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 Demonstrators hold flags of the region of Al-Ahwaz as they take part in a rally in support of the Ahwazi people in Iran, in Berlin, Germany, 21 April 2017. Dozens of demonstrators took part in the march striving for the recognition of this population and their human rights.

Ahwazi exiles marked important anniversaries in the state’s history during the past week with large peaceful demonstrations in London, the Hague, Canberra, and Berlin. The events specially commemorated two somber milestones in modern Ahwazi history, firstly the 92nd anniversary of Iran’s annexation of the Arab state on April 20, 1925, which denied Ahwaz its legitimate and sovereign status and resulted in almost a century to date of brutal oppression of the Ahwazi people and denial of their basic human rights.

The second important event commemorated at this week’s demonstrations was the great April Intifada, which began on April 15, 2005 and saw spontaneous protests break out across Ahwaz in outrage at a leaked official regime document confirming the current Iranian regime’s systematic plan to change the demographic balance in Ahwaz by population transfer and ethnic cleansing in an effort to eradicate the state’s Arab population and deny its Arab heritage.  The April Intifada was also an expression of popular protest against the general situation in which the Ahwazis live in their homeland.

epa05919708 Demonstrators hold flags of the region of Al-Ahwaz and Syria as they take part in a rally in support of the Ahwazi minority in Iran, in Berlin, Germany, 21 April 2017. Dozens of demonstrators took part in the march striving for the recognition of this minority and their human rights. The Ahwazi live within the Iranian province of Khuzestan and constitute an ethnic, linguistic and cultural minority in Iran.  EPA/FELIPE TRUEBA
 Demonstrators hold flags of the region of Al-Ahwaz and Syria as they take part in a rally in support of the Ahwazi minority in Iran, in Berlin, Germany, 21 April 2017. Dozens of demonstrators took part in the march striving for the recognition of this minority and their human rights. The Ahwazi live within the Iranian province of Khuzestan and constitute an ethnic, linguistic and cultural minority in Iran. EPA/FELIPE TRUEBA

The 2005 uprising was brutally crushed by the regime, with thousands of activists either killed or imprisoned and tortured; many of those jailed were executed on spurious charges in an effort to quell any future resistance to the Iranian regime’s brutality.  Ever since then,  the April Intifada, as it was subsequently named, has been commemorated annually by the Ahwazi people as a symbol of resistance against the regime’s continuing and relentless brutal persecution and oppression.

The people also protested against the spread of poverty, unemployment, and spread of fatal drugs, and the daily oppression exercised by the Iranian regime authorities against the Arabs and the incessant insult to their Arab national sentiment.

epa05919710 Demonstrators hold flags of the region of Al-Ahwaz as they take part in a rally in support of the Ahwazi minority in Iran, in Berlin, Germany, 21 April 2017. Dozens of demonstrators took part in the march striving for the recognition of this minority and their human rights. The Ahwazi live within the Iranian province of Khuzestan and constitute an ethnic, linguistic and cultural minority in Iran.  EPA/FELIPE TRUEBA
epa05919710 Demonstrators hold flags of the region of Al-Ahwaz as they take part in a rally in support of the Ahwazi minority in Iran, in Berlin, Germany, 21 April 2017. Dozens of demonstrators took part in the march striving for the recognition of this minority and their human rights. The Ahwazi live within the Iranian province of Khuzestan and constitute an ethnic, linguistic and cultural minority in Iran. EPA/FELIPE TRUEBA

 

 

The rally in Berlin on Friday, April 21 saw a large crowd of Ahwazi exiles and supporters gathering in the city centre with banners and placards to commemorate the 92nd anniversary of the Iranian occupation of Ahwaz, with the demonstrators marching through the city in a peaceful protest to call for freedom and justice.

Protesters carried banners and placards bearing messages including “There is no justice anywhere if there is no justice in Ahwaz” and “End continuous settlement-building activities and confiscation of Ahwazis’ properties and land.”

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Members of the Ahwazi community in Germany who organized Friday’s rally said in a statement that the protest was held both to commemorate the occupation anniversary and to raise awareness in Europe and internationally of the Ahwazi people’s plight and to bring the issue to the attention of humanitarian and legal organisations. The statement added that the Arab people of Ahwaz have been subjected to brutal persecution and oppression by successive Iranian regimes for more than nine decades, and the international community must honour its commitments to international law and human rights to stand by the Ahwazi people.

In their statement, the Ahwazi organising committee condemned the high levels of executions and lengthy prison sentences on false charges for Ahwazi dissidents and political and cultural activists who are subjected to farcical trials in kangaroo courts.   The statement also condemned the regime’s denial of the most basic human rights to the Ahwazi people, including the right to be educated in their native Arabic language or even to wear their traditional Arab garb.

The other demonstrations in London, the Hague, and the Australian capital, Canberra, saw similar crowds participating in peaceful demonstrations to commemorate the anniversaries of both the 1925 occupation and the 2005 April Intifada,  and to call for more international awareness of the Ahwazi peoples’ plight and greater support for freedom and justice.

Ahwazi Arabs are the indigenous people of Ahwaz, with even Iranian historians acknowledging their heritage there since time immemorial, despite successive Iranian regimes’ historically revisionist efforts to airbrush these native peoples out of the history of the region or to suggest falsely that their presence dates back only to  the period immediately after Islam first spread to Iran..  Ahwazis’ long history in the region dooms these efforts to failure.

Ahwazis were considered to be the indigenous and sovereign inhabitants of the region when it was an independent and semi-independent emirate up until the overthrow of its last ruler (Sheikh Khazal ibn Jabir al-Kaabi) in 1925.

The main obstacle that has always hampered – and still continues to hamper – the mobilization of the Arab people of Ahwaz and the international community is the existence of vast oil reserves in Ahwaz, which the Ahwazi people always say has been more a curse than a blessing to them.

In 1908, with the discovery of oil in Arabistan (Al Ahwaz), 98% of the population of the region was Arab. Today, in spite of the Iranian regime’s (including the previous Pahlavi regime) Persianization scheme and its attempts to displace the Arab population, it has failed to tip the demographic balance against the Arabs. Although, it has managed raise the proportion of immigrants and settlers to about 30%.

Among the reasons which explain the weakened state of the Arab society in Ahwaz are the high rates of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy which compared with other ethnic groups in Iran are proportionally higher because of the  racial discrimination and marginalising policies of the Iranian regime. This conduct toward the Arab population of Ahwaz, weakened the peaceful democratic popular movement of Ahwaz which has languished for the past two decades and has led to an escalation of rhetoric calling for armed resistance and the necessity of armed confrontation with the Iranian regime.

The Ahwazis’ strengths lie in the depth of their national and cultural awareness, their strong Arab identity, and increasingly in the growing, long overdue support for their struggle from the Arab street, despite the continued disregard for their cause on the part of the official Arab regimes.

Rahim Hamid, Ahwazi Arab freelance Journalist based in the USA

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Rallies and protest marches of Ahwazi people in many parts of the world demonstrate their power and desire for independent land and freedom. Irani government has been exploiting the lands inhabited by Ahwazi for oil and natural resources. More such rallies and solidarity marches should be held through out the world to exert pressure on Iran rulers to respect human rights. Iranian activists should also join the protests.