Iran web users alarmed at Arab “separatist” conference in Cairo
BBC Monitoring Caucasus
January 13, 2013
Iranian Arabs, who are members of Basij militia affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, march in a military parade commemorating the start of the Iraq-Iran war 32 years ago, in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Persian-language web users have expressed outrage at the holding of a conference in Egypt aimed at giving exposure to the alleged persecution of ethnic Arabs in Iran`s Khuzestan province (known as “Al-Ahwaz province” in Arabic, after the local capital city, Ahvaz).
On 12 January Iranian Tabnak website reported: “After our Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi went to Egypt to meet with Egyptian officials, a group of terrorists and separatists, who call themselves Iranian Arabs, with the close cooperation of [Egyptian President Muhammad] Morsi`s government, gathered to discuss separating from Iran, referring to `the occupation of Arabic land of al-Ahwaz by the Persians`.” (http://tinyurl.com/bd54l2r)
Reader comments expressed concern and urged action.
On 13 January, user “Mohammad” commented: “Morsi became president with the support, guidance, and sagacity of the West and we were deceived by his Islamic behaviour.”
On 13 January, an anonymous wrote: “I wish they [Egyptians] had not been awakened. This awakening has caused troubles for us.”
Another anonymous user commented on 12 January that the Iranian government should settle ethnic Persians in the area: “The government should change ethnic and race percentage of cities. The population structure of all cities that speak of separation and ethnicity should be changed.”
Yet another anonymous objected to this comment: “We should respect ethnicities and races, rather than changing the population structure. It is very disappointing to witness such sinister and Zionist thoughts.”
The news was also reported on the conservative JamNews website, drawing a number of comments. (http://tinyurl.com/bglhct9)
User “ashena”, in a reference to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war (which started with Sadam Husayn`s invasion of Khuzestan), said: “We did not sacrifice in Ahvaz for eight years so that a group of Wahhabis [fundamentalist Sunni Muslims] could threaten our dear city Ahvaz.”
An anonymous user wrote: “Once again, Saudi money is preparing a plot.”
User “kermani” has replied: “Is it not the Qatari king? He involved in all the plots behind the crises in the region.”
(For information on the event in Cairo, see “Egypt conference calls for supporting Iran-held Ahwaz province”, 11 Jan)
Source: Iranian news website [insert name], in Persian 1500gmt 13 Jan 13
© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
The oppressed Arab district of al-Ahwaz
Asharq Al-Awsat (English Edition)
March 06, 2012
Dr. Amal Al- HazzaniDr. Amal Al- Hazzaniis is an Assistant Professor in King Saud University in Riyadh.The al-Ahwaz district in Iran - which appears on the map as if it were the back of the Gulf region - is an Arab territory overlooking the Gulf and extending towards Iraq in the west. Its Arab residents have been facing continual repression ever since the Persian state assumed control of the region in 1925. The al-Ahwaz residents continue to be marginalized and excluded from the attention of the Iranian authorities; they suffer suppression and are deprived of their basic rights, and are even detained and executed without trial. This has been the case ever since the era of the Shah to the eruption of the Khomeini revolution in 1979, and until today.
Despite the numerous sincere attempts on the part of the district`s residents to revolt against their situation, which they deem to be tantamount to occupation, they have so far failed to achieve clear and overt international or Arab support for their cause. Al-Ahwaz is the mainstay of the Iranian economy; it is the center of its oil wealth and a factory for its industrial and agricultural products. However, the region`s overwhelming sense of Arab nationalism is a constant source of concern for the Iranian authorities. For some members of the leadership in Tehran, al-Ahwaz`s Arab identity is a grievous sin and a grave threat.
Iran has often sought assistance from the weapon of sectarianism, aiming to fragment the Arab region and provoke hostilities and differences. Iran has always tended to provoke the Arabs with religious sectarianism, and unfortunately they have often fallen victim to such a tactic and failed to resist it. As a weapon, sectarianism is highly effective with an instant impact, aiming to exploit certain causes and issues. This distracts the Islamic world`s attention from the real suffering and the need to maintain the value of the great Islamic faith, both outwardly and with regards to its considerable human value within.
The population of al-Ahwaz`s Arab residents is estimated at 8 million, some of whom are Sunnis, whereas the majority are Shiites. The Arab residents coexisted peacefully in the region, as was the case in Iraq prior to the subsequent US and Iranian occupations, and in Lebanon before Hezbollah entered the control room to dominate the state`s destiny. However, the Iranian authorities` objective in al-Ahwaz is not primarily sectarian, but rather nationalist. The Iranians believe that it is an urgent priority to eradicate the Arab race in al-Ahwaz; a necessity for the state to be stabilized. This means that the authorities do not hesitate to tighten their grip on the district`s residents, prompting them to flee the country through various means of intimidation such as summary executions, detaining citizens, confiscating their salaries, depriving them of employment, and preventing them from speaking their mother tongue. The al-Ahwaz residents have persistently attempted to revolt in objection of their conditions, yet their attempts have all been in vain owing to poor media coverage and the Revolutionary Guards` total domination of the district.
Because the Iranian authorities were apprehensive - ever since the last legislative election in 2009 - about the new round of elections that took place on Friday, and in view of the poor turnout of al-Ahwaz residents after they called for a total boycott of the “hoax election”, the authorities detained at least 70 of the district`s locals, three of which were killed as a result of torture. No one heard of such atrocities until after international human rights organizations condemned these acts, and it is highly probable that the al-Ahwaz residents will face harsher measures next month with the anniversary of Persian control over the territory, which began in April 1925.
Al-Ahwaz is an Arab district whose symbols have exerted great efforts to publicize their cause among Arab states. It is true that any sovereign state must refrain from foreign intervention in its internal affairs - and in the past we have seen numerous regional causes further complicated by the interference of politicians - yet it is imperative that the Arabs take up the al-Ahwaz cause, at least from the humanitarian perspective. They should recognize that al-Ahwaz residents are being deprived of their rights, and promote this particular cause as an Arab crisis.
© Copyright 2012. Asharq Al-Awsat. All Rights Reserved.
Al Ahwaz will always be Arab
The Egyptian Gazette
11 April 2011
The territory of Al Ahwaz - known as Khuzestan in Iran - encompasses almost 72,000 square miles, nestling between the Zagros Mountains to the north and the east, Iraq to the west and Kuwait to the south.
Its main cities are the capital Al Ahwaz, Abadan and Mohammera. Al Ahwaz is blessed with vast deposits of oil and gas, as well as fertile agricultural land, yet its Arab population is overwhelmingly poor and illiterate, lacking modern educational and medical facilities.
Tehran has discriminated against the Arabs of Al Ahwaz since their homeland`s occupation and annexation by the Shah Reza Shah in 1925.
They are treated as third-class citizens, who endure primitive living standards without even the basic political rights enjoyed by the relocated Persian minority who refer to the indigenous Ahwazis as `gypsies`.
In June 2005, the Director of the Ahwaz Education and Human Rights Foundation, Karim Abdia, spelled out the Ahwazi plight before the UN in Geneva, explaining that the Ahwazi population suffers from a shortage of drinking water, electricity, plumbing, telephone lines and sewerage.
“Fifty per cent of these people live in absolute poverty,” he said, “while 80 per cent of their children are malnourished.” The dispossessed Ahwazi Arabs are grossly underrepresented in Parliament and are rarely given governmental positions.
They accuse the Iranian Government of having racially based political and economic prejudice, which is why some groups are calling for Al Ahwaz to be liberated from Iran and for the United Nations to recognise them as an independent Arab group with their own state.
However, the Government is attempting to pull the rug from under their demands by setting up self-contained farming settlements and bringing in Persians to work with them as part of a planned strategy to alter the area`s demographics.
According to Amnesty International, “Land expropriation by the Iranian authorities is reportedly so widespread that it appears to amount to a policy aimed at dispossessing Arabs of their traditional lands. This is apparently part of a strategy aimed at the forcible relocation of Arabs to other areas while facilitating the transfer of non-Arabs into Khuzestan.”
It is believed that the Government is pursuing a strategy of enforced assimilation by trying to eradicate the Ahwazi Arab culture.
For instance, the Iranian authorities will not issue birth certificates for Arab newborns unless they assume Persian names.
Schools in Al Ahwaz have been instructed not to teach Arabic, which is also banned from being spoken in Parliament and governmental ministries. Arabic media are forbidden in the territory.
The Ahwazi consider their Mesopotamian Arabic dialect, shared with southern Iraqis, to be their mother tongue. However, journalists who write against this cultural barbarism are routinely imprisoned.
In 2007, six Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death by kangaroo courts on charges of converting to Sunni Islam, giving their children Sunni names, flying the all-white Ahwazi Arab flag, and, as `enemies of God`, constituting a threat to national security.
Those and similar rigged trials resulting in executions and other, summary executions have been condemned by the European Council, the European Parliament, the UN and numerous human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Besides their very real human rights and economic grievances, the historic claim of the Ahwazi Arabs to their Arab homeland is rock solid. Al Ahwaz was a thriving province of Mesopotamia for centuries, rich in sugarcane plantations. It also proved fertile ground for Muslim scholars, poets and artists.
From the mid-seventh century until the mid-13th century, its people were ruled variously by Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, their numbers swelled by itinerant Arab tribes from the Arabian Peninsula. A Mongol invasion led by Genghis Khan devastated most of Al Ahwaz that was later occupied by the founder of the Timurid Empire, Tamerlane, and his successors, until the early 16th century when it fell under the domination of the Persian Safavid Dynasty.
Al Ahwaz came to be known as the semi-autonomous region of `Arabistan` towards the end of the 16th century, when it received an influx of Arab tribes from southern Iraq as well as a clan of the powerful Bani Kaab, whose origins lie in Central Arabia.
Under the leadership of Sheikh Jabir Al-Kaabi, the Bani Kaab fought to stave off British and Ottoman invasions. Sheikh Jabir was a wise governor of the province, establishing law and order and turning the coastal city of Mohammerah into a bustling free port. At the cusp of the 20th century, oil was discovered around Mohammerah, with the British wasting no time in founding the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and entering into an oil exploration treaty with the late Sheikh Jabir`s son, Khaz`al. The UK guaranteed Arabistan`s security and agreed payments to both Sheikh Khaz`al and the Shah of Iran.
What should have been a blessing for the Ahwaz Arabs was, in fact, a curse.
When Sheikh Khaz`al realised that Reza Shah`s ambitions extended to Arabistan and its oil wealth, he allied himself with the Shah`s opposition and asked the British to defend the Ahwazi people and back the area`s rightful separation and independence from Persia as an Arab state.
Forced to choose between Arabistan and Tehran, Britain reneged on its treaty with Khaz`al and supported the Shah, mainly because London wanted Iran on-side as a pro-Western bulwark against the spread of Soviet communism.
Betrayed by perfide Albion, in 1924 Khaz`al put his case before the League of Nations but, without the UK`s support, it was rejected.
Persia was a member of the League of Nations prior to its annexation of Arabistan. Tehran was, therefore, bound by that body`s rules prohibiting invasion, and this unfair decision should be reconsidered.
A year later, the Shah ordered Sheikh Khaz`al to be abducted, imprisoned and killed. With Britain`s help, Reza Shah gained absolute control over the oil-wealthy territory and changed the five-century-old name Arabistan to Khuzistan.
Between 1928 and 1946, there were nine unsuccessful Ahwazi uprisings. Since then, numerous secessionist groups have emerged, written off by the Iranian Government as troublemakers or stooges of foreign countries.
Today, Al Ahwaz produces 4 million barrels of oil a day - 87 per cent of Iran`s production - but the indigenous population profits little from its revenue in terms of employment, infrastructure and welfare. Only 15-20 per cent of workers in the petroleum industry are Arabs holding mainly blue collar jobs.
Eight million Ahwaz Arabs may have been given Iranian papers, but they are not Persians. They have as much Arab blood flowing through their veins as those of us privileged to live in GCC states. I would, therefore, request Arab countries to call upon the Arab League to study their case for their right to self-determination and present it to the United Nations Security Council. Their abandonment is nothing less than a stain upon the Arab Nation to which the Arabs of Arabistan proudly belong.
Al Habtoor is a Dubai-based businessman.
© Copyright 2011 The Egyptian Gazette. All Rights Reserved.
Nasrallah: The Arab in Persian Lebanon
Asharq Al-Awsat (English Edition)
November 23, 2010
In one of his speeches that he delivered from his exile in Paris, Ayatollah Khomeini said: “Umayyad rule was based on a preference of Arabs over others. It also opposed the branch of Islam which eliminates the national concept, and unites humans in one society, a society where race and color distinctions do not exist”. During the 1970s, Khomeini lived in exile in Iraq, when relations between the Shah and the Iraqi regime had slumped. Former Iraqi President Abdul Salam Aref had allowed Iranian dissidents to broadcast their publications and sermons on the radio. Khomeini was involved, according to some sources, in the inflammatory speeches against the Shah`s regime. However, after the Baathists signed a border agreement with the Shah in 1975, Khomeini was placed under house arrest, in an attempt to secure him as future leverage. Despite trying to escape, he remained in Iraq until the Shah pressured Iraq to extradite him, and he was allowed to leave, before eventually settling in Paris.
Khomeini`s view of Umayyad rule is supported by adherents of Imami Shia Islam. His stance cannot be considered as an insult to the Arabs, or Arabism, but it was certain that the Imam did not boast of his Arab origins - claimed by his family - in the same capacity as he believed in his religious ideology, which he was able to establish in Iran today. This clarification is necessary in light of the debate taking place these days about the Sunni-Shia dispute on one hand, and the Arab-Persian dispute on the other.
In June 2009, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah - the Hezbollah leader - during a televised speech, tried to justify his party`s relations with Iran, to the Lebanese and Arab public. He said, wondering: “Are we, as opposition, considered Arabs or non-Arabs? If what is meant here is Syria, it is an Arab state. If we mean Lebanon, whether it has established distinguished relations with an Arab country, or had links with another Arab axis - needless to mention their names or elaborate on their apparent influence in the Lebanese arena, or the upcoming elections - can we say that one party is an Arab and the other is not? The country in question could be Iran; although today there is nothing in Iran known as `Persian`, or `Persian civilization`. What exists in Iran is Islamic civilization. What exists in Iran is Muhammad`s religion from Arabia, from Tahami, from Makka, from Quraish, from Tamim and from Mathar, and the founder of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah Khomeini] is an Arab, son of an Arab, and son of God`s messenger. The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic today is Imam Khamenei, who is a Hashemite, and he descends from Quraish tribe. He also descends from Ali Bin Abi-Taleb [the prophet`s cousin] and from the prophet`s daughter Fatima al-Zahraa, all being Arabs.”
At the time, Nasrallah`s statement did not draw any reaction from Iran, perhaps because the country was internally preoccupied with its elections. However, in the latter months of this year, the television recording - translated into Persian - was circulated widely both within and outside Iran. This caused embarrassment for Nasrallah, when many ethnic Persians thought he was undermining their Persian roots, and preferring Arabs over Persians. If Khomeini had angered the Arabs when he advocated religious ideology over Arab nationalism, then Nasrallah had done the same thing, with regards to the Persians.
Nasrallah is partly right, and partly wrong in what he said, for he was right when saying that the family of Imam Khomeini claims to descend from the Hashemite family [of the Prophet]. However, what Nasrallah did not tell his audience is that Imam Khomeini and his family were descendants of an Indian family, from the village of Cantor near the famous Indian city of Lucknow. Indeed, his Indian roots -which Khomeini does not deny - were the reason behind the media campaign against him, at the time of the Shah, describing him as an `Indian` who wanted to incite civil strife in the Persian country. A member of the opposition at the time, Manouchehr Ganji, quoted the Shah as saying: “If Khomeini lifted the beard from under his chin, you would find (Made in England)”. Continuing this public defamation, the newspaper `Italaat` denied that Khomeini was affiliated to the Prophet`s family, and even considered him to be the son of a British traveler, who settled in Iran and Iraq in the 19th century (Italaat, January 7th, 1978).
The fact is that the English case for Khomeini is a flimsy one. As for the controversy surrounding the validity of his Arab, Indian, or Persian origins, this is a matter for historians and genealogists, and is not a matter of politics. However, what is more important than Khomeini`s origins is his stance on the Sunni-Shia and Arab-Persian disputes. Historically, we can say that Khomeini was not a nationalistic man, or racist against other people, but he was a man of religious ideology, and his ideology always took precedent over nationalism. Khomeini was a spiritual leader more than he was a `Persian`, and this was one of the most important reasons for the spread of his vision, outside of the Walih al-Faqih in Iran. This also explains why his vision drew the admiration from some secular Arabs and western intellectuals. Despite some of his expressions, which targeted certain western and Arab rulers, Khomeini believed in the need to preach his Islamic revolution to the surrounding Arab and Islamic world.
When the Islamic revolution took place in Iran, Khomeini met with well-wishers from the Arab and western left, including the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. Prior to the revolution he met with French philosopher Michael Foucault, whose “homosexuality” did not deter Khomeini from meeting him, in order to evangelize his Islamic revolution. Some still remember how the Iranian regime, under Khomeini, was able to establish public alliances and secret contracts, even with its enemies; Iran-contra. Therefore, Khomeini had no reservations about evoking Persian nationalism in Iran after the Iran-Iraq war. Indeed, Khomeini did not censor the Mullahs, who invoked sentiments of former Persian glory to galvanize the fighters. Last month, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad draped a Palestinian-style Keffiyeh scarf, worn by Basij militiamen, over the shoulders of an actor dressed as Cyrus - the founder of the Persian Empire. Ahmadinejad has talked about Cyrus in high regard, calling him the “King of the world”. This is a remarkable statement in a state where the Shah once emphasized Iran`s proud past, over Islam.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is mistaken if he thinks that Iran is merely an Islamic state, because that is contrary to Iran`s present-day reality. Iranians are proud to be Persians, and the majority of them - even among the opponents of the Mullahs, reject foreign intervention in their country. This is a matter worth noting for Nasrallah. Religious ideology cannot completely replace national identity, and Khomeini was conscious of this, and exploited it for the benefit of the regime. The Iranian scholar, Dariush Shayegan, (Illusions of Identity, 1993, trans. Muhammad Mukkaled) when talking about both the Shah and Khomeini, said that: “despite the broad differences between them, they committed the same old mistakes. They managed to embody par excellence the two Iranian fatal practices; cultural schizophrenia and the dream of greatness with regards to reviving the Sassanid Empire, by the Iranian Shah, or spreading Islam internationally through an Imam, according to the sacred Shiite belief. Heaven and its contrary; the heaven of the great civilization on earth, and the heaven of resurrection and the Day of Doom in the heavens. Two different discourses; two visions representing two neighboring Irans: the Imperial Iran according to the discourses of kings, and Iran that suffered from the martyrdom blood. Yet their proximity can be summarized in the following: The extravagance of a nation who never refrains from dreaming beyond the bounds of its capacity”.
© Copyright 2010. Asharq Al-Awsat. All Rights Reserved.
Iranian Arabs in Ahvaz fear “physical liquidation”, condemn arrests - report
BBC Monitoring Middle East
May 07, 2005
Text of report by Usamah Mahdi in London entitled “Ahvazis fear physical liquidation” published by Elaph web site on 6 May; subheadings inserted editorially:
“Military operations and assassinations”
Arab Ahvaz sources in Iran have expressed fears about physical liquidation operations by the Iranian authorities against the leaders of the confrontations taking place in the Ahvaz. These fears were expressed after the Iranian minister of intelligence confirmed the arrest of most of these leaders. Meanwhile, an Ahvaz armed group announced that it had blown up a second Iranian oil pipeline between the cities of Masjed and Al-Ahvaz.
In a telephone call with Elaph today, Sabah Musawi, the head of the Political Bureau of the Ahvaz Arab Al-Nahdah [renaissance] Party, expressed fears that the detainees would be tortured and executed. Musawi added that Iranian Intelligence Minister Shaykh Ali Younesi admitted yesterday that most of the elements who were involved in the recent events were apprehended and that the search continued for others, including a person involved in a “secessionist” organization. Musawi referred to the military operations and assassinations that took place in the city of Al-Muhammarah following the massacre that was perpetrated against the Arabs on 1 June 1979 by then District Governor General Ahmed Madani. In this massacre, the Revolutionary Guard militias and the marines stationed in the port of Al-Muhammarah killed more than 500 Arabs. The massacre was followed by acts of revenge by the Ahvaz movements against the Iranian military installations during which they liquidated many elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In one operation, the Ahvaz movements killed Anoshervan Reda`i, the then militia guard commander in Ahvaz and brother of General Mohsen Reda`i, the then secretary-general of the Expediency Discernment Council in Iran. As a result of these operations, the Iranian authorities then launched a wide campaign of arrests against Ahvaz activists and thousands of them were forced to flee to Iraq.
Sabah Musawi added that after the US invasion [of Iraq], Iranian intelligence elements - supported by pro-Iranian militias in Iraq - attacked the residential complexes of Ahvazis in the cities of Al-Kut and Al-Amarah south of Iraq. A number of Ahvazis were killed and the rest were forced to flee to a camp set up by the United Nations Commission on Refugees in the city of Basra on the border with Iran. Six months after that, the Iranian authorities - under pressure from the United Nations - were forced to allow the displaced Ahvazis to return to their homeland. However, as soon as they returned, they were transported to desert camps and interrogated. Many of them, including prominent tribal figures, were deported to detention camps in several Iranian cities. Musawi expressed worry that the Iranian authorities may liquidate those who returned, especially after the statements made by the Iranian Intelligence Minister that the mastermind has been arrested.
“Attempt to change the region`s demography”
It is believed that this mastermind is Shaykh Saddam Hamid al-Sahr (60 years), the shaykh of the Al-Zuwaydat tribes and a prominent tribal figure in Ahvaz. In the early 1980s, Shaykh Al-Sahr was accused of masterminding several operations against the Revolutionary Guards in the cities of Al-Muhammarah and Abadan. Musawi added that this campaign being waged by the Iranian authorities comes in the wake of the arrest of Ashvaz writer and journalist Yusuf Aziz Bani Tarf. He is accused by circles inside the reformist wing that he leaked the official document issued by the office of the Iranian president. This document called for evicting the largest number of Ahvaz Arabs from their regions and replacing them with Persians in an attempt to change the region`s demography. It was this document that ignited the recent uprising in Ahvaz during which hundreds were killed or wounded by the Iranian forces. It also led to the arrest of hundreds of Arabs whose fate is still unknown.
Musawi also said that two days ago, members of the “Ahvaz Renaissance Movement” blew up oil pipeline No 102 coming from the city of Masjed Suleiman to Al-Ahvaz City, the centre of the district. The operation took place at a distance of 25 kilometres northeast of Al-Ahvaz City. The explosion caused a huge fire and the flow of oil was disrupted. Musawi said that this operation is in retaliation to the campaign of arrests and killing that the Iranian authorities are launching against the sons of our Arab people in Ahvaz. He threatened more such operations and recalled the promises made by the movement to attack Iranian economic establishments unless the Iranian authorities stop all the violations they are committing against the Ahvazis and restore their usurped legitimate rights. It is worth noting that this is the second operation carried out by the Ahvaz movement against Iranian oil installations in a week. Last Saturday, the oil pipeline stretching from the refinery in Abadan to Port Ma`shur on the Arabian Gulf south of Ahvaz was also blown up.
Source: Elaph web site, London, in Arabic 6 May 05
© 2005 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.