Growing Demands For Apology From Iranian State TV Over Discriminatory Kids Show
At Least 100 People Remain Detained After March 2018 Protests
Lawmakers in Iran’s mostly Arab-populated Khuzestan Province have demanded a meeting with the head of the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) organization and its board of supervisors “regarding insults against Iran’s honorable ethnic peoples, namely the honorable Arabs of Khuzestan.”
Hundreds of people were arrested in Khuzestan in March 2018 after protests initially aimed at IRIB’s decision to air a children’s program excluding Arabs from a map ostensibly displaying the geographic locations of the country’s different ethnic minorities morphed into larger demonstrations.
The demand was issued in a letter dated April 8, 2018, that was signed by 15 members of Parliament (MPs) from the province: Javad Al-Bahi, Eghbal Mohammadian, Ali Sari, Majid Nasserinejad, Amer Kaabi, Jalil Mokhtar, Hedayat Khademi, Ali Golmoradi, Abbas Papay, Razi Nouri, Sohrab Gilani, Gholam-Reza Sharafi, Habibollah Keshtzar, Homayoun Yousefi and Ghasem Saedi.
Police tried to repress some of the protests by firing bullets and tear gas.
“We will not shy away from confronting any official when it comes to protecting the people’s rights, safeguarding the identity and solidarity of ethnic peoples, and defending national interests,” Javad Al-Bahi, a MP from Ahvaz, Khuzestan’s capital, told a local newspaper.
Abbas Kaabi, a local representative in the Assembly of Experts—which has the power to appoint and dismiss the country’s supreme leader—meanwhile urged IRIB chief Abdulali Ali-Asgari to “at least formally apologize” to the province’s Arabs.
The supreme leader appoints the IRIB chief.
“Iran’s ethnic peoples are united in defending the country’s territorial integrity and the honorable Arabs of Khuzestan have proven their loyalty to Islam, the prophet’s family, the Islamic Republic and the supreme leader by offering many martyrs in the eight years of sacred defense [Iran-Iraq War],” he wrote in a letter to IRIB chief Abdulali Ali Asgari on March 24.
“Inciting ethnic peoples is a very dangerous anti-revolutionary act with many destructive security and social hazards,” he added.
On April 6, local Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Mohsen Heydari also said IRIB owes the people of Khuzestan an apology.
“Recently, the Arab peoples of Khuzestan were insulted by a program shown on IRIB’s Channel 2, which was condemned by all the senior officials and personalities, and therefore we ask the head of the IRIB to apologize to the people of Khuzestan, especially the Arabs,” he said.
An eyewitness in Ahvaz who spoke to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on April 13 said an estimated 400 people had been arrested in the province since March 28.
“Based on reports from families who have been seeking information about their detained relatives in judicial offices in Ahvaz and Susangerd [cities], the names and residences of about 100 people have been confirmed but the real number is much higher,” said the source who requested anonymity for security reasons.
In addition to Ahvaz and Susangerd, protesters have been detained in other cities in the province including Abadan, Khorramshahr, Mahshahr, Hamidieh, Sheiban, Shadegan, Mollashieh and Kout Abdollah.