Forced Sterilization, Exclusion, Persecution, Cultural Genocide: The Situation Of Ahwazi Women
By Al-Sharq Newspaper
10 March, 2015
An Interview with Mona Oudeh an Ahwazi Arab activist
Mona Oudeh, an Ahwazi activist based in London, said in an interview with Al-Sharq Newspaper that she has always carried the burden of the Ahwazi cause like every other Ahwazi Arab woman who rejects and repudiates the Persian occupation of Al-Ahwaz that has forced her to leave her homeland.
Mona, who devotes all of her time to the Ahwazi cause, has spoken about some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Persian occupation against her Arab compatriots, and in particular, against women, affirming the fact that due to decades of Iranian occupation, Ahwazi Arab women have been subjected to human rights violations such as being deprived of their inalienable right to education in Arabic, their native language.
Al-Sharq: How do Ahwazi women consider the Persian occupation of their homeland Ahwaz?
MO: First I would like to express my gratitude to the venerable Al-Sharq newspaper for allowing me this opportunity to talk about Al-Ahwaz case.
Also, let me take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the Saudi people, brothers, and all observers, and to all those interested in news and developments in the matter of Al-Ahwaz. To answer your question, Ahwazi women, as an integral part of their society, believe that the occupation has to be overthrown, even militarily, if necessary, and the area returned to Ahwazi Arab rule.
The occupation is entirely illegal, and there is no doubt that sooner or later it is bound to disappear. The occupation is the root cause of my people’s suffering, and Ahwazi women endure additional repression and exclusion, such as losing their right to live in dignity in their homeland.
In fact, since the start of Iranian occupation and domination of Al-Ahwaz, the ultra-national Persian institutions have systematically implemented policies of racial discrimination against the entire Ahwazi population, and in particular, of Ahwazi women, who have been excluded from all rights and privileges including educational opportunities, employment, intellectual, literary and artistic participation, as well as the denial of exercising their indigenous cultural activities.
Mona continued, saying that crimes of the occupation are incalculable, but the worst crime committed against the majority of Ahwazi women is through the policy of ethnic cleansing practiced in the cruelest manner, by preventing women of childbearing age to bring about demographic change in the areas of Al-Ahwaz.
The occupation authorities are forcing Ahwazi women to give birth through “Caesarean” procedure rather than natural birthing, and in many cases the authorities urge the doctors to carry out sterilization on birthing women without their knowledge or prior approval, through the process of tying the fallopian tubes. This results in Ahwazi women no longer being able to have more than one child, and thus, it reduces population growth among the Arabs.
She pointed out the suffering of the Ahwazi women as a consequence of the apartheid policies of Iranian occupation. Women are subjected to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, physical harassment, psychological and physical torture as well as the death penalty like all Ahwazi activists. The Arab and international stance regarding our plight is still weak, and our cause must be activated and placed on the table of international forums.
Al-Sharq: What else do the Ahwazi women suffer because of the occupation?
MO: If we want to describe and analyze the nature of oppression and suffering of Ahwazi women under the grip of Iranian Occupation, then it would require us to write books about it.
This is because of a racist, anti-Arab mentality and ideology of the Iranian occupation against Arab people generally, and particularly against Ahwazis. As a matter of fact, the intensity of the regime’s racial oppression and segregation falls primarily on the Ahwazis in comparison to other ethnic and indigenous peoples in Iran, which is reflected in all aspects of their social, economic, and political lives and many other areas.
In this case, because the Iranian occupation harbors hatred towards Arabs, the Ahwazi women suffer and endure the most vicious types of harassment, arrest, imprisonment, physical and psychological torture because of three major factors, the first one is their female gender and, the second is their Arab ethnicity and the third is because they are Ahwazi women freedom fighters.
Ahwazi women, as Ahwazi men, face the death penalty because of their struggle against the Iranian occupation, and while sometimes the Ahwazi woman activist has undergone such heavy and cruel punishment, the most prominent Ahwazi woman imprisoned in an Iranian jail is Ms. Faheme Esmaili Badawi. She is an elementary school teacher and political activist who was arrested in 2005 and is currently serving 15 year’s imprisonment in exile from her homeland.
In December 2006, the Iranian occupation regime executed her husband Ali Matouri Zadeh, the Ahwazi activist and founding member of the moderate Hizbal-Wifaq (Reconciliation Party).
The suffering of Faheme Esmaili Badawi cannot be easily summarized through her arrest and the injustice of her husband’s execution, during imprisonment she was forced to give birth to her daughter Salma without receiving adequate medical assistance and in the most unsanitary conditions. Her daughter Salma is now seven years old, and she lives without her mother and her father, who was unjustly hanged by the regime.
Al-Sharq: What is your view of the stance of Arabs and Muslims toward your issue?
MO: Honestly, the position of the Arab and Islamic countries toward the issue of Ahwaz is very weak and timid. It cannot in anyway be considered a significant stance, neither can it be called advocacy or support for it. So far, however, hopeful and positive indicators have recently occurred in one or two of the Arab Gulf countries. However, we can say that there is no Arab state with a clear and explicit stand in support for the Ahwazi issue. In reality, the promises made regarding supporting Ahwazi people were only words spoken, no actions have been taken. There are Arab countries allied with Iran, and these countries, especially the Syrian regime, have handed over political Ahwazi activists to Iran to be sentenced to death and executed.
As for the European position, through the work of human rights and civic organizations, it has resulted in the right of assembly and demonstration for Ahwazi communities in European countries. European governments have met with Ahwazi organizations in order to learn about and understand their cause.
Al-Sharq: What is the stance of the United Nations and international organizations toward the plight of the Ahwazi people?
MO: All that the United Nations and human rights organizations have done is to condemn and denounce the crimes committed by the Iranian occupation authorities in Al-Ahwaz, despite the fact that the Iranian crimes against Ahwazis have reached the level of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The international community has to do its duty to prosecute those responsible for these heinous crimes.
The secret letter leaked from the office of “Abtahi” during the tenure of the President Mohammad Khatami clearly indicated a policy of ethnic cleansing, a policy that is still ongoing and expanding. The letter stipulates orders and certain conditions for conducting systematic ethnic cleansing of Ahwazis within 10 years, such as the banishment of influential and educated Ahwazis such as teachers, university professors and governmental employers to remote Persian areas. This is facilitated through different enticements, particularly by making them promises of providing better living conditions, promotions and increased salaries and then replacing them with Persian settlers who implement the orders of the occupation government in Al-Ahwaz.
Al-Sharq: How do you see the future of the Al-Ahwaz cause and Middle East?
MO: I think that all Ahwazi activists believe that the demise of the occupation and the establishment of the state of Ahwaz is a fact that will come into being and what separates us from our goal is just a matter of time and the need to improve Ahwazi capabilities and facilities that will ensure the development of tools for the Ahwazi struggle to defeat the Persian occupation. Ahwazis fully believe in the future of their cause and work on this basis.
We know the rule says that the revolutionary struggle for liberation from the clutches of colonialism and oppression requires manpower, in fact, we have the manpower that is willing to sacrifice in order to regain the legitimate rights of Al-Ahwaz.
But, we also need foreign support and backing at all levels for our struggle against the Iranian occupation. We need the international human rights and law agencies to decry the human rights abuses practiced against Ahwazi Arab people.
Additionally as Al-Ahwaz has been occupied military and the enemy only understands force, there has to be a regional strategy to supply us with arms and training, as well as the implementation and full force of international law, to recognize us as an occupied and oppressed people. It is the responsibility of the global media and regional media to expose our suffering to the world.
Lack of attention to our just cause is only in the interest of the Iranian occupation to perpetuate its illegal existence and crimes and expansionist aspirations which know no boundaries not only in Al-Ahwaz but all the neighboring Arab countries, as today it is more evident than any other time, when we see Iran’s occupation of Syria, Iraq, Yemen destroying our people’s revolutions through their mercenaries. The only tool that can foil the regime’s devastating colonial advancement in the region is by supporting Ahwazis and other non-Persian ethnic groups such as Turks, Kurds and Baluchs in Iran.
In my point of view, this is the only way we can trample the regime, because as long as the regime exists and there is the absence of a comprehensive national Arabic project to deal with Iran, nowhere in the Middle East will there be peace and stability. Thus, the absence of the Ahwazi cause in the international and regional arena only serves the regime, as the Iranian regime’s major strength has originated from its domination of Al-Ahwaz’s sea oil and gas, albeit, the Ahwazi indigenous people have gained nothing from their vast resources, which have become a curse against them solely.
We ask the international community to support our cause in accordance with the norms and the international conventions because we are a suffering and oppressed people undergoing countless policies of racial discrimination.
The Iranian regime is attempting to melt us down in the crucible of Persian culture, eliminating our Arabic origins. As earlier mentioned, the regime has exercised such brutal racial discrimination policies that have amounted to ethnic cleansing through forcible displacement, reverse migration, and settlement construction for installing Persian settlers in Al-Ahwaz in order to impose a new demographic reality on us and the future of Al-Ahwaz.
The brutal oppression of the indigenous Ahwazi Arab people encompasses political, economic, social and cultural measures has been going on for years, and the sheer injustice imposed on my Arab people has gone unreported for decades, never getting the attention that it deserves. Our cause has been sanctioned due to regional plots related to bilateral economic and political interests.
The most unfair tool that is still used against our plight is the Media Blackout made of the spilled blood of my people who have dared to speak out against the Iranian occupation. Is their blood so cheap, without global condemnation?
The truth is that Ahwazis are sieged and restricted and unable to convey their voices out because the internal media is controlled by the regime and even the outside Persian opponent the media are bribed and supportive of the regime’s crimes against us and deliberately hide our news and events taking place on the ground, as such biased media stigmatizes Ahwazi Arab fighters by describing them as foreign stooges scheming with Britain and Saudi Arabia who want to break up the country and bring corruption, terrorism and Wahhabism.
Likewise, the occupying judicial system presses the same charges against the Ahwazi prisoners and simply executes them. This is because the racism and the anti-Arab sentiment has taken deep root into the minds of the entire Farsi-speaking community. Furthermore, Arab and Western media also have not really put a spotlight on our issue because of the aforesaid reasons, turning our issue into a regional and global orphan.
The outcry of Ahwazi prisoners remains unheard behind bars, so our most basic and smallest demand is to receive help and solidarity from Media outlets to break the Iranian occupation blackout, to make known the reality of the Ahwazis and other ethnic groups, where our most basic conditions are so low in the framework of Iran’s petrified ideology.
We need the world to hear our voice and stand by our side against the Persianization policies and genocide campaign that look like a fatal cancer metastasizing to the whole Ahwazi Arab society as an attempt to erase the Arabic identity of Ahwazis. For instance, as I mentioned earlier, this vicious occupation policy, through denying our native Arabic language, has caused the Ahwazi people to be stammering and uneducated in our own tongue, not able to speak Arabic or write in it.
My people have had enough of torture, prison, execution, poverty and illiteracy. We have had enough of the grief of mothers whose loved ones are executed or imprisoned for years. Let’s stop here because I am speechless. I have run out of words. I cannot depict the gravity of the nameless crimes exercised by the Iranian occupying authorities in Al-Ahwaz. I just look forward to seeing a better future for my Ahwazi oppressed people as they are free of any chains of oppression and living in safety and dignity.
Additional information for those readers who are not familiar with the plight of Ahwazis:
Ahwaz is occupied Arab land with more than 8 million population that is located in the South- West and South of so-called Iran’s map.
The name of Al-Ahwaz has changed to Khuzestan, Bushehr and Hormozgan in 1935 after the invasion of the Emirate of Al-Ahwaz in 1925 and toppling the last Arabic rule of Amir Khazaal Al-Kaabi in Mohammareh city.
The Iranian regimes of Pahlavi and the Islamic Republic deployed different tools to suppress the Ahwazi Arab people.
Lack of actual mainstream media coverage on Al-Ahwaz issue has allowed the Iranian occupation authorities to commit serious crimes against the Ahwazis who are struggling for freedom and liberation of their homeland under the unlawful Iranian domination over eight decades.
Ahwaz region is the wealthiest land with multiple resources including oil, gas and steel and water, although the Ahwazi Arab people are one of the most destitute and impoverished people in Middle East.
Bitter fact is that Al-Ahwaz region was annexed by Iran forcibly apart from the will of its people in 1925 as the region was independent in advance. The region is the primary source of revenue for Iran's oil and gas. It is the second vital and strategic region after Tehran for Iran and directly related to the national security of the occupying clerical regime. Al-Ahwaz holds 70% of the sources of oil and 30 % of water flowing from more than five rivers such as Karoon, Dez, and Karkheh, with vast agricultural and fertile lands.
Translated by Rahim Hamid, a member of the Ahwazi Human Rights Defense Organization