Hundreds, if not thousands, of Ahwazi Arabs gathered in the capital city of Iran’s Khuzestan province for the ninth consecutive day to protest against the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) corporation after they allegedly omitted any mention of the Arab culture during a children’s show celebrating Iran’s “diversity” on Nowruz, or the Persian New Year.
In Iran, the station is known as Channel 2.
According to Al Arabiya English, “Iranian security forces violently confronted Arab Ahwaz citizens who continued to protest against the Iranian regime” and the “Regime forces used rubber bullets and tear gas bombs.”
Walid Neissi, an Ahwazi Arab researcher and former political prisoner, told al Arabiya English, “The Iranian government spends millions on intelligence strategies, what happened on that show was not an accident, it was studied thoroughly. It is ridiculous to think Iranians do not know that there are millions of Arabs living in Iran.”
The protesters saw this omission as an “insult” to Iran’s Arab citizens.
Protesters burnt the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran:
The fire in al-Thawra only seem to have infuriated people, not scare them. pic.twitter.com/A0HoMqHlqO
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) April 4, 2018
Others held up signs calling for the release of Ahwazi political prisoners:
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) April 2, 2018
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) March 31, 2018
#Iran: several thousand people gathered o the central market in the Arab city of #Ahwaz to protest against the Iranian regime and what they describe as "discriminating policies against the Arab people" pic.twitter.com/ZDc91J0HSL
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) March 29, 2018
The Channel 2 broadcast, which took place during a popular comedy show known as The Red Hat, reportedly showed a young child placing male and female dolls with traditional clothing from various ethnicities in Iran on a map of the nation. Missing from that display was an Ahwazi doll.
Unofficial estimates show there are anywhere between 5 million-8 million Ahwazis Arabs living in Iran. Their native language is Arabic and several Ahwazis have told Breitbart News that hundreds of Ahwazis are arrested and tortured by the Iranian regime for speaking Arabic, that they are not allowed to speak Arabic in schools, and that they are also prohibited from wearing traditional Ahwazi attire in the region.
An Ahwazi Arab victim of Iran’s regime wrote in Minority Voices:
Most publications in Arabic in Ahwaz are regularly banned and confiscated, and authors, translators, publishers, distributers, and even readers are punished by the state. In the recent years several cultural institutes e.g., Al-HiWar, the cultural institute, was banned and all its founders arrested and sentenced to death penalty under some vaguely-worded charges. This cultural institute despite the severe restriction on its cultural activism was striving to revive the Arabic language among the young generation by holding some educational, cultural programs.
On Friday, during prayers in Ahwaz, prayer leader Abolhassan Hassanzadeh said, “Although the Arabs of Khouzestan were rightly annoyed by state TV’s behavior, they should watch out for the enemy’s sedition and conspiracies.”
Hassanzadeh reportedly said the behavior that offended the ethnic Arabs “was not a deliberate act.”
According to Bas News:
The people of Ahwaz, formerly an independent Arab emirate which was annexed by Iran in 1925, have consistently been subjected to horrific bigotry by successive regimes; despite the fact that the region holds over 95 percent of the oil and gas reserves claimed by the Iranian regime, none of the wealth from the people’s natural resources is reinvested in Ahwaz itself, with its people living in conditions of medieval poverty.
Shahin Gobadi, who serves on the foreign affairs committee for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), reported that “Major anti-regime protests broke out in several parts of Ahvaz (southwest Iran), including in Shelangabad District on Tuesday evening, according to MEK network inside the country. People chanted, “Our brothers were taken away from us.”
The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is a wing of the NCRI that initially supported the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi but rapidly became a vocal opponent of the Islamic regime. The United States branded the group a designated terrorist organization in 1997 but removed it from its State Department terrorist designations in 2012. The group is credited with revealing the Iranian nuclear program.
Gobadi added, “Clashes with security forces were reported. Security forces fired at the protesters in Koye-Alavi neighborhood. A car of security forces was put on fire in the skirmishes.”
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) March 30, 2018
On Monday night, a massive fire erupted in a cafe in the al-Thawra district of Ahwaz, which has reportedly been a stronghold of the protest movement, leaving at least ten Ahwazis dead. Local activists reportedly blamed the Iranian regime for the fire.
Warning: Graphic Image
Local activists blame the Iranian Iranian regime for the fire meaning the situation will surely escalate in the coming days. pic.twitter.com/K18YIBJ9et
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) April 3, 2018
Al Arabiya English reported that, in 2014, a document titled “Comprehensive Security Plan of Action for Khuzestan Province” was leaked from the Iranian government that placed an emphasis on “changing the demographic composition of Arab region in Iran, acknowledging discrimination based on ethnicity,” carrying out “crackdown of Ahwaz Arab activists,” and “banning gatherings and protests” by Ahwazis.
Al Arabiya wrote, “The authenticity of this document has never denied by Iranian officials.”