Mar 24, 2004

Ahwazi: Tehran-Tokyo Oil Deal and Indigenous Arabs

Ahwaz People oppose the deal between Iran and Japan over its natural resources

To The Honorable Mr. Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minster of Japan

March 9, 2004

We sadly learned about the oil deal signed on February 18, 2004 between the Japanese state-owned Inpex Corp. and the Iranian Government, worth $2.8 billion, for the “development” of “Azedegan” oilfield, in Southwestern Iran.

As historical and legal owners of the “Azedegan” oilfield, we are writing to you to express our opposition to this deal. The land of the subject oil deal and indeed a large part of al-Ahwaz (Arabistan), currently known as Khuzestan province, has been in dispute since the overthrow of the Arabistan Emirate and its forceful annexation in 1925 by the Iranian government under King Reza Khan. Now, under this “development” contract, drilling of 75 oil wells and the massive amount of water required to inject in the wells, along with the pipelines to carry the crude, will force the indigenous Ahwazis out of their remaining land and add to their cultural and economic devastation.

As historical documents show, after the discovery of oil in Arabistan in 1908 by the Anglo-Iranian oil Company (now BP), the predecessor to the National Iranian Oil Company, the concessionaires signed the deal with the indigenous tribes of Arabistan, an autonomous emirate and a British protectorate at the time.
The Khuzestan region where “Azedegan” oilfield was discovered is the ancestral land of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs who have lived there for thousand of years. Ahwazis don’t want a repeat of the past 79 years, where their land that provides for over 80 % of Iranian oil production, has ironically left them destitute. No part of this revenue, none, is being allocated to or shared with the indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in southwestern Iran. After annexation, the Iranian government, contrary to the international law, expropriated this land without compensation to the rightful tribal owners such as Kaab, Adris, Albo-Nasser, Zergan, Bawi, Bani-toroof (see William Strunk in Downfall of the Municipality of Arabistan. 1976, University of Indiana).

A grievance has been lodged in the World League in 1925 and to other bodies in the 1930s, 1940 and 1950s to that effect. Prior to the discovery of oil and flood of newcomers and immigrant workers seeking jobs, the province was 95% indigenous Arabs, according to Iranian researcher Mustafa Ansari in his book" History of Khuzestan 1878-1925”, The University of Chicago -1974"

The towns and village in and around the “Azedegan” oilfield, as villages around cities of Ahwaz, Abadan, Mohamara (Khoramshar), Fallahieh (Shadegan) and Dasht-e-Azadegan (Khafajieh), remain to be 100% Arabs. The current regime does not represent indigenous Arab people of Ahwaz in any international fora. However, Ahwazi nation is a proud member of Unrepresentative Nations and Peoples (UNPO), along with over fifty other unrepresented nationalities and peoples.

This deal will only strengthen and provides financial ability for conservatives and fundamentalists in Iran who are committed to the proliferation and use of Atomic bombs and other weapons of mass destruction and pursuit of terrorism. Time and again in the past twenty five years, history has shown that the Iranian government does not respect or abide by the international law.

We refer you to human rights abuses and violations cited by the U.S. Department of State 2003 Report, The British Home Office Human Rights report, the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, other human rights advocacy groups and NGOs.

With the current unrest and volatile situations in Khuzestan, more discriminatory unemployment practices and other repressive measures by the Iranian regime against indigenous Ahwazis, will exacerbate the situations and may indeed pose safety concerns for foreign workers deployed under this deal.

The indigenous Ahwazi peoples have been fighting for autonomy and self rule and the right of self determination for the past 79 years. They have been colonized, oppressed and kept backward by the successive Iranian governments who stripped them from their human rights and lowered their status to the ranks of 2nd and 3rd class citizens. They are excluded from the oil revenue, jailed or executed for peacefully voicing their opinions.

As you know, in addition to “Azedegan”, our area contains and sits atop of vast mineral resources including a reserve of over 40 billion barrels of oil and 210 billion cubic meters of natural gas, the second largest known oil and gas reserves in the world. It produces 3 to 5 million barrels of oil per day, or 20% of OPEC' daily production. Yet, the indigenous Ahwazis live in abject poverty.

The population of the indigenous Ahwazi Arab is estimated to be between 4 and 6 million. Prior to its annexation in April 20, 1925, Arabistan enjoyed full autonomy and independence at various times in its history of 5,000 years. Arabic was taught and spoken as the official language.
After the emergence of Reza Shah and by enforcing centralization in 1925, he invaded Arabistan, overthrew the local administration, occupied and destroyed Arabistan’s sovereignty, and subordinated the province to Iran, without consideration of the opinions and wishes of its indigenous Arab inhabitants. The state adopted Farsi (Persian) as the official language, shut down the schools and banned Arabic education in a province where about 90% of the people were native Arabic speakers. The Iranian government officially changed the name of the province from Arabistan to Khuzestan in 1936, ignoring the roots, the history, the geography and the cultural connection of indigenous Arab inhabitants to the Land. No other province of Iran had its name changed except that of Arabistan.

In the spirit of respect for international law, and in consideration of the UN proclamation on International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004), we urgently demand that as long as the Iranian Government does not recognize the legitimate rights of the Ahwazi Arab indigenous peoples of Khuzestan, this oil deal be abrogated and future oil investment in this region be avoided without the consent of its indigenous Arab population.

A dossier of human rights abuses and violations by the Iranian government perpetrated against the indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in Southwestern Iran are attached for your information.

Sincerely Yours.

Mansour Al-Ahwazi
Foreign Relations Committee of the Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz
National Representative at UNPO