While protests continue to grow across the Arab Ahwazi region of Iran against the Iranian regime’s virulent anti-Arab racism and oppression, Arab workers at regime-owned sugarcane plantations and processing plants have been imprisoned for holding a demonstration to protest against being unpaid for over a year.
In the supposedly revolutionary regime’s usual inversion of reality, 20 of the workers at the state-owned Haft Tapeh sugarcane refinery firm who participated in the peaceful demonstration outside the office of the local governor in the city of Shush to call for resolution to their plight, which has left them on the brink of destitution, were summoned to the local magistrate court where they were arrested by regime security officers. The owners and management of the regime-backed sugarcane plantations and processing plants face no punishment for failing to pay their staff for over a year while, of course, paying themselves handsomely.
According to human rights activists in Ahwaz, the arrests followed a series of protests and demonstrations which began in January to demand action by the regime over the unpaid salaries, culminating in the aforementioned protest outside the Shush governor’s office. Although the management of the sugarcane processing refinery promised representatives of the workers union that the wages would be paid in the near future, instead the striking workers were brutalised and threatened, with the arrests being the latest effort to intimidate the staff into essentially working as slave labour for no pay.
The protesting workers, whose only ‘crime’ is to demand payment of their already low salaries withheld for over a year, have faced multiple cases of abuse by the regime, including physical and verbal assaults, forcible dispersal, harassment and threats by regime security personnel. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a son of one of the imprisoned workers said that after attending court to be charged with participating in the demonstration only to find that the court wasn’t even open, his father was abducted by a gang of plainclothes regime thugs well known locally as working for the regime’s Basiji militia. “My father has been feeling so exhausted and depressed by his employer’s responses,” the son said. “He felt ashamed that he can’t provide our basic living essentials. We don’t have any other source of income. We were told when the company bought our land [compulsory purchase orders are standard] that we would profit with tangible economic benefits, but we’ve been left in worse hardship. I’ve had to give up my studies and start looking for work to provide for the five-member family just to keep us alive.” A number of the detained Ahwazi workers have been identified as follows: Sayed Hassan Fazeli, Fouad Badawi, Sajed Al-Kathir, Hassan Al-Kathir, Mohammad Khannifar, Saeed Mansouri, Habib Chenani, Jassem Hamdani, Mahdi ta’ami, and “Chaseb Hamdani”.
The sugarcane-growing and refining project in Ahwaz, established by the former administration of Hashemi Rafsanjani, saw the regime forcibly confiscate vast areas of land from thousands of Ahwazi farmers and villagers to establish the plantations and refinieries. The project, which has been ruinously expensive and generated massive losses for the regime, as well as devastating the regional environment and ecosystem, is widely regarded across Ahwaz as a political tool used by the regime to dispossess more of the indigenous Ahwazi people and seize their lands.
Written by Rahim Hamid