another beating before abandoning the now homeless dispossessed peoples in the street outside the rubble of their homes, and declaring that the land had now been confiscated by the regime.
This regime’s systematic approach to looting and razing Ahwazi’s houses had previously been revealed with the regime’s secret plan, which was leaked by Ahwazi dissidents, with aims to change the demographic composition of Ahwaz from an Arab majority to non-Arabs.
In fact, these repeated criminal practices in the region pursued by the local regime authorities indicate the security grip and unilateral actions by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Ahwaz. The regime of Iran always was critical towards Israeli policies against Palestinians including land confiscation and house demolition, however, current Iranian regime’s practices against Ahwazi people expose its hypocritical slogans.
“This is not the first time that random houses have been demolished. The municipality of Ahwaz has carried out similar measures against Arab citizens without paying attention to the deliberate deprivation of the people of the region by the Iranian authorities,” said Karim Dohimi, an Ahwazi activist.
Dohimi added, “These policies only serve to continue the Iranian policy of demographic change and oppression of Ahwazi Arab population”. “The Iranian government has made no efforts to resettle these war-stricken citizens or compensate them for having their homes destroyed during the war. Instead, the property, land, and real estate of those killed, imprisoned, or disabled during the war were given away to the members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Many years have passed since the end of the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranian authorities are building residential neighborhoods and settlements for non-Arab settlers in Ahwaz. There settlers are readily provided with jobs and privileges before those things are granted to the native Arab population”.
According to Ahwazi Arab activists, these houses were built by impoverished Ahwazi Arabs who were unable to buy or rent houses after being displaced as a result of the Iraq-Iran war from 1980 – 1988. During this eight-year war, many Ahwazi Arab had to flee their homes in Howeyzeh, Boston, Khafajiyeh, Abadan, and Muhammarah to migrate in the hopes of finding safer living conditions elsewhere in the region.
Rather than resettling or compensating these citizens left destitute by the destruction of their homes in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and forced to flee with only the clothes they were wearing, the regime allocated the properties, land and real estate to Revolutionary Guard troops and disabled veterans injured in the same war and the families of POWs.
Although almost three decades have passed since the end of the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranian authorities are building ethnically homogenous, Persians-only residential neighborhoods and settlements for non-Arab settlers who it has enticed to the region with financial incentives, well-paid jobs and privileges not available to the indigenous Arab people, who instead live in ghettoes deprived of the most basic services. Many of the Ahwazi people, forced to flee their destroyed towns and villages during the war, now live in conditions of destitution, with no hope of compensation; all of this is a continuation of the regime’s deliberate policy of demographic change and of subjugation of the region’s indigenous Arab people.
These are the actions of the same Iranian regime which shamelessly and cynically exploits Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people to use as PR and to represent itself as a savior and supporter of Arab freedom. Ahwazi Arabs know the obscenity of that lie all too well.
Rahim Hamid, is a freelance journalist and human rights advocate and co-founder of Ahwaz Monitor website who writes about the plight of his community – the Ahwazi Arabs – and other ethnic groups in Iran. You can follow him on twitter: https://twitter.com/samireza42