Ahwazi Arab Cause, The World's Forgotten Struggle For Justice
By Rahim Hamid
09 February, 2016
At the beginning, it must be pointed out that there is a difference between Iranian Arabs whose ancestors emigrated with the Islamic conquest of Persia and currently living in Khorasan and Kerman and other parts of Iran and Ahwazi Arabs who settled in the land of the Al-Ahwaz for thousands of years before the arrival of the Persians to the plateau of Iran.
Iran today is made up of several peoples, including the indigenous Persian people some of whom have an overbearing and hostile attitude towards the other non-Persian people such as Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, Turks, Baluchis and Turkmen. Also, there exists a type of Persian expansionist ideology that is based on historical claims to the so-called glorious Persian Empire.
There are also sectarian motives and political ambitions that hence have created a bigoted view that an Arab person is inherently inferior and never equals a Persian person in anything. For this reason, for such people, an Arab cannot be considered a true compatriot if he or she is proud of his or her Arab identity.
Citizenship rights, justice and equality, are not routinely practiced in Iran, since such rights have never been applied, and only exist in the folds of newspapers and the Iranian Constitution. It is worth noting that the current Constitution contains some articles that include some of the basic cultural rights for the ethnic peoples of the non-Persians in Iran but which remain on ice until now as such codes and articles are considered a threat to Iran’s national security by the regime.
The modern Iranian state formed at the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century and after the occupation of Al-Ahwaz in 1925. Because it aspired to be a liberal egalitarian state where all people would have equal rights under the law. Thus, the name of Persia has been changed to Iran. But, Persians privately grabbed power and extensively furthered Persian nationalist tendency among politicians.
At the time, the non-Persian peoples in Iran endured large-scale national oppression. That’s when the persons of non-Persian backgrounds became second-class citizens in Iran. As the view of prevailing racism and contempt is deeply infested in the mindset of Iranian Persians towards the Arabs, it has caused the Ahwazi Arabs because of their Arab identity, creed, and culture to bear the brunt of Iranian fascist policies and be regarded as third-class or worse.
A large number of Ahwazi Arab men and women are currently being held in the clerical regime's prisons and detention centers. These men and woman are all victims of poverty and deprivation due to circumstances forced on them by the sectarian Iranian regime.
Iranian consecutive governments have brought large-scale devastating social, political and economic consequences for the Ahwazi Arab people. The never-ending grievances—disenfranchisement, poverty, incarceration and judicially sanctioned killings on a mass scale against Ahwazi Arab people is down to the fact the occupying regime still confident that no international body is going to take effective actions against it for its crimes and ongoing human rights violations in Al-Ahwaz and other regions in the country. This caused more pain and despair for Ahwazis who are struggling for their national rights.
The nuclear agreement is, in fact, a death sentence flung out against the will of the oppressed people in Iran, particularly those ethnic groups that have been subjected to decades-long injustice and oppression. For decades Ahwazis, Kurds, Turks, and even Persians have been sacrificing all that is near and dear to them in order to gain freedom and dignity. The international community's silence and the complete absence of condemnation have emboldened the Iranian regime as seen in the growing number of executions of Ahwazi and other ethnic prisoners such as Kurds and Baluchs. Their voices cry out for justice.
In these respects, the case of human rights violations perpetrated by the regime during all these years was overlooked by those Western powers who claim to have an unwavering commitment in protecting human rights worldwide. They assisted the regime in reinforcing its encirclement and exerting more punitive practices on the voice of Ahwazis, and all the dissident voices in the country.
Under the current sectarian clerical regime, Ahwazi Arab people have subjected to brutal and racist policies such as never experienced before. Deprivation, impoverishment, racial humiliation, constant attempts to obliterate and exterminate the national identity of the great Ahwazi Arab people.
The continued refusal to acknowledge the existence of the most fundamental human rights, such as prohibiting learning the Arab language and in turn, imposing the Persian language in educational facilities, official departments, and in all walks of life.
The banning and prohibition of Arabic names for new births, preventing people from wearing their traditional Arab clothing. Replacing the historical Arabic names of cities, villages, and neighborhoods with Persian, as well as the implementation of settlement projects aimed at bringing in settlers from Persian areas, granting them housing, employment and welfare and miscellaneous services privileges at the expense of the Ahwazi people. In contrast, the occupying authorities have continued displacement of Ahwazi Arabs from their lands, the implementation of genocidal policies; including looting the wealth of the Ahwaz homeland to keep them at all levels of life, deprived and marginalised.
The confiscation of arable agricultural land under the pretext of the implementation of government projects and other racist projects carried out by the sectarian Iranian regime has proved to be more hateful and barbaric than the defunct Shah's regime, and far more dangerous towards the Arabs where this racist and sectarian system falsely and hypocritically claims to be the defender of Islam.
In 1995, the United Nations adopted the term of absolute poverty or destitution to describe the case of severe deprivation of basic human needs, including the shortage of food, drinking water and health facilities, accommodation, education and information. The extreme poverty means people are living below the poverty threshold or whose income is less than $ 1.25 a day. In this case, the first goal set by the United Nations is the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger agreed by 189 countries in 2000.
It is extremely abhorrent to see that Iranian regime has signed to the goal of eradicating poverty but has it yet undertake deliberate discriminatory measures to increase the poverty, in particular, certain regions in the country. One of these regions is called Al-Ahwaz.
Al-Ahwaz was the victim of having its resource-wealthy lands fall into the malicious hands of the Iranian regime, which has exploited and destroyed its environment. Ahwaz has the second largest oil depository with four billion barrels while Ahwazi Arab populations are living under the poverty line, and Ahwazi Arab children are suffering from high rates of malnutrition and severe anemia.
Iran governments have always treated the Ahwazi Arabs as second class citizens; Iran demolished and confiscated Ahwazi lands and houses; the oppression and ethnic cleansing carried out against Ahwazi Arabs is unspeakable. Iran has no tolerance for anything linked to Ahwaz i.e.in relation to the Ahwaz environment.
Much of the Ahwazi Arab population depends on farming and fishing for their life. Yet, the Iranian regime is carrying out a river diverting project, redirecting the local water of Ahwaz to the dry areas of Iran such as ethnic Persian provinces of Yazd and Rafsenjan, leading to the further impoverishment of indigenous Arab.
An aggressive form of personalization has been pursued by the regime to impose forced migration of indigenous Arabs from their homeland and destroy and confiscate their lands. Creation of military industrial free zone since 2005 has involved a massive expulsion of Ahwazi Arabs and destruction of their villages. Up to 50, 0000 Ahwazi Arabs were displaced by the creation of 5000 square kilometers for Security zone stretching 30 Kilometers along the Shat Al_ ARAB waterway.
The government had not cleaned up the rivers from the toxic materials from the security zone, which systematically pour into the Karoon and Karkheh Rivers contributing to the problems of pollution and extinction of many species of fish. Every year many of Ahwazi Arabs are displaced from their homes by the devastating floods that also destroy the crops of Ahwazi Arabs farmers. As a result, Ahwazi Arabs farmers experience drought, starvation, and financial loss without any compensation from the Iranian government.
The official unemployment rate in all of Iran is 12 percent, but in Ahwaz cities, such as Muhammarah and Abadan, the unemployment rate is 30 percent and sometimes reaches up to 5o percent. There is extreme poverty as a result of racial discrimination and unemployment, paralyses the Ahwazi Arabs economically, socially and culturally.
While the illiteracy rate in Iran is about 10 to 18 percent, this is over 50 percent among the Arabs men in Ahwaz and even higher for Ahwazi women. The indigenous Ahwazi Arabs students abandon school at the t rate 30 percent at the elementary level, 50 percent at the secondary level and 70 percent in high school because they force to study in the official Farsi language which is not theirs.
There are no official institutions or universities for teaching Arabic in Ahwaz and learning Arabic is just confined to religious study for people who want to be clergy. Consequently, the Ahwazi Arab are semi-literate in their native language and are struggling to learn Arabic despite the denial of their Arabic language.
In fact, the education system in Iran promotes and enforces a superficial sense of nationalism based on Persian language and identity. Therefore, the multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual character of Iranians is explicitly denied, and minorities are oppressed.
According to articles 19 and 15 of Iran constitution, all non-Persian ethnic minorities have the right to education in their native languages, but Persian fascist regime violates the right to Arabic in Ahwaz and other non-Persian languages such as Kurdish in East Kurdistan, and Turkish in South Azerbaijan. In fact, shortly after the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty in the1925, all non-Persian ethnic group and nationalities in Iran were denied the right to education in their own languages.
Notwithstanding the fact that the non-Persian nation such as Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Baluchs, Turkmen, and others constituted the numerical majority in the country, all the Persian regimes from Pahlavi to the Islamic Republic have sought to supplant these languages, cultures, and histories with those of Persian minority. As non-Persian nations, we were subjected to open and shameful acts of linguistic, cultural annihilation, and forced assimilation.
This is the ultimate intellectual backwardness of Iranian mentality that at the end of 2015 and in the 21st century, they do not understand nor respect universal values such as equality of nations, individual rights, and civil liberties for everyone, and instead viewed their race as the superior one.
These people are suffering from the disease of racism. They refuse to understand that respecting human rights identifies the superiority of people and distinguishes them from others. This painful and dangerous situation persists because there are racist people at the centre of power of the Iranian regime who have influence in Iranian human rights organisations abroad. These elements caused so many people to be deprived of their rights and freedoms and be under oppression and discrimination.
Ahwaz is a hell where freedom of speech is illegal, where hundreds of thousands of clerical regime fascists are given free rein to preach hate, where the security forces attack instead of defending their citizens, where entire cities are suffering from lack of regular access to clean water and electricity, where the government profits from oil, the money goes to the sponsorship of terrorism, where breeding hate and aggression is acclaimed.
If Ahwazis protest at the brutal regime policies, the armed regime forces pay back in bullets and blood. Hundreds of Ahwazis have been killed and collectively punished, hundreds of media and rights activist arrested. It is very disappointing that the Western powers and the USA are not taking serious action against the clerical regime’s crimes and do not mention Iran’s hand in killing hundreds of thousands of people in Syria and Iraq.
After the devastating occupation of Iran of Ahwaz and other non-Persian regions that have experienced nothing just bloodshed, crackdown, abject poverty, and many other things, and must have the right to control their own destiny through ballot box rather than bullet box, to pursue their national aspirations and build up our homelands, to overcome the legacy of the centralised state of Iran that dominated these oppressed nations for years.
Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi Arab freelance journalist