By Mohamed Nassar (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Secretary-General of the Arab Front for the Liberation of Ahwaz [AFLA], Faisal Abdul Karim Naama, issued an international “distress call”, calling on the international and Arab world to “save the Ahwazi Arab people” from the “Persian expansionist project.” He also revealed that thousands of ethnic Arabs in the Ahwaz province of Iran have been killed by the Iranian security apparatus, adding that thousands more are awaiting the same fate. As for why Tehran is suppressing the Ahwazi Arab people, Naama stressed that this was simply due to their “Arab identity.”
Ahwaz, capital of Iran’s Khuzestan province, is located south of Tehran. Its territory was annexed by Iran in 1925, and its population is majority Arab. Khuzestan is the source of 90 percent of Iran’s oil production, but the province’s population complains of marginalization, poverty and an absence of basic social services. Ahwaz is the home of a number of political movements calling for secession from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Khuzestan has been the center of a number of high profile executions over the past years. In 2007, Iranian authorities executed 22 activists in Ahwaz after they were convicted of supporting secession from Iran.
AFLA Secretary-General, Faisal Abdul Karim Naama, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “we are appealing to the world because what is happening in Ahwaz is a crime of mass genocide. This is ethnic cleansing, as our only crime is our Arab identity, therefore the world must shoulder its humanitarian responsibilities and stand with the Ahwazi Arab people.”
He added “this is a distress call to every human being…to save the Ahwazi Arabs by supporting us and our just cause. We call on our Arab brothers to preserve Ahwaz. This would be akin to defending Arab national security and world peace against the Persian expansionist project. Ahwaz was the first victim of this project, followed by the three [Emirati] islands, whilst the entire Arab world is being targeted today.”
Naama stressed that since its annexation, Ahwaz has always lived under a state of security instability, adding that the Ahwazi Arabs have escalated their opposition to the Persian occupation project, which in turn prompted Tehran to develop increasingly lethal methods of suppression.
As for the effect that the Arab Spring has had on the Ahwazi Arab liberation movement, Naama said “the Ahwazi Arab people have been sacrificing themselves since 20 April 1925 so the Ahwazi Spring has experienced losses that are far older than those we are seeing today.”
He also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we consider ourselves to be an integral part of the Arab world; therefore we are being direct affected by what is happening in this regard. This [the Arab Spring] has resulted in an improvement in our morale in the hope that we will receive the support of our Arab brothers to achieve our freedom, in the same manner that they have, so this has had a positive effect.”
He also confirmed that there has been an Ahwazi Spring since 1980, when AFLA first established itself. Naama added that this Ahwazi Spring lasted until 15 April 2005, when the Ahwazi Arab people launched the Nisan uprising.
He stressed “as for today, the Arab Spring has escalated the Ahwazi struggle and now one door is being opened after another.”
Naama also claimed that there is media apathy towards the Ahwazi struggle “for domestic reasons.” He called on the Arab world to work to stop the execution of six prominent Ahwazi Arab political activists, adding “it is not just these six activists, who are awaiting this fate, but there are thousands of [Ahwazi] citizens who have been executed, and there are thousands more awaiting the same fate. These six executions are the tip of the iceberg…and we, for our part, are appealing to the international community because what is happening in Ahwaz is a crime of mass genocide. This is ethnic cleaning, as our only crime is our Arab identity, therefore the world must shoulder its humanitarian responsibilities and stand with the Ahwazi Arab people.”