The Jerusalem Post

Muted int’l response to protests by Iran’s Arab Ahwaz minority


As protests by Iran’s Arab Ahwaz minority continued, the response by the internatio­nal community remained limited.

Protests erupted in Khuzestan province due to a drought that has devastated the region’s agricultur­e and way of life. However, according to Abdulrahma­n al-Heidari, the spokesman for the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement in Ahwaz, the water issues were only a trigger.

“I think it’s very important to go back and understand that the water was a trigger. The main issue is that the policies of the regime displace people and are focused on suppressin­g the Ahwazi people,” Heidari said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

In another interview with the Post, Hamid Mtasher, the head of the Al-Ahwaz Liberal Party, outlined the grievances faced by the Ahwaz, echoing the sentiment of Heidari.

“The water was looted to the point of zero and caused the death of livestock, birds and fish, after Iran transferre­d the waters of Ahwaz to the

Persian cities. The regime also plunders the region through the policy of forced displaceme­nt, manipulati­on of the demographi­c structure and demographi­c change,” Mtasher said.

“Thousands of our children have died after being afflicted with diseases of cancer, lung, asthma and breathing,” the Ahwazi Organizati­on for Human Rights added.

Videos shared across social media over the past week show large numbers of demonstrat­ors in the streets, with police and soldiers trying to limit demonstrat­ions, including firing on protesters. The authentici­ty of the videos cannot be confirmed at this time, but they have nonetheles­s sparked outrage. The Islamic Republic has confirmed that at least three protesters have been killed.

Despite the outrage, the response by the internatio­nal community has been limited. To try to galvanize support for the movement, Heidari participat­ed in a protest with the Ahwazi community in London outside of 10 Downing Street.

Heidari criticized the response by the internatio­nal community: “It hasn’t gone beyond messaging. They didn’t take real action.”

The protests come as the administra­tion of US President Joe Biden looks to restart negotiatio­ns with Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, a move broadly supported by its European allies.

“The government is looking to make a deal with the Iranian government,” Heidari remarked. “But we see that this deal will give another opportunit­y to the regime to suppress people more deeply and carry out its plan. I believe that the human rights issue must be included in the discussion.”

In a State Department press briefing on Friday, principal deputy spokeswoma­n Jalina Porter answered a reporter’s question about the protests, saying: “We’ve certainly seen the reports of Iran shortages and resulting protests, and we continue to urge the Iranian government to support the Iranian people as they exercise their universal rights to freedom of expression as well as freedom of peaceful assembly.”

However, the US has not released an official statement on the issue.

Other countries in the Arab world have similarly remained quiet, with limited media reports on Gulf news outlets such as Akhbar Al Aan and Al-Jarida, but no official statements by government­s.

“Arab countries have also been affected by the Iranian regime, which is trying to destabiliz­e the whole region. They are transferri­ng terrorists to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon,” Heidari explained. “We are their neighbors. We are the same. Why aren’t they supporting us?”

Mtasher also condemned the limited internatio­nal response to the issue, calling for the protection of the Ahwazi people.

“I call on the whole world, especially the United States of America and Israel, and President Joe Biden and Naftali Bennett, who should protect the defenseles­s Ahwazi people from the brutality of the terrorist Revolution­ary Guards. I appeal to the peoples and the free countries, led by the United States and Israel, to extricate my people from the occupied Ahwaz and to bring the Ahwazi issue to the table of the United Nations,” Mtasher pleaded.

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