Ahwaz: Silently suffering the world’s longest occupation

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I was walking beside the river, looking at it, in a mood of deep reflection.  I couldn’t stop thinking about Hashim Shabani, such a sensitive man, telling me the saddest story I have ever heard… It really touched my heart. The river was his only solace!  As I looked into the water, his words were constantly running through my mind.

There were a few houses of simple construction, painted white, in traditional Arab style. On the other side of the river was a magnificent farm.  It was a lovely place where I felt very comfortable. Strangely, I always seem to find myself feeling very much at home in any country where people are oppressed.

Some children were running after four lambs, chasing them, wanting to play. “Why were they not at school?” I wondered. Their clothes looked very worn. On the other side, too far away to see clearly, I noticed some young men, seemingly in their twenties. Fishing. They wore the classic Arab male costume, a white long dress and a chafeyeh scarf on the head.  Weren’t they supposed to be at school as well?

It didn’t look as if they were fishing for pleasure. Their sleeves were rolled up to their elbows and they were looking extremely impatient as they watched closely for any fish.  The weather was tremendously hot and they must have been very hungry and tired

Everything was quiet, just me and the river, observing, contemplating – when suddenly a man’s voice behind me broke the silence.

“I guess you are a stranger here! This river is not for everybody, only for deep thinking people.”

It was a friendly voice. The man was not very tall, with dark eyes and hair.  “What is your name?” I asked.

“I am Hadi, Hadi Rashedi. This is my river where I come to tell all the secrets of my heart.”  The river was clearly immensely important to him and he extremely attached to it.

“I am a chemistry teacher in a high school. We don’t speak Arabic in school.  From childhood we have had no choice but to speak a foreign language.  i feel guilty because it looks as if we have abandoned our native language, but only God knows how much we love it.

When you cannot speak your language you don’t feel inspired to live and breathe freedom. You live a life full of scars, big scars that can never heal until the day of your death. We are oppressed by the Iranian regime. Our sacred language, our traditions, are abolished, which is cultural genocide for the Ahwazi Arabs, by a government which wants to assimilate everything we have.

They try very hard to discourage us from speaking Arabic. Every day my students are abused, physically and emotionally, if they have spoken just one word in Arabic. But, often we are discriminated against and insulted just because we are Arab.

You cannot imagine how much the way we are treated in our own country hurts. We can’t even choose the name we want.

One day a student of mine, a 10 year old boy, told me that he had been punished because he said in class that he is not of Persian nationality. He had been viciously beaten about the head by a Persian teacher and had to be sent to hospital with trauma, as a result of which he was unable to continue at school. My heart bleeds when I hear of things like this happening. It is very sad, but there is much more.

Throughout the years, the Iranian regime’s people have been racist to us. We live like strangers in our own land. We are like slaves to the foreigners living in our land. Can you understand how angry we have the right to be?  We are very afraid that we will lose our identity, that over generations it will change and mix with the Persian.

I hate this word.  I hate it when my mouth is forced to speak a foreign language while I want to speak my own.

We live in substandard conditions. We learn our language in the street, while playing, and, of course, in our families. We want to teach our children to be proud of who we are. We are Arab and always will be.

But their future is not bright as we would want it to be. I want to scream and tell the whole world what is happening in my heart, in my land. We are completely oppressed.  I have known it happen that small children in the first grade are slammed on the table and beaten severely just because they can’t speak Persian when they start school. We are treated like criminals. We don’t deserve to be humiliated in this way.

Bleeding and in pain from when we are children, we carry an enormous emotional baggage. I am like a bomb ready to explode at any time.

This racial genocide is humiliating. But we resist, resist, resist. I don’t know how long we can suffer in silence.”

Hashem and Hadi both executed, both were lovers of freedom. They have written beautiful letters just before the end, their vision was clear and their words were strong as they plant seeds of ‘awareness’ to grow into the blooms of Freedom for their beloved people in the future.

Written by Teuta Orgocka

Note: The views expressed in this article are belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Ahwaz Monitor.

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