Ayatollah Mohsen Haidari, in Iran’s Assembly of Experts has stated that residents of ten cities in the Al-Ahwaz region have been displaced due to economic problems. This is due to the harmful effects of war, and national projects such as the establishment of oil companies in the wetlands.
This is compounded by the denial of employment to local people in large industries and transferring water from the Ahwazi rivers—primarily the Karoon River—to the provinces of Isfahan and Kerman. These moves have caused the unemployment rate in the region to be higher than the national average.
Ayatollah Haidari also indicated that the devastating effects of the war were the main reasons for the growth of unemployment in the province. He added that 75% of the burden of war was on the people of Ahwaz, even though these people are still affected by the war nearly three decades later. Eight years of war have resulted in immense harm to the Ahwazi population, and thousands have lost their homes and are currently displaced.
He outlined that the implementation of national plans, like the establishment of oil companies in the wetlands and the expansion of the sugarcane industry, are exacerbating rising poverty rates in the province. This is because, unfortunately, it has caused 100 thousand acres of agricultural land to be forcibly confiscated from its local people and has expelled them entirely from their own lands. This has occurred despite the fact that few of the Arab population in the area were able to be hired in the sugarcane related jobs. The drying out of the wetlands by oil companies has harmed the livelihoods of many Arab inhabitants. The affected people of this projects are forced to migrate to the margins of cities without any support or job opportunities, leaving them to languish in abject poverty.
Other causes of unemployment in the Ahwaz region include denying the indigenous Arabs from employment in large industries, such as the petrochemical industry. For example, out of a total of 22 Petrochemical Companies in Mahshor city, there is not even one Ahwazi Arab Executive or Managing Director, as all the heads of these oils and gas industrial complexes are from other Iran provinces. This not only among senior managers but middle managers, as only 15 middle managers across the Mahshor Petrochemical Complex are indigenous to the Ahwaz region. Moreover, 70 percent of the company’s experts also non-indigenous, and indigenous people in the province’s share is a meager 30 percent. Even kitchen and service staff are often non-native workers, which further exacerbates the problem of unemployment for Arabs in the Ahwaz region.
Haidari also said that other factors which are worsening the unemployment rate include transferring water from the Karoon River to the other provinces. According to the approved bill of the Supreme Council regarding the country’s water, any water transferred from Karoon to other provinces (other than for drinking purposes) is prohibited. Additionally, we are now witnessing the implementation of projects such as fish farming and other industrial projects in which water from the Karoon River is transferred to other provinces.
These plans cause large-scale losses to agriculture and animal farming in the Ahwaz region. These are only some of the Ahwazi peoples’ miseries which must be heard and remedied. Haidari understands this, for he claimed that the war caused around 22 thousand Ahwazi deaths and, therefore, we must compensate them and stand by the side of these oppressed people. The question is, why is the unemployment rate in the Ahwaz region higher than the average national unemployment rate in the country? Is this truly a way to accommodate the population for its losses? Unfortunately, unless we address these questions, the economic problems in the region will only get worse.
Admitting such facts by the pro-regime figures can be counted as irrefutable evidences that the current regime is not much different with its previous monarchy system in its essence of racist outlook towards Ahwazi Arab people. Also, such confessions by influential elements of the regime in terms of the existence of racism, discrimination, prejudice, and injustice against Ahwazi Arabs, while they continue siding with the regime, would not exonerate them of the regime’s unjust criminal practices against this people even though they tactically condemned it.
All this is happening while the regime, which continues to make billions of dollars from the oil and gas extracted from the Al-Ahwaz region, is encouraging foreign oil companies to invest there – with any subsequent income benefiting the regime rather than the long-suffering Ahwazi Arab peoples, who subsist on an average income of 50 cents per day, far below the poverty threshold nationally or internationally. Instead of being used to help improve the lives of the Ahwazi people, the hundreds of billions of dollars in income from the oil and gas extracted in their region is instead used to benefit the regime and to help it further fund murderous and destabilising terrorist activities throughout the Middle East.