Interview of Saleh Hamid with Al-Arabiya News channel
4 September 2015
Our dear viewers, God's peace be upon you and his mercy and blessings. Is the issue of Ahwaz in Iran is an issue of
rights or politics?
What is the impact of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the Group of five plus one on this issue? Where are Arabs
from the issue of Ahwaz people?
those who say that the Iranian regime oppresses them due to clinching to their Arab identity? These are the axes of our
meeting with the guest of Point of Order for this week Saleh Hamid, the activist in Ahwaz human rights organization.
Mr. Hamid, at the beginning, is your issue in Ahwaz a political issue or a human rights one?
Yes, our issue actually has the political dimension and the human rights dimension, but the human rights dimension is
pressing now, as there are large-scale human rights violations committed by the Iranian authorities against the Ahwazi
Arab people, especially against Arab activists.
The execution cases, particularly political executions, increased in the recent years since the uprising of the Ahwazis
in 2005 until the past years.-Well.
Unfortunately, the government of Rouhani which is described as being moderate has increased the pace of those violations
against the Ahwazi Arabs.-Well.
Mr. Hamid, does that human rights aspect mean that if you were given the rights
that you demand -- the citizenship rights, the cultural rights, the rights to equality of job opportunities and
education, and so on -- there would be no problem between you and the Iranian regime?
No. In fact, the basis of the problem is political.
The human rights dimensions are caused by this problem, because the central state in Iran, whether in the Shahanshah era
or in the Islamic republic, considers the Arabs as a threat to the Iranian national security because they
have political demands represented in power-sharing and their control over their land. Since the last Arab ruler of the
region was toppled in 1925-Well.
until now, there has been no representation or authority for this people over its land and resources or even
any representation at the level of the Iranian government.
Well. Mr. Hamid, it seems that you agree with another fellow Ahwazi activist who said that the issue of the Ahwazis in
Iran is an issue of an occupation that needs or requires liberation. Do you agree with him on that idea?
In fact, there is a difference over the definition
of occupation. It is true that the emirate of Arabistan and Ahwaz was semi-independent and was only
linked with the Iranian state through the relations of paying taxes until the father shah, Shah Reza Pahlavi, came to
power; and after that, the Arab sovereignty over this land was cancelled -- so far, there has been no representation of
the Ahwazi Arab people or its will.
Mr. Hamid, does this mean that you ... Mr. Hamid, does this mean that you consider yourselves-Yes.
non-Iranians, I mean, that you are not Iranians?
In fact, the Iranian nationality and the Iranian citizenship are imposed on us in a legal manner, on the grounds that we
are part of the Iranian political map. But nominally, we are Arabs and belong to the Arab nation. However,
this political system and the annexation of the region by force to the center's direct authority were established away
from the will of the people.-Well.
And since the toppling of the last emir of this region ...
You are talking about Khazaal. Am I precise?
Yes, Sheikh Khazaal bin Jaber Al-Kaabi
who was the last ruler. Shah Reza Pahlavi-Well.
attacked the region militarily and imprisoned that sheikh.
He toppled him and his government. After that, the Iranian state continued the Persianization of this region.
-Those policies of Persianization and the deprivation of
identity and the obliteration of Arab identity are still
continuing until now
Well, Mr. Hamid ...
even in light of this regime.-Mr. Hamid,
-is not it noticeable that there is a common denominator
between you and the Iranian regime? The majority of you, if
I am not mistaken, are almost Shiites and the Iranian regime
is Shiite, I mean, can we say that Shiites persecute other
Yes, exactly. That is what is happening. That grows popular discontent among the Ahwazi Arabs, in the sense
that this regime adopts the slogans of defending the Shiites, however it actually uses them as a cover
for its expansion in the region. If the regime was sincere about its slogans, it would grant the Shiite Ahwazi Arabs and
even the other ethnic groups their rights.
Oppression is not linked to the fact that the regime is Shiite or religious. But there is a national conflict,
because this regime-Well.
has aspirations that are higher than the Iranian state. We saw-Well.
the statements of the adviser to the government who said that-Well.
Iran is trying now to regain the Persian empire.
Well. Mr. Hamid, there are those who say that you may be
mistaken because you are presenting your issue, whether
inside or Iran or abroad, as an issue of a minority; and in
your case, it is an issue of Arabs. Why do not you present
it as an issue
of a part of the Iranian people, so that some Persians would
possibly join you and support you in reality, because it is
said that oppression affects
everyone, whether non-Persians
or Persians, right?
It is true.
There are two types of oppression. There is the oppression
which includes all Iranians, regardless of their ethnic
origins and religious or ethnic affiliations; but there is
the national oppression that is caused by the structure of
the Iranian state which is based on one people, one
nationality, one language and one culture, which is Persian.
Therefore, this state
oppresses non-Persian peoples and minorities from the Arab, the Kurds, the Baluchs, the Azerbaijanis,-Well.
the Turkmen, and the rest of minorities.
Well. Mr. Hamid, your words about the other minorities,
-I mean, you mention the other minorities from the Kurds, the Baluchs, the Azerbaijanis, and so on and so forth, I mean,
it seems through the follow-up of what is happening that
there is no coordination between you or no synchronization
between those areas with regard to uprisings. Am I precise
about this talk?
There is joint work. There are activities.
There is coordination between the forces that belong to non-Persian peoples.
There is an organization. There is a conference that
includes eighteen to twenty non-Persian movements, whether
from the Arabs or the Kurds.
It is called the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal
Iran. It was established in 2005. Those peoples are trying
to find a joint solution represented in the distribution of
power and wealth in the Iranian state, so that those peoples
would get their rights.
Well. Mr. Hamid, in recent times or perhaps a few months ago in fact, the so-called Mahabad Uprising took place in the
Kurdish areas. As far as I remember, one of the leaders of the Kurds,
I think that he is Mohtadi Abdullah Mohtadi in fact, predicted that it would spread and extend to the rest of the areas
of minorities, including Ahwaz, but that did not happen. Why?
In fact, the Iranian authorities practice brutal suppression in those territories and will not allow
any movements by the peoples. It tries to show that they have a militarily nature, I mean, leading
the popular movement towards militarization. It deploys
military forces and imposes a tightened security situation
in those regions-Well.
in order to prevent any communication between those peoples. There is also the geographical dimension which is a factor
Well. -that plays a big role in terms of the lack of coordination between those peoples.
Well. Mr. Hamid, it seems that you in the Ahwazi movement do not discriminate between
Iranian extremists and reformists, otherwise you would have
joined the Green Movement which emerged from the unrest
which took place or the demonstrations -- to be more
accurate -- of 2009 in the days of the elections and were
led by figures like Karroubi and Mousavi,
Unfortunately, the Green Movement itself
did not announce or did not at least put in its political or
electoral program items that guarantee the rights of ethnic
groups. That is
one of the reasons for the failure of this movement, because it did not extend to the non-Persian regions due to the
fact that it did not put forward demands that include those peoples. So, the political movement that wants to
succeed and include all Iran must present a project, a project to solve
the national problem, which is based on the extreme centralization of the state, as wealth and power are accumulated in
Tehran, while the regions are prevented from and deprived of development-Well.
and basic rights, even the cultural ones.
Well. Mr. Hamid, please be brief. In fact, the question that
arises is: why is not there coordination between you, for
example, and some of the main opposition entities, not
actually the national ones but the main sides in Iran, such
as Mojahedin-e-Khalq, for instance?
Unfortunately, as I told you, that applies to the Iranian
opposition at home and abroad. Unfortunately, the Iranian
opposition have not
abandoned the Persian chauvinism which claims superiority
over other peoples.
Therefore, it is not possible to ally with these non-Persian
peoples and political forces, otherwise there would be a
frank and clear recognition. The Iranian opposition must
show that it is
different from the Iranian regime and that it is different from the Shah regime and the current regime which
actually denies the rights of peoples and tyrannizes them on the basis of ethnic oppression and the unilateral national
However, there is certainly some media cooperation and participation in conferences. We believe that a dialogue must
start between the various Iranian parties
and also the non-Persian peoples' opposition-Well.
in order to coordinate
a democratic future in Iran.
Quickly and briefly please, Mr. Hamid, before the break,-Yes.
why has not that dialogue been held, I mean, why do you wish and it does not happen?
We sent several messages to the non-Persian parties and
ethnic groups, in the sense that the basic requirement is
those organizations' recognition of the rights of peoples,
at least in the framework of the Iranian political
but with a different regime that does not oppress the peoples.
That point has been made. So, our dear viewers, we will stop now for a short break, after which we will continue our
dialogue with the guest of Point of Order for this week Mr. Saleh Hamid,
the activist in the Ahwaz human rights organization.
Welcome back our dear viewers. We will continue our dialogue
with the guest of Point of Order for this week Mr. Saleh
the activist in the Ahwaz human rights organization. Mr.
Hamid, let me begin this part of the interview by asking you directly: are you, as Ahwazi movements, in accord?
In fact, we are like other peoples. There are differences over visions and ideas.
There are many currents. But now, especially during the past
decade, there is a strong movement, at the level of the
street and at home and abroad,
that is trying to address the international community. It is
trying to enter the international institutions. It is trying
to enter the civil institutions in the Arab world. It is
trying to address the peoples. It is also trying to be
linked with the democratic forces in Iran, in order to have
a new approach to this issue that rescues it from the
Hamid, you, as Ahwazi movements, are actually blamed for not succeeding in adding the file of your case, at least the
humanitarian file, to the nuclear file in the painstaking negotiations between the international community and Iran,
which ended with the known nuclear agreement between the two sides.
The question that arises now: in your opinion, what will the effect of this nuclear agreement between Iran and the
international community be on internal issues such as your issue?
We had actually started our human rights activity a long
Since more than a decade, the file has been put forward in
We take part in the meetings of the Human Rights Council and
the UN-affiliated institutions, such as
the Forum on Minority Issues, the Forum on Indigenous
Issues, and the rest of organizations in the United Nations.
But unfortunately, the file of human rights has become a
victim of the negotiations and the agreement between Iran
and the West.
It is not only about us, as an Ahwazi movement,
[inaudible] the rest of Iranian opposition.
Are you saying, Mr. Hamid ...-Go ahead.
I understand from your words -- are you saying that you as a result of this agreement, I mean, you were victims in the
past and your case of being victims, as a minority that lives inside Iran, will worsen as a result of this agreement?
Yes. That is what we exactly expect, because the new authority, i.e. the government of Rouhani practices openness to the
outside and repression at home, in the sense that
it showed flexibility that led to an agreement with the inside,
With the outside.
but it handles the peoples' movements and their demands
violently and brutally through executions, prisons and
Well, Mr. Hamid.
Unfortunately, we think that the agreement will ...
Yes. Continue, please. Go ahead.
We believe that the agreement will give the Iranian regime a free hand and will pave the way for it to rid itself of
external pressure. Therefore, it will suppress the internal movement, especially the movement of non-Persian peoples.
Well. Let me move to another angle of this discussion.
In fact, you and others have always been complaining about the lack or actually the absence of Arab support for your
issue. Do you have an explanation for that?
that support has not been translated until now or we have not seen,
I mean, the Arab media has started recently to raise the issue of Ahwaz, but what we hope for is greater and better than
that. The Arab League or the Arab countries can at least raise our issue even in the United Nations or at least as a
humanitarian issue, an issue of an oppressed people
that is linked to this nation through historical, cultural and national bonds.-Yes.
Mr. Hamid, you actually -- through our reading of history -- tried during the mandate of Esmat Abdel Meguid as
secretary-general of the Arab League and also during the mandate of Amr Moussa to work, as we understood, to join the
League as an Arab entity.
In fact, we also heard that a delegation of you, the Ahwazis, went during the past summit meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh to
that meeting, perhaps in order to try
or to make an attempt of that kind.
Then, there are those who say after all of these attempts, are you not betting on a losing horse?
In fact, since the Arab League started, Ahwazi movements,
parties, and figures have tried to raise the Ahwazi issue in
the Arab League. In fact,
we are hopeful because we are between an issue... our issue has become an existential issue, because the Iranian
government, the successive Iranian governments
have not recognized our rights. And they still do not recognize our rights. Also, the Arab League has not adopted it
because they say that we are a league of Arab states,
That requires adopting an Arab state or institution such as the Arab Gulf States' Cooperation Council or something like
that in order for our issue to be adopted and posed to the summit.
Mr. Hamid, do you agree with those who believe that with regard to your issue vis-à-vis Iranian-Arab relations, whenever
relations improve, if they are improving between the Arab states and Iran,
attention toward your issue wanes.
For example, at one point Iraq was adopting it and after the 1975 agreement with Iran, it stopped with your issue. Also,
the Syrians for example were adopting your issue, and then after they made an agreement with Iran or after there was
perhaps a closer alliance,
they also dropped your issue. You specifically left from
Syria and went to Iran, and they detained you in the
airport. You escaped to Iraq.
So they detained you in Iraq during Al-Maliki's era. Correct?
Yes, yes. Unfortunately, the Arab governments have not dealt
with our issue as an Arab issue, but rather they have
exploited it as a chip
in their relations with Iran.
But we as Ahwazi people, as activists, even as a people, we rely on the institutions of Arab society, on the Arab
democratic forces, on the pan-Arab forces that are interested
in the causes of Arabs, at least from the humanitarian aspect, from the nationalist, brotherly aspect.
Relying, in fact, on the Arab media, on the Arab activists, on the Arab institutions to put forward our issue. But from
the regimes, I do not believe that in the short-term there will be cooperation. But if there was Arab political will,
it could at least raise the Ahwazi issue forcefully with the international institutions.
Okay. Mr. Hamid, in your attempts to mobilize Arab support, you moved from the Ba'ath embrace, to the embrace of the
Arab nationalists, to the embrace of Nasserism. Is the issue an ideological one, then?
We believe that
our seeking protection from our Arab brothers
is a kind of nationalist duty. That has pushed us to request assistance from our Arab brothers.
also, we do not forget that the nationalist tide in the Nasserist era and after that in the Ba'athist era was
influential on the entire region, not only on the Ahwaz. But unfortunately, that has not translated on the ground. And
it has not helped in raising the Ahwazi issue from the bitter reality that it is living.
Hamid, some ask in the context of the Arab issue, you as Ahwazi people, what have you done for Arab issues? For example,
in the Iran-Iraq War, around 12 Ahwazi people were killed in the battles, particularly in Al-Mohammerah. You fought
alongside the regime against
Iraq. What is said to be 12,000 Ahwazi people. Also, when the Iranian Revolution broke out in 1979, you stood with the
clerics who led this revolution, correct?
First, it must be said that it is not correct that the Ahwazi people stood alongside the regime against Iraq. In fact,
the Ahwazi people were the first victims of the Iran-Iraq War. Their cities were destroyed.
Their people were abandoned.
We have immigrants still who have settled in non-Arab
regions, Persian regions and others who have become non-Arab
over time. There are those whose land was released. And those who were killed, most of them were civilians or people who
were conscripts in the Iranian Army. And at that time, the Iranian Revolution
had bright slogans supporting the issue of Palestine,
replacing the Israeli embassy with the Palestinian embassy,
and the slogans that Khomeini raised saying that he wanted
to advocate for the issues... And the Islamic tide, in fact,
was an oppressor.
But after the war, matters unfolded and this regime was exposed to the Ahwazi people and other Iranian people.
Hamid, also in the context of your attempt to obtain international support, there are those who say, are they not
risking becoming a tool in the hands of Iran's adversaries?
In fact, the Iranian regime is the one pushing in this direction and accusing the people's movement
of having links abroad. But the foundation of the problem is that this regime,
this state is accumulating all of the wealth and authority
in Tehran in the hands of the ruling clique. That is what is
leading to these people's uprisings. It is pushing these
peoples to demand their rights day after day. But there is
the law. We are trying to
take advantage of the law, of international laws in place
that protect minorities, that protect oppressed peoples,
that.. It is not only
us resorting to this. Almost all, the Palestinian issue, also the issues of other oppressed peoples as well. They try to
search for ways to protect themselves from obliteration, from the persecution being practiced against them.
Hamid, there is a question that I would like to direct to you in fact. Is it correct that a movement toward Sunnism has
spread or became common, converting to the Sunni doctrine that is, among Shiite circles in the Ahwaz as a result, of
course, of the oppression by the Iranian regime in the region?
Yes, this is true.
A movement spread...
particularly among the youth, as a response against the
failure of the example of the religious state in Iran. And
after it became clear that this regime lies in its slogans
and deceives the world, and deceives Shiites in particular.
And the Ahwazi people are saying, many of those who became
Sunni, their argument is that this regime, while on the one
hand claiming to be the leader
of the Shiite world and its protector, at the same time it is persecuting
its people inside Iran, including the Ahwazi people, and even other Shiite people inside Iran.
Okay. Mr. Hamid, finally, and quickly please, does the
option of armed struggle remain on the table for you in the
In fact, there is a broad movement that concluded that, particularly after the Iran-Iraq War ended, that peaceful,
democratic struggle is the most effective way to make this demand, because it can mobilize Iranian public opinion and
international and Arab public opinion for
our cause. Also, we cannot confront a heavily-armed oppressive regime
that is seeking violence, that is achieving its goals through violence. We propose the issue of peaceful struggle, but
of course there are armed movements being established as a response to the Iranian regime. But
they do not have a political project that can achieve the goals that the people aspire to.
This point has been made. With this, dear viewers, we come
to the end of this episode of Point of Order. I thank my
guest Saleh Hamid, activist in the Ahwaz Human Rights
I also thank you for watching. God's peace, mercy, and
blessings be upon you.
watch the interview: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/webtv/programs/point-of-order/2015/09/05/Ahwazi-activist-says-Iran-uses-Shiite-community-for-political-aims.html