Throughout human history, authoritarian regimes have exercised numerous policies to influence and pressure peoples whose homelands are under the grip of domination and occupation. Occupation policies include construction of settlements and relocation of settlers to change demographics to favor their colonial aspirations. This is one of many ways used gradually to control the indigenous population living under colonial occupation.Since the outset of Iran’s military occupation of Emirate of Al-Ahwaz, the Iranian central governments have one after another, exposed the Ahwazi people to heinous crimes of violence, brutality, and everyday indignities. Through the colonial acquisition of lands throughout Al-Ahwaz, the goal was to cleanse the region of the indigenous Ahwazis.
The looting and plundering of Ahwazi lands were carried out through forcible displacement of Ahwazi citizens and the appropriation of their land by force of arms as well as using money to entice the most impoverished Ahwazis to sell their land.
Most statistics and evidence show that the Iranian 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. During Pahlavi regime, New Yazd and New Isfahan settlements built in Khafajeh 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 this article, we will shed more light on the current policies of changing the population structure of Al-Ahwaz under the Islamic Republic regime.
In recent months, Ahwazi Arab activists in Iran obtained a document titled the “Security Project of the Province of Khuzestan.” According to the contents of the document, the project is a “comprehensive security plan” designed to preempt Arab activism in the Ahwaz region of Iran, including the “repression of political movements” and a resettlement plan that aims to enforce major demographic changes by uprooting Arabs out of their homes and forcing them and other non-Persian residents to live in controlled areas of Khuzestan.
The project also outlines plans to enact “discriminatory policies and widespread national oppression and marginalization against Arabs in Khuzestan.” It also anticipates that this will lead to “national protests”, and expects to address them with a series of measures and security plans to contain them, as has occurred in the region over the past few years.
Challenges Facing Iran
The project mentions five primary challenges the Iranian government faces in the region: political, security, social, cultural, and economic. The “solutions” proposed to remedy these issues focus primarily on containing the demands of the Arab population in order to ultimately “dissolve their political mobility” and divert their allegiance toward the regime.
The document states that these plans were approved during a meeting by the Higher Committee of the Iranian Supreme Council for National Security on April 27, 2014. It was reportedly chaired by Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, the Iranian Interior Minister.
A Higher Committee Chaired by the Minister of Interior
The aforementioned committee associated with the project included both the primary assistant to Vice President Issaq Jahangiri, as well as the Interior Minister and the Minister of Intelligence and his aides. Other include the commander of the Internal Security Forces and the Chairman of the Radio and Television network in the province, as well as others whose names were not revealed.
According to the project, the committee was tasked with forming five councils responsible for actualizing the details of the project in the Arab region, and it is to take 5 years to complete (from 2014 until 2019). The plan revolves primarily on the implementation of the instructions and security recommendations recommended in the project, which include the total elimination of threats and challenges to the regime. In doing this, the committee is expected to submit a report every six months to the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Ali Shamkhani, who operates as the project’s general supervisor.
Building New Settlements and Cities
Perhaps the most significant and troubling aspect of the project’s stipulations is the plan to build a series of “new settlements and cities” intended to introduce the largest number of non-Arab immigrants for resettlement in the region. The aim is to favor non-Arab settlement as a means of demographically combatting and dominating the Arabs of the Ahwaz region.
Arab activists in the region claim that this demographic plan is merely a continuation of a systematic policy implemented by the central government, the details of which are contained in a document leaked in 2005 which carried the signature of Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the director of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s office. When news of this information was first made public, mass protests erupted that were dubbed the “April uprisings.” During these protests, and despite government denial of the validity of this document, protests raged on and led to dozens of people being killed by security forces.
Furthermore, human rights organizations have confirmed that these demographic plans are being seriously and fully implemented, regardless of whether or not the aforementioned government documents are authentic.
One of the paragraphs of the security project, which is currently being implemented, outlines the need to “reduce the migration of Persians from the region, and increased emigration toward Khuzestan from other provinces in order to change the demographic fabric in the long term at the lowest cost.”
The regime has a grand steady plan to make the Ahwazi Arab people a minority in their own land through “ethnic restructuring”. Financial incentives, such as zero- interest loans, are given to ethnic Persians to settle in Ahwaz. New townships are planned, which will house 500,000 non-Arabs. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of displaced Ahwazis eke out a subsistence existence in shanty towns on the outskirts of Ahwazi cities. Others have been forcibly relocated to poverty-stricken
Monitoring Ahwazi Activity
The contents of the document also highlight the need to monitor human rights and diplomatic activity for Arab activists within the region and abroad and present their case to the international community, and gain international assistance and protection.
It also discusses tactics for suppressing any voices calling for secession, as well as ways to enforce limits on political activity in the territory.
Iraqi Militias and Hezbollah Oppression
The project also recommends bringing Iraq’s Shia militias and Hezbollah in order to contribute to the implementation of the project.
The document stipulates that oil sales are intended to finance the project, which is to be extracted from the region itself, and which provides 90 percent of Iran’s oil and gas exports.
Overall, the document emphasizes the need to implement demographic changes to the Ahwaz region and impede the migration of non-Arabs in the Iranian provinces of Ahwaz elsewhere.
The Iranian government is attempting to eradicate Ahwazi Arab existence and presence in the country once and for all. Ahwazi activists maintain that international silence about the regime’s crimes suggests international approval. In recent months Ahwazi community in diaspora held a wave of protests in various European countries calling for the international community to intervene unconditionally to stop the Iranian regime’s campaign of genocide; the constant executions, torture and destruction of basic human and civil rights; the devastation of the environment; and the annihilation of the culture, identity and existence of an entire Arab nation.
Ahwazi region has been deprived of basic amenities like water, health, food, education and so on. Iran is more interested in plundering oil resources from that region rather than taking care of people. West does not recognise this problem. The plight of the local people needs urgent attention from the civil rights activists in the world. In order for colonialism and occupation of Iranian regime to be successful in Al-Ahwaz, they established a deep rooted racist policy that Ahwazi Arab inhabitants of the region must be dehumanized, labeled savages, and eventually, their very existence denied by calling them Arab -speakers who were Arabized over time due to proximity with Arab countries. Once this paradigm has been established, any and all acts of horror had been inflicted upon Ahwazis without recourse. Thus, the stories of the oppressed Ahwazi Arab in Medias become irrelevant. Such plight should not be ignored .Tragedy is tragedy, nor should any tragedy be cynically exploited to justify or excuse another.
By RAHIM HAMID
Note: The views expressed in this article are belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Ahwaz Monitor.