Final month, human rights organizations and plenty of nationwide legislatures commemorated the anniversary of the November 2019 protests in Iran and the crackdown that adopted. The regime’s response included the homicide of greater than 130 Ahwazi Arabs.

Iran’s ethnic minorities endure double discrimination — from the ruling regime and from the Iranian human rights group. Whereas the regime and human rights organizations each at residence and overseas disagree on many points, they share a disdain for Iran’s ethnic minorities, unwilling to see them acquire nationwide rights. Thus, the federal government and its mainstream opposition share a typical trigger that strengthens the regime’s capability to remain in energy and stop democracy from taking root in Iran.

Repression Is No Longer Sufficient to Stem the Anger of Iran’s Minorities


Iran’s ethnic minorities endure excessive discrimination past the restrictions imposed on all Iranians. They aren’t allowed to function faculties of their native language, are pressured to make use of Persian in all formal settings, and are usually subjected to mockery and mock within the official media and faculty textbooks. Ahwazi Arabs face state-sponsored suppression of any expression of their ethnic id and tradition in addition to open anti-Arab racism.

Ahwazi Arabs, who quantity round 8 million, endure from water shortages, environmental degradation, discrimination in employment, and excessive charges of poverty regardless of being the bulk inhabitants within the oil and gas-rich Khuzestan province. The Persian ruling class reaps the earnings from these plentiful pure sources whereas the native Ahwazi individuals endure the well being implications and air pollution from their manufacturing.

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Shared Prejudice

Regardless of being formally dedicated to advancing democracy, Iranian human rights organizations share the regime’s prejudices and racism. These organizations not often report on the distinct discrimination towards Iran’s ethnic minorities, the precise targets of Ahwazi Arab protests or the political prisoners who’ve campaigned for the rights of ethnic minorities.

For example, when itemizing the names of activists who’ve been kidnapped from their Western exiles by Iranian operatives, they neglect to say Habib Chaab, an Ahwazi activist and Swedish citizen kidnapped by the regime in Istanbul. Chaab is being held in Tehran’s infamous Evin Jail and is in imminent hazard of execution.

I personally have skilled this double discrimination. As an Ahwazi Arab human rights activist, I used to be jailed and tortured nearly to dying for supporting the fitting of Ahwazi youngsters in Iran to study their native language, Arabic. I used to be fortunate to flee and settle within the US in 2015. My fellow activists Hashem Shabani and Hadi Rashedi weren’t so fortunate — they had been executed in 2014. The bodily scars from that torture, which run from my sternum to my groin, won’t ever depart me. Even after a number of operations, I can be on remedy for the remainder of my life.

But regardless of all of the out there proof, I used to be shocked to find that the Persian-dominated human rights organizations within the US opposed recognizing the rights of the Ahwazis and different minorities, co-opted our struggles and blocked reporting on our plight.

Social Media Wars

With Iran’s regime imposing a complete media blackout on the Ahwazi concern, social media stays the one choice for activists to boost consciousness. However even right here activists face fixed abuse and threats not solely from the regime, which deploys trolls and bots to mass-report activists’ accounts in an effort to close them down, but additionally from Farsi-speaking Iranian dissidents. At one level, I had three Twitter bans in beneath 20 days. 

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On account of this media struggle, most individuals within the West should not conscious of Iran’s ethnic variety, the place Turkish, Ahwazi Arabs, Balochi, Kurdish and Caspian minorities account for almost 40% of Iran’s inhabitants. Most Iranian human rights organizations in exile give attention to abuses towards Persian dissidents whereas barely giving any protection to the systemic racism towards the ethnic minorities.

When our younger males die for his or her rights within the streets of Ahwaz, the Persian-dominated teams report on these protests as anti-regime exercise, deliberately disregarding the ethnic issue. This was the case within the widespread November 2019 protests and the latest wave of demonstrations this July, which had been led by Ahwazi youth. Such co-opting of our activism provides insult to the harm of the courageous sacrifices made by our younger individuals.

Refused Recognition

The nation’s Persian opposition is reluctant to acknowledge that Iran is a basically numerous nation and that its individuals have each a nationwide id and native sovereign claims. These Persian opposition teams have succumbed to the concept offering assist to the Ahwazi trigger and recognizing its ethnic calls for is a prelude to secessionism. As an alternative, they proceed to show a blind eye to the calls for of ethnic minorities in their very own areas with the intention to promote one nation, one centralized rule, one tradition and one language — all Persian.

With this denial by Persian oppositions teams each at residence and in exile, and with the regime persevering with its brutally repressive, restrictive and racist rule, the end result of subjugating the nation’s ethnic minorities and disregarding their rights is predictable. The civil struggle that ravaged former Yugoslavia serves as a horrible warning of how states can fracture alongside ethnic strains. 

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To avert such a disaster, Iran should abandon its antiquated supremacist mindset and acknowledge its non-Persian minorities as equal stakeholders and companions who kind an influence base in their very own proper. The creation of a federalized democratic system would defuse tensions and imply the potential of a good, genuinely progressive, fashionable state.

Even with out its regressive theocratic basis, the present supremacist system in Iran is an insufficient and outdated relic reflecting a mindset primarily based on 19th-century colonialism. In actuality, the Iranian state is a patchwork of ethnicities, faiths and doctrines. Consequently, Iran can select between creating a good, steady, democratic and progressive 21st-century state — which displays this vibrant and numerous melting pot the place every group can elect its representatives to share in an equal, truthful and federalized system — and collapsing into factionalism and civil struggle.

This double oppression to which Ahwazis and different ethnic minorities are subjected and the refusal of the Persian Iranian opposition in exile to even acknowledge each the regime’s or its personal deep-seated antagonism towards Ahwazis and different ethnic minorities finally solely advantages the regime, which might simply thwart a splintered opposition. In the long run, we will solely dismantle oppression in Iran — and globally — via unity and mutual respect.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Truthful Observer’s editorial coverage.