Although Arabistan Al Ahwaz (Khuzestan ) is the most resource-rich province in Iran, the indigenous Ahwazi Arab population suffers from some of the country’s highest levels of unemployment, health problems, child malnutrition and other poverty indicators. Poverty is intimately bound up with ethnic discrimination. In urban areas, Ahwazi Arabs live in shanty towns which resemble the townships of apartheid South Africa. Official statistics tend to underplay the real extent of unemployment, with joblessness rising to well over 50% among Ahwazi Arab youth and women.
Statistics show that 1.46 million live in the countryside, where official unemployment reaches 20%, although problems of under- employment mean the actual rate is likely to be far higher. Despite the province's fertility and potential in agriculture, farms are suffering from a lack of investment and are under- performing, leading to rural poverty. In most Arab villages there are no schools. While the illiteracy rate in Iran is about 10%-18%, it is over 50% among Arab men in the region and even higher for Ahwazi women. Ahwazi students drop out of schools at a rate of 30% at elementary level, 50% at secondary and 70% at high school because they are forced to study the “official language”, Farsi, a language which is not theirs. The learning of Arabic is confined to religion and is commonly classical Arabic rather than the local dialect. Consequently, Ahwazi Arabs are often semi-literate in their native language, but struggle with learning in a language that is foreign to them.