Iran: Repressive Regime to Expand its Prisons in Ahwaz
The number of public hospitals has not increased, yet Iran's Al-Ahwaz region has seen a dramatic growth in numbers of patients diagnosed with various types of cancer linked to air and water pollution. Meanwhile, the situation in Ahwaz with regards to education and infrastructure is worse ever. Millions are on the verge of starvation due to the abject poverty that plagues most of Ahwaz's Arab families, who mostly live in shanty areas unemployed, deprived and systematically marginalised.
But instead of easing the many sufferings of Ahwazi Arabs, the repressive regime of Iran has now decided to expand its prisons and build new ones at an extortionate cost. This indicates the grim intentions of the Iranain regime toward Ahwazi Arab people; their top priority is building more prisons rather than schools and hospitals. According to a report from Ahwazi sources, the Iranian regime has begun constructing the new prison on 470 hectares of land in the north of Ahwaz – land which has been confiscated from Arab people.
The Iranian regime is currently detaining more Ahwazi Arab prisoners than ever before (14,000) and is now expanding its facilities to accommodate another 2,500. In fact, this prison has been created as a result of the excessive arbitrary arrests of Ahwazi Arabs and the resultant overcrowding of prisons. But more importantly, the regime is trying to separate the Ahwazi political prisoners from the non-political prisoners who are accused of robbery and possession and trafficking of arms and drugs. This is an attempt to prevent Ahwazi Arab political prisoners from influencing juvenile prisoners who have been victimised by the regime’s oppressive policies.
By holding interviews with prisoners who have been released and wish to remain anonymous, the Ahwazi Defence for Human Rights has found that ‘Ahwazi Arab prisoners, who are mostly juvenile, suffer from overcrowding, poor medical attention, malnutrition, dire sanitation and hygiene and miserable conditions. Some former prisoners complained that during their prison terms they never saw the light of day’.
Most Ahwazi Arab juvenile prisoners are either dead or still in jail by the time they turn 20. Forget about an education, a career, leisure activities; an Ahwazi Arab teenager has no desire to grow up when he finds life dismal and overcast by a dark future. Instead, he descends into the trap of narcotics to relieve his pain and to forget his chaotic, aimless life that is the inevitable product of Iranian regime policies.
There is a lot that needs to be said about the sufferings of Ahwazi Arab youths whose short lives end in either death or prison. Without question, there is a direct correlation between education and incarceration since many Ahwazi Arab students drop out from school in the fourth and fifth grades. This is because on one hand, their poor families are unable to afford school expenses and on the other hand, the Iranian education system compels Arab students to learn the Persian language, causing racial discrimination by Persian teachers against Arab students who struggle to speak in Persian instead of their native Arabic.
It is sad that this obvious connection between imprisonment and inadequate schooling can be seen in Ahwaz, yet the regime spend millions of dollars in building prisons to house more Arab prisoners. While prisons are increasingly overcrowded, far too many of our deprived public school districts have schools that are barely half full. The plan to expand prisons while schools and hospitals are run down and dilapidated, underfunded and falling apart, highlights the Iranian regime’s anti-democratic character; it has pursued policies of ethnic cleansing against Ahwazi Arabs for more than half a century.
Once upon a time, Ahwazi Arab people were able to live in their homeland peacefully and independently without external interference and with abundance of oil, water, crops, animals and many other resources under former ruler Sheikh Khazaal. But after Iran’s occupation, Ahwaz homeland has systematically been turned into a land of prisons by the subsequent Iranian chauvinist regime.
More than eight million Ahwazi Arabs have been denied equal rights by the State of Iran under the system of apartheid; a deliberate policy of racial or ethnic segregation. For years, the lack of reaction from the international community concerning the state of human rights in Ahwaz has given the Iranian regime an unlimited right over the life and death of entire communities. Ahwazi Arabs, as well as other non-Persian citizens, are victimised, locked up and looted because of their ethnicity.