WRITTEN BY AHWAZNA, Prepared and presented by: Committee for research and studies in The Arab Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz
Ahwaz is an occupied Arab country located in the southwestern region of the Republic of Iraq and also in the southwestern region of Persia. It is bounded on the north by the Kurdistan Mountains the eastern border of the Lorestan Mountains which are known as the mountains of Zagros. These mountains in the north and the east create a natural border that separates the Ahwaz Arab lands from Persia. To the south, Ahwaz lies along the northern coast of the Arabian Gulf.
In terms of climate, the areas of occupied Ahwaz are quite similar to the plains of Mesopotamia as well as being entirely different in all respects with the climate of Persia.
Arnold Wilson, the British civil commissioner in Baghdad in 1918-1920, also asserted when he visited Ahwaz or Arabistan, “Ahwaz (Arabistan) is quite different from Iran. Ahwaz is surrounded by mountain chains forming a wall completely surrounding Al-Ahwaz and constituting a geographic division. The interval between Ahwaz and Persia and the difference between Ahwaz and Persia resembles the differences between Germany and Spain. In addition, this difference is not only confined to the geographical landmarks of Ahwaz, but includes culture, language, customs and traditions, history and population, fertility of the land and agricultural crops”.
The actual total area of this occupied Arab land is 375 thousand square kilometers, but the subsequent Iranian occupying governments have proceeded to usurp vast areas of this Arab land and have annexed adjacent Ahwaz areas to the Persian regions, all for the reason of legitimizing the diminishment of the area of Ahwaz. This organized plundering, shrinking the area through a land-grab and pernicious policies had been sought since 1936 up to the present day where Persian governments, under the pretext of conducting modern administrative regulations have truncated the following parts of Ahwazi lands:
- Cutting off 11 thousand square kilometers of southern lands of Ahwaz and annexing it to Fars Province.
- Cutting off 10 thousand square kilometers of eastern lands of Ahwaz and annexing it to Esfahan Province.
- Cutting off 4400 square kilometers of northern lands of Ahwaz and annexing it to Lorestan Province.
- Other regions such as Elam, Bushehr, and Bandar Abbas also have been cut from Ahwaz and exposed to Persianization policies by displacing its indigenous Ahwazi Arab inhabitants and settling Persians there. In Bushehr and Bandar Abbas large numbers of Ahwazi Arab inhabitants have been forced into Arabian Gulf countries after experiencing oppression, poverty, the appropriation of their property and possessions, particularly through forcible confiscation of their lands.
Consequently, the map of Al-Ahwaz has dramatically been shrunk from its original size to 159,600 thousand square kilometers according to current Iranian statistics.
Despite the lack of accurate statistics on the precise amount of the Ahwaz population, the number of residents of this occupied Arabic country is estimated to be eight million people. According to the most recent census issued by the Persian government in 1962, the population of this country that remained after the annexation of large regions from it was approximately 3.5 million Arabs. In addition to the 100,000, settlers who came from the Persian cities to this country after Reza Shah Pahlavi invaded Ahwaz.
According to other statistics recognized by the Persian occupation which was carried out after administrative divisions led into truncation, large parts of this usurped Arabic country the Ahwaz or Khuzestan area, as Persian rule calls it, is 64,236 square kilometers and the census of Arab people is 374,6772 residents. So, if we retrieve the population of the separated areas and add it to the aforesaid number, then the number of Arab inhabitants of Ahwaz will reach nearly eight million people.
Since 1925 and right after the fall of its last Arab ruler through the military occupation of Reza Shah, Ahwaz has been the target of racist policies of successive governments of Persian regimes.
The most vile, dangerous and destructive policy inflicted on Ahwaz is the plague of Persianization that is changing the demographic composition of Ahwaz with the goal of eliminating the Arabic identity and destroying all its major pillars of nation building.
This policy in the long-term has drawn a vicious vision for the Persian occupation that is the requisite of dragging the Ahwazi Arab nation to a stage in which calling it a nation will no longer be possible. They have spared no effort to make this vision a reality on the ground. The practices and policies undertaken by Persian occupation can be divided into two eras.
The overt racist philosophy of Farsism began in the form of the pan-Iranist party during the Reza Shah Regime. But our intended concept is the inherent popularized idea of Farsism that has penetrated deeply into the mind and the characters of the Persian people, even those who are seemingly combating racism. However, they are more Catholic than the Pope when it comes to anti-Arab sentiment or fighting against Arabs.
The contemptuous attitude toward other non-Persian, people particularly toward the Ahwazi nation, constitutes the backbone of Farsism as an ideology. In fact, the policy of racial discrimination is being applied at the beginning of the founding of the state – the nation.
The Ahwazi Arab people have been the first victims of this policy. Because the radicalism of Farsism, which seeks to maintain and stabilize its illegal roots in the land that was occupied it by force, has committed mass murder and genocide of Ahwazi Arab people in different ways. Before the occupation, Ahwaz had a homogeneous Arab population with various clans and tribes. After the conquest of Ahwaz and consequent overthrow of Arabic rule, Reza Shah by applying the recommendations of Farsism theorists such as Foroughi, Mirza Malcom, Akhound Zadeh and Taghi Zadeh, practiced the policy of forced migration and displacement of populations against the Arab people. In his first criminal acts, we can refer to the mass exile of Arab sheikhs outside Ahwaz.
Then, he ordered the banishment of a large number of Ahwazi Arab tribes to the Khorassan region, forcing them to walk barefoot long distances day and night without water and food, having to cross grueling mountain routes as so many women, children and elderly people were killed due to extreme fatigue, thirst and starvation.
For years, Reza Shah had widely practiced the policy of reverse migration of Ahwazi people to the central Persian regions and in contrast promoted the settlement of Persian people in Ahwazi regions.
The nomadic Lur and Bakhtiyari tribes, as their original homelands is beyond Zagros Mountains and because of their proximity to the northern regions of Ahwaz, had frequently travelled with their herds to Ahwazi areas to find pasture lands to feed their flocks of sheep and goats. This situation helped Reza Shah to resettle them quickly in Ahwazi areas especially in Qenitra (Dezful) and Susa (Shush). The Bakhtiyari tribes were only living in mountain regions and foothills of the Zagros in Izeh and Masjed Soleyman and in winter and summer they were commuting between their original homeland and the Ahwazi areas (Izeh and Masjed Soleyman. This meant that they left Ahwaz in the summer and returned to Ahwazi areas in the winter. These areas had the greatest potential for changing the demographic composition of Ahwaz. However, the industrialization of the cities of Abadan and Ahwaz had created the basis for the massive migration into the cities.
The Pahlavi regime repeatedly sent groups of Persian laborers into cities and through the granting of privileges, established a Persian middle class in the heart of Ahwazi cities, thereby enabling and reinforcing its occupation policies. Since 1925 the systematic migration of Persians has been carried out through the settlement of the “Lor and Bakhtiyari” tribes in Izeh, Masjed Solyman and Qenitra (Dezful), agricultural projects in Toster to Muhammarah, and industrial and oil projects in Ahwaz and Abadan.
Once Persian immigrants started to descend on Ahwazi cities, it did not take long for the total political domination of the Persian state over Ahwaz. Further development of the Abadan oil refinery in 1938 led it to become one of the largest refineries in the Middle East, providing thousands of job opportunities and paving the way for the arrival of many immigrants.
Approximately 25 years after Reza Khan entered the region, the population of Abadan increased to 227,000, more than ten times that of 1956. The arrival of Persian settlers was to such an extent that there was not sufficient housing to lodge them. It followed that the English-Iranian Oil Company had to construct exclusive residential buildings for their workers and employees, and these buildings are known as “Bangleha”. According to government statistics, 62 percent of these immigrants are from the Isfahan and Yazd provinces, 24 percent are from the Fars province and 8 percent from the Kermanshah province.
These government settlement programs resulted in an influx of large numbers of Persian settlers to the cities of Abadan and Mahshor. The occupation authorities ever since have sought to build new industrial hubs in other major cities in an effort to further spread the scale and scope of Persian settlement of the cities of Al-Ahwaz.
Through the establishment of governmental centers, industrial factories in and around the Ahwaz capital, in addition to promoting and strengthening the military’s role in establishing large military bases, improving roads and routes leading to Ahwaz city, they created another new industrial hub in the region that brought tens of thousands of Persian immigrants to the city.
The consequence of this policy led to the population of Ahwaz city in 1977 to reach half a million people, surpassing Abadan and other cities.
The outbreak of the Iran revolution in 1979 and after the Iran-Iraq war, the migration of Iranians to Ahwazi regions had relented for a while. But after those ethnic statistics were excluded from the official statistics of Iran, it was the beginning of a lack of transparency in statistics related to immigrants coming to Ahwaz.
As every year, the hideous assimilation phenomenon (Persianizing land and human settlement) plagues Ahwaz, mainly the northern and the eastern bordering regions. This monstrous occupying Persian state aims at devouring the entirety of Arabic characteristics of Ahwaz.
Changing the demographic structure in favor of non-Arab immigrants, changing the Arabic names to Farsi ones, the ban on teaching the Arabic language and breaking up Ahwazi territories by annexing parts of Ahwaz and inserting them into Persian regions adjacent to Ahwaz are all part of the agenda, seeking the corroboration of the occupation authorities in targeting all the pillars of the national Arabic identity of the Ahwazi people.
In addition to forced migration and deporting Arab people to Persian regions and reverse migration of non-Arab people into Ahwaz, the Persian state has adopted other evil methods against the Ahwazi people.
The confiscation and plundering of agricultural lands by Persian feudal owners followed new approval of agrarian reforms. Under the new and unfair law, the non-indigenous feudal entities had seized the chance to illegally become the owners of the lands that had previously been usurped from Arab farmers. In this regard, the death of Majid Khan, the great feudal owner, had been a perfect opportunity for the Persian central government to take control of 25,000 hectares of the lands that were virtually usurped. Later, the occupation government has established the “Karoon Sugar Cane Development project” on these confiscated lands in the Toster (Shushtar) region. As a matter of fact, the agrarian reforms made by the government were not so different when compared to the feudal ones with respect to giving the possession of lands by its main Arab owners and once again it was a lose–lose situation for Ahwazi Arab farmers. Although some feudal lands were granted to Arab farmers, the majority of lands that were under the possession of feudal ownership, once again were confiscated by the central government and Arab farmers were deprived of their lands forever. Additionally, those nomadic Lor tribes that forcibly settled on Ahwazi lands according to the agrarian reform Law become the owners of lands that formerly had belonged to the Arab people.
In Mahshor, Temimiyeh (Hendijan), Khalafeyeh, Ramez and Omideyeh the Pahlavi government claimed that the lands belonged to a Persian person named “Hosseinqoli Nezam Alsalteneh Ma’âfi” and after his death the government declared the confiscation of all these lands.
The Pahlavi government’s argument that apparently based is on speculation and lacks any credible evidence was announced as follows:
It seems that before the ownership of lands by Hosseinqoli Nezam Alsalteneh Ma’âfi, these lands were under the authority of Sheikh Khazaal (the ruler of Ahwaz) but when Sheikh Khazaal married Batul Ma’âfi, the daughter of Hosseinqoli, he endowed the lands to Hosseinqoli Ma’âfi. After the fall of Sheikh Khazaal and occupation of Ahwaz, Hosseinqoli Ma’âfi gave half of these lands to the government endowment organization and kept the rest in his ownership until the end of the Pahlavi regime. Later the Islamic Republic seized the part of lands owned by him. Now the Ahwazi Arab people, the original inhabitants of these lands, remained tenants residing on the lands that mainly belong to them and every time the landlord (government) wishes it can expel them from these lands.
Most statistics and evidence show that the government has put more focus on changing the demographic structure of Al-Ahwaz. Because they know well that a divided and heterogeneous nation is no longer able to stand against colonialism for this reason, the government has ever since been targeting the Ahwazi Arab nation from the inside.
It is a silent killer policy aimed at exterminating the entire Ahwaz population, and it has been pursued in the form of changing the demographic structure of Ahwaz. This inhuman act is conducted without adequate news reflection or attention. In silence, its annihilating consequences are disintegrating the Ahwazi nation from the inside.
In addition to the above methods, the government has deployed modern methods for changing the demographic structure, such as constructing Persian settlements to make a rapid and widespread change in the fabric of the population in favor of Persian settlers. New Yazd and New Isfahan settlements built in Khafajah city are only examples of these grave crimes that not only have not stopped under the current Islamic Republic regime, but have continued with greater frequency and intensity.
Of course, these are just a few cases of the Pahlavi regime’s crimes in the demographic structure of the Arab nation of Al-Ahwaz. In the second part of this article, we will shed more light on the current policies of changing the population structure of Al-Ahwaz under the Islamic Republic regime.