19 August 2021

TRENDS Research and Advisory issued a research paper titled “Al-Ahwaz between Thirst and Revolution: Will Iranian Repression Stop?” which sheds light on the developments taking place in Al-Ahwaz and their political dimensions, and explores the consequences of the thirst protests and the Iranian displacement policies which have been in place throughout the last three decades.

The paper points out the Iranian society faces intractable crises cause by the regime’s religious fascist policies and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It explains that Al-Ahwaz, lying at the head of the Arabian Gulf, is one of the major oil production areas in Iran and inhabited by a large Arab minority, compared to other minorities who suffer marginalization. The Pahlavi dynasty’s rule (1925-1979) opened the door for labor and non-labor migration – both regular and planned- to the kingdom of Arabistan, which was changed into a province and renamed Khuzestan.

The study says Tehran has deliberately sought to weaken the Ahwazi Arabs because of the strategic and economic importance of their area, and that the Iranian regime runs programs to encourage Persians and other non-Arabs to move to Al-Ahwaz in order to change its demographic composition. It also confirms that Iran has pursued displacement and thirst policies to force the Arabs out of their lands so that the Iranian regime could take them over.

The study explains that the ongoing thirst uprising in Al-Ahwaz shows undeniable nationalistic dimensions, as reflected by the chants and slogans raised in the protests.

Geographically, as the study indicates, Al-Ahwaz is located southeast of Iraq and constitutes the northeastern part of the Arab world. It is lying at the head and east of the Arabian Gulf, and Shatt Al-Arab on its southern borders. It is an Arab region, with its population of more than five million still maintaining national, social and cultural ties with other Arab countries and peoples. Al-Ahwaz is also the link between Iran and its neighbouring Arab countries, and its Arab inhabitants are one of least integrated ethnic minority in Iran. This requires more focus on strengthening relations with its Arab people.

The study mentions that Tehran has recruited sectarian militias from among its provincial arms in the area, including the Popular Mobilization Forces and the Lebanese Hizbullah, to quell the protests in Al-Ahwaz. It notes that the failure of Tehran to provide the necessary life needs in Al-Ahwaz is weighing heavily on the economic, security and political situation there, and also reveals the inability of Iran, which is plagued by corruption, to build real institutions that could lead the development process, fight poverty and respect citizens.

The research paper, prepared by TRENDS Research and Advisory, says the ongoing protests in Al-Ahwaz have erupted at a time when the American and Iranian sides are seeking to resume negotiations on the nuclear deal. It expects the Iranian regime to deal the protest quietly and resort to pacification at this specific stage.

The study also expects the Iranian regime to control the Ahwazi anger, but these protests could be a national revolution in which non-Persian citizens join hands with the “thirst uprising” in Al-Ahwaz, which has so far left many Ahwazi casualties and detainees as the militias of the Revolutionary Guard Corps target the peaceful protestors. The study suggests that the Iranian regime will militarize the protests and use them as an excuse for killing, suppression and illegal arrests, given the widespread violations committed by the Iranian authorities against the Ahwazi people.

The study concludes that the events in Al-Ahwaz require a careful reading that links between Iran and what is taking place in the region. The story of Al-Ahwaz is a story of a people living in a conflict between sect and ethnic identity under a religious fascist regime that denies the rights of non-Persian peoples. The situation in Al-Ahwaz is vulnerable at a time when tensions escalate across the Middle East. Therefore, any false signal or misinterpretation of an event could set the whole region on fire.