Ahwazi Municipality Workers Jailed For Protesting Over Six Months Of Unpaid Salaries
By Rahim Hamid
16 June, 2016
Twenty-four Ahwazi Arab municipality workers in the regional capital were arrested by Iranian regime security personnel on Monday, June 13 for participating in a peaceful sit-in demonstration in front of the local municipality building to protest against non-payment of their salaries for six months. Seventy staff members at the municipality headquarters in District 4 of the capital, Ahwaz, took part in the demonstration after months of complaints over non-payment of their wages failed to elicit any response from the management.
Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, scores of Iranian security forces carried out a raid to clear the demonstrators away from the area outside the municipality building, arresting the 24 protesters and transporting them to an unknown location, according to a report from the Iranian ILNA News Agency.
The protest followed a similar sit-in demonstration by the municipality personnel on the previous day, Sunday, June 12, during which the protesters demanded that the council members put pressure on the management to pay their long-overdue salaries. The INLA report also stated that the municipality workers are suffering from severe financial hardship as a result of the council’s failure to resolve the salary payment issue, which has been worsened by the failure of senior officials to recognise their legitimate demands for their salaries.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the protesters said that municipality officials had promised to pay the outstanding wages before the holy month of Ramadan, a promise they had already broken. The worker said that despite the fact that the first week of the holy month had already passed, there had been no payment of the overdue wages, adding that he is unable to afford the most basic living costs for himself and his family or to provide foodstuffs for Ramadan, especially in light of rising costs over Ramadan.
In similar news, street vendors in the regional capital continue to be subjected to harassment and persecution by Iranian municipality agents, with one vendor, Mehdi Afravi, committing suicide on May 6 by throwing himself under a train in despair after his stall and goods – his sole source of income - were arbitrarily confiscated by regime agents.
On May 16, the agents surrounded the street vendors’ market in Naderi Street in Ahwaz and prevented would-be customers from entering, thus preventing the already struggling vendors from earning a living. The municipality’s actions are believed to be revenge for the vendors’ protests a few days beforehand against persecution and injustice over their conditions.
Even the regime’s official news agencies and some political figures have acknowledged the severity of the economic crisis and injustices affecting Ahwaz and other areas of Iran.
The Tasnim News Agency, affiliated to the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), on Wednesday (June 15) quoted Iranian MP Jalal Kazemi who said, “We have to acknowledge that the domestic situation, especially in the realm of livelihoods and the economy is not befitting to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s status in the region and the world. The economic growth rate is very low, if not negative, while unemployment among the young, particularly the educated, is like a time bomb ticking down towards zero.”
Meanwhile, the MP for Al -Mohammareh, Abdullah Sameri, heavily criticized the systemic and racist expulsion of Ahwazi Arab workers from the state-owned marine company in the town of Al -Mohammareh, condemning the authorities’ unjustified and prejudiced policies towards Ahwazi Arabs in the region. Sameri said, “While we are in the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, instead of making a positive difference to the tables of the deprived people of Al-Mohammareh, the company has decided to get rid of 40 Ahwazi workers who are the main breadwinners for their families, leaving them to suffer from this dismissal.” The MP further condemned the Iranian oil minister, BijanZanganeh, for his ministry’s failure to invest in any way in the region to benefit the Ahwazi Arab peoples despite the fact that the oil and gas resources in Al-Ahwaz fuel 80 percent of the Iranian economy.
These latest incidents come not long after another Iranian oil refining company in Mahshor (also known as Mahshar) arbitrarily dismissed many Ahwazi Arab personnel for unknown reasons, replacing them with incomers from mostly Persian provinces of Iran. This move was made despite calls by local authorities and MPs for the state to review its discriminatory policies and halt discrimination against the indigenous Ahwazi Arab people, who face systematic oppression under Tehran’s hard-line theocratic regime.
Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi Arab freelance journalist based in the USA