Archive for the ‘Culture and Heritage’ Category

big_art__xgj6_xlqm_geje0Ahwazna

Hamid Mansour: We should address the West to correct the stereotypical image it has of Arabs

Saad al-Din Ibrahim:  Iranian regime uses minorities to foment discord among Arabs

Zafer Mohammed al-Ajmi: The best defense is a good offense; move the battle inside Iran

Fatima Abdullah Khalil: Liberating Ahwaz will be a severe blow to Iran

Ayoub Said: The occupation benefited from both internal and external factors

Ismail Khalafullah: We have six solutions to the Ahwazi situation, including a popular revolution

Hassan Radhi: The occupation is trying to obliterate the identity of the people of Ahwaz

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The Arab European Foundation for International Relations (EISO) on Saturday held a symposium entitled “The Implications of the Arab-Iranian Conflict on the Ahwazi Issue” on August 26, in light of the Arab-Persian conflict.

The seminar included several sessions that began with a morning session on “the Arab-Iranian conflict in light of the transformations of the Middle East”, followed by the first lecture by Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim and Dr. Barbara Ibrahim, on “Methods of Conflict Management in the Middle East.”

In the second lecture, Fatima Khalil spoke about the “nature of the Arab-Iranian conflict: the geopolitical axis of the conflict.” The third lecture, in which Dr. Zafer al-Ajmi spoke, broached on “the role of the Ahwazi question in the Arab-Iranian conflict.” In the evening, the symposium was divided into three lectures. The first, entitled “The Right to Self-Determination, was given by Dr. Ismael Khalafallah. And the second lecture by Ayoub Said entitled “Occupying the Ahwaz: Reassessment of the Status quo” and the third lecture Presented by Hassan Radhi and focused on the policies of the center towards the people of Ahwaz over the past two decades.”

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Hamid Mansour, the member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has given the opening speech of the symposium, where he proclaimed the launch of the Arab-European Foundation for International Relations “AEFIR. It will be of significant role in media, politics, and culture. A host of Ahwazi youth who is interested in the Ahwazi plight witnessed AEFIR’s launch. In his speech, he pointed to the weak Arab influence in the Western society, which has the upper hand in the world today, noting that this allowed the opponents to be alone in the arena of influential work.  They managed to create a distorted stereotype in the minds of Western public opinion due to their strong political and media presence, to be the sole basis for interpreting the reality of the political conflict in the Arab region, which in the end results in shaping an unfair Western opinion of the just Arab causes. He stressed the important role played by NGOs and public relations centers in rectifying the way through which civil and official institutions in the West look on just Arab causes, as well as building inter-relations and developing them among peoples to achieve common interests. Mansur pointed out that the AEFIR will pay great attention to filling the vacuum and building relations in order to mobilize for international cooperation on the Ahwazi question and the other just Arab causes. He called for developing and renewing the discourse, especially that the contemporary world does not tackle such issues in terms of values of justice and ideals. Interest is the foremost criterion. For it, armies are mobilized, positions are adopted, and leaders are unseated. He indicated that the most important objective of the institution is to correct the image of Arabs without begging. He pointed out that Arab issues are indivisible, and the Ahwazi plight is an integral part thereof. He stressed that the Arab interest necessitates broadening the scope of the issue’s perspective in order to make it stronger by avoiding partial solutions that only emphasize weakness and powerlessness. He said that the foundation seeks to present the Ahwazi issue as a just Arab and humanitarian cause. It seeks to manifest its national dimension, not only the political and historical aspects. AEFIR yet plans to render clear the strategic importance of the Ahwazi plight for the other Arab questions. Also, the newborn Foundation aims to explain to the whole world how settling the Ahwazi issue will be of significant importance for stability in the region and enhancing global peace and security.  According to the lecturers, the foundation shall reiterate that ditching the Ahwazi cause will show the world how Arabs are ready to concede their rights.

Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, in his lecture entitled “Methods of Conflict Management in the Middle East” said that the Iran is a challenge to the Arab region. He indicated that it is not a threat. According to him, a threat is a thing that comes from outside such as Israel. The Iranian threat is part of the region. He noted that Iran acted as the policeman of the Gulf since its last monarch Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, with the blessing of the US. He pointed out Jimmy Carter said from Tehran that Washington welcomes Iran’s role as a policeman to maintain the security of the Gulf.

He considered that justice as a value is one of the main demands of all peoples of the world, stressing that the demands of the people of Ahwaz are an integral part of all the demands and slogans that united the whole world, such as values of freedom and democracy. He explained that Ahwaz had been isolated from its Arab sphere and given to the shah in return for an agreement that would enable Britain to search for oil on the eastern shore of the Gulf. This was part of the Sykes-Picot agreement and others. He said that this ambition could be stopped by awareness, coordination, and solidarity among all local factions to face up to the expansionist Persian hegemony. He argued that this expansionist desire will not be halted by changing the regime there, history tells us so. It is a deep-rooted orientation in the Persian mindset. He noted that the absence of the Egyptian role over the past two decades enabled Iran to spill over its influence into at least five Arab countries. It began to exploit the rampant poverty in some African countries to infiltrate the east coast of Africa in an attempt to besiege the Kingdom (of Saudi Arabia) and Egypt. He pointed out that the Persians are the inventors of chess, a game through which you can defeat your rival using his papers, and this is what is happening now that the Iran exploits any popular base in the Arab countries as a launch pad for spillover. He pointed out that Iran has started to play on the heartstrings of those who have a love for Ahlul Bait, Prophet Mohammed’s family. This issue attracts many sympathizers in Egypt. For those people, Iran offers money and other forms of aid. It helps them build their institutions. These establishments promote Shiism in its essence. Ibrahim called for the need to cooperate to create rational public awareness without hostility or hatred against anyone, including the Iranians themselves, as the Persians Iranians make up only 40%, of the Iranian people and the rest are groups of different ethnicities, pointing out that the Persians are the strongest group and they managed to prevail over the rest of the people. Yet he called on all those marginalized in Iran to stick to solidarity, stressing that Ahwazis are entitled to spread brotherhood and solidarity with all oppressed groups on the basis of equality and justice for all, and cooperate with all liberal groups in the region, to seek to acquire an observer status at the Arab League and United Nations.

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Dr. Dhafer Mohammed Al Ajmi, Executive Director of Gulf Watch Group, in his lecture entitled “Positions of Gulf States on Ahwaz: Reality and Hope”, pointed out that the international relations are administered by two types of personalities, either a diplomat or a soldier. He sees that ambiguous positions are over in the Gulf.  “Saudi Arabia stands firmly in the face of Iran’s expansionism,” said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “Saudi Arabia is well aware of the fact that it is a target of the Iranian regime, and that the Kingdom will not wait until the battle rages on the Saudi soil, but it will work to move the battle inside Iran ” He stressed that the solution to the Iranian meddling in the Gulf countries is to shift the theater of the battle into the Arabian territories of Ahwaz, stressing that working in this spot shall be very painful for Iran. He cited a statement of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, where he said: “Iran lives by Khuzestan.” He concluded by calling for the unification of speech and efforts for the Ahwazis to obtain their right to self-determination.

Fatima Abdullah Khalil, a writer and researcher on the Arabian Gulf’s affairs, in her lecture entitled “Iranian expansion from Ahwaz to Yemen”, concluded GCC states should be the Launchpad for resisting the Iranian schemes since they are more stable, richer and more independent compared to neighboring Arab countries. She pointed out that the GCC countries began recently to try to bring back the Arab Shiites to the Arab and Gulf sphere, through the Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement. She pointed to the need to promote Yemeni containment from within through integrating the Yemeni people into the Gulf, and supporting groups opposed to Iran, particularly Ahwazis. Yet she stressed that retaking Ahwaz is an Arab national necessity, and a geostrategic necessity, which will pave the way for Ahwaz to be independent and join the GCC. The lecturer noted that clawing back Ahwaz will be a deadly blow to Iran.

In a lecture entitled “The occupation of Ahwaz, reassessment of the status quo, Ayoub Said, writer and researcher on Ahwaz, addressed the era relating to the annexation of Al-Ahwaz in 1925 and the subsequent obliterating of its historical sovereignty in light of interlocked regional and international conditions that pushed in this direction.

He also focused on the internal factors that combined with the external factors, which led to losing control over Ahwaz. Foremost of these factors was the lack of incubators for the policies of Prince Khazal, which indifference and somewhat satisfaction at the overthrow of the Prince and the occupation of Ahwaz.

Dr. Ismail Khalafallah, a lawyer and researcher on international law and director of the Association of Rights and Freedoms in France, discussed the Ahwazi issue in a lecture entitled “The right of the Arab people of Ahwaz to determine their own destiny and the legitimacy of their resistance” In several points as follows:

1 – What was taken by force, can only be restored by force which requires a sweeping and comprehensive revolution against the Iranian occupiers.

2 – Unifying and gathering all the political and military forces of Ahwazi in one front inclusive of all the factions, to end the Iranian occupation of Ahwaz.

3 – Raise the awareness of Arab people Ahwaz concerning the need to muster within a unified body organized politically, militarily, socially and culturally, to counter Iranian colonialism.

4 – Intensifying efforts aimed at raising awareness within the Arab and Islamic society and the international community, that this issue is part of the decolonization efforts and asserting that the Arab region of Ahwaz is a pure Arab land that was seized by the Iranian colonizer in complicity with the US.

5 – Promoting the idea of the right of the Arab people of Ahwaz to gain independence from Iran at national, regional and international levels.

6 – Working to remove all political and intellectual differences between all factions of the Arab people Ahwaz both at home and abroad.

In a lecture titled ‘policies of the center towards the Ahwazi people’ over the past two decades, Hassan Radhi, director of the Ahwaz Center for Media and Strategic Studies, focused on woes experienced by the Ahwazis under the occupation in the social, economic and political aspects in light of the repressive policies aimed at wiping out the identity of the Ahwazi people.

http://ahwazna.net/en-540_Hague_Seminar_Focuses_on_Ahwaz_in_Context_of_Arab_Iranian_Conflict_.html

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By Nouri Hamza

The unity required to oust the current brutal theocratic regime in Tehran and to replace it with a modern, genuinely democratic, forward-looking system can only come from finally abandoning the regressive supremacist thinking which shapes this regime’s totalitarian mindset as it did the mindset of its predecessors.  The PMOI has struggled for radical change in Iran for over half a century; as Ahwazi activists and supporters of justice for all peoples, we urge the party to acknowledge the failure of the current, outmoded,  brutally enforced nation-state model which has failed  for many decades to recognize all citizens’ rights to autonomy, liberty, and equality. 

Leaders and members of the Iranian opposition party, the People’s Mujahideen Organization (PMOI) also known as Mujahedin e-Khalq or MEK, have reacted angrily to criticism of the organization’s discriminatory policies towards Iranians of non-Persian ethnicity after some Arabs and Ahwazis condemned the organization’s policies towards already oppressed minorities in Iran, who make up over half the country’s population.

In a number of articles published in recent days on news websites and in statements on social media, PMOI representatives have referred to Ahwazi Arab activists and supporters of Ahwazi freedom – among the people most brutally oppressed and subjected to racist persecution by the Tehran regime – as being agents of the Tehran regime.  One example of this is an article published on the Madaen website by  PMOI member Ali Qaimi in which he accuses  Ahwazi freedom activists of being regime agents, claiming that their objective is to slander the ‘genuine opposition’ to the regime.  Such grotesque and defamatory accusations against Ahwazi activists were made without any evidence, since none exists, adding insult to injury for Ahwazi people already routinely persecuted by the regime for their Arab ethnicity.

While the Iranian regime routinely subjects Ahwazis and other ethnic minorities in Iran, including Kurds, Turkmen, and Baluchis, to brutal racist discrimination and persecution, in addition to its standard oppression and crushing of all dissent,  the PMOI claims to oppose this systematic injustice and to represent the voice of freedom, justice and  dignity for all citizens of Iran; unfortunately it fails to live up to this lofty aspiration,  with some of its members instead repeating the same anti-Arab prejudice towards Ahwazis. This failure is causing many among the country’s Arab population to question the party’s commitment to replacing the current brutal regime with genuine representative democracy in which Ahwazis have equal rights and freedoms.

Many Ahwazis, already aggrieved and alienated by such inflammatory and insulting statements from the PMOI,  are also frustrated that the party is routinely represented in media as being the sole opposition to the Iranian regime while other opposition groups which represent the country’s ethnic minorities, as well as those of Persian ethnicity and which are involved in far more extensive opposition activities, are disregarded.   A number of Ahwazi parties, as well as others representing Kurds such as the PJAK, Turkish parties such as the Azerbaijan Independence Party, and Balochi parties such as the Baluchistan Party, which work tirelessly for freedom and human rights, at great risk to their members in Iran, to help people in their own areas and in coordination with one another, have been flatly ignored, both by the PMOI and by its international supporters.

So long as the PMOI continues to mirror the ethnic supremacism of the current regime and its predecessors towards minorities in Iran and to disregard their legitimate calls for autonomy and self-determination, it will continue to be viewed as simply replicating their  policies of oppression;  Ahwazis, Kurds and other minorities who rose up once before in 1979 to win freedom from earlier oppressors have no desire to once again go through such upheavals simply in order to again replace one more oppressive, unjust and racist regime with another.

Another example of the casual racism shown by the PMOI to Ahwazi Arabs in the aforementioned article by senior party member Qaimi was his insulting effort at cultural appropriation, dressing in traditional Ahwazi Arab garb – outlawed by the regime – for his byline photo in an effort to make himself “look Ahwazi” so that his offensive claims about Ahwazi activists might carry more weight; Ahwazi Arabs are routinely arrested for wearing their traditional Arab attire.   Mr. Qaimi, a Persian Iranian, even described himself as a “writer of Ahwaz”, in an attempt to suggest that he is himself an Ahwazi Arab. This is akin to the famous white American woman Rachel Dolezal pretending to be African-American in order to pose as a black activist and to write from a first-person perspective about racism; at least in Dolezal’s case, however, she was not  further insulting African-American civil rights activists by claiming that they were working in league with white supremacists; in Mr. Qaimi’s case, he used Ahwazi attire in support of an article slandering  actual Ahwazi Arabs who are targeted by the regime for their ethnicity and cultural heritage.

This contemptible action by this writer and the grotesque slanders about Ahwazi activists contained in his article were crass, exploitative and wholly unethical and should be disowned by the PMOI if it wishes to restore its already battered credibility with the Ahwazi people.

Similarly to the egregious accusations made by Ali Qaimi, the head of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization, Dr. Snabrq Zahedi, issued a problematic statement addressing some aspects of suffering endured by ethnic minorities since the 1979 revolution.   In his statement, he readily showed approval for Kurdish self-governance in Iran while ignoring Iranian regime atrocities committed against Arabs, such as the Black Wednesday Massacre in the Ahwazi city of Muhammarah. The PMOI has yet to publicly take a position on, let alone condemn, the horrors enacted upon Ahwazi Arabs by the Iranian regime. The PMOI has also taken no sure stance regarding the regime’s diversion of Ahwazi Rivers to Persian provinces that subsequently instigates demographic change when Arabs are forced to leave the depleted Ahwazi lands. The PMOI, like the regime, has also not addressed the April 15, 2005, Arab uprising in any real way, save in small mentions buried deep within their media releases.

 Zahedi asserted in this speech, seemingly without any clear understanding of the Ahwazi issue, that “the project to establish self-governance in Kurdistan, Iran should be a general framework for all non-Persian peoples.” He was even praised for this statement by the National Council on Kurdistan in particular. So it is therefore pertinent to ask: What does it mean to say that the framework of the self-rule used for the Kurdistan Region in Iran could be applicable to all non-Persian regions and ethnic peoples? What is this framework and how does it apply to Arabs, Baluchs, Turks, Turkmen, and other ethnic minorities?

Is the objective of the Resistance Council, the political wing of the PMOI, to work on establishing a self-governing model for all peoples such as Arabs, Baluchs, Turks, Turkmen, and other ethnic minorities as was approved for the Kurds? If this is the intention, why has the PMOI not made any public announcement to that effect as of yet? Why has the PMOI not sought contributions to such initiatives towards other non-Persian peoples as they did with the Kurds?  There is a  saying that “doubt naturally comes before assurance” as based on the lengthy experiences of oppression and betrayal, the Ahwazi people cannot be assured of anything until concrete actions are taken to back up PMOI’s statements.

Previously, some members of the Ahwazi Party had attended a meeting with leaders from the People’s Mujahideen Organization. During said meeting, PMOI members stated bluntly that they will not accept autonomy for Ahwazi Arabs, as the circumstances of Kurdish autonomy are completely different. It would seem that the PMOI have taken a tolerant stance towards the Kurdish issue, perhaps in part to the preponderance of Kurdish people within their own forces during the Iran-Iraq war.  This alliance seems to have facilitated a bridge for cooperation between the Kurds and PMOI. Another factor may be that the PMOI believes that Kurdish people belong to the Aryan race, which seems to have made it easier to accept their desire for autonomy above other ethnic minorities. Other than the aforementioned factors, there seem to be no other sensible reasons why the PMOI would support only Kurdish autonomy in Iran, which is still seen as “fragile and unreliable” according to Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou who was the iconic leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran until his assassination in 1989 by individuals suspected of being agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The unity required to oust the current brutal theocratic regime in Tehran and to replace it with a modern, genuinely democratic, forward-looking system can only come from finally abandoning the regressive supremacist thinking which shapes this regime’s totalitarian mindset as it did the mindset of its predecessors.  The PMOI has struggled for radical change in Iran for over half a century; as Ahwazi activists and supporters of justice for all peoples, we urge the party to acknowledge the failure of the current, outmoded,  brutally enforced nation-state model which has failed  for many decades to recognize all citizens’ rights to autonomy, liberty, and equality.  We are seeing the results of this systematically unjust and outmoded externally-imposed political model playing out tragically across the region as long-oppressed peoples, subjected for decades to injustice and oppression on the basis of sect, ethnicity, and faith, rise up for freedom and dignity, with assorted dictators and totalitarian regimes responding with further murderous oppression.  The monstrous Iranian regime is central to efforts to ensure continuing tyranny regionally, as domestically.  In order to succeed, the PMOI must incorporate the voices of all of the oppressed peoples in Iran, working as equals with Ahwazis and all other minorities to forge a new, mutually respectful political model, leaving the current, brutal and outmoded one in the dustbin of history where it belongs.

By Nouri Hamza, Ahwazi journalist and follower of Iranian affairs, you can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NouriAlhamzawi

whatsapp-image-2016-10-11-at-4-20-47-pm(Palestinian readers, PLEASE  sign the petition linked at the bottom) We, the undersigned Palestinians, write to affirm our commitment to the amplification of Syrian voices as they endure slaughter and displacement at the hands of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. We are motivated by our deep belief that oppression, in all of its manifestations, should be the primary concern of anyone committed to our collective liberation. Our vision of liberation includes the emancipation of all oppressed peoples, regardless of whether or not their struggles fit neatly into outdated geopolitical frameworks.

We are concerned by some of the discourse that has emerged from progressive circles with regards to the ongoing crisis in Syria. In particular, we are embarrassed by the ways in which some individuals known for their work on Palestine have failed to account for some crucial context in their analysis of Syria.

The Syrian revolution was in fact a natural response to 40 years of authoritarian rule. The Assad regime, with the support of its foreign financial and military backers, is attempting to preserve its power at the expense of the millions of Syrians whom the regime has exiled, imprisoned, and massacred. We believe that minimizing this context in any discussion of Syria dismisses the value of Syrian self-determination and undermines the legitimacy of their uprising.

We also believe that an important consequence of all foreign interventions, including those purportedly done on behalf of the uprising, has been the setback of the original demands of revolution. The revolution is a victim, not a product, of these interventions. It is imperative for any analysis of Syria to recognize this fundamental premise. We cannot erase the agency of Syrians struggling for liberation, no matter how many players are actively working against them.

Though we maintain that the phenomenon of foreign aid demands thorough critique, we are concerned by the ways in which foreign aid has been weaponized to cast suspicion on Syrian humanitarian efforts. Foreign aid is not unique to Syria; it is prevalent in Palestine as well. We reject the notion that just because an organization is receiving foreign aid, it must follow then that that organization is partaking in some shadowy Western-backed conspiracy. Such nonsense has the effect of both undermining humanitarian efforts while simultaneously whitewashing the very crimes against humanity that necessitated the aid in the first place.

Furthermore, we object to the casual adoption of “war on terror” language. Enemies of liberation have historically used this rhetoric to target humanitarians, organizers, and community members. From Muhammad Salah to the Midwest 23 to the Holy Land Five, our community is all too familiar with the very real consequence of employing a “war on terror” framework. Therefore, we reject a discourse that perpetuates these old tactics and peddles harmful and unwarranted suspicion against Syrians.

Along these lines, it is our position that any discussion of Syria that neglects the central role of Bashar Al-Assad and his regime in the destruction of Syria directly contradicts the principles of solidarity by which we abide. We have reflected on our own tendency to heroize those who advocate on behalf of the Palestinian struggle, and we fear that some members of our community may have prioritized the celebrity status of these individuals over the respect and support we owe to those Syrians affected most directly by the war, as well as those living in the diaspora whose voices have been dismissed as they have watched their homeland be destroyed.

We will no longer entertain individuals who fail to acknowledge the immediate concerns of besieged Syrians in their analysis. Despite reaching out to some of these individuals, they have shown an unwillingness to reflect on the impact of their analysis. We regret that we have no choice left but to cease working with these activists whom we once respected.

We would like to encourage others who are guided by similar principles to do the same.

Abdulla AlShamataan
Abdullah M
Adam Akkad
Adnan Abd Alrahman
Ahmad Al-Sholi
Ahmad Kaki
Ahmad N
Ahmed A
Ala K
Ala’a Salem
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Ali A. Omar
Amal Ayesh
Amanda Michelle
Amani Alkowni
Ameen Q.
Amena Elmashni
Amira S
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Areej
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Marcell Shehwaro: “Revolt”. Taken during Arab Bloggers Meeting in Jordan by Amer Sweidan. Photo from Global Voices Online

WRITTEN BY Marcell Shehwaro
I read Max’s article which aims to open our eyes to the dangerous hidden reality behind The Syria Campaign. I read it over and over and all I felt was a combination of patronisation and humiliation in detail after detail… Beginning with the focus on who took the photo of Omran and who published it and neglecting the fact that what happened to Omran did actually happen and the boy really was bombed. But of course this detail is marginal… just as marginal as all other Syrian men and women in that piece of writing. All of us are marginal details.

More important now is how to help the killer escape by spreading doubts around all the human rights violations they committed.

My organization is one of the 73 organizations that signed on to suspending cooperation with the UN. The decision was taken and planned as per the following steps. Months and days of dysfunctional coordination with the UN as a result of the political ties of the UN’s offices in Damascus. Let alone the grave failure, that the UN admits to, of dealing with the sieges. The Syrian anger towards this topic was portrayed through many responses, actions, banners and campaigns such as United Nothing. All those are purely Syrians but it seems not important enough for Mr. Blumenthal to mention.

We internally shared the statement, which was drafted by Syrian humanitarian organizations, for endorsement. We even objected to the mild language of the statement which some described as nice and friendly. After the internal agreement of the drafting organizations, which apparently it’s not convincing to the writer that the Syrian organizations have a decision-making mechanism, we shared the statement publicly for wider endorsement.

Of course Mr. Max is able to judge and knows better than all of us that we as Syrians have been influenced to shape our opinions! We have been “spurred” to sign! We are mislead, absent, easily manipulated.

This is how Syrian organisations are portrayed in the article.

On the no-fly zone and regime change. Here comes a more irritating speech. Early 2012, I wrote a “silly’ blog under the title “10 reasons why I am against no-fly zone”.

I wrote all possible and expected reasons in relation to sovereignty, imperialism and so on
I was “naive” back then to think there were global civilian protection mechanisms that will prevent us from tending to such solution ie; no-fly zone. I used to think that airstrikes will never be part of the regime response against people. I had the luxury to do so as by then we were not bombarded at from the sky yet.

Until today I regret that feeling of luxury.

Yes Max, The Syria Campaign say we need a no-fly zone and it is because it echoes what Syrians call for day and night.

Yes we want the shelling to stop. We want the aerial bombardment to stop. Which is until this moment just a small detail in your article.

Yes the Russian and Assad airstrikes target Syrians, their hospitals and schools. But this article is not about that small detail that takes the lives of hundreds every day. This one is about how dare an “advocacy” project for syrians to convey syrian messages to the world!!

Yes Max we do want a no-fly zone because two of our education staff were injured last week. Maybe because the manager of our education office in Aleppo has to face a decision whether to close schools and deprive children of their right to education or open schools and risk their safety and lives.

Because once we had to discuss a real decision, and not imagined, on what is the “normal” ij number of airstrikes where we would continue to operate civil and humanitarian activities and when do we cross the “Ok” number.

Because hospitals are underground. Because schools are now underground.

They brought us bunker buster bombs you know. I looked this word up in your article. It doesn’t sound that important.

Bunker buster bomb that destroys schools and hospitals and even shelters.

But what I found in your article that foreigners want a No Fly Zone. How dare they!!!
Dear Max, if you had listened to Syrians. If you just had assumed that we exist and do have opinions, maybe you would have figured out how we reached this point.

How do we live every day based on Whatsapp ringtone bringing the news of the location of each attack and who are the casualties.

Syrians there live on military air forces planes rhythm, wondering are we going to be bombed during the day only? Shall we work at night? Instead. No shall we do early mornings.

The Russians and the regime which you are discomforted with our will to topple are now working full time job. Day and night. We die. The simple logic is that we want to live. They attack us using air force. We want airstrikes to stop. Don’t you think this is logical? It is not because we are emotional people. All people across the world, I believe, don’t want to be attacked by air force. This is something common, no?

While discussing toppling the Regime it seems that you are missing some points dear Max. Let me make things clear for you. In 2011 we revolted against one of the toughest dictatorships. We called for freedom and for democracy. We as syrians, for sure if you managed to believe me, want democracy, we want the end of arrests, incommunicado arbitrary detention and shooting at peaceful demonstrations. We want the end of chemical attacks and Bunker buster bombs. We dream of change. Changing this regime, the same regime you referred to revolting against as a coup over a democratically elected government and not as a people’s will to restore its rights. Wait maybe you know better than us about our affairs.

Yes sir, The Syria Campaign as an advocacy group in support of us Syrians does say a lot of what we say over and over which no one listens to. Maybe this is considered political to you but I can see you are trying to take things to a level that is very dangerous for us Syrians. Not only as Syrians but you are undermining the activist movements across the world by painting democracy as a political issue. Hence justice, equality, freedom, and impunity become political issues that civil society activist should not get invloved in. This makes dictators happy while we work like doves of peace.

Yes Mr. Max, we syrians suffer daily from patronization over our advocacy as when we say Bashar Al Assad is killing us, our “supporters” rephrase to “ Syrians are being killed, Syrians were attacked, Syrians are starved”. The perpetrators are passive in that discourse.
Another example that comes to mind. We say:

“We want the shelling to stop so we can move on with our struggle for democracy”. Becomes “Syrians want the war to end so they can go back to peace.”

Our asks are trimmed or toned so we don’t disrupt anyone with such an ugly form of patronization. This what has forced us to see the need to define advocacy. Is it teaching Syrians what they should want while they face death everyday? Or conveying Syrian messages and voices to the world?

I will not even bother to comment on the White Helmets accusation. They have enough of the hallelujah of Syrian women every time they reach an airstrike site rushing to save people. In addition to cheers from children that they have saved and those are even more honoring than Nobel peace prizes even if I really hope they get it. We are just happy and proud as the White Helmets are from us.

Ah wait who are we? We are invisible in your article at the end. So no worries.”

These are the 'school' conditions for many Ahwazi Arab children in rural areas, who are denied the most basic education facilities unlike Persian children

These are the ‘school’ conditions for many Ahwazi Arab children in rural areas, who are denied the most basic education facilities unlike Persian children

Written by Rahim Hamid

While tens of millions of Iranian citizens from various ethnic minorities are denied the right to education in their mother language, the regime has now announced the introduction of a new compulsory language syllabus in five European languages.

A few days after President Hassan Rouhani emphasized the need for education in foreign languages, Ahmad Abedini, the deputy of the regime’s Supreme Council of Education and Training announced that education in five languages – German, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian – will now be mandatory in Iran’s schools.

The regime’s newfound enthusiasm for education in languages other than Farsi doesn’t extend, however, to the native languages of many of its citizens, with Arabs in Ahwaz, Kurds in East Kurdistan, and Turks in South Azerbaijan denied the right to education in their mother tongues and brutally persecuted for using their own languages.   This policy is strictly maintained despite the fact that Articles 15 and 19 of the Iranian constitution specifically state respectively that “ethnic literature” should be available to pupils in all schools and that all of Iran’s non-Persian ethnic minorities have the right to education in their native languages.  Farsi remains the official state language and the only one used throughout the education system despite the fact that it is the native tongue of less than half of Iran’s population.

The theocratic regime’s discriminatory and supremacist policies towards the country’s ethnic minorities are a continuation of those practiced by the secular monarchy, overthrown in the 1979 revolution.

Although the publication of material in other languages is tolerated (barely) by the Iranian leadership, the regime’s vilification of those ethnic groups using non-Farsi languages is systemic and relentless.     A recent and typical example of this was the Persian-Iranian primary school teacher in Ahwaz who forced two Ahwazi Arab pupils to wash out their mouths with soap and water for speaking in their Arabic mother tongue. The teacher at a school in the Amaniyeh neighbourhood of the Arab region’s capital also warned other pupils that they would face the same punishment if he heard them speaking Arabic or if they were reported to have done so in his absence.

This incident sparked further outrage and resentment amongst Ahwazi people who already face extensive apartheid-style discrimination and legislation outlawing their Arab language, dress and culture.

The regime has acknowledged none of its blatant discrimination towards Iran’s ethnic minorities in its new language education program.  Indeed, Rouhani has called on other cultural institutions to allocate funds for language education and training – for English and the other aforementioned European languages – adding that a proposal to prioritise the teaching of these languages has been put forward to the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council.

While the regime president has argued that the teaching of English should be prioritised since it’s the principal language of science and technology internationally, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is less convinced, criticising any “insistence on the promotion exclusively of English”, adding “The language of science is not just English… I don’t mean to shut down the teaching of English from tomorrow, but we ought to know what we are doing.”

Rouhani, who believes that the teaching of English should be the first priority for Iran’s advancement, had said, “You see the Indian subcontinent; because of the huge population most are almost fluent in English. Look at what they have done in information technology and how greatly the subcontinent has gained.  We must teach the language that would be best for scientific progress, creating more jobs for the younger generation and facilitating the future of our communication economy with the world. ”

The president’s praise for India’s adoption of English as an example was quickly criticised, with state media organ Tasnim quoting Sepehr Khalaji, the director of the Ayatollah’s Public Relations office, as writing in a statement published on Instagram, “Due to British colonial domination of India and a planned erasure of its people’s cultural identity to force them into compliance, India was forced into learning English. This is precisely the effects of colonialism that, as a first step, removes the signs of cultural and national identity in an effort to destroy the spirit of independent-mindedness among the populace. So this colonialist method of learning a language is not an honourable one to cite as an example.”

protesting to raise the world's awareness of discrimination of many groups of people in Iran

protesting to raise the world’s awareness of discrimination of many groups of people in Iran

The official did not seem to recognise the irony of such criticism coming from a representative of a regime which pursues the colonialist policies of its predecessors who forcibly annexed and colonised Ahwazi Arabs’ lands with British support in 1925 and have ever since enforced Farsi as the dominant language, refusing the people their right to education in their own language in an effort to crush the spirit of independent-mindedness among its populace.

It should also be mentioned that “linguistic justice” is a principle enshrined in international law, including the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which criminalises discrimination in the areas of language, ethnicity or religion, three of the areas in which the Islamic Republic’s regime discriminates openly and brutally against millions of its own citizens.

 

ahwaz2Written by Rahim Hamid

A call by a senior UAE official on Monday for formal recognition of Al-Ahwaz as an occupied Arab country has sparked a rapidly growing pan-Arab media campaign, with over 1,000 prominent Arab figures across the region so far announcing their support of ‘I recognise Al-Ahwaz as an Arab State’.  Despite only being launched a couple of days ago, the campaign is also spreading beyond the Arab world, with the slogan already shared across social media in 16 languages.

Launched in the wake of a statement issued by the influential former Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan calling on Gulf states to open embassies for Al-Ahwaz and to formally recognise the state, which was renamed ‘Khuzestan province’ in 1936 by Iran following its 1925 annexation, the campaign has continued to gain popularity, winning backing from a wide range of influential Arab figures from all backgrounds across the region.

Among the leading regional figures who have announced their support of the new campaign are Jerry Maher, the founder and director of ‘Radio Swat Beirut International’ and the distinguished and widely respected Kuwaiti academic and analyst Dr. Abdullah Nafisi.  In Egypt, TV show host Hussein Jouli, a moderate and opponent of the Sisi regime, said that he would head an Egyptian campaign for the recognition of Ahwaz as an Arab state. Another leading Kuwaiti figure voicing her support for the campaign was Ayesha Rashid, a liberal writer, journalist and political researcher.

Ahwazi activists hope that the new campaign, which has already been featured on media as diverse as Al Jazeera, CNBC Arabic, Sawa Middle East and even Japanese and Korean news channels, will help to raise awareness of the systemic injustices inflicted on the Ahwazi people by Iran for almost a century in near-complete international silence.

AHW 1Since the initial Iranian occupation in 1925, successive administrations in Tehran, both under the current theocratic regime and the previous rulers, have refused to recognise the most basic rights of the ethnically Arab Ahwazi people numbering around 10 million in total, who are denied not only the right to the same healthcare and education as Persian Iranians, but even the right to wear traditional Arab garments, or to publicly speak or learn their native Arabic  language,  being subjected to what is effectively an apartheid system of rule.

Despite occupied Ahwaz, now a region of south and southeast Iran, being the home to around 95% of Iran’s oil and gas reserves, the vast majority of the Ahwazi population live in medieval poverty and squalor, often without running water, electricity or the most basic sanitation, while the massive wealth from their natural resources is spent on other, non-Arab regions by Tehran.  This openly racist policy means that despite being the most resource-rich region of Iran, Ahwaz – or Khuzestan as Iran insists on calling it – is home to one of the poorest populations per capita on earth.

Anti-Arab racism is endemic in Iran, having been encouraged by successive regimes,  with Ahwazis bearing the brunt of this bigotry, both in formal policies which treat them as second-class citizens,  excluded from property  ownership and all but the most menial jobs,  and denied the most basic rights, as well as through a culture  which glorifies racism and casual violence towards Arabs:  many  of the most celebrated contemporary Iranian poets’ most famous poems are filled with virulently racist anti-Arab imagery and language.  This anti-Arab racism extends to all cultural forms, with   one fairly typical recent hit by a popular Iranian singer entitled ‘Kill An Arab’   issued shortly after a phone app game, ‘Beat An Arab’ in which the object of the game is to force-feed a grotesque caricature of an Arab before beating him unconscious:  both the song and he game were approved  for general release by the Iranian Culture Ministry, which routinely approves such offensive items,  and neither is viewed by  Persian Iranians as being in  any way objectionable.

Al-Ahwaz1Ironically while the theocracy in Tehran is keen to present itself as the champion of Palestinians and arch-foe of Zionist occupation, its own savagely imposed  occupation of Ahwazi Arabs’ land is arguably more brutal and its profound anti-Arab bigotry virtually indistinguishable to that of Zionists.

The similarities can be quite uncanny, with Persian Iranians offered generous incentives to move to the Ahwaz region where they are housed in specially built settlements provided with all the latest amenities, and given well-paid state oil industry jobs not available to Ahwazis or offered further substantial financial inducements by the Tehran administration to set up businesses in these areas. As with the jobs and loans, these settlements are off-limits to Ahwazis who are routinely ethnically cleansed from their homes and lands whenever these are confiscated by the regime, with no compensation or recourse to legal complaint, and are housed in overcrowded shanty towns often located near the region’s oil refineries, where open sewers and atrocious pollution lead to widespread health problems.

There is still no word on the  theocratic regime’s reaction to the new ‘I recognise Ahwaz as an Arab State’ media campaign, although the mullahs, who have long refused to  recognise Ahwazis’ basic humanity, let alone their right to their own lands and sovereignty are, like Queen Victoria, unlikely to be amused.

p paolo 2WRITTEN AND TRANSLATED By Samantha Falciatori

“Democracy in Syria is possible, but only if freedom of expression is assured and if you waive any attack on human dignity and abuses against human rights”, wrote Father Paolo dall’Oglio in 2011. At the outbreak of the revolution and in front of the repression that followed, Father Paolo sided immediately with the oppressed.

Jesuit of Roman origins, Paolo dall’Oglio fell in love with Syria when he was a young man and he settled there with a mission: to promote peace and dialogue between religions and ethnic groups in Syria. To do so, in the ’80s he founded the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa (Monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian), north of Damascus.

His work for peace and for the promotion of dialogue between Christians and Muslims has earned him respect across the country, but after the outbreak of the revolution it became troublesome. To resolve the crisis, Father Paolo wrote an article in 2011 in which he proposed a peaceful transition to democracy in Syria, on the basis of what he called “consensual democracy”, with a Parliament that had real power; something that in over 40 years of dictatorship has never existed, except on paper. President Bashar al-Assad would have a central role in this process and, conceding the reforms that the people asked, he could stop the violence and maintain the country’s stability.

“I pray with all my heart that the President, his family and his advisers, can see this occasion as historic because Syria can make a quantum leap in the direction of a more just future,” wrote Father Paolo. But his prayer fell on deaf ears; on the contrary, it unleashed the wrath of Assad, who issued an expulsion order, where among the motivations there was “aiding terrorists”. In an interview in January 2013, Father Paolo explained:

“I have been in one of the besieged cities in the hands of the revolution, I gave blood to the wounded, I tried to free the prisoners, the kidnapped, and this put me in contact with the armed resistance [author’s note: FSA]. Later it was said that Father Paolo is connected with terrorism, but for the government all the revolution is terrorism[..] Now since I am in solidarity with young people who demand democracy and are imprisoned, tortured or massacred, I become a terrorist agent.”

padre p 1The expulsion was not immediately implemented and Father Paolo could stay, as long as he would keep a “low profile”, avoiding statements opposing the regime. However, following the publication of an open letter addressed to the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan (May 2012) in which he urged the intervention of the Security Council, the UN peacekeepers and the establishment of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from the indiscriminate bombings by the government aviation, under the pressure of his bishop he was forced to leave Syria. He was accompanied to Lebanon by the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, not by government authorities, on June 12, 2012. He went into exile in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan. But also from the exile he did not stop denouncing the ongoing violence in Syria and claiming loudly the need for a democratic solution to the conflict that could only start from the renewal of the Syrian government and from the end of decades of dictatorship.

His courageous stand in support of the protesters, in the name of human rights and of the legitimate aspirations for freedom, made him even more loved by the Syrian people: on December 4, 2011 Syrian citizens dedicated to Father Paolo one of the usual Friday protests to emphasize how religion is a factor of unity and not of division.

In December 2012, Dall’Oglio was awarded with the Peace Prize of the Lombardy region for his efforts to bring peace in Syria. But the honesty, the frankness and the intransigence of its position against the Syrian government made him troublesome even for ecclesiastical authorities, which are historically allied with Damascus. Even Father Paolo’s open letter to Pope Francis, also a Jesuit, fell unheard.

In July 2013 Father Paolo returned to Syria, in the eastern city of Raqqa. His last whereabouts are recorded in these videos http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/…/video-father-paolo-dall… that show him taking part https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xwrC76gtqM&feature=youtu.be, on July 28, to a rally in support of the martyred city of Homs, then besieged by government troops. On July 29, he was kidnapped by ISIS and since then there is no information, if not conflicting and never verified reports. According to some sources he was executed two hours after the kidnapping, but then he was reportedly spotted in a prison in Aleppo and then among the prisoners of ISIS in Raqqa. The Italian Foreign Ministry has never confirmed nor denied and to this date his fate is still unknown.

But why Raqqa?

Because when Raqqa became the first Syrian city to fall entirely in the hands of the opposition, in March 2013, it became one of the first successful experiments of self-government by the civil society, that formed local governments and peaceful movements (such as Our Right and Raqqa Free Youth Assembly) that kept the city going. There were even the first free local elections after 40 years of dictatorship. But the idyll did not last long, not just because the government air force bombed Raqqa daily, but also because ISIS (which in those months was beginning to consolidate power in Syria) attacked the city assuming total control in the following months. Terror returned, along with the hunting down of activists, the tortures and the executions. In Raqqa Father Paolo wanted to meet with ISIS leaders to demand the release of foreign journalists, but he was kidnapped too.

“It is madness for a sheep to talk peace with the wolf”, wrote Thomas Fuller. Maybe, but he who believes in peace, in democracy, he who does not bend to the logic of political opportunism, he who makes out of Christian ethics his lifestyle and not just a dress, he does not even fear wolves.

To commemorate the Jesuit priest, on July 23 the Association “Journalists friends of Father Dall’Oglio” was established.

In Italian: Translation http://www.thezeppelin.org/padre-dalloglio-il-gesuita-rapi…/

ahwazi kidsWritten by Rahim Hamid  

The objective of this article is to highlight the pervasive systematic violations of the Ahwazi Arab people’s rights. Over the last 36 years, essentially coinciding with the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, these violations have increased many-fold, even as the Ahwazis continue demanding their legitimate rights.

This article seeks to provide a comprehensive picture of the prolonged oppression of the Ahwazi Arab people. They are suffering from ultra-national racism, institutionalized discrimination and deliberate neglect at the hands of Iran’s regime. They are facing various barriers in accessing education, employment, housing, healthcare and other essential services.

Since 1925, the Ahwazi Arab people have been subjected to summary executions, forcible displacement, migration, and the confiscation and destruction of homes and personal property. Under Iran’s current fundamentalist sectarian regime, the Ahwazi people live in constant fear of oppression. The current Iranian clerical regime is systematically completing the ethnic cleansing agenda that was begun by the deposed Pahlavi regime.

Around 10 million Ahwazi Arabs inhabit the south and southwest of Iran.  They are one of the Middle East’s oppressed peoples.

They are united through race, culture and language. Their Arab dialect resembles the Iraqi Arabic dialect.  The Majorities are Shia and Sunni Muslim, although there are a number of other religions and creeds, such as Christians and Mandaeans.

The Iranian regime has shown a deep-seated hatred against the Ahwazi Arab people, who constitute 10% of the population.  In 1925, the emirate of Al- Ahwaz, ruled by Amir Khazaal Al-Kaabi, was toppled by an invasion by the Iranian regime. The invasion put an end to the independent sovereignty of Al-Ahwaz, which was annexed to the newly formed country of Iran in 1934.

Since then, through countless rebellions, armed insurrections and unarmed movements, the Ahwazi Arabs have reiterated their determination to continue their struggle and their resistance against the occupation of Ahwaz and to reassert the sovereignty of Ahwaz that was lost to the Iranian invasion.

For generations, the Ahwazis have received harsh treatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities.  In response to the popular uprisings that followed the Iranian occupation, successive Iranian regimes have forcibly resettled much of the Ahwazi Arab population in Persian regions, as part of a program of ethnic cleansing. Historical Arabic names of cities have been changed into Persian ones. Arabic dress has been completely banned. The use of the Arabic language in Ahwaz has been greatly restricted and even criminalized. Even the ethnic identity of the Ahwazi Arab has been denied.

Ahwazi Arabs have long been suppressed and denied basic rights. In recent years, Ahwazi lands have been confiscated forcibly with threats and intimidation and redistributed to Persian settlers in an attempt to “Persianize” Ahwazi regions. In the late 1940s, the government began systematically settling the nomadic “Lur tribes”, who are offshoots of Persian ethnics, into areas with Arab majorities, particularly in the oil-rich cities from which the Arab people were forcibly relocated.

These ethnic cleansing policies have been accelerated in recent years in an effort to destroy the demographic fabric of Ahwaz. Any popular movement or protest led by the Ahwazi political class, such as the popular uprising of April 2005 against institutionalized ethnic oppression, has been brutally crushed  by cracking down on the protestors and making mass arrests, even executing the majority of the prominent political figures.

In fact, the Ahwazi Arab people have sought and tried all peaceful political channels to obtain their most basic and legitimate rights, which are enshrined and stated in Iran’s current constitution. In particular, the Ahwazi Arabs have sought the application of Articles 15 and 19 of the Constitution, which stress the right of education in the mother tongue for all ethnic groups, including Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Baluchs. The regime, however, refuses to implement these articles, thus depriving more than 50% of the non-Persian population of their mother tongue. Instead, the regime has imposed the Persian language as the official language of the education curriculum. This policy has resulted in a high rate of students dropping out from schools at early ages in the marginalized non-Persian regions:  due to the challenges of learning the Persian language, students are held back linguistically, becoming only partially proficient in both their native tongue and the imposed Persian language. This also results in students suffering from a dual identity crisis.

 The Iranian occupation regime is utilizing a variety of strategies in its efforts to obliterate Arab identity in Al-Ahwaz. One of these strategies is to introduce Persian-speaking settlers and give them homes among communities of Arab citizens with the aim of having a negative impact on the Ahwazi Arab citizens in Al-Ahwaz. In addition, a massive number of schools, institutions, and centers are being built for the express goal of imposing and spreading the Persian language and culture, while obscuring and excluding the Arabic language and everything that is associated with the identity, culture and history of the Ahwazi Arab people.

The Iranian settlements are Persian-only, racially exclusive, and their residents live in comfort, with all the facilities provided, while the surrounding Ahwazi Arabs are denied the same facilities and live in desperate squalor in their own homeland.

Of course, the Ahwazi Arab people’s protests against the Iranian occupation are not limited to such issues. Since the military occupation of Al-Ahwaz until now, Iran has been practicing all types of repressive measures, and through the prosecution of multiple pernicious policies, the regime is attempting to eliminate totally the Arabic identity of the Ahwazis.

The terrible legacy of Iran’s repressive nationalist occupation cannot be overstated. It has inflicted horrendous suffering on around 10 million Ahwazi Arab people, who have long suffered systematic marginalization by consecutive regimes of Iranian occupation, going back to the Shah, before the current theocratic regime, in terms of land, territories, resources, language, culture, customary laws, and political and economic opportunities.

From the outset, the occupation of Al-Ahwaz by a racist colonial-settler state has been aimed at eradicating all that is Arabic in Al-Ahwaz. No effort has been spared to liquidate the culture, the language, the history and the whole Ahwazi Arab national entity within the crucible of the Persian culture through the denial of all legitimate rights, such as education and the teaching of the Arabic language, which is one of the most important pillars of raising new enlightened generations. A second language (Farsi) is being imposed.

Since the emergence of the Islamic Republic’s regime, everything related to Arab culture has been declared to be ‘against God’ and thus banned. As a matter of fact, the clerical regime does not concern itself with religious beliefs as much as they are concerned about fighting the Ahwazi Arab identity and snuffing out their culture. This colonialist policy has led the Ahwazi Arab people to fall far behind in terms of development and education, with the policy being practiced in parallel with terrorism, intimidation and oppression, all of which have weakened and made the Arabic language fragile among the Ahwazis.

The Iranian occupation apparatuses have been attempting to falsify and distort the national identity and   culture of Ahwazis by describing them as Iranian Arab and as an Arab-speaking minority, which is intended to suggest that they are not originally Arab, but that they are Persians who over time have come under the linguistic influence of their neighbors and become Arab-speakers because of the proximity of Arab countries. The threat of the national Ahwazi Arab ideal to a Persian national security policy has occupied a key position not only among the Iranian security forces; it has become central to the Iranian nationalist political ideology, which is based on the dual doctrines of Persian nationalism and Iranian Islam (Shia Islam).

From the books and studies published by the Iranian strategic centers at the service of the occupation, we can understand how critical this issue is to the regime. Such studies and publications are full of strategies and vile concepts aimed at countering the Ahwazi Arab struggle; they are filled with weird concepts created to tarnish the image of the national Ahwazi movement. For example, these books and publications label Ahwazis as loyalists of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. After the fall of the Iraqi regime, the Iranian occupation produced the concept of Wahhabism. Then it invented the lies that the Ahwazi political activists are Western spies and stooges, enemies of God, traitors, or infidel atheists. These charges carry the death penalty, and the biased judicial systems of the Iranian occupation use them to murder Ahwazi Arab political prisoners.

ahwazi3Owing to this, the threat of imprisonment and execution has been a constant reality for every Ahwazi. This threat is aimed at weakening the willpower of the Ahwazi Arab nation so that it will surrender its prolonged struggle for liberation, its struggle to regain the independence stolen by Iran in 1925. Despite all these repressive strategies, not only has the Ahwazi Arab culture not lost its fortitude, on the contrary, it has become even stronger.

Racial denial and elimination, mass extrajudicial murder, ethnocide and forced displacement have constituted the main policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran in dealing with the Ahwazi people and other national groups. However, the indigenous culture and the ethical and historical values of the Ahwazi Arab nation, as manifested in the context of social resistance, have never surrendered to the assimilationist policies of the Iranian effort to build a nation state on the basis of a mono-ethnic Persian identity.

Some of the victims of the massacre of civilians in the 1976 Tal al Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon by Assad's forces and Maronite Lebanese troops

Some of the victims of the massacre of civilians in the 1976 Tal al Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon by Assad’s forces and Maronite Lebanese troops

Written by Ruth Riegler
Since the 1948 Nakba, association with the cause of Palestinian freedom has been endlessly useful.
It hasn’t been useful in any way, of course, for the vast majority of Palestinians, who continue to languish in disempowered internal or external exile from their lands, now occupied for over 67 years and counting. But for generations of regional and other leaders, totalitarian regimes, pundits, activists and anyone else fancying a bit of easy reflected glory, Palestine has provided an invaluable patina of revolutionary kudos by association.

Every government in the Middle East and a good few elsewhere, more particularly the nominally anti-imperialist regimes and dictators, plays the ‘anti-zionist’ card professionally: the Assads, father and son, have been adept exploiters of Palestine since Hafez al-Assad first seized power. The regime has relied heavily on its ‘heroic resistance’ reputation, winning admiration and praise worldwide. The most cursory analysis of the regime’s actual ‘resistance’ shows a long track record of cynical exploitation, betrayal and oppression of Palestinians since Hafez first seized power right up to the modern day, ranging from its attempts to hobble the PLO and complicity in the massacre in Lebanon’s Tel al Zaatar camp to the current ongoing ‘Second Nakba’, demonstrating the Assads’ true distaste for freedom, for Palestinians as for Syrians, Lebanese or anyone else who stands in their way.

Some of the residents of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus who have starved to death under the continuing regime siege on the camp, much of which has been destroyed by two years of regime aerial and heavy artillery bombardment.

Some of the residents of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus who have starved to death under the continuing regime siege on the camp, much of which has been destroyed by two years of regime aerial and heavy artillery bombardment.

Should Palestine actually be liberated or Zionism be dismantled, as the Assads have always been fully aware, the regime would need to find new excuses for its savage domestic repression. But as the Assads and the other ‘axis of resistance’ leaders are well aware, people will always prefer the reassuring lie of jam tomorrow to the dark reality of totalitarianism today.

Indeed, that bleakly ironic dependence on exploiting the cause of Palestinian freedom to justify brutal domestic oppression is a common feature to all the ‘axis of resistance’ members. Any demands for greater freedom, investment in infrastructure, more schools or anything else can quickly be dismissed with accusations of those behind them being Zionist agitators attempting to derail the always-imminent glorious liberation. Any questioning of the Assads’ expenditure of 90 percent of GDP on the military for decades has been quickly countered with the insistence that this is essential both to defend the homeland from Zionist expansionism and for that same ever-imminent liberation. In reality, as we continue to see, the regime’s military juggernaut, like that of the Assads’ ‘anti-imperialist’ allies, has been reserved exclusively for use against Syrian and Palestinians in Syria, but small details like this don’t stop the regime’s hot air emissions about “opposing Zionism.”

The Iranian regime, the fulcrum of the ‘resistance’ axis, is even more adept in and reliant on its exploitation of the cause of Palestinian freedom. Having sold itself as the great saviour of Palestine, prevented from triumphant liberation of Al Quds only by fiendish Zionist plots for 36 years to date, Tehran is wholly dependent on Israel’s continuing occupation to justify its own domestic totalitarianism and more recently its own colonialist regional empire (re) building and occupation. As Ahwazi Arabs have known for a very long time, of course, the Iranian regime is little different in supremacist essence and bone-deep racism to its counterpart in Tel Aviv; indeed, it’s one more bitter irony that the Israeli occupation is less savage overall than that imposed by the ‘great liberators’ in Tehran, both domestically and regionally.

With the regional regimes and tyrants, however, their lie of support for Palestinian freedom at least has the excuse, however pathetic and contemptible it is, of being essential to their own survival. Those in the West who continue to cynically abuse the cause of Palestinian freedom to support, justify and/or deny Assad’s and Tehran’s genocidal oppression lack even that despicable and threadbare figleaf of justification. George Galloway, ‘Stop the War’, Cynthia McKinney and countless other prominent Western activists for Palestinian freedom (or for the freedom of those Palestinians under Israeli occupation, with other Palestinians being considered unworthy of liberation) lack even that miserable semi-excuse. Indeed, they continue to parrot Assad’s and Tehran’s now surreally obscene and utterly discredited script of anti-zionist, anti-imperialist revolutionary zeal to justify another, ongoing Nakba and regional occupation.
Even more ironically, the language of the selective Western supporters of (some) Palestinians’ freedom, like that of Assad and Iran, is now largely indistinguishable from that of the devoted Zionists and neocons who they claim are their sworn enemies; any barbarism, any crime against humanity, no matter how monstrous, up to and including ethno-sectarian cleansing and genocide, can be justified or mitigated as being part of a valiant battle against Islamist terrorism to protect the state, and those crimes which can’t be manipulated can be simply denied or ignored.

The nobility and rightness of the cause of Palestinian freedom, of Syrian freedom, of freedom as the right of all peoples, are unsullied by those who exploit others’ suffering to justify their own vast inhumanity. All that the exploiters reveal and emphasize is their own profound and utterly shameless moral bankruptcy.

from Radio Free Syria 

AHW 1WRITTEN BY Rahim Hamid

Al-Ahwaz region of Iran is currently witnessing a wave of mass protests and demonstrations demanding freedom and an end to the Iranian regime’s multifaceted oppression of the Ahwazi people, which has been continuous since Iran first occupied the region by the use of military force.

Ahwazi Arabs are among the most brutally oppressed peoples in the Middle East. The population of the region in the south and southwest of Iran totals around 10 million, with the people united by race, culture and language. The Ahwazi Arab dialect strongly resembles the dialect in neighboring Iraq. The majority of Ahwazis are Shia and Sunni Muslim, although there are other sects and creeds, including Christian and Mandaean.

Ahwaz is a Persian-occupied Arab country located in the north and the east of the Arabian Gulf to the east of Shat Al-Arab waterway which has been occupied by Iran for more than eight decades and renamed ‘Khuzestan.’

The entire territory of Ahwaz, covering 324,000 square kilometers, is bounded to the west by Iraq, to the south-west by the Arabian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula and to the north, east and south-east by the Zagros Mountains, the natural boundary between Ahwaz and Iran.  With an Arab population of ten million, Ahwaz is among the most resource-rich territories occupied by Iran, holding more than 80 percent of the country’s oil and gas resources.

The region has three major rivers, the Karoon, Jarrahi and Karkheh, which play a vital role in the lives of its people, with most Ahwazis long economically dependent on the three waterways for their income from both fishing and agriculture, with the waters used to irrigate the rich arable land.

Historically the Semitic Elami tribes, the first known peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq, settled on Ahwaz’s riverbanks and valleys, establishing a great civilization, particularly the ancient city of Susa, now known as Shush.

Since the initial annexation of Ahwaz by Iran, then known as Persia, 90 years ago, the humanitarian situation of the Ahwazi Arab people has steadily worsened, with the level of murderous repression by the current regime rising daily, extending to the level of systemic ethnic cleansing as policy, forcible eviction of the Ahwazi indigenous people, and the construction of exclusive apartheid-style settlements for non- Ahwazi, non-Arab settlers; these settlers are offered multiple economic and social incentives to move there and given guarantees of a promising future, while the Ahwazi Arab indigenous peoples are further marginalised, alienated and denied the most basic rights in every field.

Historically the catastrophic suffering of the Ahwazi people first began after Reza Khan, the then-ruler of Persia, now called Iran, and invaded the Emirate of Al-Ahwaz in 1925, overthrowing the last independent Arab ruler of the region, Sheikh Khazaal Alkaabi, who was subsequently imprisoned in Tehran for 10 years before being murdered in 1936 by strangulation on the orders of Reza Khan.

The current theocratic Iranian regime has imposed authoritarian rule on Al-Ahwaz region by the harshest measures, in a bid to isolate the Ahwazi Arab people from their origins and their historical association with the Arab nations, simultaneously imposing an absolute media blackout on any reporting of the suffering of Ahwazis.

As is widely known, the Iranian regime provides no official statistics on the number of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran, but studies conducted by Ahwazi activists confirm that the current total Ahwazi population stands at between 8 and 10 million. American historian William Theodore Strunk in his work about Ahwaz: The Reign of Sheikh Khazal ibn Jabir and the Suppression of the Principality of Arabistan: A Study in British Imperialism in Southwestern Iran, 1897-1925, Unpublished PhD thesis, Indiana University August 1977, wrote that during the discovery of oil 1908 in Al-Ahwaz region, Ahwazi Arabs made up roughly 98 percent of the regional population.

AHW 2This majority has now shrunk to 70 percent, due to the regime’s policy of systemic and deliberate Persian immigration and colonisation of the region in order to alter its demographic composition.

The primary reason for Iran’s occupation of Al-Ahwaz is the region’s major oil and gas resources. The region also has extensive and fertile agricultural plains irrigated by the Karoon River.

Ahwaz is a tropical region located in the south and south-west of what is currently known as Iran, with the region being a major producer of crops, including dates, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons and other fruits and vegetables, as well as wheat, sugar and corn and many other cereal crops.

Despite all this natural abundance and its status as the center of Iran’s oil and gas industry housing massive industrial complexes, Al-Ahwaz is also the home of Iran’s poorest people, with 99% of Ahwazi Arabs living in extreme poverty and endemic deprivation. This destitution among the region’s indigenous people has its origins in the profoundly racist mentality of the Iranian occupiers, in whose eyes the Ahwazi people’s Arab identity poses a dangerous threat to the country’s national security.

A destitute Ahwazi Arab couple, their home demolished by Iranian occupying forces, collect plastic from rubbish to sell simply in order to survive 

A destitute Ahwazi Arab couple, their home demolished by Iranian occupying forces, collect plastic from rubbish to sell simply in order to survive

Iranian colonial projects in Al-Ahwaz  

The Iranian regime occupiers to this day seek to increase the proportion of non-Arab settlers in Ahwaz, even changing the original Arabic names of cities, towns, rivers and other geographical features to Farsi names in an attempt to deny the region’s Arab identity.

This systemic eradication of the Arab character and identity of the Ahwaz region and its peoples extend into every area of life, showing a thoroughly planned strategy to bury and erase the Arab culture and identity of Ahwazis once and for all via the illegitimate and forcible imposition of the Persian occupiers’ culture on the Arab peoples.

There is all too plentiful evidence of this policy which has led to the current bitter daily reality of the Ahwazi peoples.  One of the earliest demonstrations of this policy was during the era of Reza Khan’s rule of then-Persia when the speaking of Arabic and wearing of Arab clothing in public were outlawed, with transgressors facing horrendous punishments.

Thereafter and to this day, Iran enforced an all-Farsi education curriculum in Al Ahwaz, with the teaching of the Arabic language forbidden and all studies in Arabic made illegal.  This led to rampant illiteracy among the Ahwazi people, adding to the problems of widespread unemployment, with Ahwazis denied access to job opportunities on the pretext of their lack of educational qualifications. Through these openly grotesquely racist policies, the Ahwazi people were very deliberately weakened, losing any possibility of economic and social stability. These apartheid policies of successive Iranian regimes mean that Ahwazi people are still forbidden from giving their children Arab names or from wearing Arab dress, with the ultimate goal of eradicating all Arab identity and subsuming the Ahwazi people into simply another part of the Persian nationalist whole.

Karoon Rivers which dried up due to transferring of its water to central regions of Iran

Karoon River which dried up due to transferring of its water to central regions of Iran

Ahwazi peoples suffer from systemic exclusion in every area of life and at all levels, with the regime continuing a policy of ethnic cleansing, arbitrarily seizing homes, land and property and ‘giving’ these to settlers from neighbouring Persian territories in order to change the demographic balance of the region; under the Iranian legal system, the Ahwazi peoples are denied any legal recourse to object to such grotesque injustices.

The key leadership positions in the region are dominated by Persians, with all such positions being off-limit to Arabs. There is no real representation of Ahwazi peoples at any political level in the region due to the ‘security’ concerns of the occupying Persian authorities in all affairs concerning the Ahwazi people.

Despite the region providing approximately 80 percent of Iran’s oil and gas resources, Ahwazis, the rightful owners of this wealth, are denied any share in the massive profits generated by their mineral or other resources.

The only part of the oil and gas production which is passed on to the Ahwazi people is the related air and water pollution and a related increase in dangerous diseases as a result of the toxic waste and toxic gases emitted by the oil and petrochemical facilities whose emissions are largely unmonitored, discharging massive amounts of harmful industrial substances into the surrounding environment.

Recent acid rainfall and dust storms in the region resulting from this large-scale industrial pollution have seen more than 50,000 Ahwazi people admitted to hospitals and medical clinics for treatment for related conditions, providing terrible and plentiful evidence of the environmental pollution in the region.

Ahwazi citizens who were admitted to hospitals due to difficulty in breathing after dust storms

Ahwazi citizens who were admitted to hospitals due to difficulty in breathing after dust storms

Successive Iranian governments have allocated far less than one percent of the monies from the region’s oil and gas revenues and related petrochemical projects to the   development of Al Ahwaz; indeed the Iranian parliament recently rejected – for a fourth time – a proposal presented by the regional vice-consul to allocate 1.5 percent of the region’s oil revenues for the reconstruction of towns and cities in the region devastated in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, which ended 27 years ago.

Following Reza Khan’s 1925 military invasion of Al Ahwaz in 1925 and the ousting of Sheikh Khazaal, Ahwazi independence and sovereignty were formally denied when Al Ahwaz was annexed to become part of the newly established nation of Iran in 1934.

Since then, several Ahwazi Arab uprisings have taken place and been brutally quashed, with both military and civil movements reiterating their determination to continue their resistance and struggle for justice and freedom from Iranian occupation and to restore Ahwaz to its previous sovereign status.

Each uprising has met with murderous brutality at the hands of the Iranian authorities, with massive numbers of Ahwazis being banished and forcibly transferred to Persian regions.

Ahwazis have now received harsh treatment at the hands of Iranian authorities for generations. In the wake of the first popular uprising following the initial annexation of Ahwaz, Persia’s then-rulers banished large numbers of the people, forcibly resettling them in  Persian regions as part of an ethnic cleansing policy, as well as changing the name of the region to Khuzestan and conferring Farsi names on cities, towns,  villages and even geographic features like rivers, as well as banning the wearing of Arab clothing and criminalizing the speaking of Arabic, all in an effort to deny and effectively eradicate the region’s Arab identity and history.

These policies continue to the present day, with Ahwazi people’s land and property forcibly confiscated to be redistributed to Persian settlers in an attempt to ‘Persianise’ the Ahwaz region.  In the late 1940s, the Persian rulers introduced a policy of settling people of Persia’s nomadic ‘Lur’ tribes in areas with Arab majorities, particularly around the oil-rich cities in the Ahwaz region, while Arab residents were forcibly transferred elsewhere.

This systemic ethnic cleansing policy has accelerated in recent years, with the apparent objective of eradicating the Arab identity and culture of Ahwaz. Any popular political movement or uprising led by Ahwazi dissidents, such as the last major one in 2005, protesting against this institutionalized injustice and oppression is brutally quashed by regime authorities, with massive violence against demonstrators and mass arrests and executions of hundreds of the most prominent dissidents.

Ahwazi demonstration

Ahwazi demonstration

After every uprising, hundreds of bodies of Ahwazi dissidents arrested tortured and killed by Iranian security forces are recovered from the Karoon River where they are dumped.  The detained prisoners are routinely held incommunicado for months, during which they are subjected to horrific torture and interrogation, with ‘confessions’ extracted under duress.

Ahwazi people have repeatedly sought to utilize every peaceful political means to attain even the most basic human rights, which are supposedly guaranteed under the current Iranian regime’s constitution, particularly in Articles 15 and 19, which stress the right to education in the native language of all ethnic groups within Iran, including Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Baluchis. This legislation is effectively superficial window dressing, however, since the regime refuses to implement these articles,  with the result that more than half of Iran’s population who are ethnically non-Persian  are denied the right to be educated in their mother tongue; this in turn means that, with an educational curriculum taught solely in Farsi,  schools in the already marginalised non-Persian areas see high rates of non-attendance, with pupils dropping out at an early stage, leaving these populations further disadvantaged by widespread illiteracy and low education levels.  Added to this, the criminalization of Arab culture, including proscriptions on Arabic language in both speech and education, along with the widely resented imposition of Farsi as the official language leaves students largely unskilled in both languages and suffering from a dual identity crisis.

Historical context

To understand the contemporary crisis in Ahwaz, it’s necessary to know some historical background.  Oil was first discovered in Ahwaz, as elsewhere in the Middle East, in 1908, piquing the colonial greed of both the Persian state and the Western powers, with the then-British Empire seeking to expand its regional power and control in tandem with other European powers.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Ahwaz also assumed a strategic importance for the nations involved due to its strategic location.

In 1925, the Pahlavi dynasty came to power in Persia, ousting the previous ruler of Persia, Ahmad Shah Qajar.  Reza Pahlavi identified the geopolitical significance and resource wealth of Ahwaz as potential major assets, with the new rulers wasting no time in invading and annexing Ahwaz, deposing Sheikh Khazaal, in 1925.  In 1936, the year of Khazaal’s execution, Ahwaz was given a new, Farsi name, ‘Khuzestan’, while Persia was renamed ‘Iran’ – ‘Land of the Aryans.’

As Persia’s new name suggested, the Pahlavi dynasty was founded on a strongly nationalistic ideology, with all of Tehran’s territories depicted as homogenous parts of a mono-ethnic, monocultural Persian whole. This resulted inevitably in deeply racist antagonistic policies towards the Arab peoples of Ahwaz as to other non-Persian peoples in territories under Iran’s control from the 1920s which continue to the present day, with all non-Persians essentially robbed of their culture and identity. This denial and eradication of non-Persian identity extended into every area of life, from language, dress, education to all aspects of culture. Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, these brutal proscriptions extended to religion, with non-Shiites (and Shiite dissidents) being persecuted and non-Shiite religious ceremonies and worship heavily punished by imprisonment, torture and often execution.

A History of Dissent: Ahwazi resistance continues in the second Pahlavi era under Mohammad Reza Shah (1941–1979) and since the ‘Islamic Revolution’.

The grievances of the minorities under Iranian rule (who combined comprise the majority)  grew throughout the second Pahlavi monarchy (1941-1979) since Mohammad Reza Pahlavi adopted his father’s deeply chauvinist policy to ethnically restructure the country completely based on Persian ethnicity and identity. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi introduced even more extensive policies intended to subjugate, marginalize and eliminate the five largest minorities under Iranian rule: Ahwazi Arabs, Turkish Azaris, Kurds, Baluchis and Turkmen peoples.

In response to these brutal policies, Ahwazi Arabs and other oppressed groups launched both peaceful and armed uprisings to defy this policy of systemic subjugation and ethnic cleansing.  In 1958, the ‘Arabistan Liberation Front’ was established with the objective of liberating the homeland from Iranian occupation, operating primarily in the cities of Abadan, Mohammareh and Ahwaz.

Two decades after this, in the initial period following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ahwazi Arabs felt inspired and hopeful of positive change as a result of the overthrow of the brutal monarchy.  In light of this new spirit of optimism, a delegation of 33 leading Ahwazi figures representing all classes and points on the political spectrum was dispatched to Tehran in late April that year, under the aegis of the then-Ahwazi spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammad Taher Al Shobair Khaghani, for talks with the new provisional government, then chaired by Mehdi Bazargan.  The delegates took with them a memorandum containing 12 demands for very basic reforms, as agreed by the vast majority of prominent Ahwazi political and social leaders, with the people pinning their hopes on the new rulers in Tehran to help Ahwazis attain their legitimate rights and achieve long-denied freedom.

Among the demands laid out in the memorandum were:

  1. Legal recognition of Ahwazi Arab nationality, to be acknowledged and protected under the new Iranian constitution.
  2. The formation of a local committee to administer the affairs of the Ahwazi region as an autonomous, broadly independent territory.
  3. Recognition of Arabic as the official language in Ahwaz, to be taught at school and further education level and the foundation of schools and universities for this purpose, with Arab students to be granted the opportunity of overseas scholarships.
  4. A guarantee of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the freedom to establish Arabic newspapers and broadcast media, and an end to the draconian censorship policies of the Shah’s regime.
  5. Abolition of discriminatory policies towards Ahwazis in civil service recruitment.
  6. The allocation of sufficient funds from the oil and gas revenues from Ahwazi lands to help in development of the Ahwazi region.
  7. The restoration and recognition of the Ahwazi people’s right to their Arab identity, i.e. through reintroducing the Arabic names of towns, cities, villages and geographic features rather than the Farsi names conferred under the Shahs’ rule.
  8. Revisions and reforms to the previous regime’s agricultural legislation in order to allow land to be redistributed in a fair and equitable way among Ahwazi farmers, with their ownership rights to be taken into consideration.

During their week of talks in the capital, the delegates met with the then-Prime Minister and other ministers of the new government, as well as with the clerical regime’s religious leaders, including Ayatollah Khomeini.  In these talks, they were assured of the new leadership’s full commitment to overturning the policies of the previous regime, renouncing violence and preserving the unity and integrity of the country.  The delegates, on their part, reassured the officials that the Ahwazi people fully accepted that all state affairs concerning foreign policy, military issues, the monetary system, international treaties and economic plans should be exclusively the concern of the central state.

The Ahwazi delegates had hoped that even if all the demands laid out in the 12-point memorandum were not met, the new leadership would at least grant the Ahwazi people their basic rights and put an end to the Shahs’ decades-long policies of systemic brutal injustice and oppressive rule.   During their meetings, however, the delegates came to realise that the new rulers were little different to the previous despotic regime in their racist attitudes and discriminatory policies towards Iran’s non-Persian population.

Following their return from Tehran, the delegates issued an official statement declaring that the new Iranian leadership had trivialized and undermined the concerns of the Ahwazi people. This led to widespread public anger among Ahwazis, who had been hopeful of real change following the revolution, with many taking to the streets for demonstrations against the continuing racism of the Iranian state to voice their disappointment and disillusionment. The protesters pointed out that the leaders of the Islamic Revolution had come to power with slogans promising a new openness and tolerance and making promises to fulfill the Ahwazi people’s long-denied demands for basic rights, all of which had turned out to be false. Instead, said the protesters, the new regime had shown the same contempt as the previous one, baring its teeth in response to their demands for freedom and rights.

In response to these protests and to the Ahwazi Arabs’ demands, officials of the new clerical regime immediately launched a propaganda and disinformation campaign, now widely known as a standard regime tactic, falsely alleging that the Ahwazi peoples’ protests were part of a regional and global conspiracy to separate Ahwaz from Iran, and asserting that any concessions to the Ahwazi people’s demands would undoubtedly threaten Iran’s territorial integrity, warning ominously that any such protests should be ‘neutralised’ at any cost.

The meaning of this ‘neutralisation’ became horribly clear on May 29th 1979,  only a few months after the revolution brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, with the new clerical regime’s military, supported by affiliated voluntary extremist sectarian militias launching a murderous offensive on Ahwazi Arab dissidents, killing many hundreds, with thousands more imprisoned and forcibly ‘disappeared’ or forcibly displaced.  The day subsequently became known amongst Ahwazis as ‘Black Wednesday.’

Images of the brutal crackdown on Ahwazis who were massacred savagely in Mohammareh

Images of the brutal crackdown on Ahwazis who were massacred savagely in Mohammareh

The ‘Black Wednesday massacre was carried out in direct response to a Fatwa (religious decree) issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, who directly ordered Ahmad Madani, the then-military governor of Ahwaz to organize the massacre of all the members of political and cultural organizations of the Ahwazi Arab people in Mohammareh city.  To carry out this crime against humanity, Madani deployed the regime’s air and naval forces, who were supported by masked volunteer militias, who coordinated a massive military operation besieging and attacking all the headquarters of Ahwazi political and cultural organisations in the cities of Ahwaz, Abadan, and Mohammareh cities.

Ahmad Madani subsequently became a hero to the Persian people for his leadership of this slaughter, being appointed Commander of the Iranian Navy as a reward for his leading role. He was subsequently quoted as stating, “The Ahwazi are inciting riots so I will drink their blood if they continue insisting on their illegal demands.”

Ahmad Madani and his speech on the necessity of quelling Ahwazi demonstrations

Ahmad Madani and his speech on the necessity of quelling Ahwazi demonstrations

The staff and anyone else in the buildings, including those who attempted to flee the regime’s forces, were either arrested or shot dead if they attempted to flee.  When news spread of the regime’s massively brutal offensives, hundreds of enraged residents of the three cities rushed to the scenes of the atrocities in a desperate effort to save the activists.  Despite being unarmed, these people in turn were machine-gunned in massive numbers by the masked militias and otherwise executed in cold blood, with survivors who didn’t manage to escape being arrested, imprisoned and/or forcibly exiled.

Mohammed Sadeq Givi Khalkhali, one of the main regime officials under Madani responsible for organizing this slaughter, was subsequently appointed as  Chief Justice of the regime’s revolutionary courts in the region, where he ordered the execution of countless other innocent Ahwazi Arabs, often following ‘military trials’ which lasted no longer than a few minutes.

Unfortunately, like so many of the clerical regime’s brutal crimes against Ahwazis and others, ‘Black Wednesday’ has remained uninvestigated and unmentioned by international human rights organisations to date, despite being deeply etched on the memories of the survivors and of all Ahwazi peoples, for whom it is impossible to forget or to forgive until the perpetrators are brought to justice. Despite the regime being accorded absolute impunity by the international community to act with barbaric savagery and to sweep such crimes against humanity under the carpet, the day will live in infamy among all Ahwazis, even those who weren’t born at the time.

One desperate reaction in the aftermath of ‘Black Wednesday’ was the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London by an Ahwazi Arab pro-autonomy group who demanded the release of 91 of their comrades held in Iranian jails. Given the relentless decades-long murderous repression of Ahwazis by successive regimes and their refusal to grant even the most basic human rights to the Ahwazi peoples,   some Ahwazis see no hope of regaining their rights under such monstrously unjust leadership, with the Pahlavis’ monarchy and the Islamic Republic’s theocracy being effectively two largely indistinguishable faces of the same genocidal and deeply racist coin for Ahwazis and other minorities in Iran.

Whilst it has gone down in Ahwazi history as one of the most infamous of the Khomeinist regime’s crimes,  ‘Black Wednesday’ was not isolated incident, with similar murderous brutality meted out routinely, indeed systemically as regime policy, to Ahwazi peoples and other minorities by regime forces and militias in that period and ever since.

Like their predecessors, Ahwazi dissidents and intellectuals continue to face the threat of imprisonment, torture and execution simply for campaigning or writing in support of freedom, self-determination and human rights.

The three founders of the ALF, Mohiuddin Al-Nasser, Dohrab Al-Nasseri and Isa Nasseri, were executed in 1964 at the hands of the Organization of Intelligence and National Security, better known by its Farsi acronym, SAVAK, which led the regime’s rule of terror between 1957 and 1979. This, along with the tragic bloody massacre in  Mohammareh city in 1979, and the brutal crackdown on another popular uprising in 2005, are just a few of the stark indications of the dangers faced by Ahwazi dissidents and intellectuals, who live under the constant threat of prison, torture, exile and/or execution.

In the face of this relentless persecution, the Ahwazi people have continued their long struggle for freedom, self-determination and their long-denied legitimate rights; despite the lack of regional and international support for their cause, the people have maintained their determination to continue until they attain their objectives.

Indeed, it could be argued that the many obstacles and the lack of external support or recognition of Ahwazis’ struggle have resulted in strengthened resolve among the Ahwazi people, recognizing that only they can achieve their liberation and succeed in the struggle for freedom, social emancipation and self-determination.

These efforts have led to the establishment of a number of political organisations and groups which have introduced political and social programs that enjoy widespread popular support. Ahwazi groups have also built strong links with liberation movements representing other non-Persian minorities in Iran oppressed by successive Iranian regimes during the same period, including Kurds, Turks, Baluchis and Turkmen.

After its initial revolutionary fervor, the clerical regime’s profoundly reactionary nature, along with its double standards and hypocrisy, became clearer as time went on. For one example, despite having lived and studied in France, the home of liberté, égalité, fraternité, during his exile, Bani Sadr, a prominent figure among the leaders of the Islamic Revolution, returned to Iran only to become one of the most vehemently racist Persian nationalists in the new regime.  Sadr enthusiastically supported the brutal persecution of the Ahwazi people under the new leadership, with his greed for power quickly overcoming any revolutionary ideals he had previously espoused. In an interview with a Paris-based Iranian news agency concerning the popular uprising by Ahwazis in support of freedom and self-determination, Sadr said, “  will not grant autonomy to any territory because it simply means the disintegration of the country”.

Another official, who had met with the Ahwazi delegates during the 1979 talks and promised that their demands would be submitted to the consultative committee then drafting the new constitution, reneged on his promises, telling the official news agency, “Granting autonomy is without doubt considered separation which threatens national unity.”

Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khalkhali, prioritized his loyalty to the new regime, vehemently opposing any autonomy and stating, “We will cover the Shaat al-Arab with the blood of those pro-autonomy Ahwazi Arabs.”

In extracts from his posthumously published memoirs, reported in the Iranian Hamshahri newspaper in December 2001, the ayatollah appeared to have been proud of his criminal practices against Iran’s Arab Ahwazi and Kurdish peoples, writing, “I have killed a lot of Ahwazi Arabs, Kurdish and remnants of the monarchy, but I don’t regret it, and my conscience is not tormenting me.”

Regime oppression continues

The clerical regime’s racist attitudes to Ahwazi Arabs and other minorities remain as deeply entrenched today as they were in 1979, having become institutionalized and systemic as under the Shahs’ rule.  Ahwazis continue to be subjected to ethnic cleansing and the withholding of all rights, with imprisonment, torture and execution standard policy for even the most minor offence or for no reason other than to maintain fear,  and ensure continued subjugation and break the will of the people. As a result of this policy, the percentage of Ahwazi Arab prisoners in the regime’s prisons is, unsurprisingly higher than that of any other group. Regular calls by the EU and international human rights organisations for the introduction of fair and transparent trials for Ahwazi prisoners, who are routinely denied access to a lawyer as standard practice, have been disregarded.

Despite the clerical regime’s oft-repeated claims to stand for Palestinian freedom, anti-Arab racism is endemic and encouraged by the regime, with Arabs being commonly referred to by derogatory terms such as ‘lizard-eaters’ and ‘camel’s milk-drinkers’ and depicted as uncivilized  barbarians and barefoot nomadic peoples.

Denied rights and employment, destitution amongst Ahwazis is widespread, with disproportionate numbers living in the most abject poverty amid unimaginable conditions. With the Tehran regime deliberately withholding funding, infrastructure development is non-existent, with thousands in the regional capital, Ahwaz, living in areas with open sewers, no sanitation, rampant diseases due to pollution, no access to running water, electricity or gas, despite the fact that the region is, as mentioned above, the centre and backbone of Iran’s massive oil wealth, containing over 80 percent of its oil and gas resources. Ahwazi peoples are essentially treated as fifth-class subjects in their own lands, while Persian settlers introduced by Tehran to change the demographic balance live in great affluence in pleasant Persian-only settlements as part of the regime’s policy of tempting more Persians to move to these areas.   Those Ahwazis who are able to find employment have access only to the most menial, low-paid jobs, with all desirable jobs reserved for Persians.

Although most Ahwazis are Shiite, those who are Sunni face even greater discrimination due to the clerical regime’s persecution of non-Shiites.

Almost a century of systemic racist subjugation as policy has led to the Ahwazi people being one of the most marginalized and oppressed peoples in the Middle East and the world,  with one of the highest rates of incarceration and execution globally.

The disfranchisement and ethnic discrimination policies of the Persian state towards Ahwazi Arabs have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi population, with an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, even while their lands sit on virtually limitless oil, gas and mineral resources that have been exploited to benefit Iranian occupiers since before the state of Iran even came into existence.

The absolute censorship of the press and media has been a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists attempting to raise awareness of the systemic racism and abuses perpetrated against the Ahwazi people, allowing the regime to continue these inhuman and supposedly internationally outlawed policies.

Iranian hard-liners consider Ahwazis a threat to the integrity of their theocratic state and to the oil and gas wealth which is one of its primary income sources, and have done their utmost to disseminate negative perceptions of Ahwazi peoples, labelling activists as apostates and terrorists and thus enabling the judicial system to issue grotesquely unjust prison sentences against them. The EU parliament and a number of international human rights organisations have issued a large number of extensive, well-documented reports listing some of the abuses and violations commonly inflicted on Ahwazi peoples and other non-Persian minorities in Iran. These decades-long abuses comprise part of a longstanding policy, which predates the clerical regime but have been enthusiastically adopted by it, with the ultimate objective of eradicating, subjugating and subsuming the non-Persian population in every way.

For far too long, successive Iranian regimes have denied the true diversity of the ethnic mosaic which makes up Iran, which is in reality the most ethnically diverse   country in the Middle East.  The flagrant and systemic violations and abuses against non-Persian minorities show that the current regime, like the monarchy that precedes it, is in reality founded on a savagely fascistic, repressive and racist mono-ethnic, monocultural ideology, regardless of its veneer of theocratic piety.

In summary

At present, we see strong and continues popular movement in Al-Ahwaz, once comes out in a football stadium to express the power held by the people against the Iranian military, again it shows up at the funeral of   “Younes Asakereh” the martyr which his funeral turned into a huge anti-regime protest in “Mohammareh” city.

As people in one united voice chanted revolutionary slogans calling for popular uprising in Ahwaz against the racial discrimination, the national oppression, the marginalization, the rampant poverty, unemployment, and attempts to obliterate the Arab identity of the region at the hands of the occupying   Tehran government’s policies in Al-Ahwaz.

As matter of fact, organizing such Ahwazi populace movement at wide scale which engulfed the most parts of Al-Ahwaz aims to the following:

–    Applying pressure on the Iranian regime, through the general popular rejection of the brutal Iranian policy in Ahwaz and in all countries that Iran presents.

–    Working with non-Persian peoples against mullahs’ authority to expose its violations against the peoples exists in geopolitics Iran.

In fact, this Ahwazi movement has become an example to the rest of peoples in geopolitical Iran, the people of (Turk, Kurds, and Baluchs) was directly affected by this movement on many occasions and in conjunction with Ahwazi people have staged protest rejecting the repressive measures of Iranian regime conducting against non-Persian national groups and even Persian community. Many senior intelligence officials has visited Ahwaz to calm the situation which came up in a very critical time for Iran while it’s looking for internal cohesion to continue its sabotage in the Arab world, This senior-level of security officials visits reflects the strong movement of Ahwaz and it’s reflection to what is going on in the Arab Nation which is fed up with Iranian hegemony.

Without doubt, all these events in the region are in the national security interests of the Arab countries, the inner uprising of the non-Persian peoples are fruitful to those peoples firstly, and secondly they are in the same row against Iranian expansion in the Arab world.

For Ahwazi Arab people, the matter is not being forgotten like before, we now see the Arab media generally interested in Ahwaz’s cause specially the Saudi media, as well as the liberation groups started to have armed wings, the “Arab struggle for the liberation of Ahwaz” movement on the top of it which succeeded in directing painful blows to Iran in both revolutionary field inside occupied Ahwaz homeland or its political activities in all over the world.

This is the truth in spite of Iranian media ignoring Ahwaz’s movement which is living real uprising despite more than eighty years of Ahwaz’s occupation, where Iran exercised all forms of racism to root out the Arabic identity and it didn’t even succeed to contain all Ahwaz’s Shiites, which most of them are resisting the Persian occupation, on the other side the Sunni elimination didn’t succeed and the number of Shiites who converted to be Sunni exceeded all the expectations.

It is noteworthy that ever since the April 15th uprising in Ahwaz in 2005 commemorating the anniversary of the original 1925 Iranian occupation of Ahwaz (which was subsequently renamed Khuzestan in 1936), Iranian security and intelligence services have launched brutal crackdowns and mass arrests of activists and civilians in the weeks preceding the anniversary in an attempt to intimidate the people and prevent further demonstrations.

It is imperative that Arab and Western human rights organisations take up the too-long ignored cause of Al Ahwaz on the basis of basic humanitarian principles, recognizing that the occupied and horrendously brutalized peoples are being deprived of their most basic rights as fellow human beings.

moMona Oudeh, an Ahwazi activist based in London, said in an interview with Al-Sharq Newspaper that she has always carried the burden of the Ahwazi cause like every other Ahwazi Arab woman who rejects and repudiates the Persian occupation of Al-Ahwaz that has forced her to leave her homeland.

Mona, who devotes all of her time to the Ahwazi cause, has spoken about some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Persian occupation against her Arab compatriots, and in particular, against women, affirming the fact that due to decades of Iranian occupation, Ahwazi Arab women have been subjected to human rights violations such as being deprived of their inalienable right to education in Arabic, their native language.

Al-Sharq: How do Ahwazi women consider the Persian occupation of their homeland Ahwaz?

MO: First I would like to express my gratitude to the venerable Al-Sharq newspaper for allowing me this opportunity to talk about Al-Ahwaz case.

Also, let me take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the Saudi people, brothers, and all observers, and to all those interested in news and developments in the matter of Al-Ahwaz.  To answer your question, Ahwazi women, as an integral part of their society, believe that the occupation has to be overthrown, even militarily, if necessary, and the area returned to Ahwazi Arab rule.

The occupation is entirely illegal, and there is no doubt that sooner or later it is bound to disappear. The occupation is the root cause of my people’s suffering, and Ahwazi women endure additional repression and exclusion, such as losing their right to live in dignity in their homeland.

In fact, since the start of Iranian occupation and domination of Al-Ahwaz, the ultra-national Persian institutions have systematically implemented policies of racial discrimination against the entire Ahwazi population, and in particular, of Ahwazi women, who have been excluded from all rights and privileges including educational opportunities, employment, intellectual, literary and artistic participation, as well as the denial of exercising their indigenous cultural activities.

Mona continued, saying that crimes of the occupation are incalculable, but the worst crime committed against the majority of Ahwazi women is through the policy of ethnic cleansing practiced in the cruelest manner, by preventing women of childbearing age to bring about demographic change in the areas of Al-Ahwaz.

The occupation authorities are forcing Ahwazi women to give birth through “Caesarean” procedure rather than natural birthing, and in many cases the authorities urge the doctors to carry out sterilization on birthing women without their knowledge or prior approval, through the process of tying the fallopian tubes.  This results in Ahwazi women no longer being able to have more than one child, and thus, it reduces population growth among the Arabs.

She pointed out the suffering of the Ahwazi women as a consequence of the apartheid policies of Iranian occupation.  Women are subjected to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, physical harassment, psychological and physical torture as well as the death penalty like all Ahwazi activists.  The Arab and international stance regarding our plight is still weak, and our cause must be activated and placed on the table of international forums.

Al-Sharq: What else do the Ahwazi women suffer because of the occupation?  

MO:  If we want to describe and analyze the nature of oppression and suffering of Ahwazi women under the grip of Iranian Occupation, then it would require us to write books about it.

This is because of a racist, anti-Arab mentality and ideology of the Iranian occupation against Arab people generally, and particularly against Ahwazis.   As a matter of fact, the intensity of the regime’s racial oppression and segregation falls primarily on the Ahwazis in comparison to other ethnic and indigenous peoples in Iran, which is reflected in all aspects of their social, economic, and political lives and many other areas.

In this case, because the Iranian occupation harbors hatred towards Arabs, the Ahwazi women suffer and endure the most vicious types of harassment, arrest, imprisonment, physical and psychological torture because of three major factors, the first one is their female gender and, the second is their Arab ethnicity and the third is because they are Ahwazi women freedom fighters.

Ahwazi women, as Ahwazi men, face the death penalty because of their struggle against the Iranian occupation, and while sometimes the Ahwazi woman activist has undergone such heavy and cruel punishment, the most prominent Ahwazi woman imprisoned in an Iranian jail is Ms. Faheme Esmaili Badawi. She is an elementary school teacher and political activist who was arrested in 2005 and is currently serving 15 year’s imprisonment in exile from her homeland.

In December 2006, the Iranian occupation regime executed her husband Ali Matouri Zadeh, the Ahwazi activist and founding member of the moderate Hizbal-Wifaq (Reconciliation Party).

The suffering of Faheme Esmaili Badawi cannot be easily summarized through her arrest and the injustice of her husband’s execution, during imprisonment she was forced to give birth to her daughter Salma without receiving adequate medical assistance and in the most unsanitary conditions.  Her daughter Salma is now seven years old, and she lives without her mother and her father, who was unjustly hanged by the regime.

faheme

Al-Sharq: What is your view of the stance of Arabs and Muslims toward your issue?

MO:  Honestly, the position of the Arab and Islamic countries toward the issue of Ahwaz is very weak and timid.  It cannot in anyway be considered a significant stance, neither can it be called advocacy or support for it. So far, however, hopeful and positive indicators have recently occurred in one or two of the Arab Gulf countries.  However, we can say that there is no Arab state with a clear and explicit stand in support for the Ahwazi issue. In reality, the promises made regarding supporting Ahwazi people were only words spoken, no actions have been taken.  There are Arab countries allied with Iran, and these countries, especially the Syrian regime, have handed over political Ahwazi activists to Iran to be sentenced to death and executed.

As for the European position, through the work of human rights and civic organizations, it has resulted in the right of assembly and demonstration for Ahwazi communities in European countries. European governments have met with Ahwazi organizations in order to learn about and understand their cause.

Al-Sharq: What is the stance of the United Nations and international organizations toward the plight of the Ahwazi people?

MO:  All that the United Nations and human rights organizations have done is to condemn and denounce the crimes committed by the Iranian occupation authorities in Al-Ahwaz, despite the fact that the Iranian crimes against Ahwazis have reached the level of ethnic cleansing and genocide.  The international community has to do its duty to prosecute those responsible for these heinous crimes.

The secret letter leaked from the office of “Abtahi” during the tenure of the President Mohammad Khatami clearly indicated a policy of ethnic cleansing, a policy that is still ongoing and expanding.  The letter stipulates orders and certain conditions for conducting systematic ethnic cleansing of Ahwazis within 10 years, such as the banishment of influential and educated Ahwazis such as teachers, university professors and governmental employers to remote Persian areas. This is facilitated through different enticements, particularly by making them promises of providing better living conditions, promotions and increased salaries and then replacing them with Persian settlers who implement the orders of the occupation government in Al-Ahwaz.

Al-Sharq: How do you see the future of the Al-Ahwaz cause and Middle East?

MO:  I think that all Ahwazi activists believe that the demise of the occupation and the establishment of the state of Ahwaz is a fact that will come into being and what separates us from our goal is just a matter of time and the need to improve Ahwazi capabilities and facilities that will ensure the development of tools for the Ahwazi struggle to defeat the Persian occupation.  Ahwazis fully believe in the future of their cause and work on this basis.

We know the rule says that the revolutionary struggle for liberation from the clutches of colonialism and oppression requires manpower, in fact, we have the manpower that is willing to sacrifice in order to regain the legitimate rights of Al-Ahwaz.

But, we also need foreign support and backing at all levels for our struggle against the Iranian occupation. We need the international human rights and law agencies to decry the human rights abuses practiced against Ahwazi Arab people.

Additionally as Al-Ahwaz has been occupied military and the enemy only understands force,  there has to be a regional strategy to supply us with arms and training, as well as the implementation and full force of international law, to recognize us as an occupied and oppressed people.  It is the responsibility of the global media and regional media to expose our suffering to the world.

Lack of attention to our just cause is only in the interest of the Iranian occupation to perpetuate its illegal existence and crimes and expansionist aspirations which know no boundaries not only in Al-Ahwaz but all the neighboring Arab countries, as today it is more evident than any other time, when we see Iran’s occupation of Syria, Iraq, Yemen destroying our people’s revolutions through their mercenaries.  The only tool that can foil the regime’s devastating colonial advancement in the region is by supporting Ahwazis and other non-Persian ethnic groups such as Turks, Kurds and Baluchs in Iran.

In my point of view, this is the only way we can trample the regime, because as long as the regime exists and there is the absence of a comprehensive national Arabic project to deal with Iran, nowhere in the Middle East will there be peace and stability. Thus, the absence of the Ahwazi cause in the international and regional arena only serves the regime, as the Iranian regime’s major strength has originated from its domination of Al-Ahwaz’s sea oil and gas, albeit, the Ahwazi indigenous people have gained nothing from their vast resources, which have become a curse against them solely.

We ask the international community to support our cause in accordance with the norms and the international conventions because we are a suffering and oppressed people undergoing countless policies of racial discrimination.

The Iranian regime is attempting to melt us down in the crucible of Persian culture, eliminating our Arabic origins. As earlier mentioned, the regime has exercised such brutal racial discrimination policies that have amounted to ethnic cleansing through forcible displacement, reverse migration, and settlement construction for installing Persian settlers in Al-Ahwaz in order to impose a new demographic reality on us and the future of Al-Ahwaz.

The brutal oppression of the indigenous Ahwazi Arab people encompasses political, economic, social and cultural measures  has been going on for years, and the sheer injustice imposed on my Arab people has gone unreported for decades, never getting the attention that it deserves.  Our cause has been sanctioned due to regional plots related to bilateral economic and political interests.

The most unfair tool that is still used against our plight is the Media Blackout made of the spilled blood of my people who have dared to speak out against the Iranian occupation. Is their blood so cheap, without global condemnation?

The truth is that Ahwazis are sieged and restricted and unable to convey their voices out because the internal media is controlled by the regime and even the outside Persian opponent the media are bribed and supportive of the regime’s crimes against us and deliberately hide our news and events taking place on the ground, as such biased media stigmatizes Ahwazi Arab fighters by describing them as foreign stooges  scheming with Britain and Saudi Arabia who want to break up the country and bring corruption, terrorism and Wahhabism.

Likewise, the occupying judicial system presses the same charges against the Ahwazi prisoners and simply executes them.  This is because the racism and the anti-Arab sentiment has taken deep root into the minds of the entire Farsi-speaking community.  Furthermore, Arab and Western media also have not really put a spotlight on our issue because of the aforesaid reasons, turning our issue into a regional and global orphan.

The outcry of Ahwazi prisoners remains unheard behind bars, so our most basic and smallest demand is to receive help and solidarity from Media outlets to break the Iranian occupation blackout, to make known the reality of the Ahwazis and other ethnic groups, where our most basic conditions are so low in the framework of Iran’s petrified ideology.

We need the world to hear our voice and stand by our side against the Persianization policies and genocide campaign that look like a fatal cancer metastasizing to the whole Ahwazi Arab society as an attempt to erase the Arabic identity of Ahwazis.  For instance, as I mentioned earlier, this vicious occupation policy, through denying our native Arabic language, has caused the Ahwazi people to be stammering and uneducated in our own tongue, not able to speak Arabic or write in it.

My people have had enough of torture, prison, execution, poverty and illiteracy. We have had enough of the grief of mothers whose loved ones are executed or imprisoned for years. Let’s stop here because I am speechless. I have run out of words. I cannot depict the gravity of the nameless crimes exercised by the Iranian occupying authorities in Al-Ahwaz. I just look forward to seeing a better future for my Ahwazi oppressed people as they are free of any chains of oppression and living in safety and dignity.


Main Source: Al-Sharq newspaper  

Translated by Rahim Hamid

ahwaz march1Written by Ahwazna website

Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has called on the United Nations to take swift actions against the continued Iranian regime’s crimes in Al-Ahwaz.

At a time when the Ahwazi Arab people continue their decade’s long struggle to regain their homeland’s independence from Persian occupation, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz organized a demonstration in front of the UN headquarters in the Austrian capital Vienna on 20 February, 2015.

The demonstration, expressed the support and solidarity of the Ahwazi Arab community, Arab and non-Persian groups in Europe with the Ahwazi people rebelling against the lingering inhuman policies of Iran’s occupation in Al-Ahwaz.

The Arab Struggle Movement in a letter submitted to the United Nations called on for the urgent intervention to immediately to stop the Iranian regime’s arbitrary arrests and executions of Ahwazis. The Movement also appealed to United Nations Environment and Health organizations to visit Al-Ahwaz to uncover and document the Iran regime’s occupation practices that have polluted and destroyed the environment leading to the large-scale spread of dangerous diseases in all parts of Al-Ahwaz.

The delegation of the Arab Struggle Movement met with a number of United Nations officials in Vienna after the demonstration. The delegation stressed the need for United Nations intervention and implementation of safeguards as provided for in international treaties and conventions to protect oppressed peoples under military occupation, in particular, the Arab people of Ahwaz.

While the demonstration showed solidarity with the decades-long suffering of the people of Ahwaz, Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement stated that the suffering becoming worse by the day due to Iranian occupation and violations of human rights in Ahwaz.

Such policies are inconsistent with and in violation of international law and covenants, hence the urgent appeal to the United Nations to intervene to prevent the State of Iran’s colonization and human rights violations against Ahwazi people living under occupation.

Ahmad Mola added, “the crimes of the Iranian occupation are approaching a very dangerous turning point in Al-Ahwaz and we hope that the United Nations perform its humanitarian and its legal duty to upholding the right of the Ahwazi Arab people in their freedom and independence from the Iran’s occupation and the backing and support of the struggle of our people in all its forms”.

“When you read about the Ahwazi people sufferings you will understand the occupying Iran regime’s policies are aimed at completely erasing the people of Ahwaz, their history, culture and future by constructing settlements which target Ahwaz and its population”.

“This is meant to undermine Arab identity in the crucible of Persian culture. The spread of drug addiction and crime in Ahwaz is also largely attributable to the policies of the Iran regime. This enemy of democracy spreads ignorance and backwardness and tries to repress the entire Al-Ahwaz region by supporting drug dealers and yet another attempt to ruin Ahwazi society”, said.

Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has called on the United Nations to take swift actions against the continued Iranian regime’s crimes in Al-Ahwaz.

Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has called on the United Nations to take swift actions against the continued Iranian regime’s crimes in Al-Ahwaz.

“The plight of Ahwazi people is very long term, and their right to independence and safety has worsened during successive Iranian regimes that denied the fundamental right of having access to education in mother language and punishing everyone for acquiring Arabic books attempting to make Ahwazis to be lost generation without identity and history melting in Persian culture . However, despite all this, the Persian state’ racist policies failed due to the strong national will of our people in rejecting occupation adhering to their Arab identity and culture.

Iran’s Sharia law and legal system make it one of the worst, repressive, totalitarian regimes in the world. It is hard to find a system which is more politically manipulative, and its theocratic rule misleads its people and the world.

It is opportunistic, self-serving and sectarian, discriminating particularly by region and socially excluding many. Its aim is for the country to be entirely dominated by glorifying Safavid history and culture, whilst destroying other neighboring history and culture.

The Iran regime’s expansionist policy, for example in the case of UAE islands and neighboring regions such as occupied Al-Ahwaz, is done aggressively and ruthlessly with no regard for international relations or upholding human rights”, said Ahmad Mola.

The demonstration came as mentioned in the earlier statement released by the movement of its media “Ahwazna” to support the people of Ahwazis’s struggling against the State of Iran’s occupation policies and to condemn the Iranian occupier criminal policies committed against the land and the people, including drying rivers, which cause environmental pollution in Ahwaz, where the region called “the capital of global pollution.”

The protesters carried Arabic and English signs demanding the Iran regime stop the ethnic cleansing policies against the Ahwazi Arab people, and that the world condemn the land confiscation policies taking place in Ahwaz.

Many of the Ahwazi Arab protesters who participated in the massive rally came from various European countries. There was significant presence of the Arab community showing solidarity with the Ahwazi Arab people, in addition to a number of Arab brothers who are supporters of the cause of Ahwaz hailing from European and Arab countries The friends and comrades of the Kurdish, Baluch and Turkmen communities, whose people also suffer under the enslavement and occupation of the Persian state, made an unforgettable presence at the demonstration, embodying the spirit of true friendship and solidarity in the face of the most notorious occupation on earth.

During the demonstration, Ahwazi participants raised the national flag of Ahwaz and carried posters of martyrs and prisoners and banners in both Arabic and English, condemning the policies of forced displacement and changing demographics which are being carried out by the Persian occupation.

They strongly denounced and condemned Iran’s changing the course of the Karoon River, and diverting its water away from the Ahwazis to central Persian regions.

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, who had called for this demonstration, stated that despite grave human rights violations perpetrated against Ahwazi people, the plight of this occupied nation remained invisible to the world at large.

The ultimate aim of the demonstration was to bring the suffering of the Ahwazi people to the attention of the public and to demand that the international organizations place pressure on the Iranian regime to stop the ethnic cleansing practices, the arbitrary arrests and executions of the Ahwazi Arab people, and to recognize and uphold the political prisoner status of the political and human rights activists.

For years, Iran has been oppressing the Ahwazi Arab people through intimidation, mass arrests, torture, and mass execution of Ahwazi civilians.

The exploitation of the wealth and natural resources of Ahwaz, In particular, the natural gas and oil are being extracted without discernible economic benefit for the Ahwazi Arab people.

The Persian state’s policies have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi Arab population, with an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, while they are living on the sea of oil and gas, and mineral resources that have been exploited and stolen since 1925.

Press and media censorship continues to be a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists speaking out against the non-stop abuses being committed against the Ahwazi people. This censorship allows the Iranian regime to discriminate perpetually against the Ahwazi Arab people.

Ahmad Mola, addressing the Arab and regional countries reminded that the Iranian state is rapidly controlling and destabilizing the whole region. The Ahwazi Arab parties, with the right military training and arms, would be ready to inflict strong blows to the Iran regime, but support and shelter from Arab and regional countries were imperative.

 


10961890_1407719049528535_223506516_n (1)

WRITTEN BY RAHIM HAMID

The revolution of 1979 in Iran was visualized like a remedy in the minds and hearts of Ahwazi Arab people who were yearning for freedom and justice after having been oppressed by tyrannous and fascist policies of the Pahlavi regime.

The Ahwazi people, like other ethnic groups, pinned their hopes on the revolution because it was the only recourse for the freedom from racial oppression.

More than every other people in Iran, Ahwazi people were victims of anti-Arab policies of the Pan Persian Pahlavi regime. For this reason, they inspired to join the revolution so as to achieve their national rights and abolish the racial injustice and racism that had been practiced against them for years. However, in the early months of the revolution, all the hopes of ethnic groups including Ahwazi Arab people despaired after the revolution’s objectives turned out to be merely delusive slogans.

The Islamic Republic regime, to reach their illegitimate goals and continue to dominate over non-Persian ethnic people resorted to the worst type of racist tools.

The Mullah regime with much more aggressive policies in comparison with the previous Pahlavi system, has continued to carry out the ethnic cleansing policies through changing the demographic composition of Al-Ahwaz.   In this period, the policy of changing the population structure of Al-Ahwaz in various forms has been widely implemented.

Some of the methods that are used in line with ethnic cleansing of the Ahwazi Arab people are outlined as follows:

Exile:

Exile is one of the tools that the Islamic Republic regime, like its predecessor the Pahlavi regime, has used it against Ahwazis. This punitive measure is employed especially for those effective Arab intellectuals and influential political figures who have been campaigning to gain some of the social, political, cultural, and economic rights for the Ahwazi people.

10966681_1407719212861852_796136942_nThe regime, by applying exile, is seeking different goals such as disconnection of Ahwazi intellectuals with their society as a step for depriving the society of benefits of the intellectual’s insights. Besides the displacement of intellectuals, the regime is attempting to submerge the intellectuals and their families in the host community (Persian community) in order to prevent the continuation of their influence on the next generations.

As a matter of fact, in the early days of the revolution, the institutionalized policies, of banishing Ahwazi people to Persian regions, was carried out with greater frequency and intensity.

However, later with the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war the exile and displacement of Ahwazis practically took on new and broader forms as this time there was no longer need for Iranian courts’ decisions to carry out the banishment of Ahwazis.

This is because of constant fears of rockets and mortar shells of the war that forced many of Arab people out of Al-Ahwaz. As it is estimated that around 1.5 million Ahwazi civilians have been relocated in provinces of Fars, Isfahan, Khorasan, Tehran and many other places.

War:     

Khomeini said war was a blessing for us. These ominous words today apparently reveal the destructive and the murderous theories that had been set against the Ahwazi people during the war.

The Iranian occupying theorists viewed the war as the best opportunity to implement their horrid goals and make them facts on the ground.

The Ahwazi liberationist movement was a serious obstacle for the Iranian totalitarian regime. Therefore, the large-scale turmoil of the war was an unrepeatable time for the government to liquidate most of the Ahwaz’s political class once and for all so that they could never become a challenge to the regime that see the demands of Ahwazis  incompatible with its centralized  ideology.

Finally, the Iranian death squads operated massive extrajudicial killings of any Ahwazi who was suspected of having cultural or political activism by accusing them of being a fifth column, or engaged in espionage or sabotage activism for Iraqi forces.

By the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, many Ahwazi political forces  called for the establishment of political and cultural institutions, but the governments of the time  did not respond to any of the demands. At that phase, the Ahwazi Arab movement suffered the greatest human losses due to repression by the Islamic Republic regime, as hundreds of Ahwazi cultural, civil and political activists were executed, based on unfounded accusations like treason charges.

Additionally, the cataclysm of the prolonged war operated as a potent weapon in favor of the Iranian regime to displace Ahwazi Arab inhabitants and as the conflict reached its fiercest peak the war-stricken cities such as Abadan, Mohammareh, Albseytin and rural areas in borderline which exposed to extensive havoc and damage were almost deserted and its Arab population moved to the central regions of the Iranian plateau thereafter they were scattered among different cities. As a consequence, the large active part and one of the most efficient pillars of Ahwaz society, particularly in Mohammareh city, has been practically excluded from influencing the movement of the Ahwazi Arab nation.

After the war, the successive governments had undertaken similar policies against the Ahwazi people. They refrained from allocating part of the economic budget to the reconstruction of the devastated infrastructure of the war-ravaged regions, especially in the cities of Abadan and Mohammareh. In this way they were able to foreclose any possibility regarding the return of the Ahwazi people in exile to their homeland. Thus, the Iranian occupying state had pioneered in contemporary history of the Middle East in one of the largest changes of demographic composition, that of uprooting the Ahwazi Arab people.

10966804_1407719286195178_544516746_nAs always, the regime, with overt relocation programs, sought to use the condition of the war-torn areas from where its Arab people had largely evacuated during the conflict as an excuse to prevent and discourage the return of thousands of its original inhabitants.

The regime did not reconstruct these areas, particularly those bordering villages and instead have declared them as prohibited military zones and have cordoned the areas off with barbed wire and patrols leaving it empty to this day.

In fact, the Arab people belonging to these rural areas after fleeing their villages were relocated in shanty town and marginalized areas around Ahwaz city and other urban areas outside Al-Ahwaz.

They waited long years to return to their villages, but their hopes have steadily weakened and became a mirage contrary to what they had previously assumed; that they could come back to their homes soon after the end of the war.

The Arab people have lost not only their villages, but also their agricultural lands. They retain countless mines and unexploded rockets. The Iranian governments did not attempt to restore and de-mine the agricultural lands from the remains of the legacy of the war and in exchange used it as a preventive measure with which to deprive the Arab villagers from cultivating their lands.

Such measures have caused the Arab villagers prefer to live under the harshest conditions in the margins of the metropolis of Ahwaz and to not return to their ruins.

Written by Ahwazna

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz organized a mass demonstration entitled “we never forget our Ahwazi oppressed people” in front of the embassy of the Iranian occupying regime in the Danish capital on Saturday 10/01/2015.

The demonstration was held to denounce the policies of occupation of Iran and its ongoing crimes against the Arab people of Ahwaz.

The Ahwazi demonstrators carried their protest through the streets of Copenhagen, chanting anti-regime slogans as they headed toward their final destination, which was a rally that gathered in front of the Iranian embassy.

The Ahwazi crowds packed the streets outside the Iranian embassy in the largest anti-regime protest to date, shouting “Death to the Iranian occupation regime” as well as  chanting slogans such as “Ahwaz will be freed, and Iranian occupiers will be out of it”.

copen demo 2The protesters also carried Arabic and English signs reading “Stop the ethnic cleansing policies against the Ahwazi Arab people”, the world must condemn the land confiscation policies conducted in Ahwaz”.

Many of the Ahwazi Arab protesters who participated in the massive rally came from various European countries. There was significant presence of the Arab community residing in Denmark who took part in the demonstration, showing their solidarity with the Ahwazi Arab people as well as a number of Arab brothers who are supporters of the cause of Ahwaz hailing from European and Arab countries were participants in the rally.

The friends and comrades of the Kurdish, Baluch and Turkmen communities, whose people are under the enslavement and occupation of the Persian state made an unforgettable and effective participation in this demonstration, embodying the spirit of true friendship and collaboration and actual solidarity in the face of the most notorious occupation on earth.

During the demonstration, Ahwazi participants raised the national flag of Ahwaz and carried posters of martyrs and prisoners and banners in Arabic and English condemning the policies of forced displacement and changing demographics which are being carried out by the sinister Persian occupiers. They strongly denounced and condemned the diverting the course of the Karoon River, where the occupying regime is pumping its water away from the Ahwazis and diverting it to central Persian regions.

The organizers of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz who had called for this demonstration, stated during the Press Conference that despite grave human rights violations perpetrated against Ahwazi people, the plight of this occupied nation remains invisible to the world at large. Therefore, the ultimate aim of the demonstration is to bring it to the attention of the public and to demand that the international organizations place further pressure on the Iranian regime to stop the ethnic cleansing practices, the executions and arbitrary arrests of the Ahwazi Arab people, the detainees being mainly political and human rights activists.

They asserted in recent years that around 35 Ahwazi Arab political prisoners have been executed but these atrocious and senseless crimes have elicited very little reaction from the international community.

For years, Iran has been cracking down on the Ahwazi Arab people by mass arrests, torture and intimidation as well as carrying out the execution of innocent Ahwazi civilians.

The wealth and natural resources, especially natural gas and oil, of Ahwazi lands are being extracted without discernible economic benefit for the Ahwazi Arab people.

This racial oppression has led the Ahwazi people to be one of the most destitute and marginalized people in Middle East, with a very high incarceration and execution rate.

The disfranchisement and ethnic discrimination policies of the Persian state have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi Arab population, as there is an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, while they are living on the ocean of oil and gas and mineral resources that are being exploited by the Persian occupation state since 1925 and still ongoing.

The censorship of the press and media has been a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists to voice out the non-stop abuses committed against the Ahwazi people. This serious obstacle has allowed the regime to discriminate strongly and consistently against the Ahwazi Arab people.

copen demo 1The ethnic oppression includes the prohibition of Arabic, leading to the inability of Ahwazi people to study in their native language, the denial of job opportunities, the confiscation of lands and building Persian settlements for Persian settlers.

At the end of the Press Conference, the organizers of the demonstration appealed to human rights organizations and the Arabic and Western media to speak out against the despicable crimes of the Iranian regime in Al-Ahwaz. And finally, to recognize Ahwaz as an occupied Arabic country.

Al-Ahwaz1WRITTEN 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.

ahwazThis 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.

AHWAZ MAPThe 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.

Iran_Oil_Arab_Population_MapApproximately 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.

 

WRITTEN BY MASSIMO RUSSO, translated by Mary Rizzo
What do the tears of Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman at the summit for the Peace of Rome tell us: if we don’t like the present, it is only up to us to change it

Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of Nobel Laureates The embrace between Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of the Nobel prize winners (Photo: Wired)

Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of Nobel Laureates
The embrace between Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of the Nobel prize winners (Photo: Wired)

“I ask forgiveness on behalf of the Iranian people for what the government of my country has done first in Syria, supporting a dictator – Bashar al-Assad – who kills his own citizens, and now to the Yemen of my sister Tawakkul, because it is helping the counter-revolution to stifle change. ”

Sometimes international meetings on peace are resolved in formal occasions to repeat formulas that are a  little ‘age-worn’. At the 14th World Summit of the Nobel Peace prize, which is being held these days in Rome, things were different. The abstract concept of peace and diplomacy became transformed into a hug, and into the tears of two women, the Nobel laureates Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman, divided by nationality and religion, united by belonging to the species of those who did not give up.

And if you wonder what this has to do with Wired, the answer is: because both these women are innovative. No, they are more than that, they are hackers.

Shirin Ebadi, Iranian, won the Nobel in 2003 for her fight for human rights. Magistrate, she was relieved of her duties and lives actually in exile in London. Tawakkul was the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel in 2011 for her peaceful campaign for equality, freedom and against corruption, which led to the overthrow of the regime in Yemen. A few moments before receiving the embrace of Shirin, Tawakkul had cried out passionately, asking the international community to condemn Iran for its intervention in support of the dictators of Syria and Yemen and against the Arab Spring, in order to establish itself as a regional power and obtain more favourable terms in the negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

Tawakkul in her speech emphasises a concept dear to all disruptive innovators: do not ask permission.

“No one will give you your rights if you are not willing to take them for yourselves, to take to the front lines and fight for them. And the only ones able to declare your defeat are yourselves. If you lose hope, you are already finished, everything depends on you. ”

Ebadi adds: “Democracy is alive, and it must be looked over every day, even when you’ve achieved it.”

Then there’s the idea of hacking. Because only the creative tampering of reality, even when all logic is contrary, it can lead to change in seemingly hopeless situations. All revolutionaries, rebels who are really changing the world, start by listening to themselves, to their own convictions. So they act, and change their own roads, their own community, their own country. Without any excuses.

What does this embrace between two extraordinary women in a sleepy Roman Saturday morning have to say to us? Again, the answer is a lot. To all of us. The first words that Shirin Ebadi addressed to Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, and Italians were: “Do not accept the money of dictators. Many have brought their wealth to Italian banks. “But the real point is that people like these, with their vital example, speak to our attitude of detached cynicism, western pessimism of bored depression. The fate, the future is in our hands. From the crisis to corruption, to work, which is not created by decree. Nobody will change our destiny in our place. And the hunt for the culprit, to those who have it taken away, is simple. Just get up and look straight the first mirror.

original: http://www.wired.it/attualita/politica/2014/12/13/labbraccio-nobel-senso-dellinnovazione-nostra-pigrizia/

1397298_611763265539907_779226832_oWRITTEN BY ASMAE DACHAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

The news from Syria and Iraq on the persecution of the Christian and Yazidi minorities on behalf of ISIS is shaking world public opinion.

Is not acceptable, either moral nor civilly or religiously, that a person or a group of people are threatened and suffer violence because of their ethnicity and/or religious belonging and any act which is contrary to the universal principle of equality between human beings must be condemned without reservation.

Respect for the sacredness of human life is the basis of every civil society and must be the premise on which to base any reasoning and every action.

Today, dialogue, brotherhood, solidarity, human solidarity are seriously threatened. There is a danger of seeing burned, together with houses, places of worship, monuments and books, even centuries of coexistence, respect, and dialogue.

Syria and Iraq are, in fact, the cradle of the monotheistic religions and civilisation and have always been an example of tolerance, brotherhood, and opening up to the other, with all the difficulties that have been part of such a thing over time. And it is precisely from this point that we need to start: the dramatic events of these days should not obscure the fact that the serene and fraternal coexistence between Christians and Muslims in these two countries has lasted for centuries, since, that is, when these two great civilisations were born and developed.  It is a historical error to give the credit of the constructive and peaceful coexistence to the regimes that govern these two countries. Quite the opposite: their policies have resulted in the growing bitterness of relations between the different communities that make up the respective civil societies, creating a climate of tension that is the outpost of sectarianism.

The situation in Iraq and in Syria in recent years has become dramatic: the war waged against Iraq in 2003 and never finished (the one that was sold to the world as war to export democracy) and the repression of the regime of Damascus against what should be his own people, which began in 2011 after forty years of domination of the Assad dynasty, have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. They are two different situations, but the consequences on the population and on social equilibria are sadly all too similar.

In fact, the war, the bombings and the rapes, kidnappings, torture, violence is the humus in which they are born and from which grow evil sprouts of terrorism.

There are many who are taking advantage of the situation of general chaos to conduct parallel wars and satisfy their own interests and the interests of those who are pulling their strings. The case of Daesh/ISIS, the infamous Islamic State of Syria and Levant, is proof of that.

Hordes of barbarian mercenaries have been infiltrated into two countries, armed and trained by foreign powers and in fact supported and given free rein by the governments of both countries and, taking advantage of the situation of total anarchy, have themselves become a power.

For more than a year the Syrians have been loudly proclaiming that ISIS is not against Assad, but fights, rapes and kills its opponents and especially blasphemes and slanders Islam saying that it operates in the name of that faith. No one has listened to the Syrians, indeed, part of politics and the press has continued to label ISIS as anti-Assad rebels, it is absolutely false because In Syria ISIS moves and operates only where government troops have withdrawn and opens fire, persecutes and massacres civilians and opponents of the regime.

Today ISIS is a military power that frightens and in the face of the escalation of its violence, which has brought to Iraq its nearing to areas where there are oil reserves, it seems that the world is waking up.  Nobody has moved a finger for the Syrian civilians (more than 80 percent Muslims), killed by these barbarians, and they even deny the massacres that have taken place, but today that the cries against the persecution of minorities are made, in Syria as in Iraq, the alarm is being sounded.

Therefore the message gets out that if to die is the Muslim majority it doesn’t matter, but woe to those who harm others. In doing so it is only playing the game of ISIS that wants to create tension and foment sectarian hatred. In this context, the regimes sing victory, posing as guardians of minorities and the already unacceptable death of innocent people is even hijacked.

It is necessary, therefore, to stop and shed some light on the matter:

1- In Syria the main causes of death is the bombing by air raids by the Syrian regime, affecting in vicious and indiscriminate manner the entire population, destroying and killing regardless of faith and ethnicity; today there have been over 200 thousand victims in 41 months, of which more than 18 thousand are children under 16 years of age. In Syria Christians, Muslims, secular people, atheists, Kurds and Armenians have been dying for over 3 years. It is a genocide that is affecting the entire population.

2- In Iraq even the UN has stopped counting the dead, but now most sources say that there are about a million; Christians are between 5 and 8% of the population, have experienced the sufferings and the atrocities that all of the other social components are undergoing. With the advance of ISIS their situation has even worsened and the threats, the started, the house to house persecutions that totally resembles Nazi style persecution. The persecution of the Yazidi is being given a religious significance, but in reality ISIS is concerned with occupying their lands and putting their hands on the oil fields.

3- ISIS does not represent the feelings, values, principles of Islam, quite the opposite: ISIS must be defined as what it is, a group (even if it defines itself as a nation) of terrorist mercenaries whose work is contrary to Islamic faith. ISIS is killing Muslims in Syria and Iraq and killing with them the other ethnic and religious components. ISIS abuses, mortifies and blasphemes the name of God. The only deity to which ISIS responds to is money. ISIS does not represent Syrians, does not represent the Iraqi people, does not represent Islam.

4- ISIS is comprised of foreign mercenaries that have nothing to do with the cause of the Syrian people who have opposed themselves to almost half a century of tyranny, nor is it with the cause of the Iraqi people who now fight for their survival after years of genocide. ISIS is a creature of international secret services that finds support in different monarchies and were formed for the purpose of “wreaking havoc”, to conduct wars by proxy.

To learn more read these articles (in Italian): http://www.sirialibano.com/tag/isis http://www.pagina99.it/news/mondo/6681/Che-succede-in-Iraq.html http://popoffquotidiano.it/2014/08/11/hillary-clinton-lisil-e-roba-nostra-ma-ci-e-sfuggito-di-mano/ http://megachip.globalist.it/Detail_News_Display?ID=107832&typeb=0

5 – The strategy of false information is harvesting many victims: photos purporting to be what they are not (to follow will be one of my article on the false story of the decapitation of Christian children) are causing reactions even from the top, among the powerful of the world. It would only take a minimum of attention and professionalism to check the origin and the matrix of a photo and a news item, but the media war is one that the regimes and terrorists are fighting – no holds barred – and careless reporting, or even complicit reporting becomes an amplifier.

For those who have faith, for those who believe, for anyone who has a conscience and a minimum of intellectual honesty it seems even superfluous to have to reiterate that there is no war in the name of God, that nothing and no one can justify the persecution, the threat, the offence and the killing of an innocent. Let us not fall into the trap of sectarian hatred, we will never cease to dialogue with each other, let us not allow the sowers of conflict outweigh the bridge builders.

It takes much determination and bravery, especially now, but it is precisely in the face of these difficulties that the world of believers of different religions and the civil society as a whole, secular, atheist, must join hands and feel that the real strength is in dialogue and the commitment to peace. It is not naïve optimism, indeed, it is much more challenging to reiterate the reasons for dialogue and bring ourselves toward the other than to erect walls and close ourselves in the hell of hatred.

If you want to imagine a manifesto of Syrians, Iraqis, of Muslims that at this moment are associated incorrectly and unfairly to terrorism we must repeat indefinitely: “No, not in our name”. Christians are our brothers, the human beings of every religion and ethnicity are our brothers and sisters.

As author of this blog, as Syrian, as Muslim I repeat too and I am proposing the campaign:

“Not_in_our_name”, to say no to persecution, false news, the sowers of hatred.

ORIGINAL http://diariodisiria.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/not_in_our_name-le-guerre-e-il-terrorismo-stanno-uccidendo-il-dialogo/

Against war and imperialism. Now and forever Resistance.

WRIT Against war and imperialism. Now and forever Resistance.

WRITTEN BY FOUAD ROUEIHA, translated by Mary Rizzo

I keep on seeing photos and videos that come out of Syria passed off as if proof of the atrocities committed by the Israelis in Palestine… but with everything the Zionists are doing, is there really any need to turn to these falsifications to make the point?

Moreover, I see these images on the pages of people who for over three years have not given a damn about what is happening in Syria, that is, in the instances when some of them were not rooting for the criminal Assad and his disgusting allies.

When faced with the same images (with the sole difference being the caption, which indicates Palestinians as the victims and Israelis as the perpetrators) there is today those who “shout” their protest and indignation on the social networks while seeing them in action for the past 3 years, they never did anything for Syria but repeat that the situation was “too complex for me to take sides on” or that “Assad’s surely no saint, but at least he is secular” (as if Hamas, which today will get their support because they deem it the legitimate resistance, was a secular movement).

The latest example? The video in the link below in which Assad soldiers are torturing a misfortunate soul while continuing to repeat to him in Arabic, with a clear inflection common to Alawite speech, “So you want freedom?” … a phrase that is sadly known among Syrian activists:
https://www.facebook.com/magarimuori/posts/837975529547680

But there is an abundance of examples, in recent days I have seen the famous (for us Syrians) video of the Syrian refugee boy who was beaten by a Lebanese boy upon incitement of his  family, also this was passed off as “”Israeli boy who beats a Palestinian boy in the West Bank”… when I mentioned it to the random “know-it-all” (who from his profile boasts Iraqi origins and is always posting the Qu’ran in transliteration and translation) he answered, “In fact, the dialect seems Lebanese, but I can assure you that in Israel much worse things happen”… So, someone who doesn’t know that in Israel Hebrew is spoken and not Arabic, and then claiming to recognise the Arabic dialects when in actuality the distinction between the dialect of northern Palestine and southern Lebanon is so slight that it would not be able to be detected unless by a highly trained ear.

If the solidarity between ourselves and the Palestinian people wasn’t written in our history, our soul and our culture, these disgusting propagandists that once again humiliate our dead by taking advantage of the documentation of their suffering for their own purposes would have been enough to break our connections.

But luckily, they won’t be able to do that. The pro-Palestinian movement however, which for decades I felt part of, appears to me to be more of a shadow, a tradition. The support for Palestine is an indispensable trendy position of the “leftist” groups, including those who are nostalgic for Stalinism, and instead of being a true desire of solidarity and support FOR the Palestinians, it is a movement AGAINST Israel and the United States (and make no mistake, their policies make me sick as well) in an aprioristic manner and not limited to healthy anti-zionism or anti-capitalism.

Speaking with Palestinians who live in Palestine and not connected to political movements (and therefore, excluded from the élite of Ramallah or Gaza) the reciprocity of solidarity between us Syrians and them is more than evident, in addition to the historical reasons that unite us there is also the deep reciprocal understanding of our suffering. But Palestinians abroad that talk are especially those who are close to the dominant groups, those who don’t accept the criticisms of the Oslo Accords or the Palestinian National Authority, or classic case, those people who support Assad and yet never talk about the Palestinians persecuted by him in Syria or in the siege of Yarmouk.

palestina_liberaIn particular, the “pro-Palestinians” who stand by Assad are in general the same ones who chant “Free Palestine, Red Palestine” in the protests, leaving out the fact that for Palestine to be truly free it has to be the Palestinians alone who decide if it should be red or yellow or purple or anything else… otherwise we will act just like the governments that we have criticised when they isolated the Palestinian government the day after Hamas won them in what were considered fair elections, in those days we said: “We aren’t fond of Hamas, but democracy means also letting those we don’t like govern when they win.”

These characters talk of international interests, regional equilibrium, energy market, areas of influence, national sovereignty… but never once have be heard them talk about popular sovereignty, will of the people, of the reasons that brought the Arab masses to fearlessly stand before bullets.

They assume that the people who have filled the streets and squares in protest don’t have their own will, their own personal reasons or agency, but that instead they follow the designs or interests that manoeuvre every event like demiurges, with the amazing capacity to control to the smallest detail complex dynamics in which the number of variables is incalculable and among them, the illogical way that humans sometimes act, which social sciences only are able to forecast according to probability, getting their forecast wrong most of the time.

There is a subtle (but not even too much) racism in the incredulity of those who don’t think that the Arab populations desire freedom and dignity, desires that evidently can only be born from mature societies like the western ones, countries that have obtained democracy in spite of the fact that 3 days before the hanging of the corpse of Mussolini in Piazzale Loreto they were hailing the dictator or who had democratically elected Hitler. Those who say that Arab societies are primordial and tribal, used to a perpetual state of conflict and fatalist to the point of not giving value to the lives of individuals. Societies permeated by superstition and an invasive religion, populations that need a strong leader to prevent them from self-destructing, winding themselves into a spiral of barbarity that is comprised of throat-cutters, decapitation, stoning, flagellation and infibulation.

That the dictatorships (illuminated? Benevolent?) are the best instrument for preparing a society for a democratic evolution is just one of their pet concepts…

There is not much difference in this from the racism of those who insist that the populations of the Middle East are angelic: the Arabs are fearless revolutionaries, incorruptible, willing to become martyrs at all costs to defend their cause and their land. The Arab culture is that of hospitality, tolerance and friendship, not yet exposed to the defects of capitalism and materialism.

Ladies and gentlemen, it might seem strange to you, but the Arabs are simply persons, who suffer for their dead and cry for their children when they know they are going to be tortured. Among the Arabs are people who take advantage of the gaps in power caused by the revolution so that they can create their own little empires or for their own personal gain. There are noble heroes and scum of the Earth, fine thinkers and hopeless bigots. Just like some criminals managed to sneak themselves in with the resistance fighters against Fascism, there are some who let themselves go to personal vendettas, looting and taking advantage of the situation, in the exact same way that there is “among us”. Just like there are those who sacrificed their own lives, those who divide their pitiful crumbs of bread with their brothers in arms, but also with their enemies, there are shining examples among the revolutionaries but there are also among the supporters of the Ba’ath regime decent persons who take no part in the crimes of Assad, while all the same preferring his regime to uncertain alternatives that risk to become the caliphate of Baghdadi… a black and white world does not exist, let’s leave the die-hard fan where he belongs, in the stadium.

Do we want to do activism? Let’s do it for human rights, for self-determination of peoples, let’s do it listening to the people and not who claims to represent them. Let’s do it asking ourselves questions without thinking that we have simple, final or complete answers, leaving everyone the benefit of the doubt. Let’s do it with humility and without paternalism or idolatry of those we support.

A Jafra volonteer looks at piles of debris during a cleaning campaign

A Jafra volonteer looks at piles of debris during a cleaning campaign

WRITTEN BY Claudia Avolio

In Yarmouk people are busy cleaning the streets of trash and rubble, Starting from the constant work of the Jafra Foundation in the camp, a dialogue evolves between the protagonists: the trash and a camp scraper.

In Arabic, one of the words describing garbage is zubala and it comes from a verb – zabbala – that means to manure, to fertilise. Cleaning the streets of Yarmouk of garbage and rubble activated in my mind an image of what this Arabic root brings with it: zibl, the manure itself. As if those streets received from the gesture of being unburdened a new substance. Something will allow them to grow better in this return to how they were before, even under this siege. And this happens, for me, in the embrace that the scrapers (which made me think of The Crying of the Excavator by Pier Paolo Pasolini, written in 1956) make in their efforts to attend to garbage and rubble to take them away.

That poem by the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini entitled “The crying of the excavator” (1956) in the incipit of which these verses seem to give no way out: “Only to love, only to know / counts – not having loved, / not having known. It’s anguishing / to live a consummated  / love. The soul stops growing”. This image for me comes now in contact with an opposing, regenerative force, which lies in the way Jafra Foundation constantly renews its efforts in the streets of Yarmouk so that “the soul that stops growing” as mentioned in the poem starts to grow again once it is free from the garbage.

To the youth of Jafra and to the new metaphorical fertiliser its efforts are giving to the streets of Yarmouk goes this short dialogue that hopes to be just a soft countermelody to their amazing work and love for the camp.

volunteers removing rubble and garbage from the devastated camp

volunteers removing rubble and garbage from the devastated camp

“Jafra Foundation has been working in the cleaning of Yarmouk Camp since the municipality stopped functioning at the beginning of 2013. Since that time, the Jafra cleaning team works to clean Yarmouk Camp from the garbage and the rubble that was accumulating in the camp to protect the civilians from all kinds of sickness that they were vulnerable to because of the accumulating garbage in the streets.

Jafra will continue working in Yarmouk Camp to help the people there, as we belong to all the vulnerable people in all the streets.

WHENEVER DEATH SURROUNDS US

WE CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE LIFE

Jafra shall continue to the end.”

(from the video of Jafra Foundation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8Vpy2M3jBo )

“You can dig up anything, time: hopes

passions. But not these pure

forms of life…”

(from “The cry of the excavator” (1956) – by the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini)

the scraper: We must leave now.

the garbage: I am ready.

the scraper: You will not forget.

the garbage: Never. Their gestures have made a cast of this concrete

the scraper: Even after the concrete collapsed.

the garbage: It knows all the names of those who hit it.

the scraper: And the faces of who will take care of its children. Of the walls that will be built.

the garbage: I met the streets. I heard it all. All of it.

the scraper: I must take you away. For their sake.

the garbage: Because you are the soul transforming weight into space. Your arm that raises me is the last accusation. I am your raised hand, asking for permission to speak. For those who lost this right.

the scraper: Taking you away from here is my freedom finding again its way home.

the garbage: From the corners of these sidewalks I desired to be a tree and I couldn’t. With heavy branches made of black bags I stretched to the sky, with the wind. Looking for a passage, saying: “I am here”.

the scraper: Now that you leave, life will try to come closer to the soil.

the garbage: That same life is asking to be heard. And hasn’t got any fear.

the scraper: Only those who chase life must be scared of it.

the garbage: Because life is still here. You give birth to it pushing me faraway.

the scraper: While you are leaving, a trace remains that feeds the seeds. Paths grow up after your departure.

the garbage: Wings of light dust. The fine dust becomes light again and doesn’t make people sick anymore.

the scraper: With the breath of the streets came back to the surface after a long time holding its breath.

the garbage: I was calling you and saw you appear with your youth.

the scraper: Through their efforts, through the contagion of ideas, I realized I wouldn’t stay still. That every street was waiting for me and my youth to be there.

the garbage: They breed these streets with you. In the struggle of the arms that defeat carelessness.

the scraper: The sun will come and sit here, in the place you used to occupy.

the garbage: While you’re taking me away, the space starts to offer an opportunity.

the scraper: In this embrace of ours the street regenerates.

the garbage: The street walked by your youth, the street they will not abandon.

the scraper: Whatever happens, they’ll take care of it.

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20.000 - 30.000 civils sont toujours pris au piège à l'intérieur du camp.   #SaveYarmoukCamp  Les souffrances continuent sans répit dans le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk.

20.000 – 30.000 civils sont toujours pris au piège à l’intérieur du camp.
#SaveYarmoukCamp
Les souffrances continuent sans répit dans le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk.

Wesam est un jeune palestinien qui milite au sein de “JAFRA”, une organisation communautaire qui aide la population de Yarmouk, en Syrie. Il a très gentillement accepté de répondre à nos questions, pour le public italien, mais pas seulement celui destiné à la Péninsule, puisqu’aussi bien Wesam aurait pu s’exprimer en anglais si son interviewer n’avait pas été arabophone. Cet entretien est la traduction anglaise de la version italienne tirée de l’arabe d’origine. (Interview & traduction italienne de Fouad Rouieha, traduction anglaise de Mary Rizzo, traduction française de Eric Lamy). 

Commençons par décrire Yarmouk.

Le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk est situé au sud de Damas. Il s’étend sur plus de sept kilomètres carrés, juste à côté des districts du centre, tel celui de Midan Zahir. Pour faire court, le camp fait partie du tissu urbain de Damas. Avant le début de la révolte, il comptait 700.000 âmes, dont 220.000 palestiniens d’origine, le reste étant des syriens. Le camp de Yarmouk fut établi en 1957 : la majorité des palestiniens qui y vivent sont des fils de réfugiés de 48, principalement originaires du nord de la Palestine auxquels s’ajoutèrent ceux qui vinrent de Jordanie en 67 et 70. Avant la révolution en Syrie, Yarmouk était une zone économique florissante, considérée comme la capitale de la diaspora palestinienne. Il s’y tenait un marché considérable, le commerce y prospérait. Une véritable ferveur pour les questions sociales et politiques y prévalait, sans oublier ce dynamisme culturel qui faisait de Yarmouk le centre culturel de Damas, le lieu où il se passait quelque chose, où des festivals étaient organisés. Un grand nombre d’artistes célèbres sont originaires de Yarmouk. Pareil à d’autres quartiers, mais plus particulièrement animé, les rues étaient peuplées de boutiques et de restaurants que fréquentaient tous les damascènes. Le weekend, ou pendant les congés, les rues étaient si populeuses qu’on avait du mal à y circuler ; c’était un quartier très peuplé mais également réputé pour la sécurité qu’il offrait.

Vous parlez de l’existence d’un activisme politique, mais être militant, en Syrie, était complètement tabou à cause de la surveillance policière et de la répression toujours possible. Était-ce différent pour les palestiniens ?

J’ai mentionné l’activisme politique en rapport avec la Cause Palestinienne, qui n’avait pas de lien avec la situation syrienne. Yarmouk était une des bases pour les factions palestiniennes : le Front Populaire, le Hamas, le Front Populaire-Commandement Général, le Jihad Islamique, le Fatah… l’activité politique autorisée impliquait le camp de Yarmouk et la Palestine, mais rien qui pût se rapporter directement à la Syrie. Les syriens vivant à l’extérieur du camp assistaient à nos discussions, mais tant qu’il n’était question que de Palestine, tant que la politique syrienne n’était pas évoquée, il n’y avait aucun problème.

Une rue de Yarmouk.

Une rue de Yarmouk.

Parlez-nous de la cohabitation entre syriens et palestiniens-syriens. Peut-on parler d’intégration réussie ou, au contraire, a-t-on assisté à la création d’une sorte de ghetto ?

Entre nous, personne ne faisait de différence. À Yarmouk, nous avons vécu ensemble pendant 50 à 60 ans. Les mariages mixtes sont monnaie courante et nous sommes tous mélangés. Il faut dire que parfois une même famille est partagée entre les deux nations (la Palestine du Nord et la Syrie méridionale n’étant pas séparées à l’époque qui a précédé l’exil palestinien ; des familles et des clans étaient établis de chaque côté de la frontière. Il n’y a pas de différence entre syriens, palestiniens, libanais et jordaniens car des relations d’amitié et de parenté ont toujours existé.

On dit qu’au début de la révolution les palestiniens-syriens du camp ont tenté de se démarquer du conflit.

Non, nous n’avons pas tenté de nous en affranchir : il y a eu un débat considérable pour déterminer si le camp devait s’investir dans la confrontation. Une partie d’entre nous pensait que les militants de Yarmouk qui voulaient se joindre à la révolution devaient s’engager en dehors du camp, sans l’impliquer. Nous savions que si Yarmouk était visé par des représailles, elles seraient extrêmement violentes : c’est malheureusement ce qui est arrivé. Ensuite, l’idée à circulé selon laquelle Yarmouk pourrait être un lieu de repli sûr pour les syriens déplacés, pour les blessés, afin de leur permettre d’accéder aux soins médicaux et au ravitaillement. Au cours des deux premières années, Yarmouk à rempli ce rôle. Quand les affrontements ont éclaté dans les zones de Al Hajar Aswad ou de Tadamon, Yarmouk était un centre de distribution de produits médicaux et d’entraide. Nous accueillions les réfugiés. Avant eux, nous avions déjà recueilli les réfugiés de Homs : il y avait là tant de familles ! Pour eux, nous avons ouverts des refuges, profitant des écoles de l’UNRWA (agence de Nations Unies pour les Réfugiés Palestiniens, n.d.l.t.) et de celles de l’état. C’était des refuges protégés pour ces gens où ils furent accueillis, nourris et logés. Lorsque le Commandement Général à incité certains d’entre nous à prendre les armes contre l’Armée Syrienne Libre, Yarmouk a été directement impliqué dans les combats : l’ASL est entrée dans le camp et il devint, comme les autres districts de Damas, la cible du régime syrien.

On nous a rapporté des abus commis par l’ASL…

Ceux qui sont entrés dans Yarmouk n’étaient pas tous de même obédience : il y avait là des tas de gens différents et, parmi eux, des criminels de droit commun déguisés en révolutionnaires, comme cette “Brigade des Fils du Golan” qui était, en fait, un gang de kidnappeurs et de voyous. Ils ont incendié des maisons et en ont pillé d’autres. Cela a duré 6 mois, puis l’ASL, constituée de palestiniens et de syriens, les à délogés du camp.

 Concernant la révolution syrienne, qu’elle est la position des factions palestiniennes à l’intérieur du camp ?

Elle est contradictoire : d’un côté, les partisans du FPLP-GC, du Fatah Al Intifada qui combattaient aux côtés des loyalistes. Les proches du Hamas ainsi que des groupes indépendants se battaient contre le régime. La division qui existe dans la population syrienne est la même qui affecte la société syro-palestinienne.

une victime de la famine.

Une victime de la famine.

Pouvez-vous chiffrer la population vivant à l’intérieur du camp ?

Nos données diffèrent de celles de l’UNRWA : nous sommes sur une base de 25 à 30.000 personnes, dont 5000 syriens, le reste des résidents étant palestiniens. Ceux qui sont restés n’ont nulle part où aller et il n’y a plus de place dans les refuges. Pauvres d’entre les pauvres, ces palestiniens et ces syriens n’ont pas d’argent pour louer une maison et ils n’ont pu trouver de place dans les dispensaires du camp. Certains d’entre eux ont pu, un temps, s’installer dans les différents jardins publics de Damas, mais ils en sont revenus. Il y a aussi ceux qui n’ont pu fuir de peur que leur fils soit enrôlé de force dans l’armée. Il y a là des gens qui n’ont pas de papiers, pas de carte d’identité et ne peuvent donc pas sortir du camp. Soyons un peu logiques : il y a 30.000 civils à Yarmouk. S’ils avaient vraiment été des combattants, Damas serait tombée en 2 jours ! Parmi les hommes en armes à l’intérieur du camp, on compte environ 1000 palestiniens et 500 syriens : voilà tous les combattants du camp. Ces palestiniens sont natifs de Yarmouk. Ils ont formé des comités de dėfense, pas seulement contre le régime mais pour des raisons de sécurité interne : les institutions ont volė en éclat, l’anarchie est partout. Il fallait protéger les résidents des voleurs, des kidnappeurs. Ces comités de défense remplissent, en fait, une fonction de police. Il leur arrive même de régler des problèmes familiaux.

Aujourd’hui, comment décririez-vous la situation humanitaire ?

Yarmouk vit sous siège partiel depuis décembre 2012. Cela signifie que les civils peuvent entrer et sortir avec ce qu’ils peuvent transporter. Bien sûr, les camions chargés de nourriture sont interdits. Depuis le début du siège, nous n’avons réussi qu’à faire entrer 4 camions, ce qui a entraîné l’arrestation de quelques volontaires et la mort de Khaled Bakrawi. En juin 2013, le siège à été complètement fermé : plus personne ne put entrer ou sortir, plus de nourriture, plus de produits médicaux, plus aucun bien de consommation ne furent autorisés à pénétrer à l’intérieur du camp. Au bout de 4 mois sont apparus des cas extrêmes de malnutrition et les gens ont commencé à mourir. À ce jour, nous avons répertorié 154 cas de décès dûs à la faim, sans parler des cas où la faim n’est qu’un facteur du de la mort. La nourriture continue de manquer ; il y a bien eu des tentatives diplomatiques ces deux derniers mois qui n’ont abouti qu’à la livraison de 12000 paniers-repas qui ne permettent chacun que d’assurer la subsistance d’une famille de 4 personnes pendant 10 jours. Quiconque en a reçu un n’a plus rien aujourd’hui. Plus tard, 5000 paniers contenant de la confiture, des dattes et un peu de pain furent distribués. Cette dernière livraison fut assurée par l’UNRWA, tandis que nous avons réussi à en distribuer entre 4 à 5000.

Des volontaires de JAFRA distribuent des sacs de nourriture.

Des volontaires de JAFRA distribuent des sacs de nourriture.

La situation médicale et sanitaire : il n’y avait qu’un seul hôpital en activité à Yarmouk, l’Hôpital de Palestine, qui a été fermé par suite du manque de carburant (“mazot”, une sorte de fioul utilisé pour les groupes électrogènes et les stérilisateurs, ndlt). Comme l’électricité a été coupée dans le camp il y a treize mois, l’hôpital ne peut plus compter que sur les générateurs. Il n’y a plus de produits médicaux dans le camp et le seul médecin présent à Yarmouk a été tué il y a 6 mois, comme il sortait de l’hôpital, au cours d’un bombardement. Le personnel médical ne se compose plus que d’infirmières ; leur travail est guidé par l’expérience, mais ils ne sont ni médecins, ni spécialistes. Le mois dernier, nous avons pu exfiltrer 400 cas graves hors du camp. Au cours de l’évacuation, certains ont pourtant été arrêtés par les forces de sécurité du régime. À ce jour, nous avons des cas de malades qui réclament leur évacuation, mais il est absolument impossible aux civils de quitter le camp.

Parlez-nous de la vie quotidienne d’un résident de Yarmouk. J’imagine qu’il est peu probable qu’il puisse y travailler ?

Il n’y a plus de travail à l’intérieur du camp. Les routes sont fermées : pas de déplacement, pas de commerce possible. Le problème majeur est le prix élevé de la nourriture, car la contrebande de denrées est apparue. Il y a un mois et demi, un kilo de riz coûtait environ 12.000 livres syriennes (LS), l’équivalent d’à peu près 70$. Le tarif a baissé légèrement le mois dernier, mais il faut se dire qu’il coûtait 1$ voici trois ans, qu’il coûte 1$ dans les zones qui entourent le camp, soit soixante-dix fois moins ! Un litre de fioul pour groupe électrogène revient à environ 600/700 LS et coûte seulement 100 LS dans Damas. De toutes façons, il n’en reste presque plus à l’intérieur du camp. Certaines ONG – dont notre Fondation JAFRA – ont mis en place des projets agricoles d’auto-suffisance à l’intérieur du camp. Cela n’a pas trop bien marché l’hiver dernier à causes du temps, mais cela va beaucoup mieux. Il y a ceux qui ramassent de l’herbe dans les prés, et nous avons recensé 5 morts dûs aux snipers du régime qui surveillent ces prés. Les autres se contentent d’exister à l’intérieur de Yarmouk, fouillent les maisons abandonnées à la recherche de nourriture, une poignée de riz ou de farine, quelques épices, n’importe quoi qui puisse se manger. Voilà comment vivent ces gens…

Au cours des mois écoulés, lors de tentatives d’introduire des convois d’aide humanitaire, des attaques ont eu lieu : le régime en a rejeté la responsabilité sur les rebelles.

Il ne s’agissait pas d’attaques directes, bien qu’il y ait eu des tirs dont nous n’avons pas pu établir l’origine. Les deux parties s’accusent mutuellement. La milice accuse le Commandement Général, et celui-ci dénonce les islamistes armés. En réalité, des tirs de la milice ont empêché la distribution mais, franchement, je ne pense pas que l’intention était délibérée. Ils souffrent du siège comme les autres et sont logés à la même enseigne. Je crois plutôt qu’au cours d’un engagement avec les forces loyalistes les convois ont été pris entre deux feux.

 Pour finir, avez-vous un message à faire passer à la société italienne ?

Il y a à peu près 30.000 personnes dans le camp de Yarmouk, dont 1200 enfants. Beaucoup sont nés pendant le siège. J’y étais il y a trois mois : ces enfants ne savent plus le goût de la nourriture. L’un d’entre eux rêve de déguster une simple pomme de terre, de manger quelque chose de bon, quelque chose de sucré. Des personnes âgées ont besoin de remèdes pour leur tension artérielle, leurs problèmes cardiaques, leur diabète, tous les traitements simples et basiques dont le manque total cause leur décès. Les blessés sont contraints à l’amputation par faute de simple traitement. Pas de médicament, pas de médecin ! Nous avons besoin de vaccins pour nos enfants. Les problèmes sont immenses : ils n’ont plus la moindre idée de ce qu’est une vie normale et n’imaginent même plus comment est-ce en dehors du camp. Quelle faute ont donc commis ces enfants et ces civils pour souffrir autant ? Ce qui se passe à Yarmouk est contraire à tout principe d’humanité, contraire à toute notion de patrie, contraire à toute idée de panarabisme, toutes choses pour lesquelles le régime syrien se targue d’être en première ligne !

English: http://radiofreesyria1.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/extreme-suffering-in-yarmouk-camp-interview-with-wesam-sabaaneh/