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Al Ahwaz: Iranian Ethnic Subjugation

More severe than a people’s shortcoming in supporting an oppressed nation, and more devastating to the livelihood of a just cause is its uprooting from the minds of men. The hopelessness in oppressively overcoming a people through military annihilation or through financial sanctions has become evident to those governments who seek to wipe away a people based on their creed, tongue or political inclination. These measures have only reinforced the position of the oppressed, who, through the sympathy of the aware have found enough grounding to resist and endure their every hardship. But when a cause so integral to the status of our ummah is overlooked and allowed to be forgotten, its people find their endurance in repeating the words of Omar ibn Al Khattab whose concern extended to the east-most corner of the ummah: “Sufficient for us are the large nations of Al Basra and Al Ahwaz, I wish there was between us and Persia a mountain of fire so that they cannot reach us and we cannot reach them.” But through the grace of Allah, from Egypt, a nation that managed to break the chains of enslavement under a previous tyranny, a conference in ‘solidarity with the people of Al Ahwaz’ was staged to mark a new phase on the course of the struggle[1].

Al Ahwaz, also known as Khustan or Arabistan, is situated 60 miles from Kuwait, south-west of present day Iran and is home to almost six million Arab, Balochi and Kurdish citizens. Its area exceeds 320,000 square kilometres and despite the vast oil resource in this region[2], accounting for 90% of Iran’s total oil production, the people of Al Ahwaz find themselves the subject of cruelty, imposed poverty, routine and targeted execution as well as ethnic ‘Persianisation’ campaigns. Under nine centuries of occupation and purposeful desertion by the Arab and Muslim world, since 1925 the people of Al Ahwaz have found themselves before a regime that claims a siding with the oppressed of the world. They are repressed and fearful of revolution and suffering the outcomes of ethnic subjugation. In ways that are synonymous to the Zionist occupation, the erasing of the Arab identity in Al Ahwaz by the Iranian authorities includes the changing of Arabic names of towns, such as Muhamara to Khuramshare among other towns and roads.

Families have been deprived of utilising Arabic names or those of the noble companions of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) except those venerated by the Shia doctrine[3]. Communities are banned from wearing Arabic customary clothing or from teaching the Arabic language in schools. Rather, mass executions occur regularly and in public amidst the Ahwazi masses to strike fear into their hearts. Even the building of Mosques and the distribution of printed media is prohibited, not least the teaching of the Sunnah that is undertaken privately to preserve the national identity. Even the natural resource of Al Ahwaz has been diverged from its citizens through the re-routing of its water supply, namely the Karun River to other provinces in spite of its scarcity. Sewage remains largely untreated in many areas of Al Ahwaz and electricity is deficient in supply[4]. 

To voice resentment at such austere measures is labelled ‘Moharebeh’ or ‘enmity against God’ and ‘Fasad-fil Arz’ (corruption on earth), exploiting such terminology in order to justify routine executions and to guise them as ‘Islamic’[5]. Most often, those executed are not subject to fair trials in Iranian courts as is argued by UN Human Rights Experts[6]. Currently, almost one million Ahwazi Arabs live in urban slums, and illiteracy exceeds 50% of its population. Land appropriation has forcibly displaced more than 200,000 citizens, receiving no compensation while up to 80% of the children of Dashte-Azadegan, an Ahwazi town with an indigenous Ahwazi Arab majority suffer from rampant malnutrition[7]. 

One may ask, why the instilled hatred of the Arab race in Al Ahwaz despite it dominated by Shia inhabitants and why is a war being waged against Sunni Muslims and Arabs in and around Iran? To relentlessly attempt to enforce a ‘Persian’ identity, regardless of religious affiliation challenges in the least Iran’s claim of upholding human rights and of siding beside the oppressed across the world. It furthermore overlooks the richness brought by the indigenous Arabs and non-Persians of Al Ahwaz who have for centuries been an integral part of the region’s diversity. The Arabic presence in Al Ahwaz dates back to the very formation of the Ahwazi civilisation where it celebrated autonomous rule despite repeated attempts at its invasion by the Sassanid Empire, assisted by its geological separation from the rest of Iran by means of the towering Zagros Mountains. Furthermore, the Ahwazi culture, norms and customs are vastly distinct from the inhabitants of Iran, resembling in dialect the Iraqi neighbour. 

Historically, the association of Al Ahwaz with the rest of Persia was largely symbolic and based on military and financial interests. This continued until the Islamic opening of Persia in the year 636AD, succeeded by the liberation of Al Ahwaz in the year 637AD following the remarkable battles of Al Madaen and Al Qadisyah led by the noble companion Saad Ibn Abi Waqas, may Allah be pleased with him, overcoming the Sassanid, Persian army and liberating Iraq[8]. A liberation by the Muslim Arabs of a land that was beforehand subdued to the worship of its Persian Kings and Emperors, in order to “emancipate its people from the worship of people to the worship of the lord of people, from the tightness of the world to the vastness of the world and the hereafter and from the oppression of the various religions to the justice of Islam.”[9] The objectives of the companions of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) were so dignified that they shed their blood in order to relieve a once Magian community from the repression of their Magian Emperors. How then, when they are our exemplars that the repression towards the Muslim community of Al Ahwaz is sponsored by an Islamic Republic? If not for the right of the brethren, then for the right of the neighbour mandated by Allah Most High: 

“Worship Allah and join none with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side…”[10] 

In light of the developments in the Muslim world, silence against the tyranny of governments remains no longer an option. Communities now realise the value of freedom and are prepared to pay its cost. Outward claims to the application of divine laws are weightless if the intent (the Maqsad) of justice is unattained. Al Ahwaz, identical in many ways to Palestine, particularly the West Bank remains overlooked by the majority of the world. It is a duty upon the Muslim world to realise the strife of the families in this region, to bring their just case to the surface and to pressure the international community to stand beside them, regardless of perceived external politics. It is therefore necessary to begin by educating others about this cause and to propagate it widely so that justice is compelled. Our dear Messenger (SAW) said: 

مَثلُ المؤمنين في توادِّهم وتراحُمِهم وتعاطُفِهم ، مَثلُ الجسدِ . إذا اشتكَى منه عضوٌ ، تداعَى له سائرُ الجسدِ بالسَّهرِ والحُمَّى
“The likeness of the Believers in regards to their compassion, mercy, and kindness is like one body, when part of it is in pain, the whole body joins it in staying awake and having a fever.”[11]             

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[1] http://dailynewsegypt.com/2013/01/14/ahwaz-iranian-racial-oppression-opposed-in-egypt/. Accessed 14th January 2013.
[2] http://www.unpo.org/members/7857. Accessed 10th January 2013.
[3] http://www.aljazeera.net/news/pages/240a91db-4afd-4d88-9728-9062e9009a17. Accessed 13th January 2013.
[4] http://ahwazhumanrights.org/Article.aspx?aid=229. Accessed 12th January 2013.
[5] http://www.ahwaziarabs.info/2012/06/un-special-rapporteurs-condemn-ongoing.html. Accessed 13th January 2013.
[6] UN Daily News, 28th June 2012, http://www.un.org/news/dh/pdf/english/2012/28062012.pdf. Accessed 13th January 2013.
[7] http://www.unpo.org/members/7857
[8] http://www.ahwazna.org/history.php. Accessed 13th January 2013.
[9] The words of Ribee ibn Amir to Kisra before the Islamic opening of Persia, explaining the purpose of the opening. Accessed 13th January 2013.
[10] Quran: 4:36.
[11] Saheeh Muslim on the authority of Al Numaan ibn Basheer.

About Ahmed Hammuda

Ahmed Hammuda is a regular contributor at Islam21c. His interests lie in Qur'anic Tafsir and the field of Middle East Affairs and how they reflect on Muslims living in the West. He is an Electrical Engineer by trade and has been involved in various Da'wah activities over the course of his education and working life. He has transferred the same analytical approach required in engineering into a careful and measured approach in his views and positions.


  1. Faraz Choudhry

    The war in Syria is now looking like more of a quagmire than ever in light of all that. It’s clearly Shia versus Wahaabis and both are cockfighting to the glee of the enemies of Islam. The West don’t like the Shia leadership of Syria for their opposition to the occupation of Palestine while they’re funding the “Free Syria” rebels to fight them, while they wreak civil and ethnic destruction of the country, desecration of heritage and holy institutions including graves of the Sahaabah. Wake up, these are apparently the major signs of The Hour. If there are any sides worth taking then perhaps remember what started off as an uprising against a bad regime has turned into a proxy Israel-Palestine war but both sides are not fighting in the way of Islam and are committing civil and cultural atrocities.

  2. sonsofsunnah.com

    Sunni Iranian
    last part of my comment:

    As someone who is opposed to the separation of any parts of current day Iran, I do believe that every just person, especially those Persian nationalists who always venerate democracy shouldn’t be scared to have a referendum in the future Iran to let the Arabs of the Khuzestan province chose for themselves, for afterall you can’t force a people to be part of a nation, the Birtish couldn’t even do that with the tiny island of Ireland, this should be a lesson to all oppressors.

    The racist excuse of some Persian nationalists won’t help them also, namely the claim that Ahwazi Arabs not indigenous inhabitants anyway and have settled in Iran (Khuzestan province) approx. a four hundred years ago. This widespread false claim is only true in regards to some tribes, the truth is – even some Iranian historians don’t hide it like Afsharian – that the Arabs of the khuzestan area AND Iraq can be traced back up to two housand years before Jesus (AS) birth, hence we read how Majoosi (Zoroastrian) Arab were in fact part of the armies of the various kisras (kings) of Persia, including Yazdgerd, the last Kisra of the Persians who sent thousands of Ahwazi Christians and Majoosi Arabs to fight against the Sahaba (this debunks another Persian-Nationalist fairy-tale that the opening of Persia through the Muslim army was a fight between “Arabs and Persians” only. The truth is, it was a fight between the Muslims (Arab, Persian, Ethiopian and even Roman companions of the Prophet peace be upon him) and Sassanid oppressive rulership and their armies (Persian and Arab Majoosis!). So the Ahwazi Arabs are indigenous people of south east Iran, and racist slogans such as “they should go back to Yemen were all Arabs are originally come from” is like telling a Persian to go back to south Russia were all Persians eventually came from.

    So the Ahwazi Arabs are natives, but this goes to the Bakhtiari Persian trube and other Non-Arab people as well, and this is where many Ahwazi organisations and speakers go overboard by claiming that ALL of the Khuzestan province and ALL of the southern Iranian provinces are native Arab lands and werealways native semitic (Elami) Arab land. This needs to be proven and even if it is true, then the fact still stands that many Sunni persians in the south (Hormozgan) and Bakhtiari (Shia) tribes in Khuzestan have become natives too (just like the Arabs). Again, the map you mostly see by Ahwazi organisation, stretching “Al-Ahwaz” (it was never called Al-Ahwaz, Al-Ahwaz was the capital, the self-ruled province by Shaykh Khaz’al in south-west Iran was called ARABESTAN, so this is the most suited name) from south-west Iran up to the city of Bandar Abbas is an exaggeration simply historically wrong, this is mentioned by southern-Arab Iranians (Hormozgani Arabs) themselves:

  3. sonsofsunnah.com

    Sunni Iranian
    part two of my comment:

    Now back to our age: The Persian Shia mullahs AND the Non-Persians like Khamenei and co. know are well aware of the Safavid history and how many advantages the Shia religion mixed with Persian elements has brought them. It has become an accepted religon even to many nationalists Iranians, for they too are well aware that Shiism is a rather distorted Persianised version of Islam compared to the Ahl Al-Sunnah who are represented not just by Arabs, but by Turks, Indonesians, Berbers and all nations of the world! Since the main bulk of the Iranian masses, particularly the Persians are more than just open to Anti-Arab sentiments the Mullahs started using those emotions to their advantage (just like the Turkish Safavids did) to oppress every non Shia minority in Iran, especially non-Persians, or in the case fo the Arabs, even the majority Arab Shia population of Khuzestan/Ahwaz province of Iran.

    Here I would like to mention a (I guess) mistake in your article above, because at one point you wrote:

    “Even the building of Mosques and the distribution of printed media is prohibited, not least the teaching of the Sunnah that is undertaken privately to preserve the national identity”

    This is an exeggaration I believe, althoug there is no doubt that Sunnism is spreading in Khuzestan:


    … thanks to the crimes of the Shia Mullah regime … yet, teaching the Sunnah is not undertaken to preserve the national identity, this is obviously wrong, for the Ahwazis are traditionaly Shias (and although many converted to Islam/Sunnah) they are still a majority Shia people, and a people who throughout history were majority Shia (the evil Nimatullah Al Jaza’iri Shia scholars who believed in the Tahreef of the Quran was Ahwazi) are not suddenly teaching the Sunnah to preserve their national identity, rather they teach Arabic and Arabic customs among themselves to preserve the national identity.

    So basically I’d say religious Iranian Shias especially those attached to the Shia Regime are not as racist towards Arabs as the Iranian Fashist groups and many pan-Iranian groups are, but nevertheless they do have Anti-Arab sentiments and this again is based on the exaggeration of their pre-Islamic Persian history and the Shia religious that if anything pushes those anti-Arab and anti-Islamic sentiments:

    Shiism: The absolute majority of the Sahaba were a bunch of loiterers who came to rob the treasures of of other lands (including Persia). Most of the Sahaba are apostates, Shia scholar Baqir Al-Majlisi called them sons of Prostitutes:


    this and many other Shia beliefs are a backbone for the revival of anti-Arab sentiments of Persian fashists:


    In conclusion I think every sincere person, even a Persian nationalist must just admit that Ahwazi Arabs are oppressed, in fact wearing a red and white Arabic headscarf is disliked by the iranian authorities (and Iranian pan-Iranists!) since they deem it as a sign of wahhabism (a rubbish claim since -although less than Sunni Arabs – still many Arab Shia from Bahrain to Iraq do wear red Chafiyyeh’s (Ahwazi-Iraqi and Persian word for the Shimagh).

    It is also true that Ahwaz used to be an Emirate that was attached to Iran through a Federal system (this still does not prove the exeggaration on the Ahwazi side, particularly most Ahwazi organisations that spread various maps of the so called Ahwaz area stretching from south west Iran all the way to Bandar Abbas in south Iran. Most parts of the southern Bushehr province and Hormozgan province were never parts of the Ahwazi territory not even back in the days were Ahwaz used to be an Emirate.).

  4. sonsofsunnah.com

    Sunni Iranian
    Apart from some spelling mistakes (it is Khorramshahr not khuramshare, but am not abiding by spelling rules as well, most of the times I think, English is not my native language) the article is well written and no one can argue about the fact that Anti-Arab sentiments are deeply rooted in Persian culture, much more than you will find Anti-Persian sentiments in Arab culture (this is because in Persian culture it is a cultural heritage to despise Arabs, some of the great Iranian poets have even attacked the Arabs as a race, something you will barely find among Arabs, since Arabs are attached to Islam and in Islam we make no difference between an Arab and a non-Arab). In fact, I myself have heard Yasser alhabib. the vile Kuweiti Shia cleric of London saying that even he finds it strange how many Persian Shia Mullahs hate Arabs in general. So the Islamic label that the Shia regime has put on their forehead will not help them anymore, their deeds are exposing them and showing how similar they are to the system they apparently hate so much i.e. the former Iranian monarchy and pan-Iranian groups. Note, the fact that Khamenei himself i.e. the Revolutionary Leader and Head of State is actually a non-persian (he is an Azeri Turk as are many officials of the gov. officials Including many, many Shia clerics and many so called Ayatollahs) is no contradiction to the extremist and fashist Persianification policy of the Iranian regime and it is for the following reason:

    History alone will teach those who actually ponder over the past: Remember, the Safavid Azeri Turks hailed from a pure Azeri area and Azeri (turkish identity/dynasty) which is the city of Tabriz in today’s Azerbaijan province of Iran.They were Ash’ari-Shafi’i Sufis (as some scholars say leaning extremely towards Mutazilism) yet they employed mostly LEBANESE Arab shia scholars from the Jebal Amel (south Lebanon, where most Lebanese Shia scholars hail from, like Al-Korani etc.) like Al-kerkhi (and Baqir Al-Majlisi whom some shia try to give an persian isfahani descent!!!!!) and some Bahraini Shia scholars to spread Rafidhi Shiism (of course after having slaughtered the Sunni scholars with their Safavid swords or burning them alive or building minaretes with their skulls!!!) throughout Iran. Al-Majlisi the Safawid palace scholar advocated many pre-islamic beliefs like nowrooz (which he claims is actually and divine islamic eid! READ HER: http://sonsofsunnah.com/2012/07/25/the-reviver-of-zorastrian-majoosi-elements-under-the-cover-of-tashayyu-shiism/).

    So as you can see, the Arab Shia scholars themselves revived pagan Persian traditions in the name of the Ahl Al-Bayt (to destroy Islam from within), and so did the Turkish Safavid rulers of Iran who on the other hand also promoted pre-Islamic Persian beliefs like the very fact that Persians believed that the rulership is divine and from divine son to son i.e. the Shia imamat, The Safavids used Shiism to oppose the Ottoman Sunnis (for this was the only thing that really distinguished between the turkish Ottomans and the turkish Safavids), the only problem was that the Persians were STAUNCH Sunnis (just refer to the dozens of Persian Sunni scholars who wrote teeth-breaking books in refutation of Shiism, or just ponder over the fact that the biggest Sunni scholars and even the masters of the Arabic language were SUNNI Persians: http://sonsofsunnah.com/category/the-service-of-the-ppl-of-persia-to-islam/ ), and this is why the Safavids needed to forcefully convert the Persian population (the absolute majority of Persians were Sunnis, except the city of Qum that was inhabited by NON-PERSIAN Arab Yemenite from the Ashari tribe and the city of Kashan, and some Zaidi Shias of north Iran), by literally slaughtering them:


    After having slaughtered them, they (as Turks and Arabs) used Pre-Persian nationalism to literally form a Persian Islam (distorted Islam) for the Persian majority.

  5. Tabaarak’Allah
    Jazaak’Allahu khairan for your informative and well-written piece. Allahul Musta3aan ..

  6. none
    none of this is mentioned in the west…what is difficult to understand is that within religion….what people call faith and love of God..in actuality mean hating another of a different belief..and this is happening in the west as well..what a mess..so sorry…..x

  7. An article on Bahrain next please?
    Sounds a lot like the treatment of shias by the house of saud or the khalifa monarchy in Bahrain.

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