CHRI – Agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization arrested at least 11 Arab-Iranian volunteers as they were trying to help people in Iran’s flood-stricken village of Gurieh, Khuzestan Province, according to Karim Dahimi, a London-based minority rights activist.
On April 7, 2019, nine of them were arrested as they arrived from the city of Mahshahr, said Dahimi, who spoke with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on April 10.
“Today, I was informed that a group of young Arabs in the city of Hamidiyeh wanted to take food items and blankets to the flood victims but they were stopped by the security forces,” Dahimi said.
Dahimi said he did not have information about their identities or places of detention but added that two other rescue workers, Ahmad Ka’bi and Yaghoub Ka’bi (relation unknown), were detained the following day in the same village.
“Ahmad and Yaghoub Ka’bi were helping with rescue operations when they were arrested for unknown reasons,” Dahimi told CHRI. “According to information from our friends in the village, the Arab youths wanted to distribute food and other goods they had collected for the victims but there was an argument with the authorities and they got arrested.”
According to Dahimi, both had previously advocated minority rights in Shushtar.
Since late March 2019, flash floods have claimed at least 77 lives and injured more than 1,000 people, the head of Iran’s Emergency Medical Services, Pir-Hossein Kolivand, told Parliament on April 9.
On April 8, a video was widely shared on Persian social media appearing to show an elderly Arab man being disparaged by Khuzestan’s Governor Gholamreza Shariati.
“You won’t help us because we are Arab,” an old man tells the governor. “We have nothing left. Why do you help Syria but not us?”
The governor replied, “Don’t talk nonsense. You’re a rude opponent of the state. Get out of here!”
Commenting on the governor’s reaction, journalist Mehdi Ghadimi tweeted:
“Watching the governor being so disrespectful to a protesting flood victim was one of the worst moments of these past few weeks. When there are rumors that flood waters are being redirected toward Arab villages and threatening lives, the authorities have to build trust instead of making enemies out of tired, angry people.”
Former political prisoner Abdollah Momeni wrote: “… Governor Shariati’s response to the poor old man is a sign of the deteriorating moral fiber among some of the government officials that is grinding the soul of the Iranian people. They are so consumed with power that morality has died inside them.”
“What kind of crisis manager are you, Mr. Governor?” tweeted journalist Nelli Mahjoob. “How can you allow yourself to silence a flood victim by making accusations against him… They are all people. People. Do you get it?”
Journalist Saba Azarpeik tweeted, “The security and intelligence establishment should teach Khuzestan Governor Shariati about how to treat devastated people who have lost their homes! His behavior is making people angry!”