Is ethnic restructuring a tool at the hands of Iranian regime?

Tony Duheaume
Tony Duheaume
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The Iranian regime has finally got what it wanted in Syria to cement the final block of its Shiite Crescent, having forcibly removed millions of Sunnis from their homes, through horrific bombing campaigns carried out by both the Syrian and Russian air forces. They are now ethnically restructuring the Syrian landscape, by moving in Shiite migrants from across the region, who will be loyal to the Assad regime.

However, such restructuring is nothing new to the Iranians; they first tested this NAZI-style program in al-Ahwaz on their own territory, using methods that continue to this day.

Since being annexed by Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1925, Al-Ahwaz – or Khuzestan as the Persian administration prefers to call it – has suffered terribly at the hands of the Persian invaders, and with the use of the infamous Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the vicious Basij militia, the Iranian administration has kept the Arab and Sunni inhabitants of the district subdued by terror. Many in the administration have referred derogatively to Ahwazi Arabs as “Arabic-speaking groups”, scattered “Arabic-speaking tribes” and “clans”, or even worse.

With the mullahs determined to turn Iran into an all-Shiite nation, much in the same way as is now being tested in Syria, every minority group is under threat from the present regime, especially if they demonstrate against its tyrannical statutes, or refuse to convert to Shiism. Nobody in al-Ahwaz is exempt from the hangman’s noose, anybody who dares speak out against the state’s racist policies, find themselves quickly silenced.

The Iranian security forces have always been extremely brutal whenever they hit back against Ahwazi Arabs, and always use live rounds when firing into crowds of demonstrators to disperse them. On 15 April 2005, violent disturbances took place in Ahwaz, the capital city of Khuzestan Province (Al-Ahwaz), which continued over the following days, brought about over documents that were leaked into the public domain on ethnic restructuring.

The regime had for some time been using draconian methods to thin out the Arab population of Al-Ahwaz, to guarantee a Persian majority was settled in the area, and to ensure the full implementation of this plan, the use of various devious methods were brought into play.

The full implementation of this plan became fully apparent in 2005, when preparations for “ethnic restructuring” of Al-Ahwaz were subsequently leaked to the international press, in a document which outlined a 10-year program.

The plan was to forcibly remove indigenous Arabs from their land, resettling them in various other regions of the country, to ensure they were adequately dispersed, and then through moving in Persians loyal to the regime from other areas, they would ensure that Al-Ahwaz would become a Shiite dominated region.

All of the details for this forced displacement program were reportedly laid out in a secret memo, drawn up by two high-ranking regime members, Sayed Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, who was at that time Iran’s Vice-President, and Brigadier General Gholan-Ali Rasheed, a high-ranking IRGC commander in the area.

Such was the impact of the revealing of these memos; it triggered an unprecedented uprising in Khuzestan, which became known as the “April Intifada”, during which the security forces used excessive force on all those demonstrating. As the unrest continued, scores of Ahwazi Arabs were killed, some suspected by the regime of being ringleaders were said to have been the victims of extra-judicial executions, while hundreds of others were injured, and hundreds more arrested.

As the cycle of violence continued, it built up momentum during the year, with protestors setting fire to banks and public buildings. Then on June 12, just five days before the nation’s presidential elections, four bomb blasts tore through the city of Ahwaz, killing at least ten people, and wounding more than seventy.

Iranian policemen and rescuers work at the scene of a bomb attack in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, dominated by ethnic minority Arabs, on 24 January 2006. (File photo: AFP)
Iranian policemen and rescuers work at the scene of a bomb attack in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, dominated by ethnic minority Arabs, on 24 January 2006. (File photo: AFP)

As the unrest seemed to be getting completely out of control, the Iranian authorities needed a scapegoat to take the blame for the dissent, and began to accuse Britain of causing the strife. This was at a time when British troops were stationed across the border in southern Iraq, just 80 miles across the border in the Iraqi province of Basra, which was on the other side of the Shatt al-Arab Waterway, which divided the two regions.

Then conveniently for the Iranian regime, at the same time of the unrest in Ahwaz, graffiti had appeared on walls in Ahwaz, purported to have been written by an obsolete rebel group, stating that “the freedom of Arabs is restricted by Rafsanjani”, and it also stated that “anyone participating in the elections will be killed”.

Oil installations

Then in September and October 2005, a series of armed attacks were carried out against oil installations in Al-Ahwaz, two bombs also exploded in Ahwaz city, but such was the power of these bombs, it would have been impossible for them to have been produced by locals in the back room of a slum dwelling. The bombs had been professionally produced; they were constructed with high grade plastic explosives, and the attacks had all of the hallmarks of a proxy force.

According to the Iranian regime, a group of Ahwazi separatists had claimed responsibility for the attacks, with the group in question being the Mohi-eldain – Martyrs Guerrillas, in spite of the fact that this insurgence group had been disbanded in the 1980s. As far as evidence was concerned, there was very little proof pointing towards any local group for carrying out such an attack, except for motive.

But where motives were concerned, it wasn’t just Ahwazis that had reason to carry out such attacks, as with the regime wanting to hide the fact they were literally carrying out a program of ethnic cleansing in the area, they were desperate to find another cause for the violence created through this, and the perfect answer would be to blame the British, a one-time colonial mischief-maker in the region, and an obscure guerrilla group they were supposedly sponsoring.

As far as any involvement by the Iranian regime was concerned, there were accusations from Ahwazi separatist groups, suggesting these bombings were carried out by agents of the IRGC.

The plan was for these bombings to sully the name of peacefully demonstrating Ahwazi Arabs, to make it look as though the region was full of terrorist groups, who were seeking insurrection and the downfall of the regime, through violent street protests, and terrorist activity, which would give the mullahs an excuse for a crackdown.

This terrorist card was used then by the Iranians against the Ahwazis, as justification for a violent response from security forces, in the same way it is being used in Syria today by Assad.

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