Al Ahwaz: annexed and brutalised by Iran's genocidal policies for 95 years, struggles for independence

As Iran continues on its path towards splendid isolation, and through its actions becomes increasingly a pariah state, much of the world is unaware of the genocidal policies of the Ayatollahs towards their country’s minority groups.

Against this background, the people of Ahwaz - capital of the Khūzestān Province, one of the most ethnically diverse of Iran’s 31 provinces, and in terms of natural resources such as oil, gas, and water, one of its richest - have suffered more than most.

Al Ahwaz used to be independent for thousands of years: it was invaded and occupied by Iran in 1925. Al Ahwaz is the richest land of the Middle East, whereas our people are forced to live on less than half a Dollar a day.

ASMLA President Saeed Hamidan.
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Subjected to a programme that amounts to one of ethnic cleansing, the inhabitants of the region, mostly Arabic speakers, have been banned from using their own language.

The Ahwazi people are struggling to ensure the survival of their culture, and in 1999 the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) was established in Europe to advocate for an independent Arab state in Khūzestān.

ASMLA President Saeed Hamidan (pictured right) told EUToday “Our language is being eradicated, and they are imposing the Farsi language upon us. Non-Iranian cultural activities are forbidden, even our ladies’ traditional style of dress is banned. In some cases, even the death penalty has been imposed.”

Hamidan himself has had a death sentence passed on him, forcing him into exile. Iran’s death squads, however, have followed ASMLA exiles.

Murders most foul.

Following the attempted assasination of three ASMLA activists in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2018, former Director of the CIA, and then Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo spoke out strongly in condemnation of “nearly 40 years of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks.”

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Denmark, for its part, recalled its ambassador to Iran, while Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called the assassination plot "totally unacceptable” saying that the then UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, had voiced her support for Denmark’s strong response to the incident.

In October of the same year, France accused Iran of an alleged bomb plot to attack exiled ASMLA activists in Paris, and in January 2019, Dutch Ministers Stef Blok and Kasja Ollongren stated that Iran was almost certainly behind the assassination of two persons of Iranian descent in the Netherlands, including that of Ahmad Mola Nissi, then leader of ASMLA.

Ironically, Tehran has designated ASMLA as a terrorist, possibly having learned from the words of Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels, who stated "Always Accuse Your Enemies of Your Own Sins”.

No other nation or entity has designated ASMLA as a “terrorist” group.

Ethnic cleansing of Iran’s “minorities”.

ASMLA has prioritised the establishment of international relations in order to foster awareness of their plight, and the organisation has addressed the United Nations, the European Parliament, and has recently held talks with Mike Pompeo.

Saeed Hamidan warned that Iran has “expansionist” ambitions, and that Tehran is a major funder of Hezbollah, which it supports through the drug trade. Hezbollah, for its part, is extremely adept at laundering such funds in Europe, notably through the telecoms and diamond sectors in Belgium.

However the story is not only about the persecution of the Ahwazi people: Hamidan told us that all minority groups are treated equally brutally.

“They do not want Arabs, they do not want Kurds, they do not want minority groups to maintain their cultures. People are not even to take traditional names, No political parties that are not subservient to the regime are allowed to exist” he said.

In fact, 75% of Iran’s population is comprised of such minorities. Whilst the Iranians themselves, the Farsi, make up only 25% of the populace, they hold all government positions and will not tolerate anybody who does not fit their “norm”.

The behaviour of the Iranian regime towards its minorities arguably meets three of the five conditions as set out in the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide, namely:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

"Gays deserve to be tortured, executed, or both."

Iran’s intolerance spreads further afield: “It is not just ethnic minorities: I strongly condemn the suppression and executions of homosexuals and other members of the LGBT communities,” Saeed Hamidan told EUToday, referring to the brutal treatment of Iran's gay communities.

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Human rights activists have suggested that between 4,000 and 6,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed in Iran, often as a public spectacle, for crimes related to their sexual orientation since 1979.

In 2007, Iranian parliamentarian Mohsen Yahyavi stated that “gays deserve to be tortured, executed, or both.”

He continued: "We do not have any opposition to this type of behaviour as long as it is done behind closed doors, but those who engage in this behaviour in public should be put to death."

Astonishingly, this statement was delivered to British parliamentarians at a peace conference.

Yahyavi's words were further echoed as recently as June 2019 when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif endorsed the execution of homosexuals.

Speaking at a press conference in Tehran, alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Tehran on Monday and in response to a question from a reporter from the German tabloid Bild who asked: "Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?", the minister stated "Our society has moral principles. And we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behaviour of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed."

Against this background the Ahwazi people continue their long struggle. A growing awareness of their plight, together with Saeed Hamidan's policy of international engagement, a growing antipathy towards Iran and a geo-political trend towards regionalisation may combine mark the beginning of a new chapter in the long march to Al Ahwazi independence.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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