Protests in the mainly Arab-populated regions of southwestern Iran entered their second week April 5, with at least 160 people detained in the oil-rich Khuzestan province.
According to local reports, anger flared after a TV show aired on state-run media showing a child fixing dolls dressed in different traditional garments onto a map of Iran without a doll representing Arab dress.
According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the protestors initially demanded state-run TV apologize for disregarding Arabs as an ethnic minority. The demand fell on deaf ears, however, and soon protesters took to the streets calling for minority rights, including the right for their children to be taught in the Arabic language. The momentum grew into wider protests against unemployment and poor water management.
“The protesters also demanded an end to the police-state imposed on Khuzestan, the immediate release of Iranian-Arab rights activists behind bars, and licenses for independent Arabic media” HRANA said.
The HRANA report stated that a “significant number” of people had been injured in the unrest.
Earlier, the semi-official news agency Fars, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), had reported similar demonstrations in several cities of Khuzestan, including Abadan, Khorramshahr and Mahshahr.
Meanwhile, an Iranian-Arab civil rights and political activist Karim Dahimi told the Center For Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), “Nearly 200 people were detained during the protests, while in some cases the demonstrations turned into violent clashes with the security forces.”
Dahimi added that police forces and intelligence agents from the neighboring provinces have been called in to suppress the protesters and create a “security environment” in Khuzestan.
Meanwhile, Khuzestan’s representative to the influential Assembly of Experts, mid-ranking cleric Abbas Ka’bi Nasab, has called upon state-run TV to formally apologize for ignoring Iranian-Arabs’ sensitivities.
Ahwaz’s temporary Friday Prayer Leader, Abolhassan Hassanzadeh, said state-run TV had made an “unintentional mistake” and cautioned the people of Khuzestan against “sedition and enemy plots.”