April 14, 2011
by Avi Melamed
As the eyes of the world are all turned to events in Libya and Syria, a fire may erupt soon in one of most strategically sensitive areas in the Middle East: The district of Hozastan in Iran.
Hozastan is a huge district stretching along the eastern shore of the Arab Gulf. The majority of the population in the district is Shi’ite, yet there is a big Sunni population as well. The accurate number of the Sunnis in Iran is not clear – apparently around 10 million people (Iran’s total population is about 74 million). The largest sect in Iran is the Shi’ites yet they are not the majority. Iranian is a multi-ethnic society.
The Sunnis, as well as many of the Shi’ites in the Hozastan district perceive themselves as an Arab, not Persian. They call themselves “Alachwaz” and they call the district of Hozastan by the name of “Arabstan.”
The Arabs (and mostly Sunni Arabs) that live in Iran are badly discriminated against. They are not allowed to teach the Arabic language or to call the kids by Arab names. The Iranian regime practices ethnic cleansing by moving the Sunnis out from the area and populating it with Persian Shi’ites.
The district of Hozastan is enormously important — 90% ofIran’s gas reserves and 80% of its oil reserves are located in this huge district located on the eastern shore of theArabGulf, and next to the Iranian nuclear reactor in Boshar, south of Hozastan.
In recent years the Arabs of Hozastan escalated their struggle against the Iranian regime, demanding to gain independence and to become an integral part of the Arab world. This struggle includes attacks of Sunni suicide bombers on Iranian civil and military targets, attacks on Iranian institutions, police stations, oil facilities and more.
In the beginning of 2010 the different Arab Sunni organizations that were operating in Hozastan joined forces and formed one organization – The Movement for the Liberation of Hozastan.
In recent days calls for a “Day of Anger” in Hozastan are made by Facebook groups. The date set is Friday April 15th. According to reports the Iranians have sent massive reinforcements to the region in case the calls for uprising will generate an eruption. The Iranian regime did not and will not hesitate to oppress decisively and brutally any attempt to challenge it. This was and is clearly demonstrated in the way that the same regime continues to oppress the uprising of the young generation in Iran.
Yet, there is another aspect in the context of Hozastan that present a major difference in comparison to the oppressed opposition in Iran. The people of Hozastan, or as they call themselves, Alachwaz, have weapons, and apparently a lot of weapons. Looking at the map of the region will quickly suggest the possible source for those weapons. All it takes is to look to the western shore of the Arab Gulf.
The upcoming developments in Hozastan must be monitored very closely. In a scenario of violent uprising in Hozastan one could expect regional as well global ramifications.
Avi Melamed is the Founder and Principal of Feenjan – Israel Speaks Arabic www.feenjan.com – a unique, groundbreaking and unprecedented non-profit initiative. Using the internet Avi presents contemporary Israeli society and culture to the Arab world in Arabic and aims to be a bridge builder and a platform for a constructive dialogue between Israelis and Arabs.