Ten days after the Arab uprising and mass protests in Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan Province, Turks in the northwestern city of Tabriz gathered on Saturday to support the protesters.
Videos published on social media show demonstrators in Tabriz on Saturday chanting slogans to show solidarity with the people of Khuzestan, with heavy presence of security forces in the streets of Tabriz, which is the capital of East Azerbaijan Province.
Demonstrators are heard shouting “The people of Azerbaijan will not accept this humiliation”, “Azerbaijan is awake, supporting Khuzestan” and “Azerbaijan, Al-Ahwaz, unity, unity”.
Ahwazi Arabs have been protesting in the majority of the Arab populated cities of Iran since July 15. So far, a number of protesters have been shot to death by Iranian security forces. Most media and analysts portray the protests as riots in response to water shortage and mismanagement. However, the water crisis in Ahwaz is just a trigger that evoked the Ahwazi Arabs to protest against structural grievances and inequalities. All the evidence shows that it is not merely about water mismanagement, indeed, the root cause of the problem is systemic racism against the Arab ethnic minority in Iran of approximately 5 million people.
Authorities have deployed special riot police in force, with reinforcements of Islamic Revolutionary Guard(IRGC) troops arriving by passenger planes in Khuzestan. Iran’s IRGC is the main force behind the systemic racism in the country and does not show mercy to unarmed protestors demanding their most basic human rights, killing them on sight. IRGC has so far killed at least nine people, wounded many others, and arrested more than 100 protesters since last week.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in remarks on Friday sounded somewhat cautious, refraining from his usual condemnation of protesters and blaming them for having links with “foreign enemies”. Khamenei realizes everyone is on edge and wants to avoid further provocating protests, but he also refrained from condemning violence by security forces.