My name is Khalil Albu-Hamadi. I am a 39-year-old man from Sableh village that is located 90 km away from the city of Ahwaz and nearby Khafajiyeh and Howeyzeh cities, I am married with 3 children, 2 boys, and a girl.
I worked on my father’s farm from young and we managed to live well, with food from the farm and water coming from the Karkheh River. I expected that I would continue to be able to sustain my family’s needs in this way, but, sadly, some years ago the water in the Karkheh dried up completely.
As we were no longer able to get water from the river for our farm animals, keeping them alive became very difficult. Even when we were able to locate a little dirty water, the government forbade us to use it. We tried to take water illegally, but the government penalised us with massive fines which we were unable to pay because we had had to give up our farming due to the lack of water.I tried to find a job in one of the government offices. I went to several offices in Khafajiyeh and Howeyzeh, but received no positive responses. I rode about 50 kilometers on my motorcycle every day for a month, to try and get work from an oil company situated in Hor Al-Azim wetland after being dried up for oil prospecting . It was winter and I sat by the door of the company every day. Hoping to find someone in charge who could make the decision to employ me. There were many other jobless young men there with me, also seeking work.
But, instead of employment, we faced cruel attacks in the yard of the company by the security guards. Despite this, I didn’t give up. One day, I noticed the oil company was employing workers from Izeh town that is predominately populated with Lur ethnic population, so I asked them how they had managed to get work. They answered, “By making a telephone call, but they don’t employ local Ahwazi Arab workers”.When I heard this from them, I became extremely angry and began to hit them. The police attacked and beaten me severely calling me with derogatory racist words such as Arab son of bitch, Arab animal and took me to the local jail. While there, I declared loudly “I will not let workers from other cities enter this company while we local Arab workers are jobless.” I did not know that my statements would profoundly affect the situation. After speaking with the company Persian bosses, they agreed to employ me.
Right now, I am working in the executive part of the company with extreme conditions where the suffocating temperature reaches more than 164 degrees. I and few Arab Ahwazi workers face heatstroke and extreme dehydration every 3 days, especially as we eat all our meals out in the sun while the Persian settlers and other employees serve their meals in rooms equipped with air-condition. The company makes no effort to protect my health, and the health of the other poor and desperate Arab workers. We survive on only 120 dollar per month.
The only thing that I understand about this whole situation is that those who control our region know no way to treat us that doesn’t include violence and oppression. Their outrageous ill-treatment to the Ahwazi Arabs seems to stem from ancient hatred. Even though we behave well to them, they treat us terribly. Perhaps we Ahwazis as oppressed people will have to fight with them more in order to achieve our stolen rights from these inhuman ruling officials who view us worthless human being.Now I’ve moved away from my village that once upon a time was green and verdant with many palm trees, but poverty and lack of jobs for local farmers, whose farmlands were destroyed after the rerouting of the Karkheh river [by the Iranian regime] left them with no water, not for drinking or for irrigating their lands.
Once there were 1000 households. When you enter the deserted village now, you hear only the sounds of the wind, and of the dry palm tree leaves missing the people that one day used to take care of them. You see the empty school that was once full of the sound of children and their laughter. Those people now moved to urban areas across Ahwaz where they now live lives of desperate poverty.The village which once could have been the most beautiful place for tourists to visit has died now, along with its people and their lands.