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Iran-UK officials’ ‘not so public’ business meeting irks London activists

The meeting was organized by the British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, which promotes UK-Iran trade and investment

Published: Updated:

Activists in London protested Friday against a meeting which included British MPs and Iranian oil officials to show solidarity to Iran’s Arab population, who are concentrated in the oil-rich province of Ahwaz - but are not reaping the benefits coming from the black gold’s profits.

The activists initially learned about the not so publicized meeting through an anonymous source.

“We received an anonymous tip off,” Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said: told Al Arabiya News.

The meeting was organized by the British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce (BICC), which promotes UK-Iran trade and investment, and was hosted by the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).

“We want good relations with Iran but it has to be conditional on Iran’s respect of human rights, and the Arab people receiving a fair share of the oil revenue,” Tatchell said.

He added “We already know that the oil from the Ahwaz region accounts for most of Iran’s oil output and we also know that very little of it is spent in the region.”

Amir Saedi, a London-based Ahavzi human rights activist, told Al Arabiya News: “Ahwazi Arabs have no right to take any advantage of their province’s natural resources, instead they share only smoke and poison from air pollution.”

He added: “That’s because of the petrochemical activities.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) identified Ahwaz in 2013 as the most polluted city in the world. WHO ranked the city by the amount of airborne particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter per cubic meter of outdoor air.

While most of Iran’s oil output comes of Ahwaz, Saedi laments high-unemployed suffered by the Arabs who make the majority in the province.

“The oil companies in Ahwaz, they include people from non-Arab regions such as Shiraz, Tehran, Asfahan, while employing the Arabs for very low, basic job just security or drivers,” he said.

“Many Arabs there are qualified and have relevant skills but they suffer high unemployment. The high rate of unemployment is also acknowledged by officials in the province - of course many of them are Arabs - but they feel they belong to the current regime.”

While Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the current Hassan Rowhani have promised “that two percent of the oil revenues will be classified to the native people but the policy was never implemented,” Saedi said.

The meeting was attended by the Conservative Lord Lamont, who heads the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce.

As well as Tory MP Richard Bacon, who heads the All Party Parliamentary Group on Iran.

“Maybe there are other MPs, I did not see them, because we were violently ejected very quickly,” Tatchell said.

Businesses, specifically oil companies, have their eyes set on Iran as Tehran and Western powers near a historic Iran nuclear talks deal which will allow the Islamic republic to increase its oil output.

The deal between Tehran and the six major powers are aimed to make sure Tehran will curb its sensitive nuclear work in return for the lifting of the economic sanctions, which were imposed on Iran for years.