AODHR holds key event during the Human Rights Council’s 39th Session

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27 Sep 2018

On 21st September 2018, the Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights held an event at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in collaboration with the Arab Organization for Human Rights. The talks focused on the situation of human rights in Ahwaz, covering different aspects of the violations perpetrated against Ahwazi children, women and men. The meeting shed light on the deterioration on the environmental arena caused by discriminatory policies of the Iranian state in the region of Ahwaz.

At the meeting, Mr Nabil Abdelhafiz, Representative of the Human Rights Ministry in Yemen, provided an overview with regard to the location and the resources of Ahwazi land and its significant income which makes up more that 80 percent of the total income for the Iranian state. Mr Nabil explained that the Iranian state is limiting access to education and health facilities to Ahwazis. It is also destroying the natural environment in order to bar Ahwazis from getting to their human capacities though which the existing situation can change.

On the other hand, Mr Alaa Shalabi, Secretary-General of the Arab Organization for Human Rights spoke about the right to self-determination for Ahwazi people. He added this right should be recognised by the international community. He also noted that Ahwazis face double oppression by the Iranian government for being a minority and Arabs at the same time. In addition, there is lack of enough attention and support from international community and Arab world towards the widespread discrimination against Ahwazi people.

Mr Shalabi went on to say that we are facing horrendous crimes carried out against Ahwazis. These crimes include the violation of the right to life. The large number of executions upheld against activists without providing fair trials to those victims in accordance with international standards is a proof for this. Accordingly, the fundamental rights such as prevention of torture, security of person and the right to life must not be violated under any circumstances whatsoever.

In addition, Mr Shalabi emphasised that various civil rights including the right to speech, peaceful assembly and protest are pivotal. And Iranian regime should not prevent the Ahwazis from enjoying these rights. He stated further that we are speaking about the worst kind of demographic change, forced displacement and mass exodus, including the diversion of rivers’ water to flourish different provinces in Iran and destroying the environmental assets of Ahwazi land. However, the region is rich in terms of oil and gas, its people suffer from intentional marginalization that has prompted Arabs to flee their homeland in search for safe heaven and to live in human dignity.

To continue, Mr Hakim Al-Kabi (Chohbishat) the head of Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights reiterated in his speech that international law guarantees all rights and freedoms to everyone regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion and other variations. Mr Al-Kabi added that rights are interdependent and cannot be divided. For instance, one cannot assume protecting the human without protecting the environment which he depends on for living.

Mr Al-Kabi explained that the Iranian racist policies have caused enormous damage to the environment, water and agricultural land in Ahwaz, forcing local farmers to leave their home to live on the outskirts of big cities. He went on to say that the projects of building dams and diverting Ahwazi water to central areas in the country, are part of the general systematic policy pursued by the Iranian state to change the demographic makeup of Ahwaz in favour of non-Arabs coming from different parts of Iran to settle in Ahwaz.

Mr Al-Kabi broached, during his speech, on poverty and discrimination in distribution of resources, the lack of enough facilities and services in towns and villages, arbitrary detentions, and the increasing diseases such as cancer in Ahwaz due to the air pollution and environmental crisis caused by the state policy. In the end, Mr Al-Kabi urged international community to rise to the occasion and protect Ahwazi people from arbitrary arrests and to put pressure on the Iranian regime to respect the right of Ahwazis to access to water and sanitation.

On the other hand, Mrs Shaima Habib, a member of the Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights, spoke about the violation of the rights of Ahwazi women and children. She said that gender inequality is one of the big issues in Iran in general and in Ahwaz in particular. She noted that the law in Iran does not provide protection for Ahwazi women. It rather discriminates against them when it comes to access to education and job opportunities, leaving Ahwazi women at the lower level of the socio-economic hierarchy. Mrs Shaima provided examples regarding the abuse and torture of Ahwazi female detainees including Fahimeh Badawi and Maryam Zobaidi in the Iranian Intelligence’s detention centres.

Mrs Shaima further added that Ahwazi children are denied access to education and learning their native Arabic language. The forms of discrimination have contributed to the rise of the schools drop-outs and illiteracy rate among Ahwazi children. She continued that the child labour has a commonplace in Ahwaz since Arab families are struggling to find jobs. Therefore, children are supporting their families. Also, there is a lack of adequate facilities in schools. A large number of classes are dangerous for students to study there and susceptible to collapse.

She went on to say that Ahwazi children face ‘arrests, detention, imprisonment, killing, torture and execution of members of such groups by law enforcement and judicial authorities.’ She emphasised the need to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Iran. Mrs Shaima recommended that Iran must ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and its Protocols and to respect the rights of women in Ahwaz.

Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights

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