People in the city of Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan that is one the wealthiest provinces when it comes to oil and natural gas in Iran, have been protesting for days over the unbearable pollution, power failures, and unemployment.
Last year, Ahvaz was ranked the most polluted city in the world by the World Health Organization. Ahvazis are plagued with severe socioeconomic deprivation. It also worth noting that nearly 90 percent of Iran’s total oil exports originates from Ahvaz.
Omar, an Ahvazi teacher pointed out that “ the Iranian government only needs our oil, they are pumping oil as fast as they can, and has turned the city into a dirty factory with no attention to lives of the children, men and women. We are not considered human beings”.
Instead of addressing the concerns of the Ahvazi residents, the Iranian police have called the protests illegal. Iran’s Persian newspaper, Aftab, quoted the head of the Islamic Republic’s Judiciary pointing out that “Natural catastrophes should not be a basis for political unrest against the government”. However, it is a scientifically well-known fact that Ahvaz problems are not “natural”. Some reasons behind Ahvaz pollution and poverty are excessive emissions of pollutants from oil factories, economic mismanagement, corruption, the unwillingness of the Iranian politicians to spend money and resources in Ahvaz to upgrade its infrastructure and create jobs, the infinitesimal budget allocated to the large city of Ahvaz, the disregard for the air safety related to the oil refineries, along with the toxic runoff from the oil factories and mines into the water. But, more importantly, the underlying reasons are geopolitical, ethnic, and sectarian. Their basic human rights and freedoms are suppressed. Many Ahvazis have been regularly arrested, imprisoned, and executed for simply expressing their views. The arrests have included children according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Despite the promises made to the Arab population of Ahvaz in order to obtain their vote, President Rouhani has not taken concrete steps to address their grievances in the last four years. It appears that across Iran’s political spectrum, including the hardliners and moderates, there is a consensus to disregard the grievances of the Ahvaz Arab population and to treat them as second class citizens or outsiders. Khuzestan and Ahvaz are being viewed from the prism of oil, wealth and money rather than from the human dimension.
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Harvard-educated, Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a businessman, an American political scientist, president of the International American Council on the Middle East, and best-selling author. He serves on the advisory board of Harvard International Review.
Dr. Rafizadeh is frequently invited to brief governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as speak, as a featured speaker, at security, business, diplomatic, and social events. He has been recipient of several fellowships and scholarships including from Oxford University, Annenberg, University of California Santa Barbara, Fulbright program, to name few He is regularly quoted and invited to speak on national and international outlets including CNN, BBC World TV and Radio, ABC, Aljazeera English, Fox News, CTV, RT, CCTV America, Skynews, CTV, and France 24 International, to name a few. . He analyses have appeared on academic and non-academic publications including New York Times International, Los Angeles Times, CNN, Farred zakaria GPS, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, The Nation, The National. Aljazeera, The Daily Beast, The Nation, Jerusalem Post, The Economic Times, USA Today Yale Journal of International Affairs, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, and Harvard International Review. He is a board member of several significant and influential international and governmental institutions, and he is native speaker of couple of languages including Persian, English, and Arabic. He also speaks Dari, and can converse in French, Hebrew. More at Harvard.
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