An Ahwazi Arab female cultural troupe received enthusiastic applause for their bilingual performance in Arabic and English, in a concert on Friday (31 March). The show by the Amal Cultural Troupe, at the packed local town hall in the Ahwazi historic city of Tester, also included a new song encouraging young people of both sexes in the Arab Ahwaz region in the south and southwest Iran to reject marginalisation and despair and instead choose empowerment through education.
The group from Tester, which is affiliated with the local Farhan Cultural Institute, regularly puts on plays, as well as writing songs and performing traditional Ahwazi songs and dances celebrating Ahwazi culture and history. This has been a hit with Ahwazis across the region, some of whom travelled for hours to enjoy Friday’s event.
The new song ‘Yes We Can’, echoing Obama’s famously positive catchphrase, proved popular with the audience, promoting active involvement in empowering Ahwazis through learning in order to help rebuild the homeland where they’ve been grievously abused by successive Iranian regimes.
The lyrics of the song, in Arabic, say:
Let’s grab a pen
For us to write down
Let’s paint a flag,
To bring depression down
Let’s learn together,
Let’s learn how to deliver the best ideas and content,
Let’s this time build and develop our homeland with love and let us adorn and smudge the eyeliner* of our beloved homeland,
O our parents
We can proceed with our pursuit of knowledge,
Accomplish our dream,
Build our homeland Ahwaz.
Strengthen your determination –
It’s the vehicle in which your success will advance,
Strengthen your determination –
It’s the guarantee of your success.
After singing the rest of the song in Arabic, the troupe sang the final verse in English, singing:
Let’s do writing,
Let’s do reading,
Let’s write a book.
Let’s rise and pursue success.
The popularity of groups like the Amal Cultural Troupe underlines Ahwazis’ abiding pride in their cultural heritage and commitment to passing it down from generation to generation, despite successive Iranian regimes attempting to eradicate the Ahwazi people’s Arab culture and history as a means of forcible assimilation.
The primary theme of Friday’s event was the importance of maintaining a connection with one’s homeland and of empowerment through all forms of education and learning, emphasising that it’s not necessary to flee into exile to attain education. As the Amal Cultural Troupe performers explained, the age of globalisation, ever-greater technological sophistication and the fast transfer of information mean that Ahwazis no longer need to be rich and travel abroad to attain further education, but can remain at home in their own cities, towns and villages, learning remotely and applying this education practically in rebuilding Ahwazi Arab society with pride, even in the face of severe challenges, limited resources, poverty and the denial of Ahwazis’ rights.
A secondary theme in the all-female troupe’s show on Friday was raising awareness of the crucial societal role played by women and the need for their empowerment and participation in every aspect of building, developing and advancing Ahwazi Arab society. Through their performances, the Amal Cultural Troupe seek to underline the importance of ensuring that Ahwazi girls and women play a far greater role in every area of development, enabling them to be full partners in advancing Ahwazi society.
Following the troupe’s show, which met with rapturous applause as always, a number of Ahwazi cultural activists of both sexes called for the role of women, as educators and mothers, to be promoted, noting that building a prosperous, progressive society depends on children, particularly girls, having positive maternal role models and being encouraged to pursue education and self-improvement.
As some speakers noted, Ahwazis should be encouraged to cherish their cultural heritage in which mothers are said to be the “schools of society”.
Rather than celebrating and promoting such cultural events by young Ahwazi groups promoting youth education and women’s empowerment, which are immensely popular with the Ahwazi people, Iranian media, including the media of the Persian-Iranian opposition in exile who regularly claim in Western media to be the ‘voice of Iran’s women’, not only fail to cover them but actively censor media coverage.
For Ahwazis, as for Iran’s other non-Persian ethnic groups, such hypocrisy and silencing of certain women’s (and men’s) voices from Iran’s Persian media is, unfortunately, not unusual but the norm.
*To ‘smudge the eyeliner’ is a popular Ahwazi local metaphor, meaning to enhance, beautify or develop, as women enhance the appearance of their eyes by smudging kohl eyeliner around them.
Reported by Rahim Hamid