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Iranian regime forces free to ‘fire at will’ to kill the innocent and terrorise Ahwazis into silence

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A young Ahwazi farmer from Susa city named Fallah Soleimani was shot dead by Iranian regime security forces at around dawn on Wednesday, 17 May, while he was on his way to tend to the small plot of land where he grew crops to help his impoverished family.

Soleimani was unarmed and apparently targeted simply for his Arab ethnicity. Such racially motivated killings by regime forces of unarmed civilians in the predominantly Arab Ahwaz region of south and southwestern Iran are routine; six days before, on 15 May, an Ahwazi fisherman, Mahdi Mattori from Abadan city, was shot dead in the Shatt Al-Arab waterway while he was trying to catch fish there with fellow fishermen.

According to eyewitnesses, the attackers were led by a notorious soldier from Iran’s so-called Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), named only as Mombaini who ordered his troops to open fire at the unarmed man.

A few weeks before that, on Monday, 24 April, the Iranian regime’s forces killed another unarmed young Ahwazi man named Farhan Al-Kaabi, storming his family’s home in the Shuaibieh district of Tester(Shushter) city in a raid whose reason is still unknown while Farhan and his family were dressing in their new outfits to celebrate Eid Fitr.

The previous day, other regime troops shot and killed another young Ahwazi man, Aref Sharifi, a fruit vendor, in Mashour city, as he rode his motorbike to visit friends nearby for an Eid party. The regime forces opened fire on him, knowing he was unarmed, without warning or provocation as he rode past a checkpoint erected during the Eid period, apparently simply to mar the festivities for the local people. None of the victims’ families expects any justice for their loved ones’ deaths, with the regime’s standard reaction to any complaints about such extrajudicial killings being to punish the complainant.

 The faces of four more Ahwazi young men who fell victim of Iranian regime murder.
The faces of four more Ahwazi Arab young men who fell victim to Iranian regime forces murder.

These extrajudicial murders are legitimised by invocation of the regime’s ‘fire-at-will policy, introduced by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which allows regime troops to open fire on anyone who they believe to be an “enemy of the state”; in practice, this is simply a quasi-legal figleaf to justify any killing by regime forces who target Ahwazis randomly, indiscriminately and routinely as a means of maintaining a constant state of fearful submission. The more probable regime reaction to soldiers who frequently carry out such attacks is to promote the killers.

The ‘fire at will’ policy is yet another expression of the regime’s racist contempt for Ahwazi Arabs, who are routinely depicted as violent extremists and a dangerous security threat on the basis of their Arab ethnicity, with anti-Arab racism and bigotry against other non-Persian minorities being deeply ingrained in Persian-Iranian society and unofficially encouraged by successive regimes as a way of both fracturing political opposition on ethnic lines and providing a scapegoat to divert attention from the regime’s vast corruption.

Abdulrahman Hetteh, PhD in international law and human rights field based in London, commented: “The unlawful killing of civilians in Ahwaz shows the weakness of the repressive Iranian regime and its desperation and losing grip on power. The Iranian policy of shot to kill or fire at will is a failed attempt to terrorise and instil fear among the Ahwazi people. Furthermore, Iran’s securitisation of the Ahwaz region and reducing the Ahwazi people to a target for the police and security forces with no accountability demonstrate a new form of the internal colonisation of Ahwaz by the Iranian state to reduce Ahwazis to second-class citizens not worthy of protection by the law or equal treatment and only to exploit their abundant natural resources such oil, gas, and water.”

The Iranian regime views its borderland non-Persian peoples like the Ahwazi Arabs as inherently possessing conspiratorial and sabotaging tendencies. Therefore, their lives are effectively placed outside the state’s laws, and the state can suspend all ethical norms and justice by treating these long-mistreated and oppressed people as if they are not citizens entitled to full rights.

Ahwaz is a region where the Ahwazi Arabs are stripped of all legal, political, and economic protections and even the fundamental right to life itself. Their bodies have become a battleground for the legitimacy of the Iranian-Persian sovereign’s rule. They have become a manifest example of ‘bare life’, as embodied by the state forces’ daily slaughter of young Ahwazi Arabs. A daily carnage in bright daylight with no consequences renders Ahwaz a manifest example of a securitised and militarised space, subject to the Iranian state forces ‘firing at will’.

Unfortunately, this unofficial encouragement of ethno-supremacism has been extremely successful in its objectives, with the Persian-Iranian opposition being as prone to this racist anti-Arab worldview as their regime peers; this means that the regime’s killings of Ahwazis, whether political dissidents or simply ordinary people going about their everyday lives, are generally tacitly supported and, even when they’re not supported, the crimes against them a very small amount of begrudging coverage in opposition media, with the victims routinely described dismissively as insurgents, troublemaking separatists, or some similar epithet.

For Iran’s leaders, Ahwazis’ land and resources, especially the oil and gas (over 95% of these resources in Iran are found in Ahwaz) that keep the regime economy afloat, are categorised as precious and essential, along with their freshwater supply, which accounts for most of Iran’s freshwater supply originating in Ahwaz. Only the local Ahwazi people whose lands and resources are being plundered are viewed as an expendable nuisance to be silenced, suppressed and driven out.

Iran’s regime, like its predecessor, depicts Ahwazi Arabs and other people living in the ethnic minority regions on Iran’s borders (i.e. in the territories it seized control of) as being conspirators constantly plotting to undermine Iran, essentially anti-Persian “enemies within,” and thus not subject to the usual ethical norms and rules of justice. This grotesque misrepresentation has enabled the regime to dehumanise and silence the Ahwazi people, stripping them of their fundamental legal and political rights and denying them all other rights, often including even the right to life itself. As a result, Ahwazis have become an example of a people barely acknowledged as human, subject to endemic discrimination, violent persecution, and injustice as a norm rather than an exception, ethnically cleansed, jailed, tortured, killed or ‘disappeared’ casually in open sight in a daily basis with barely a shrug from the world. Ahwaz is an open-air prison, a manifest example of a ‘securitised and colonised region’ brutally controlled by the Iranian Iregime forces who are given carte blanche to fire and kill at will.

 

Rahim Hamid 

Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi author, freelance journalist and human rights advocate. Hamid tweets under @Samireza42

 

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