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Key factors in Ahwaz that play a role in determining Iran’s future



This study examines the strategic role of the Ahwaz region—located in southern and southwestern Iran—given the fast-moving and momentous current global events and shifts on Iran, whose leaders seized Ahwazis’ lands and resource wealth to build the modern Iranian state. These resources have been used to consolidate the power of Iran’s regime, enabling it to pursue the central pillar of its foreign policy: destabilising regional and international security and stability by expanding its influence. This study also sheds light on the regime’s human rights violations, and its discriminatory and racist policies which are used in the regime’s effort to eradicate Ahwazi Arab identity in order to impose absolute Persian control over Ahwaz. In addition, the study aims to provide realistic perspectives for Ahwaz’s future in the rapidly shifting international scene and to show that Ahwaz possesses all the political, geographical, and economic factors necessary to become a friend and ally to the international community, particularly the United States, the UK, and their allies in the MENA region, contributing to real and lasting stability and security.


Over the past 97 years, Ahwaz has been divided between the Iranian province of Khuzestan, a small part of Elam province, and parts of Bushehr and Hormozegan. Despite the people’s desperate hope for change in 1979, the colonialist tyranny which they hoped to oust became even crueller after the ayatollahs took power, turning the region into a vast open-air prison for the Ahwazis, who have now been persecuted for their Arab ethnicity for almost a century. Today, nearly eight million Ahwazis are buckling under the weight of this ruthless police state that has been in place since the end of the Shah’s era.

An extremely critical question may pop into the minds of those following the issue of Ahwaz: what might Ahwaz have looked like if Persia/Iran had not occupied it?

In the popular imagination, the only colonialist empires are those of Europe, despite the fact that the Ottoman Empire controlled vast territories of ethnically diverse people. For Ahwazis, the imperial ambitions of the Ottoman and Persian empires resulted in Arab Ahwaz being transferred between the two empires alternately in the 19th century. For the Ottoman Empire, it exchanged an otherwise largely unimportant border area and its navigable waterway for a peaceful eastern border so that it could turn its attention elsewhere. At that time, however, the rights of Ahwaz’s native inhabitants were not abandoned; as an emirate, Ahwaz remained under the rule of its own leaders until after World War One, when the incoming Persian leader Reza Khan managed to gain British support and the abrogation of Britain’s decades-long promises to support the Ahwazi princes. By 1925, Ahwazi independence and autonomy came to an end.

There is no doubt that Iran’s and Britain’s attention was drawn to the region primarily by the massive oil and gas resources located there, along with its strategic location at the gateway to the Arabian Gulf and Iraq. Indeed, the Abadan Refinery, built on Ahwazi land in 1908, was, at the time, the world’s largest oil refinery.

If the Persian annexation of Ahwaz had not happened, the present rulers in Tehran could not have remained so immensely powerful despite Iran’s crumbling economy due to the sanctions imposed on it by the USA.

If Iran hadn’t taken control of Ahwaz, its rulers could not have obtained the funding necessary to establish, let alone to boost, its nuclear projects, since most of this wealth was generated from the sales of oil and gas extracted from Ahwaz, where at least 95% of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran are located.

These are not the region’s only benefits, with Ahwaz also home to the seaports on the Gulf coast, whose products and revenue account for more than half of Iran’s annual income. The land so casually bartered away by the Ottoman Empire has proven increasingly pivotal over the past century and a half.

In addition to these critical assets, Ahwaz also contains eight sizeable rivers, the most important of which is the Karun River, whose waters were once busy with international oceangoing vessels as well as smaller boats, and which was a crucial trade route long before oil became valuable.  As well as its mineral resources, Ahwaz also contains 65 per cent of the arable lands in Iran, with its territory completely geographically and environmentally different to the inland Persian territories.

In this context, it should be stressed that despite Ahwaz housing most of Iran’s oil and gas resources, its people are the poorest in Iran and among the poorest globally: again; there’s a bitter irony in the residents of a region which holds  97% of Iran’s oil being the poorest in the nation to this day.

Similarly, while the Ahwazi region’s many rivers make it home to 35 per cent of Iran’s freshwater resources, for the regime the Karoon river’s main usefulness lies in providing the regime with water for its nuclear reactors, primarily for the Darkhovin Nuclear Power Plant [1] about 70 kilometres south of Ahwaz city, the region’s capital city. Meanwhile the region’s vital ports, such as the one at Abadan city, the site of what is still the second biggest oil refinery on the planet, have provided another invaluable asset for successive Iranian regimes – but no benefits for the indigenous Ahwazi people.

As all these facts clearly show, the former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami’s oft-repeated assertion that “Iran lives through the Ahwaz region” is simply a statement of fact. Nearly 80% of Iranian exports come from the region, with materials extracted there accounting for almost half of Iran’s Gross Domestic Product.

Despite the vast wealth of resources taken – or, more accurately, stolen – from Ahwazis by successive Iranian regimes, the Ahwazi people have never enjoyed any of the benefits. Even the vastly reduced quantities of fresh water that still reach them from the region’s 13 rivers – much of which has been rerouted to other regions via massive networks of dams and pipelines – can no longer be relied upon, with the remainder that reaches them being so horrendously polluted that the indigenous Ahwazis can’t find potable water.

Here we can cite the experience of an American researcher of Persian origin, whose name is withheld here to protect her and her family’s safety, during her recent trip to Iran to conduct academic research into living conditions there and how these affect social care, health and other issues. At the end of her visit, during which she visited all of Iran’s regions, exploring the living conditions of people nationwide, she noted that the Ahwaz region is different from the rest of the country.

The researcher found that while poverty and deprivation are widespread in Iran, in Ahwaz they are far worse than even the impoverished other areas, with the already atrocious conditions there rapidly deteriorating even further. The researcher said that during her visit, she did not see any health centre or even a modest clinic, which further increased her concern over the possible spread of malaria due to drinking contaminated water, despite Ahwaz being a region rich in fresh water. The deliberate environmental pollution [2] and drying up of the region’s rivers also mean that since 2011, Ahwaz has been at the top of the World Health Organisation’s list of the most polluted areas in the world [3].  This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg, with the Iranian regime’s cruelty to Ahwaz pervading all aspects of life.  Following the outbreak of an uprising in Ahwaz, it became clear that the regime intended to exacerbate the pollution of water, which had already caused an increase in cases of infertility among women. As the formerly cited researcher noted, this can only be described as ethnic cleansing by every possible means.

From this point in particular, we are made aware of Ahwaz’s vast and crucial significance to Iran, which explains why Tehran clings to the region, deeming it a matter of life or death, mercilessly crushing the protests and demonstrations that break out regularly across the region, and viciously repressing its people using every means, especially its fearsome state security apparatus, by far the regime’s most effective tool of the state, which has been systematically attempting to erase the Ahwazis just as it has erased the name of their homeland in favour of Persianised Khuzestan.

In reality then, it’s clear that what the Ahwazis are facing at the Iranian regime’s hands is ultimately nothing short of ethnic cleansing, with the devastating consequences having a horrific effect on every area of people’s lives, including the economic, scientific, intellectual and social spheres. To fully explain the importance of the question posed by this article, however, it is necessary to consider several aspects of Iran’s exploitation of Ahwaz.

The predominantly Arab Ahwazi people are among the indigenous people who peacefully governed their lands before Iran’s brutal annexation and occupation of the Ahwaz region in 1925. Prior to this, natural resources and geographical location had long played an important role in Ahwaz, helping the region to build wide-ranging international relations with great powers such as Britain and regional countries. However, the international changes that took place after the end of World War I contributed to the establishment of the modern Iranian state at the expense of other peoples in nations and territories around its peripheries, including Ahwazis. In 1925, Ahwaz was militarily occupied by Iran, and its sovereignty was brutally usurped. The initial occupation of Ahwaz was not the only crisis endured by the Ahwazi people as a result of this annexation, but the first of many which have persisted to the present day. Successive Iranian regimes have also marginalised the Ahwazi Arabs economically, culturally, and politically, violating their rights and committing heinous crimes against them since the occupation. Consequently, the Ahwazi people do not consider themselves part of the modern Iranian state, with a century of abuse driving a struggle to liberate their homeland from Iran. [4]

Iran has destroyed Ahwaz’s once-flourishing economy, as well as working to eradicate its history, and social heritage, and has constantly and repeatedly violated all human rights laws, contributing to the spread of endemic poverty, pollution, marginalisation, and the creation of ghettos. In addition, Iranian misrule has devastated the region’s once bucolic natural environment, mostly in connection with successive regimes’ search for the region’s oil and gas resources, which in turn destroyed the agriculture, livestock, and fisheries that were the main industries of its indigenous people and which made Ahwaz renowned for centuries as a regional breadbasket. Only a few years after the initial occupation, the Pahlavi regime began bringing ethnic Persian and other non-Ahwazi settlers to Ahwaz in its efforts to institute demographic change and to deny the indigenous people any power over their own lands.

Like its successors, the Iranian regime was keen to obliterate all traces of Ahwazi history, heritage and culture, changing place names from Arabic to Farsi and even outlawing the teaching of the people’s mother language, Arabic, and banning the wearing of their traditional Arab garments. All this was done in an effort to impoverish and dispossess the indigenous Ahwazi people by essentially denying their history and their rights over their own lands in order to claim Persian sovereignty over the region politically and culturally. Iran’s incumbent regime continues to pursue the same approach, but uses even more brutal and illegal tactics and policies to destroy the land and the environment to further displace the Ahwazi people. It is worth mentioning that both regimes in modern Iran have consistently relied on a strategy dependent on an authoritarian security apparatus to enforce their political projects and agendas in Ahwaz. [5]

In the 97 years since the initial occupation of Ahwaz, the Iranian state has focused on one agenda, which is to build a single-ethnicity state with one language, and one identity, and to create one Persian nation, disregarding the wishes of the colonised minorities, including Ahwazis, who combined account for more than 70 per cent of Iran’s population. To this end, Tehran has actively prevented Ahwazi Arabs from learning their mother language, culture, history, and geography, in blatant defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Since the advent of the current Iranian regime in 1979, it has also focused on expanding into nearby regional countries, specifically Arab countries to its west, through the establishment of armed militias which brutally violate the rights of peoples who reject Iran’s occupation, control and oppression of their countries. [6] By diverting funds to foment terrorism and otherwise exporting its extremist theocratic revolutionary ideology, the Iranian regime exploits Ahwaz’s resource wealth and its geographical location to harm the security and stability of other countries.

International law and relations allow support for the right to self-determination. Through self-determination, Ahwazis can form their own state, choose their own government, and establish their own democratic political process. Moreover, a number of essential factors in Ahwaz mean it can play a major role in ensuring regional and global stability, through positive wide-ranging relations between Ahwaz and the international community led by superpowers such as the United States and other Western countries. Though this has been grossly underreported in recent decades, Ahwaz played a crucial role in international politics during both World War II and the Cold War. As we will explain, Ahwaz could play a potentially even greater role in the foreseeable future.

The situation in Ahwaz

Although the Iranian regime exploits Ahwaz’ massive natural resource wealth to build its oligarchic theocratic Iranian state which is founded on Persian nationalism, the Ahwazi people see no part of this, being denied the most basic civil, social, cultural, and political rights, as well as any share in their own resources. As numerous reports from international organisations confirm, thousands of Ahwazi people have been interrogated, unfairly prosecuted, arbitrarily detained, and too often executed or ‘disappeared’ solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. Security forces have repeatedly and unlawfully used lethal force to suppress protests in Ahwaz for demanding the most basic economic and civil rights. As noted above, the regime also uses a policy of cultural and political colonialism that seeks to change the demographic composition of Ahwaz by bringing in settlers who are given homes in specially constructed ‘Persians-only’ settlements provided with facilities and services denied to the indigenous people. This is not unusual, with Ahwazis consistently facing systematic discrimination and violence from the Iranian state that is by no means limited to protests. For example, there are no rights to freedom of religion and belief despite the express provisions of international law guaranteeing those fundamental rights to all. [7]

“Confessions” extracted under torture from arbitrarily arrested Ahwazis are regularly broadcast on state television and routinely used to secure convictions in a penal system created to damage the regime rather than ensure justice. Prison and prosecution authorities, working under the judiciary, hold prisoners in inhumane conditions characterized by overcrowded cells, poor sanitation, inadequate food and water, insufficient beds, poor ventilation, and infested with disease-spreading insects. Many inmates are denied adequate medical care. This is accompanied by what amounts to Western media silence, with major Western publications’ coverage reliant on international wire services which obtain much of their information from regime’s mouthpieces. [8]

Amnesty International has repeatedly noted that ethnic minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, face discrimination, and lack of access to education, employment, and political office. Despite repeated calls for linguistic diversity, Persian remained the solely authorised language of instruction in primary and secondary education. Ethnic minorities remain disproportionately affected by death sentences issued on vague charges such as “waging war on God/ enmity to God”. The Iranian state executes those convicted on such ludicrous charges, often in secret, and refuses to return their bodies to their families, with Ahwazi Arabs disproportionately affected by this. [9]

Researchers studying Iranian affairs have noted that “deliberate marginalisation, impoverishment, humiliation, the spread of illiteracy, deprivation of Ahwazis’ wealth, and the refusal to employ Arabs in oil sectors, sugarcane farms, and chemical factories have prompted Ahwazis to participate in various forms of protests that erupted throughout Iran.” Therefore, the Ahwazi protests in recent years over the regime’s environmental devastation, as well as its human rights violations, are, in reality, a continuation of previous protests against the regime’s inhuman policies to divert the course of rivers, causing desertification of lands, with the people continuing to demand their long-denied cultural, economic, and political rights. [10]

International and even Iranian reports have emphasised that, as a result of the regime’s catastrophic environmental policies, despite Ahwaz possessing more than 50 per cent of the rivers providing Iran’s water supply, the region now faces a chronic water shortage. This severe shortage is having a devastating effect on agriculture, the environment, on livestock and wildlife, including marine life, and causing the spread of pollution, choking sandstorms, and high rates of diseases such as cancer. Furthermore, Ahwazis believe that the regime’s damming and diversion of the once-mighty Karoon River and other Ahwazi rivers is a deliberate ploy by Tehran to divert water from Ahwaz to Persian cities and further impoverish the indigenous Arab peoples by making Ahwaz uninhabitable and forcing them to flee to the Persian cities in central Iran in order to deny them any rights to their lands and to seize their remaining resources.

The regime has also sought to deliberately and systematically alter the region’s demographic makeup, as it has brought many Persian-speaking citizens to Ahwaz, encouraging them with incentives such as well-paid jobs denied to the Ahwazi people, along with specially built settlements, development loans and other financial incentives. Moreover, these ethnically Persian settlers are automatically given all the high-ranking or well-paid jobs in the region, having absolute control of the oil and gas refineries and related infrastructure which provide Tehran with income and energy. Thus, the Ahwazis are further relegated to destitution even as their demographic importance is pointedly diluted.

The blatant racism practised by the Iranian regime towards these indigenous Ahwazis, denying them their most fundamental rights, along with employment and life opportunities, extends to every area. Another part of this demographic change policy is the regime’s large-scale confiscation of Ahwazis’ farmland and farms, with the farmers and their families being left destitute and without any hope of compensation. These farms are then ‘given’ as rewards to loyal ethnically Persian citizens from Isfahan, Shiraz and other areas. All of these policies collectively affect young Ahwazis worse than any other group, with unemployment among the Ahwazi youth standing at more than 93%.

Tehran’s crimes in Ahwaz don’t only affect the Ahwazi people, however, with the international community, especially the West and its regional allies, now facing the brunt of Iran’s foreign agenda in which the regime uses Ahwaz as a land conduit with the objective of destroying regional security by supporting militias and terrorist cells in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.

Ahwaz’s role in Iran’s future: Key factors 

The competitiveness of any region and people depends on several basic factors which allow them to play a major role in the political arena in any new global order. Foremost among these is the nature of the ethnic composition of the region/people and then its economic and geographical components. The strength of this motivation increases among people through the consistency in political affiliations and in dealing with the external environment in a manner commensurate with international relations and law. This produces a human group with a shared identity and affiliation that possesses all the ingredients that can play a significant role in the political future.

In this regard, there are three crucial factors which do not work in Persians’ favour; but they are at the same time helpful to ethnic minorities such as Ahwazis: population, geopolitics, and geo-economics. These factors give Ahwazis the ability to play a significant, positive role in any future change in Iran.

Firstly, ethnic national minorities make up nearly two-thirds of the Iranian population. This has even been acknowledged by Iranian regime officials, such as former foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who noted during a 2012 visit to Turkey that “nearly 40% of Iranians are Turks”. Also in 2012, the former Minister of Education in the Ahmadinejad administration stated that “73% of Iranians are multilingual (non-Persian).” Even Hassan Rouhani, the former Iranian president, acknowledged in 2013 that “The Arab population of Ahwaz (not all of Iran) is over 5 million;” although in reality, more reliable recent statistics on Ahwaz showed that “the population of Ahwaz region exceeds 8 million, nearly ten per cent of the entire Iranian population.” [11]

This means that the population factor is an important card in the hands of the Ahwazi people when it comes to dealing with the international community in the context of change in Iran. In addition, Ahwaz is located in a sensitive geographical location that extends along all the borders of the Arabian Gulf and the eastern borders of Iraq linked to the Hor Al-Azim waterway.

As US political economist Nicholas Ebrestadt noted in 1998, “a country or territory with a large population will be capable of mobilising greater resources to champion its foreign policy objectives than a smaller country/territory. Other things being equal, a shift in the regional distribution of population will affect the regional balance of power.” [12] Other scholars have reached a similar conclusion, with Avjit Biswas noting in a 2020 study on international relations that “in the modern world, no single country can live on its own. Every state or entity is bound by interdependent entities and states. That is why every country, entity, or region should draw a plan to build good relations with the international community because international relations are determined and controlled by foreign policy.” Biswas added, “There are seven factors that determine foreign policy and can play an important role in building international relations in the required manner, namely: population, geographical location, history, and economic resources, ideology, efficiency of government, nature of political leadership, and quality of diplomacy.” [13]

The second factor in this equation is geopolitics, with Ahwazis and other non-Persian minorities forming the majority of the population in all of Iran’s peripheral regions. For example, the Iranian border from Iraq to Pakistan is populated by Arabs and Balochis. From the Arabian Gulf to the Republic of Azerbaijan, the border area is inhabited by Arabs, Kurds, and Azerbaijani Turks. From Turkey to Turkmenistan, the border area is inhabited by Kurds, Turks, Caspianis, and Turkmen. This means that the Persian population lives mainly in the central provinces and other areas near the Afghan border in the province of Khorasan Razavi, rather than non-Persian territories on Iran’s peripheries captured at various points during both its imperial period and modern Iranian conquest. [14]

This means that the Ahwazi people occupy the most important political geography (geopolitics) in Iran, with their region linking the Strait of Hormuz to the Shatt al-Arab. Ahwaz’s location means it can also play an essential role in connecting three continents (Asia, Europe, and Africa) with each other. There is no doubt that Ahwaz’s political geography, as well as its indigenous people’s Arab identity, can play a crucial and positive role in building positive links between all Iran’s peoples, including both Persians and non-Persians, with neighbouring Arab countries. This will undoubtedly help in ensuring regional and international stability in the context of political and economic dimensions, particularly in envisioning a post-Khomeinist world in which Iran could seek to positively engage its neighbouring countries.

Researchers in political geography confirm that geography plays a huge role in shaping states’ positions and constraining their political choices. These academics also emphasise that foreign policy is affected by the geographical characteristics of each entity and state, such as population growth, economic activities, food security, water and energy supplies, environmental issues, and other geopolitical factors. In another paper from 2020, the previously cited scholar Anjit Biswas stressed two vital aspects of geography’s impact on foreign policy, namely the state’s geographical environment and its location’s importance, explaining that “the geographical environment of a country or region refers to its size, area, climate, and the diversity of terrains such as mountains, rivers, sea, and land.” [15]

According to the definitions and specifications of political geography (or geopolitics) in international relations, the Ahwaz region has extraordinary political geography, diverse terrain, and immense economic potential. Ahwaz’s location, covering all of Iran’s southern borders with the Arabian Gulf and connecting the Strait of Hormuz with the Shatt al-Arab, means it is uniquely placed to participate with the Arab Gulf states in managing the Strait of Bab al-Salam or Hormuz to ensure global energy stability. Ahwaz’s political geography also contains geographical diversity that can encourage regional and global countries to deal with the Ahwazi issue to deter any Iranian threat against the security and stability of the global and regional economy.

With an area of more than 200,000 square kilometres and coastal borders on the Arabian Gulf and Sea of Oman extending for approximately 1,800 miles, as well as a population of 8-8.5 million citizens, Ahwaz has natural land borders with several adjacent regions – Kurdistan, Baluchistan, Bakhtiari, and the central Persian region of Iran – as well as with a neighbouring country, Iraq, This gives Ahwaz arguably the most critical strategic geographical location in the Middle East, and the potential to play a vital positive role in international relations and foreign policy, with a central importance in building stable economic and political strategies.

The third and most crucial factor in Ahwaz’s favour is geo-economics, with Iran’s economy strategically reliant on the exploitation of oil and gas resources, all of which are located in Ahwaz, which is the source of more than 90 per cent, if not 100 per cent, of Iran’s energy. The region is also home to other vital natural resources and industries such as water, agriculture, minerals, fisheries, and petrochemical facilities. Meanwhile, Ahwaz’ sea borders along the entire Arabian Gulf, from Gosba (Shatt al-Arab) to Jambron (Bandar Abbas), are home to dozens of major industrial facilities and ports which could play an even more critical and positive role in regional trade once the present, disruptive Persian regime falls.

In this regard, Anjit Biswas affirmed that “a country rich in natural resources can easily achieve economic prosperity through communication with other countries or regions.” For example, oil and gas have become one of the most essential political axes of international politics in the Middle East.

As well as the three aforementioned vital factors, and besides the benefits from its population size and geographical location, Ahwaz also has an additional significant asset in its geo-economical favour which can play a substantial role in any future change in Iran; as noted above, Ahwaz is not only home to Iranian energy resources, but is also a hub of food production, as well as environmental stability in the region through its vast water and agricultural reserves – including large rivers with an annual flow of about 26 billion cubic meters of water, and three million hectares of agricultural land with unique potential. [16]

Ahwaz’s unique assets in terms of population, geopolitical location, and economic potential give it an essential role in building positive relations in foreign policy, meaning the region has all the crucial key factors to play a decisive part in improving international relations. Through these factors, any entity controlling Ahwaz has the ability to positively or negatively affect regional and global economics and stability. For example, by controlling Ahwaz’s economic and political geography, Iran is trying to create a unified transregional Persian entity with a single foreign policy that threatens the security and stability of regional countries and to undermine and damage the stability of the global economy.

Like its predecessor, the current regime in Tehran has exploited and will continue, so long as it is able, to exploit Ahwaz’s location, resources, and geopolitical and economic assets to threaten the region and the international community. One need only observe the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, exuberantly backed by the Iranian regime, and how the whole world, especially the West, has suffered. This indicates the extent of the regime’s harmful effects, not just regionally but internationally. Thus, it would be counterproductive to restore Iran’s ability to engage in international energy exports under the pretext of supporting the opposition against Iran, and doubly so given that these energy resources are the product of colonial theft against non-Persians colonised nations in Iran.

In addition, by supporting and standing by the Ahwazi people, the international community would ensure greater, long-denied and much-desired stability in the region and the world. The Ahwazi people have the potential to play a huge, crucial role in helping ensure security and stability in the region and to be a strong ally to Britain, the United States, and other Western countries. Unlike the extremist, ideologically driven Iranian regime, Ahwaz is keen to support freedom and democracy and would certainly share its resources with all non-Persians as well as with Persians, to support the common goal of achieving regional coexistence, peace and stability, as well as to sustainably rebuild its local economy from the ruins inflicted by decades of Persian misuse and exploitation. Yet, Ahwaz has a unique ability to thwart Iran’s projects to threaten energy security in the world by turning its resources into utile commodities. All these facts mean that supporting Ahwazi people in reclaiming their usurped historical and national sovereignty in Ahwaz in the context of any plans for political change in Iran is a logical, legal and ethical means of helping resolve the problems that have plagued the region for too long.

What if

In conclusion, returning to our opening question of how Ahwaz might have been if Iran had not occupied it, it’s fair to say that its people would never have allowed it to become a blighted, desertified dystopian hellscape of oil rigs belching toxic pollution. There might be problems, but these would not be on the scale of the poverty, racism, repression, deprivation, hunger, thirst and unemployment that are all Iran has brought the Ahwazi people. There would be better living standards and a sense of hope for the future, with its indigenous people not languishing in unimaginable poverty on pennies per month, constantly struggling simply to stay alive. But even for a largely uncaring world, it would mean that the nihilistic and imperialist Iranian regime would not have the means of pursuing its nefarious foreign policy agenda to destabilise the region and threaten its neighbours. The American Central Intelligence Agency correctly observed decades ago that Ahwaz is Iran’s Achilles Heel. So we close by posing two questions. What if it had not been occupied by Iran? Or, perhaps, what if it were no longer occupied?

 By  Kamil Alboshoka, Rahim Hamid and Aaron Eitan Meyer

Kamil Alboshoka, an Ahwazi researcher and International law specialist based in London. Alboshoka tweets under @KAlboshoka.

Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi author, freelance journalist and human rights advocate. Hamid tweets under @Samireza42

Aaron Eitan Meyer is an attorney admitted to practice in New York State and before the United State Supreme Court, and a researcher and analyst. He has written extensively on lawfare, international humanitarian, and human rights law.  Meyer tweets under @aaronemeyer. 


[1] BBC Persia. (2008), “Darkhovin nuclear power plant building takes 6 years.” Link: http://bitly.ws/zItX

[2] The Guardian. (2023) “Poison in the haze: documenting life under Ahvaz’s oppressive orange skies”: Link: http://bitly.ws/zIwk

[3] VOA News (2011) “WHO: Ahvaz, Iran World’s Most Polluted City”: Link: http://bitly.ws/zIwC

[4] Gornall, J. (2022), “How Iran’s Ahwazi Arabs, betrayed, fell victim to oppression that continues to this day”. Link < https://www.arabnews.com/node/1998856/middle-east>

[5] Hetteh, A. (2019), “Demographic Change in Ahwaz Violates the International Norms and Law”. Link <https://astudies.org/2019/01/demographic-change-in-ahwaz-violates-the-international-norms-and-law/>

[6] Vakil, S. Quilliam, N. (2021), “Steps to enable a Middle East regional security process”. Link <shorturl.at/lpAY4>

[7] Hashemi, M. (2022), “Iran’s History of Colonialism and Land Confiscation in Ahwaz”. Link <https://astudies.org/2022/12/irans-history-of-colonialism-and-land-confiscation-in-ahwaz/>

[8] Hamid, R. (2019), “Facing Torture and Murder, Ahwazi Political Prisoners Call for Human Rights Protection”. Link <https://astudies.org/2019/08/facing-torture-and-murder-ahwazi-political-prisoners-call-for-human-rights-protection/>

[9] Amnesty International (2021). Link <https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/middle-east-and-north-africa/iran/report-iran/>

[10] Shaffer, B. (2021), “The Impact of the Ahwaz protests in Iran”. Link <https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2021/07/18/the-impact-of-the-ahwaz-protests-in-iran/>

[11] Shaffer, B. (2021), “Iran is More than Persia”. Link <https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2021/04/28/iran-is-more-than-persia/>

[12] Eberstadt, N. (1198). “Demography and international relations”. The Washington Quarterly, 21 (2), Pages: 33-52. https://www.aei.org/articles/demography-and-international-relations/

[13] Biswas, A. (2020), “7 Most Important Determinants Of Foreign Policy”. Link <https://schoolofpoliticalscience.com/determinants-of-foreign-policy/>

[14] Timmerman, K. (2017), “Non-Persian Iran”. Link <https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/2017/01/04/non-persian-iran/>

[15] UK Essays. (November 2018). How does Geography Affect Foreign Policy?. Retrieved from <https://www.ukessays.com/essays/politics/relationship-between-geography-and-international-relations-politics-essay.php?vref=1>

[16] Dialogue Institute for Research and Studies. (June 2022). Iran’s Devastating Policies mean growing challenges for Ahwazi agriculture. Link <https://astudies.org/2022/06/irans-devastating-policies-mean-growing-challenges-for-ahwazi-agriculture/>


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