That country has been oppressing Arabs, violating their basic human rights, detaining thousands, including women and children and expropriating their farmlands for the settlements it constructs.
On the same week that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Damascus – where he issued belligerent statements against Israel and signed pacts with his Syrian counterpart – disconcerting reports were received in the West about developments inside Iran.
The reports particularly addressed the way the ayatollahs' regime treats the district of Al-Ahawaz in southeastern Iran, near the Iraqi border, which is mostly inhabited by Arabs (we should remember that the Iranians, i.e. the Persians, are Muslims, but not Arabs).
Recently, Karim Bani Sa'id Abadiyan, chairman of a human rights organization from Al-Ahawaz district, offered a rare view of this region, which the Iranian regime is making a huge effort to conceal from the media.
Relocation, courtesy of the regimeAccording to Abadiyan, over the past eight years, the Iranian government has deported some 1.2 million Arab residents, replacing them with 1.5 million non-Arabs.
The newcomers, mostly Persian Iranians, moved into new settlements that the Iranian government had built in the region. At the same time, the ayatollahs' regime governs the region with an iron fist, conducting mass arrests, executing dozens of local activists, seizing lands, and even banning the teaching of Arabic.
Residents of oil-rich region find it hard to make a living (from arabistan)
Speaking to Elaph, a liberal internet site operating out of London, Abadiyan revealed some of the developments in the Al-Ahawaz district, which received media attention despite Iranian efforts to keep it all under wraps.
According to Abadiyan, the first stage of Iran's "ethnic cleansing" campaign (which, he claimed, has been officially named "Land - for Trial") started in 1999 and so far, some 1.2 million Arabs have been deported to other Iranian regions.
In their place, the Iranian authorities imported 1.5 million non-Arabs, mostly Persians, who were settled in newly built locations, such as the town of Shirin Shahr that was built for this very purpose, while others were sent to Arab towns in Al-Ahawaz district.
The human rights activist claimed that these moves were meant to deprive the Arabs of Iran of their national identity and culture, and to eliminate their language and heritage.
"The Arabs who live in Al-Ahawaz are at the lowest of the low (in Iran)," said Abadiyan. "Last year, their human rights were extensively violated as 131 activists were executed and thousands were arrested in large and undiscriminating detention campaigns.
"Among others, the authorities detained whole families, including two to four-years old children and pregnant women. There were also mass deportations."
Abadiyan also said that the teaching of Arabic has been banned and that studying Farsi is now compulsory in every school. "As part of the Iranization policy, the Arab residents are forced to study Farsi and are not allowed to learn Arabic. This is making students drop out of schools - and I am citing official government statements: Some 30% drop out from grammar schools, 50% drop out of high schools, and 70% drop out of colleges."
'The shahids of the anti-Iranian intifada'
The Al-Ahawaz district lies on the shores of the Persian Gulf, bordering on southern Iraq, and houses some eight million Arab residents.
'I'm an Arab from the northern Persian Gulf, where is my name written?' Al-Ahawaz resident asks the Arab nations that formed a parliament without him (from arabistan)
Though the environment is rather harsh, the residents of Al-Ahawaz live in one of the world's wealthiest regions, rich with natural gas and oil wells, which is probably why the Iranians insist on ruling it.
Local residents operate internet sites in which they use very rough terms to describe the Iranians, terms that may sound familiar to Israeli ears. "Calling on the defenders of Iran: Know that it is an imperialist country, just like the United States and Israel," an editorial claimed. Pictures and caricatures compare Ahmadinejad with Americans, Israelis, and the Nazis.
Similar remarks were heard in demonstrates staged in the region. Internet sites even carry pictures of "the shahids (martyrs) of the intifada (popular uprising) against Iran," which is how they call their revolt.
The sites carry relevant anti-Iranian video clips. The Arab residents of Al-Ahawaz even criticize Arab countries for doing nothing against Iran.
Undernourished, without water of electricityThe Iranian regime is using various methods to make the life in Al-Ahawaz disrict very difficult for its Arab residents.
According to Abadiyan, some 80% of the Arab children there are undernourished. He further claimed that the government seized some 1.25 million acres of Arab farmland and gave it to the new settlers that it had brought there.
Arab finjan in prison (from arabistan)
These steps are aimed at changing the demographic composition of this district and, Abadiyan claimed, wiping out its Arab identity.
This is not the only testimony concerning the situation in that region. Special UN envoy Miloon Kothari, who visited there in July 2005, later reported: "When I visited the capital of the district bordering on Iraq, I witnessed harsh living conditions in residential neighborhoods.
"Thousands live right next to open sewage, lacking normal livelihood, and some live without drinking water, cooking gas, or electricity."
This is not the first time that reports have addressed the Iranian plan for demographic alternation and resettling of that district.
The situation there resulted in a real crisis between Iran and the Qatari news network of Al-Jazeera, after the Iranians were very displeased with the media coverage of clashes between Persians and Arabs there two years ago. As a result, Iran suspended the network's activity in the country (which has been resumed in the meantime, after the relations thawed).
At that time, Mahmad Huseyn Khosukat, the official in charge of foreign media in the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, declared, "the Al-Jazeera activity is suspended until further notice, due to the recent riots in the district of Al-Ahawaz."
According to Khosukat, he had expected Al-Jazeera to "respect Iran's national unity and security."
Is this the end of the story? Viewed against the war that has been breaking neighboring Iraq into pieces, it is hard to tell.