How effectively Ahwazi Arab people in Iran find protection at the international and regional level?

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Al-Ahwaz, which was also known as Arabistan until 1936, is the territory of Ahwazi Arab people bordering with Iraq and the Arabian Gulf. The Ahwazi sovereign land was annexed by the Persian state in 1925, after years of confrontation between Shaikh Khazaal, the legitimate ruler of the territory, and Reza Pahlavi, who invaded it.

Thereafter, Ahwazis were the subject of ethnic linguistic discrimination and ill-treatment by the Persian administrating power.[1]

Pahlavi era: the starting point of total oppression

The promotion of a new national identity by officials and intellectuals during the era of the Pahlavi monarchy, constructed a national identity based on the concept of Persianization of  the  historic land and led to the establishment of an ‘Iranianness’,[2] which deprived the identity of the non-Persian minorities. The Persian identity and glory of the past played an essential role in formulating a new Iranian nation between the years 1925-1979. This formulation entailed strengthening Tehran’s rule over the provinces, violently and viciously suppressing aspirations of the provinces to self-govern their territories, and Persianizing the provinces while depriving them of ethnic and linguistic freedom and suppressing the leaders of these minorities.[3]

The administrating power in Pahlavi time endeavoured to assimilate the ethnic population with a view to reduce the ability of the minorities’ political organization by: (1) acculturation, causing the ethnic group to lose its racial distinctiveness (2) amalgamation, eliminating the minority’s biological dissimilarity by intermarriage and (3) identification, in which the national minority may psychologically regard themselves as the same as predominant culture.[4]

In this regard, the Ahwaz territory with its common border with Iraq and the richness of its natural recourses (gas and oil), which constitute a vital part of the Iranian state’s revenue, was considered as a turbulent area and every protest made by the people of Ahwaz were seen as a threat to Iran’s national security and its sovereignty.[5]

Correspondingly, the civil rights of Ahwazi population were nullified as well as a total ban on freedom of speech.  The local and national media were placed under the control of the state’s agenda.[6] In addition, the pre-1979 rule in Iran characterised the issue of ethnic minorities as political activity, which led to the failure of governments to deal with the non-Persian minorities and the urging need for recognition and rights.

The Revolutionary state of injustice

Although, the new Islamic regime in Iran attempted to demolish the Pahlavi concept of Persian nationhood after the 1979 revolution by reinvigorating the notion of the ‘Umma[7],’ aimed at uniting the country’s multi-ethnic population under one Islamic roof[8]. However, the Islamic system failed to create a concept of a unified Iranian nation among Iran’s ethnic minorities, in this case the Ahwazi Arabs.

Exactly like the state’s conduct during the Pahlavi era, the revolutionary state dismissed the collective right of minorities and instead sought to unite the population of Iran on the grounds of individual rights and duties. Nevertheless, it failed to understand the significant of self-sufficient of Ahwazi people. On this point, although, members of ethnic and linguistic groups are regarded as individuals and Muslims in Iran’s institution[9] regardless of their ethnicity or race. Yet, in essence, the ethnic distinction between Ahwazi Arabs and Persians was the cause of pessimism regarding the actual participation of the Ahwazi population in the so called ‘Iranian society’.

The newly established Islamic republic in Iran has continued the discrimination against minorities, predominantly in areas like employment, housing, participating in free political movement, and cultural activities. The Ahwazis are prohibited from learning in their own language in primary schools and forces them to learn the Persian language – the only recognised and official language of the state in education system in Iran. Many of cultural and linguistic activists were arrested, jailed and, in some cases, executed[10] for ‘corruption on earth’ and waging war on God’.[11]

Therefore, all activities of territorial and ethnic movements, including Ahwazi collective movements, were quashed by the Iranian security forces and the revolutionary guard who committed atrocities. Thereby, all those resisting the Ayatollah Khomeini were imprisoned or forced to leave their land to find safety in the neighbouring country, Iraq. In addition, during and after the 1980-88 war between Iran and Iraq, Al-Ahwaz was further militarised and any demand for cultural, ethnic or political rights and representation were suppressed by the authorities, treating the Ahwazis as second-class citizens.[12] There is significant documentation showing the aggressive manner by which the Iranian government conducts its activity vis-a-vis the Arabs in Ahwaz’s territory.[13]

Explicit Racial discrimination according to General Assembly resolution 2106 (XX)

Based on the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination[14], the treatment of Ahwazi people by the Persian authorities since 1925 illustrates that racial discrimination is practised by the Iranian state, annulling the identification, endowment, and exercise of human rights and indispensable ‘freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural’ and public life.

According to article 2 of the General Assembly’s resolution 2106 (XX)[15], the state of Iran is clearly obligated to undertake all necessary measures to preclude any kind of racial discrimination engagement against other ethnic or racial groups by government bodies or public officials. Notwithstanding, the European Union condemned Iran for not allowing minorities to exercise their rights which were confirmed by the Iranian constitution[16] and international law, strongly urging Iranian authorities to end all type of violation against human rights and discrimination committed against Ahwazis, as an ethnic and linguistic minority.[17]

Environmental struggle

Furthermore, the discrimination and neglect of the Iranian administration created an environmental disaster and humanitarian crisis for the territory of Al-Ahwaz and its inhabitants. This was the result of the excessive exploitation of mineral resources such as oil and gas and diversion of the water from Ahwazi Rivers to central provenances of Iran including Esfahan, Kerman and Yazd. This led to desertification and disruption of the region’s ecosystem,[18] making it the most polluted land on planet.[19] As a result of this irresponsible exploitation, various kind of cancer and other fatal diseases have spread among the population, while the government disregards the voice of the suffering people.[20]

Conclusion

In conclusion, as Professor Joshua Castellino mentioned, if there is ‘no room at the international table’ to provide extra protection for the most vulnerable and defenceless people with the reality in which minorities and indigenous people experience growing inequality, they are more likely to be ignored and kept at the lowest level of the socioeconomic pyramid.[21] With no exemption from these findings, Ahwazi Arabs were denied of their most basic of rights including ethnic, linguistic and to some extent their religious distinction with the administrative powers in Iran.

 

By  Abdulrahman Hetteh

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

 

Also to download the word format:

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Bibliography

 

SA v The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011]UKUT 41 (IAC)

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, General Assembly resolution 2106 (XX), 21 December 1965

 

Iran (Islamic Republic of)’s Constitution of 1979 with Amendments through 1989

 

Situation in Iran- European Parliament resolution of 31 January 2008 on Iran [2009] OJ C68E 1

Jashua Castellino, ‘No Room at the International Table: The Importance of Designing Effective Litmus Test for Minority Protection at Home’ [2013] 35 Hum Rts Q 201

Nader Entessar (review), Ethnic Identity and the State in Iran, (2013) 68 (2) The Middle East Journal 324

 

Rasmus Christian Elling, ‘Tribal hands and minority votes: ethnicity, regionalism and elections in Iran’ (2015) 38 (14) Ethnic and Racial Studies 2534

Hooshang Amirahmadi, ‘A theory of ethnic collective movements and its application to Iran’ (1987) 10 (4) Ethnic and Racial Studies 363

Patricia J Higgins, ‘Minority‐state relations in contemporary Iran’ (1984) 17 (1) Iranian Studies 37

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, ‘Arab Ahwaz Must be Liberate From Iran’ (English Al Arabia, 29 March 2015) < http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/03/29/Arab-Ahwaz-must-be-liberated-from-Iran.html> accessed 9 November 2016

 

See Amnesty, ‘Iran 2015/2016’ <https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/iran/report-iran/> accessed 9 November 2016

Huffington Post, ‘Hashem Shaabani Nejad, Iranian Poet, Executed For ‘Waging War On God’’ (10 February 2014) < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/10/hasham-shaabani-executed-iran_n_4760679.html> accessed 9 November 2016

See Iran Human Rights, ‘UN Must Intervene in the Environmental Crisis in Iran – Call by 11 NGOs’ (Iran Human Rights, 17 February 15) < https://iranhr.net/en/statement/22/> accessed 9 November 2016

See Shahrvand, ‘IHRDC: Ahwazi Arabs Subjected to Discrimination in Iran’ (Shahrvand, 18 April 2013) < http://www.shahrvand.com/archives/38128> accessed 9 November 2016

Rahim Hamid, ‘Iran: Alarming statistics of increasing cancer in Ahwaz region linked to air pollution’ (Minority voices, 24 February 2016) < http://www.minorityvoices.org/news.php/en/1580/iran-alarming-statistics-of-increasing-cancer-in-ahwaz-region-linked-to-air-pollution> accessed 9 November 2016

Noah Rayman, ‘The 10 Most Polluted Cities in the World: Four of them are in Iran’ (science time, 18 October 2013) <http://science.time.com/2013/10/18/the-10-most-polluted-cities-in-the-world/>accessed 9 November 2016

[1] See Shahrvand, ‘IHRDC: Ahwazi Arabs Subjected to Discrimination in Iran’ (Shahrvand, 18 April 2013) < http://www.shahrvand.com/archives/38128> accessed 9 November 2016

[2] Nader Entessar (review), Ethnic Identity and the State in Iran, (2013) 68 (2) The Middle East Journal 324, 324-25

[3] Rasmus Christian Elling, ‘Tribal hands and minority votes: ethnicity, regionalism and elections in Iran’ (2015) 38 (14) Ethnic and Racial Studies 2534, 2534

[4] Hooshang Amirahmadi, ‘A theory of ethnic collective movements and its application to Iran’ (1987) 10 (4) Ethnic and Racial Studies 363, 370

[5] Rasmus Christian Elling, ‘Tribal hands and minority votes: ethnicity, regionalism and elections in Iran’ (2015) 38 (14) Ethnic and Racial Studies 2534, 2534

[6] Hooshang Amirahmadi, ‘A theory of ethnic collective movements and its application to Iran’ (1987) 10 (4) Ethnic and Racial Studies 363, 375

[7] Nader Entessar (review), Ethnic Identity and the State in Iran, (2013) 68 (2) The Middle East Journal 324, 324-25

[8] Iran (Islamic Republic of)’s Constitution of 1979 with Amendments through 1989, Article 11

[9] Patricia J Higgins, ‘Minority‐state relations in contemporary Iran’ (1984) 17 (1) Iranian Studies 37, 43-44

[10] See Amnesty, ‘Iran 2015/2016’ <https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/iran/report-iran/> accessed 9 November 2016

[11] See Huffington Post, ‘Hashem Shaabani Nejad, Iranian Poet, Executed For ‘Waging War On God’’ (10 February 2014) < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/10/hasham-shaabani-executed-iran_n_4760679.html> accessed 9 November 2016

[12] Rasmus Christian Elling, ‘Tribal hands and minority votes: ethnicity, regionalism and elections in Iran’ (2015) 38 (14) Ethnic and Racial Studies 2534, 2536

[13] SA v The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011]UKUT 41 (IAC) [48]

[14] International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, General Assembly resolution 2106 (XX), 21 December 1965, Article 1 (1)

[15] ibid, Article 2

[16] Iran (Islamic Republic of)’s Constitution of 1979 with Amendments through 1989, Article 3 (7-9), Article 19

[17] Situation in Iran- European Parliament resolution of 31 January 2008 on Iran [2009] OJ C68E 1, 4 and 6

[18] See Iran Human Rights, ‘UN Must Intervene in the Environmental Crisis in Iran – Call by 11 NGOs’ (Iran H R, 17 February 15) < https://iranhr.net/en/statement/22/> accessed 9 November 2016

[19] Noah Rayman, ‘The 10 Most Polluted Cities in the World: Four of them are in Iran’ (science time, 18 October 2013) <http://science.time.com/2013/10/18/the-10-most-polluted-cities-in-the-world/>accessed 9 November 2016

[20] Rahim Hamid, ‘Iran: Alarming statistics of increasing cancer in Ahwaz region linked to air pollution’ (Minority voices, 24 February 2016) < http://www.minorityvoices.org/news.php/en/1580/iran-alarming-statistics-of-increasing-cancer-in-ahwaz-region-linked-to-air-pollution> accessed 9 November 2016

[21] Jashua Castellino, ‘No Room at the International Table: The Importance of Designing Effective Litmus Test for Minority Protection at Home’ [2013] 35 Hum Rts Q 201, 206, 211 and 212

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