Khuzestan is indispensable in Iran’s economy. The biggest onshore oil fields in the country are located here, making up more than 55% of total Iran’s oil reserves. It’s home to Karun, the only navigable river in Iran! Fertile soil and plenty of water have made Khuzestan a wealthy land, making farming and agriculture as one of the main businesses in the province. Pipe making and steels industries, petrochemical plants, power stations feeding the national grid, refineries, several large dams and cane sugar mills such as Haft Tappeh are just examples of what Khuzestan provides for Iran and the Islamic Republic.
In return, Islamic Republic has given Khuzestan nothing but poverty and oppression. For example, Gheyzaniyeh township, with more than 26,000 residents, just 25 miles east of Ahvaz, doesn’t have proper schools, clinics, paved roads and most importantly, drinkable water! For people whom are surrounded by oil pipelines everywhere, not having a water system, the most essential need for a human being, is astonishing! In 21st century, there are people in one of the richest lands in the world who have to walk for miles with gallons of water on their back to get something to drink! Farming and livestock are the main livelihood of these people, without water, how are they going to make ends meet?! They receive their water by tankers every other week and even if a few of the villages have a water system, they can only use it 4 hours a day!
Shariatmadari, Khuzestan’s Governor has promised Gheyzaniyeh residents several times that water would come to their home soon. December 2016 he vowed the problem will be resolved in 3 months. October 2019, almost 3 years later, the problem was not rectified but he gave his word that water would be at residents’ homes very soon! May 1, 2020, after people protesting and getting no response, he said, “We’ll bring drinkable water to Gheyzaniyeh in 45 days.”
The Governor’s dishonesty doesn’t end there. He is one of the names that has come up in a corruption case twice. Haft Tappeh Cane Sugar Mill’s 33-year-old CEO has been charged with billions of dollars embezzlement. In one instance alone, he converted the $1.5billion he was given on subsidized rate to use on the company to Rials in free market! According to reports from the closed door court session, he has alleged giving $200,000 to Shariatmadari’s wife and treating the Governor and his family to a luxurious trip abroad costing $25,000! While all of these were happening, the Mill’s workers protesting against the privatization process of the company and their delayed wages were labeled as “ISIS members”, arrested and sent to prison!
On the other hand, the “Supreme Leader” of Islamic Republic professed his love for another country and nation, when he was talking on Quds day, May 22! He said so proudly that his regime would stand with “Palestinians” and fully support them with arms and money. A day later, Gheyzaniyeh residents’ patience wore thin. Their protests in front of city council went unheard, so they resort to blocking a highway, hoping the officials listen to their pain and suffering! But instead, the police dispersed them by shooting in the air and at protesters. A few got injured, including an adolescent whose picture circulated on social media. 2 days later, on May 25, the same corrupt Governor guaranteed, “The problem will be resolved within the next 2 weeks.” Islamic Republic responding protests with bullets is not news! Bloody November 2019 was the prime example of how they manage people’s crises after 41 years.
After the May 23 incidents in Gheyzaniyeh, newspapers started talking about it. Even some officials such as Mohsen Rezaee, the Secretary of Expedience Council, pretended to care. He tweeted: “More than 500,000 barrels of oil is produced in Gheyzaniyeh every day, but its residents don’t have drinkable water. These incidents such as: Masjid Soleyman and some areas around Asaluyeh are the result of managing country’s economy, American style.” He doesn’t say what he’s done for people while in fact that he’s been one of the highest ranking officials in all 41 years of Islamic Republic.
3 days before this tweet, on Quds day, he had tweeted: “During liberating Khoramshahr (Iran-Iraq war in 80s), we used to say to reach Quds we have to pass through Karbala (Iraq). Today, after Karbala, is Quds’ turn, we’ll liberate that too.” Just like his master, Khamenei, he doesn’t care about Iranians but he’d like to pretend and fool others. As if there is a difference between different “styles” of governments in the past 41 years! This is not a problem that happened overnight, it’s expanded over 4 decades.
May 24, a day after shooting at protesters asking for water, the first Iranian oil tanker arrives at a Venezuela port, causing celebratory remarks by the Venezuelan dictator, Nicolás Maduro, thanking the dictator regime in Iran! A total of 5 ships with 1.5million barrels of gasoline were sent from Iran, worth about $45.5million. Islamic Republic rather send ships thousands of miles across the world than connecting pipes for its own citizens so they could drink healthy water!
Islamic Republic has so far has used a single approach to Khuzestan’s problems. Since most inhabitants are Iranian Arabs, as soon as they shout for their most basic human rights, such as drinking water, they’re labeled ISIS or separatists and most brutally quashed! Mahshahr, a close city to Gheyzaniyeh has gone through the same stages! Its residents protested against their living conditions in November 2019, but their peaceful demonstration turned out to one of the biggest massacres in Iran’s contemporary history. And after a few months, nobody talks about it any more. Will Gheyzaniyeh be forgotten too?!
Cover: Ashkan Forouzani