It is known among peoples of the Arab world that apart from Palestine there is another Arab nation that’s under the occupation and subjugation of another non-Arab country – that is the Ahwazi-Arab nation.
Al-Ahwaz is occupied by the Persian/Shia dominated Central government in Tehran. It’s located in Southwestern Iran, on the West bank of Shat-al-Arab, adjacent to Basra and Kuwait. it used to be called Arabistan, but the name was changed to Khuzestan in 1935 as a part of the forced assimilation and Persianization and ethnic cleansing policy of the elite Persian-Shia oligarchy that rules Iran.
The occupation and subjugation of Ahwaz has a little longer life span than Palestine. While the Palestinian Nekba began in 1948, the first Nekba of Al-Ahwaz occurred in 1848 at the adaptation of Treaty of Erzurum, the treaty that for the first time established the border between the Othman Turkic empire and the Iran’s Qajar under the direct gaze of Britain. Accordingly, Arabistan was to be a Persian/ Iranian protectorate with continued internal autonomy. That was the case indeed for several decades until Shah’s military conquest in April 1925, followed by the abduction and killing of its first Amir of Muhammara, the capital of Arabistan, Sheikh Khazal ibn Jabir- and that was the second Ahwazi Nekba. Nevertheless, the Erzurum Treaty did not deny or negate the Arabs inalienable right to self-determination as stipulated by the United Nations Charter 1.
The Ahwazis have been one of the staunchest supporters of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination since the partition of the historical Palestine and the creation of Israel. There are similarities and parallels between the occupied and subjugated peoples of Palestine and Al-Ahwaz. Since the 2nd Ahwazi Nekba, Persian occupiers of Ahwaz never ceased to change the demographic composition of the region, with Tehran keen to resettle ethnically Persian settlers (Just as does Israel in the occupied West bank) in the Al-Ahwaz province as a means of establishing Iranian ownership; the primary concern of these policies is to secure total control over the mineral resources, with Ahwaz housing over 85 per cent of the Iran’s oil and gas reserves.
Like Palestine before the partition – although it was never officially colonized, Iran nonertheless was firmly under the British control. Since the overthrow of the weak and ailing Qajar dynasty that ruled Iran from 1770 to 1921, Britain instigated and backed a military coup in 1920 and installed a totally illiterate Reza Khan (later Reza Shah Pahlavi)’s as the new ruler and its puppet. Reza Shah and his Persian-Shia cohorts believed in the superiority of the Aryan Persian race and nationalist racist theories.
Reza Shah’s rule was followed by 38 years of his son Mohamad Reza Shah’s , and 44 years of the current Islamic republic’s. The new rulers charted a state based on a Persian-Shia nationalist ideology to create a monolithic “Iranian nation” by suppressing ethnic diversity and imposing Persian-Shia ethnic identity on non-Persian nationalities – the main target of which was Ahwazi Arab people in Iran.
It is understood that Iran’s population is at least ½ to 2/3 non-Persian – and a 1/3 Sunni. yet Persian language is the sole official language, and Jafari Shias is the officially-sanctioned religion – all others are ignored, negated or at best marginalized. An Iranian Shia and Fars/Persian is by default has been positioned at a great advantage and dominance, as an Israeli Jew is – in apartheid Israel.
Thanks to the social media, in the past 6 weeks the world vividly saw the dire living conditions in Gaza under the brutal Israeli occupation. But the world hasn’t had a chance to observe the Ahwazis living conditions under the despotic Persian-Shia rule of the reactionary Velayat Faghih; Rule of the Islamic Jurist.
Ahwazi-Arabs have been one of the excluded constituent nationalities and Socio-economically, among the most oppressed and rank at the bottom- estimated to be between about 10% of the population. The regime changed the Arabic name of the province to Persian name of Khuzestan to deny their Arab identity. Iran does not allow Ahwazis to choose Arab names for their newborn. Ahwazi Arab historical lands account for 85% of Iran’s oil GDP, yet they live in abject poverty. After 44 years of Islamic Republic with $100s of billions in oil revenue from Ahwazi land, thousands of Ahwazi Arab villages still lack drinking water.
The treatment of the Ahwazis belies the current regime’s professed solidarity with the Palestinians, the poor and dispossessed. Ahwazi Arabs endure human development indicators that fall well below the Iranian national average. Illiteracy among Ahwazi Arabs is many times compared to Persian Iranians. Unemployment among Ahwazi Arabs is about 4 times compared to Iran’s national average. Ahwazis are disallowed to work in the vast oil and gas, and petrochemical industries in their own land. Millions of hectares of land owned by Ahwazi Arab farmers have been confiscated since the 1979 Revolution and given to the Persian settlers.
The Ahwazi-Arabs in Iran have been subjected to the eradication of their national identity, culture, language, and customs; and are faced with forced assimilation and imposition of Persian language and culture. Their children are being deprived of the use and study of their language. Any legitimate demands of the Ahwazi and other minorities are often labeled as “separatist”, “secessionist” or called “stooges of foreign countries” or “danger to security and territorial integrity”. Under the current as well as in the previous regimes, governor general of Khuzestan, all other province’s political, military and security commanders, officers, mayors and all other high high-mid-level government officials of Khuzestan, have consistently been from non-indigenous non-Arabs from outside the Eghlim/Arab province -like Palestine under Israeli military occupation.
Owing to these similarities that Ahwazi-Arabs have been staunch supporters of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and statehood. Additionally, and on a broader basis, many of the opposition groups during their fight against the Shah’ dictatorship have been the recipient of training and other sorts if assistance from the Palestinian liberation movement, in many cases with the help of Ahwazi Arab activists and fighters who had close ties with the Palestinian Fedaai groups. Hence many Iranians, among them the thousands of political prisoners support a free Palestine, calling for an immediate ceasefire to end the bloodshed and civilian suffering in Gaza – and are against the Israeli occupation. Remarkably, the rulers of Islamic Republic disallow large demonstrations in Tehran or any other Iranian cities or provinces in support of Palestine – Ahwazis request for demonstration of public support have been consistently denied.
I have worked for many years as a volunteer in the PLO office in new York in Manhattan while I was a university student in New York city in the early 1970s. I was present, I welcomed and helped in the facilitation and providing security for Yasser Arafat’s during his visit on 13 November 1974 before the UN general assembly. We hereby declare that our continuous support for Free Palestine and against the Israeli occupation is continuing and unshakable.
It’s true that Ahwazi representatives in the diaspora have opposed Hamas’ establishing ties with the IRGC in 2006. In fact, Mr. Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas, and his delegation was cautioned before their visits to Tehran. It was noted that Iranian support for Hamas and Islamic jihad is ideological and geo-strategic, intended for Iran’s dominance of the Arab and Islamic world. Nevertheless, our support for Palestine steadfast and non-wavering. I have met, and have personal relationship with some of the Palestinian leaders – and always conveyed the Ahwazi support and repeatedly mentioned Iran’s evil intent.
I disagree with lumping all anti-Israeli Palestinian groups and the non-Palestinian Iranian-proxies, the so-called resistance groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, which were set up/founded by Iran, as one and the same. This assumption/belief is inaccurate and false/incorrect.
There is a difference between Hamas, Islamic jihad and Iranian proxy groups such as Hizballah, Houthis, Hashd-ol-Shabi. While Hamas and Islamic jihad limit their struggle for self-determination in Palestine, Hizballah and the Houthis, Hashad-Shabi, Zinabioons and Fatemyoons are 5th column, and parts and parcels of Iranian regime’s ideological and expansionist policy. Non-Palestinian proxies have almost no autonomy at all. In Syria they are in thinsupport of the Assad’s Alawi Shia dynasty.
Iran’s foreign policy objective is to export its Velayat Faqih Islamic revolution and project socio-economic and military influence in the region. Also, as it was revealed recently and shown live on TV, Iranian propaganda literatures were found in huge quantities in underground tunnels in different parts of Gaza. That confirms that Iran exploits Hamas to export its dangerous extremist ideology in Palestine and the Arab and Islamic world. – strikingly, no Iranian blood was shed in the past 6 weeks!
It is to be noted that Iranian Persian-Shia nationalist rulers disallow Ahwazi Arabs to study in their mother tongue, the Arabic language, the language of the Quran, and/or to use Arabic clothing in government and offices. Furthermore, Iranian Sunnis such as Kurds, Baloch and Turkmen are totally excluded from Iranian Parliament (Majlis) and from the government administration.
We want to remind the Arab world that the Islamic republic is not only the enemy of its own people but enemy of the Palestinians and peoples of the region and against peace and security, and stability of the world.
Unlike some misguided Ahwazi individuals and opportunists who claim that 20% of all Iranians and 40% of Ahwazis are supporters of the Mullahs of Iran, due to the long bloody and brutal subjugation by the regime, there is zero support among Ahwazis for their Persian-Shia occupiers.
These blatant lies are made up due to either ignorance or are meant to ease the pressure and temper the blows against the regime and legitimize the regime’s supposed popular support – also to discourage the formation of the needed political parties and civil society organizations in Ahwaz and in Iran.
Despite the devastation and mass killing in Gaza, the one certain outcome has been the collusion between Iran-USA-Israel.
Iran opposes the very objective of self-determination and Palestinian statehood. Iran’s strategy and policy in the region, including Palestine, has always been and is to maintain the status quo of instability and perpetual conflicts, as this serves its political agenda and expansionist policies best.
We the Ahwazi Arabs suffering under the occupation of Tehran share the same dreams and aspirations as our brothers and sisters’ in Palestine. We strive for freedom and self-determination.
Our support for the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people is absolute and solid. The resistance, resolve, bravery, endurance, and the steadfastness of the Palestinian people of Gaza and their determination not to be forced of their land – despite nearly 15000 martyrs – by the vicious Israeli occupation army assault, is a great inspiration for us the Ahwazis to resist the Persian occupation and continue our just struggle for freedom, justice and human rights.
Karim Abdian, PhD Director of Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation