On Tuesday, March 14, the Ahwazi Arab people defied the odds and scored another victory in their struggle for freedom and justice against the tyranny of the Iranian regime, this time in a sports arena.
By their action, they demonstrated their determination to stay true to their identity and reject the suppressive measures of the regime designed to obliterate their distinctive Arab character from Al-Ahwaz.
Civil rights activists have called on the people of Al-Ahwaz to come to Ghadir Stadium in the region’s eponymous capital Ahwaz on March 14 for AFC Champions League football match between Esteghlal of Ahwaz and Lekhwiya SC Qatar, wearing traditional Arab dress and to support and cheer their team on in the Arab way.
The fans responded enthusiastically to this call, arriving in their tens of thousands, from different cities and different age groups. All came with one goal, to challenge the Iranian regime’s anti-Arab policies in the region. Despite the regime-imposed security restrictions, they turned the match into an anti-regime demonstration, shouting national slogans in Arabic, both during and after the game, to demonstrate their Arab affiliation.
With slogans both chanted and written on placards such as “This is AL Ahwaz”,” Arabic is my identity and my honor”, “AL Ahwaz for Ahwazis and all gulf states residents are our dearest”,” Lekhwiya team welcome to AL Ahwaz” – they sent a clear message to the Iranian government and to the International community that the Arab people still exist and remain undefeated, and are determined to retain their homeland and their national symbols.
With all forms of political activism and demonstrations banned by the regime and Ahwazis brutally penalised for flying their own flag or even using their native Arabic language and wearing their traditional Arab garments, the protesters risked arrest, imprisonment and worse (with many Ahwazi activists executed, usually on ludicrous charges like ‘Moharebeh’ or ‘enmity to God’) simply to demand their rights. Despite these dangers, many of football fans wore their traditional Arab garb, refusing to be cowed by the regime’s unrelenting and vicious efforts to quash any expressions of Arab identity.
The match itself, fittingly ended in a 1-1 draw. This kept the Ahwazi football team at the top of the table, leading the group with 7 points, while the Qatari team, Lekhwiya is ranked second.
The demonstration continued after the match, with Ahwazis taking to the streets of the capital to chant in support of freedom and human rights, with some defiantly reciting poetry about the region’s historic Arab identity, which is denied by the regime. It should be stressed that the regime savagely punishes all assertions of Ahwazi identity, with even peaceful protests and expressions of pride in Ahwazi Arab identity viewed by Tehran as signs of dangerous insurrection.