I am a 71-year-old man from the Arab Ahwaz region which has seen nothing but brutal oppression, persecution and rejection ever since it was forcibly annexed by Iran against the will of its Arab people in 1925.
Ever since then, the Ahwazi people have been victimised in an endless cycle of international treaties that should really be called international conspiracies, which tarnished and violated the sovereignty of our beloved nation to achieve their own objectives and fulfil their own interests at the expense of the defenceless Arab people, simply for the sake of massive profit from oil and gas, as well as other geopolitical benefits for themselves. Almost 93 years of unending oppression and exploitation have now passed, bringing one brutal knife wound after another into the hearts of the children of this ravished homeland who have sought freedom, justice and equality, first from two successive Pahlavi regimes, then from the current mullahs’ regime.
Despite now grappling with many health issues I have never felt too old to give up fighting and speaking out against the tyranny which seeks to eradicate my Arab existence and to destroy my roots which resemble the strong roots of the Arabic palm trees in this pale and tired land that has witnessed every type of agony and oppression. Yes, my roots are like the thirsty roots of the palm tree which somehow survives, despite being deliberately neglected and kept thirsty in the hope that it will die in complete silence.
Most of my generation left this life before achieving their own lifelong hope of seeing our beloved land free of the vicious oppression imposed on its people. When I walk, alone now along the banks of the Karoon River with my walking stick, my back bowed with age, smelling the hot breezes of the scorching summer heat and seeing the leaves of my beloved palm trees waving to me, I can still hear the voices of my departed friends and see them in my mind’s eye as we passionately discussed freedom and how we would restore the stolen dignity of our dear land. And to myself I still murmur the words of freedom and liberation and the promises we exchanged with one another while we were young men struggling ardently for freedom of Ahwaz.I know that I may not live to see a free Ahwaz, but when I see my own sons and my people continue to carry the flag of freedom, even as one martyr after another continues to fall, it soothes the pain of my tender unhealed wounds from all these long years of oppression and injustice.
Today, like every day, I turned on the TV to keep track of the latest developments, and I watched a report about an Iranian opposition faction gathering in Paris to renew their pledges to bring freedom and abolish all the reactionary oppressive forces which have infected so many people and ruined so many lives in all areas of Iran. I wish I could believe, but I saw and heard so many similar promises of so many Iranian opposition factions in the early days of the 1979 revolution, when they also vowed that once in power they would fully recognise the rights of non –Persian nationals of Iran, including Ahwazi Arab people; once these revolutionaries came to power, however, these promises were not only broken, but the Ahwazi people’s aspirations for freedom and dignity were answered with brutal killings, mass executions, banishment, savage oppression and silencing of all dissent. Despite all this, however, the seeds of freedom on the fertile lands of Ahwaz never dried out and once again a new generation rose up and took up the flag of the liberation struggle. Notwithstanding the pain and hardship they endure simply to stand for freedom and human rights, these young men and young ladies gave up on all their other dreams for the sake of freedom of Ahwaz and continue doing so to this day.
As a humble veteran who has observed and been part of this long, tortured history and heard countless speeches and promises, I would like to ask Maryam Rajavi the following questions:
- Are you truly serious about bringing real democracy without borders, without discrimination such as recognising the right to self-determination and granting national autonomy to all the peoples in Iran without exception?
- Do you realise that it will be almost impossible to accomplish this daunting task without first reassuring and guaranteeing to Iran’s Kurds, Turks, Ahwazi Arabs, Balochis and Turkmen that in a future Iran all these peoples will have all the same rights and the same legal protection as any other Iranian citizen?
- How would it be possible for one faction, one group to oust the regime while turning a blind eye to the minorities who collectively comprise over 50 percent of Iran’s population?
- Will holding such a gathering in exile bear fruit in the form of practical changes on the ground without also partnering with and appreciating the sacrifices of Ahwazis, Turks, Kurds, and Baluchis for freedom?
- Isn’t it a waste of money to organise such an event without considering the massive and essential role played in the fight for freedom by the five ethnic minority groups, who face the real struggle of confronting the regime inside Iran?
- Why does the Persian opposition seem so fearful of non-Persian groups attaining their rights?
- Why does the democracy which you describe have a large and gaping hole, which is the avoidance of the subject of the national rights of all the country’s ethnic minority groups?
- Will any democracy which you bring about be centralised as now under the current regime?
I believe that without including Ahwazi, Kurds, Turks, Balochis as integral parts of the movement for change, it will be almost impossible to achieve. It is imperative to offer a better and real alternative, a united front to confront the regime. Otherwise, all these fancy gatherings with flag-waving crowds will not bring any real change but will instead only strengthen the frustration and hopelessness of the peoples in Iran further, pleasing the regime and giving it the opportunity to intensify its brutality and destroy the whole country.
Ahwazi Arabs were stung viciously by trusting too many groups in the early days of the 1979 revolution; having been brutally betrayed once, we will not extend our hands in brotherhood so trustingly again only to be betrayed once again.Bearing all this in mind, we call on you, Mrs. Rajavi, to prove your commitment to freedom and justice by publicly recognising the national rights of Ahwazis along with Iran’s other ethnic minorities, as a step forward in the struggle to oust the brutal regime and bring real freedom, democracy and human rights for all.