On a road leading to one of the biggest petrochemical complexes of Ma’ashor port in Ahwaz region which is one of the biggest in Middle East, we came cross with two Ahwazi Arab young men who were standing on the side of road selling small barrels of gasoline.
As we approached them to have an interview about the economic and employment situation of Ahwazi Arab people, one of them with sarcastic and painful smile pointed to the few of small barrels which were around him and said they are his only portion of the underground ocean of petrol and gas which is being extracted of his occupied homeland.
He says his name is Foad; few months ago he was working as a guard in one of the petrochemical complexes but along with massive number of other Ahwazi Arab labors was expelled from his job.
He talks bitterly and nervously of the oppression which targeted him as an Ahwazi Arab and somehow tries to open up his heart to convey his sufferings caused by poverty due to expulsion of his job that led him and many other Ahwazi Arabs to the brink of addiction to drugs, failure, destruction of his family as a result of ongoing rise of prices in shopping, renting and housing and his troubles with buying and selling of gasoline.
His friend who also was there said that his name is Ali, 27 years old, holds BA in chemistry and being out of job since he graduated from university. As his eyes were shining with tears rolling down on his face said I gave up from seeking and applying for job .Because, I have applied for job for more than twenty times if it is not exaggerated but it was useless. He added that when he went to job interviews, the Persian mangers that in charge of employment after fake greetings with him had begun to assess his qualification of whether being employing or not. But in fact, they do not ask him about his professional ability, they ask him these prejudice and biased questions; which ethnicity are you come from? What is your mother language? Are you Shia or Sunni? Have you ever been in prison? In addition to many other irrelative questions which my mind went blank, cannot remember them right now, he said. At the end, they would say you can go and look forward for our call but up to now I have not received any call or response from none of them, he said.
His last words were bitter complaint of injustice and oppression as he put it like this; “I am not beggar, I am not looking for charity, I do not need the money of oil but I need a job that I can rely on it at least for a few years to have a comfortable life .”So personally do you think it is a difficult demand to be met by government for me as an Ahwazi Arab whose land is the most fertile and richest one in Middle East”? In return, I had no answer for his question but I could just leave him alone and unanswered with his small barrels under the scorching sun of Ahwaz.
What are official figures say about the unemployment rate in Ahwaz region?
Ahwaz region with 8 million people holds huge natural resources of oil, gas and there is also giant industry of petrochemical and steel complexes and has the largest port of oil-trade –economy in Middle East as well as existence of the historical monuments, nature and the four seasons made it to be one of the most attractive and fertile plains with full of water resources of rivers which heading toward the maritime borders of Shat al- Arab and Arabian Gulf which for these reasons it was named the richest region. However, its indigenous Arab people live in severe economic condition due to the exclusion policies of regime.
The issue of unemployment in Ahwaz region is one of the controversial and challenging issues that has ever been existed raising important question that why despite all the natural resources and existing various kinds of industrial companies, the unemployment rate of Ahwazi Arab people in Ahwaz region in comparison with other Iran ‘provinces is still the worst ever? This question is always faced with different and contradictory answers by the regime ‘authorities making it hard to measure the real scale of unemployment in Ahwaz where on one side, the senior regime officials citing that according to data which have been collected by the survey center of Iran demonstrating that the unemployment rate in Ahwaz is hovering between 12 to 13 percent but one the other side, the local official figures of Ahwaz announced different statistics regarding the unemployment status of Ahwaz.
But in general both sides mutually have been failed to determine the real extent and nature of the problem due to the absence of obvious and precise answers for the following questions which have been hidden under the carpet or evaded without relying on standard criteria for counting the jobless people thus for addressing the issue of unemployment it requires information that how many Ahwazi Arab people are unemployed? How did they become unemployed? How long have they been unemployed? Are their numbers are growing or declining? Are they men or women? Are they young or old? How much education do they have? Are they concentrated in one particular area of Ahwaz region? Finding the real answers of these questions along with other economic data can produce statistics to measure the joblessness rate in Ahwaz region and those who are seriously affected by it.
Sharif Hosseini, one of Ahwaz representative in Iranian parliament, in an interview with Moj News Agency on the high unemployment rate in Ahwaz region and its causes said that now according to available statistics averagely it is estimated that unemployment rate is higher than 25 percent.
He added it is totally conflicting and incorrect data released by the survey center of Iran which declared the rate of unemployment in Ahwaz region is only 12 percent but we strongly reject the governmental statistics.
In relation with the local statistics he stated that our data which were gathered from the ministries of labor statistics of Ahwazi cities demonstrating that the percentage of unemployment rate between ages of 15 to 29 is 30 percent. But the statistics on average are more than 25 percent in entire Ahwaz region.
The sharp increases of unemployment rate in Ahwaz region can be attributed to four major reasons which have systematically been carried out by the Iranian government. These reasons are first, recruiting non-Arab labor forces coming from central Persian regions which have resulted in occupying the job opportunities of Ahwazi Arabs where the officials allegedly discriminate against Ahwaz Arabs by paying top priority to Persian labor forces for being employed rather than the local Arab labor forces.
The second reason is granting most of economic projects in Ahwaz region to Persian contactors who have strong connection with Persian officials who also occupied all major positions in Ahwazi cities, the Persian contractors after taking the economic projects call on their own Persian people to come to work in the projects but they deny the local Ahwazi Arab applicants for job for being employed and eventually deprive them of job opportunities by making flimsy excuses. Third, we have seen that the fiscal budget which has been allocated in the job fields of Ahwaz region has been exploited and then being transferred systematically for boosting the prosperity of other parts of Iran by the Persian contractors, labors and traders. In the other hand, handing over the economic projects to Ahwazi Arab native contractors would cause a great profit such as the circulation of money which certainly leads to an economic boom of Ahwaz region but all we have noticed is bringing not only non-native contractors to the region but also recruiting double Persian labor forces from those who are settled systematically in Ahwazi cities or encouraging Persian people to arrive from their own region to Ahwaz so as to seize on the whole job opportunities while the Ahwazi Arab labor remained handcuffed and deprived from job and if they raise their voices as a sign of protest against the utter injustices, they would be cracked down and libeled with baseless and vague charges of acting against national security , waging war against God where such a charges always have been proved to carry death penalty or cruel prison sentences by the Iran judicial system.
The forth reason is the surge expulsion of Ahwazi Arab workers as in the recent days Ahwaz region has seen massive expulsion of Arab workers in most cities of Al-Mohamerah, Abadan, and Susa.
According to Jonoub press News Agency, hundreds of Ahwazi Arab workers from Susa city have been expelled from two Paper Manufacture Companies in Shushtar city. While the Ahwazi Arabs suffer from high unemployment ratio due to the growing proportion of employment of Persian settlers who came to region systematically by regime, the Paper Manufacture Company has expelled the Arab workers under the pretext that they are not from Shushtar city and then has replaced them with Persian settlers who arrived and settled systematically in Shushtar city in the past few years to change the demographic composition of this well-known Arabic ancient city.
In the wake of the dismissal of Arab workers, chief executive officer(CEO) of the two Paper Manufacture Companies said that the decision for expelling Arab workers came after the Shushtar Governor protested against recruiting of Arab workers of Susa city whereas Shushtar Persian settlers must enjoy top priority for being employed in the aforesaid companies.
This massive expulsion has sparked widespread rage among Arab workers because it is not an accidental issue. But rather, it reveals the unabated flames of racial discrimination polices against Ahwazi Arab people by the occupier regime. Granting job priority to Persian settlers while most of Ahwazi Arab people are unemployed and live in a state of extreme poverty has inflicted irreparable impacts socially and economically on Ahwazi Arab people that has made it very difficult to comprehend the sufferings and the level of poverty of this occupied nation. The job expulsion is not the only issue of Ahwazi Arab workers but also they suffer from long-term non-payment of wages and severe restriction of labor rights in workplace occupied by Persians settlers who treat Arab workers as slave not more.
In fact, the regime exclusion policies aimed to enforce the Ahwazi Arabs to evacuate their homeland and leave it for the systematic migratory waves of Persian settlers.
In a related development, Abdullah Sameri, a member of parliament representing the Arab populated city of Al-Mohamerah, critically stated that” Companies operating in the oil and Customs and port sectors have dismissed Arab workers and replaced them with Persian settlers who came from Central areas of Iran to this region”.
He added that “the directors and presidents of those companies and organizations do not care about the living condition of local people of Al-Mohamerah city at all and when we follow up the matter and inquire the officials about the reasons of dismissing of Arab workers as always they would reply”: “We’ll later employ them in other companies”.
He also admitted that” on one side, these aforesaid companies expel the Ahwazi Arab workers and on the other side, they spend huge financial expenditures for constructing well-equipped dormitories as accommodation incentive for housing Persian settlers.
He said that the money which was being spent on construction of these exclusive dormitories must have given to those Ahwazi Arab workers who have not received their wages for months and were expelled from their jobs despite their long non-payment wages.”
In the past few months, Ahwazi Arab labor class from different cities who have not received their paychecks and pensions for the past year, have staged a gathering in Ahwaz Naderi Street demanding their delayed paychecks. It has been months since their demands have gone unnoticed and they were being forced to work under threats of immediate expulsion.
On Sunday, March 16th, Workers of the Khoramshahr (Mohamerah) Soap Factory staged a gathering outside the company protesting not receiving their demands which have been delayed for the past two years.
In the few months ago, a group of Khoramshahr (Mohamerah) Pipe Factory workers also gathered outside the regime’s Labor Department in this city protesting their delayed paychecks. A group of Ahwaz Pipe Factory workers, along with their representatives staged yet another gathering outside the mullahs’ public prosecutor’s office in this city, demanding their delayed paychecks.
By: Rahim Hamid
Ahwazi Centre for Human Rights