“We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
For over two hundred years, many around the world have been familiar with this quote, generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin, during the American Revolution. To all of the groups working to establish a free and just nation free from the horror that is Khomeneist Iran, we must all understand that this saying applies on a literal level.
For various reasons, including the deliberate and sustained efforts of the current regime, the majority of Persians are wholly unfamiliar with, and even hostile towards, the problems that minorities in Iran currently face. It has also become the new normal for minorities to be left unrepresented in important sectors of life such as the media and education.
In Iran, Persians are indoctrinated from birth to believe they are racially superior beings. This idea is supported not only in their communities and families, but also in all types of media. Minorities in the media are presented as less intelligent, more violent, and therefore less worthy of equal rights that Persians are granted without question.
Presently, senior officials in the regime even oppose the idea of offering the option for ethnic minorities to attend education classes offered in their mother tongue. They claim that teaching classes in a language other than Persian will only serve to undermine the unity of the Iranian nation. Even though Article 15 of the 1979 Iranian Constitution allows for school and a variety of media to be offered in languages other than Persian, the present regime does all in its power to deny minorities this right.
These types of systematically vicious and inhumane policies have led to increasingly frequent peaceful protests by the dissenting ethnic minorities. Such events however are met with violent crackdowns by Iranian security services and the Revolutionary Guard, which only encourage new – and easily targeted – radicalism. This seems to be the regime’s aim. In order to justify the claims that minorities are a threat to the stability of hypothetical Iranian national unity (under the ayatollahs, of course), regime authorities are utilising actions that seek to manufacture the birth of violent opposition movements in order to retroactively slander all ethnic opposition.
That pernicious mindset has unfortunately tainted many of those who seek to see the regime fall, and it is something that must be acknowledged and addressed so that it is not used to fragment the opposition. Authoritarian regimes throughout history have relied upon creating strife among those who oppose them, and the peoples of Iran who stand bravely in opposition to the regime are in danger of this precise tactic. In the uprising that took place in Tehran against the regime in 2009, the ethnic groups never attempted to participate, because they viewed such movements as mere derivatives of the regime itself.
The Iranian opposition group’s political platform seeks to address many principles of democracy, such as abolishing the death penalty, gender equality, and participation of women in a greater variety of areas. However, these opposition groups and even human rights groups who adopted selective issues have never specified any promises concerning the national rights of ethnic minorities and have always evaded addressing such critical issues.
As a result, the ethnic dissident movements feel they cannot trust the larger Iranian opposition to represent minorities, as they seem to have an unwavering centralist mentality. While certain issues must be set aside by all those who oppose the regime until it falls, all must understand that these issues exist and must be internally understood. Only then can the regime’s factionalisation ploy be rendered useless. Only then can all opposition groups have complete faith that the fall of the regime will result in something better for all, a genuinely free Iran.
Justice, equality and eradicating of racism are the primary demands of the minorities languishing under the rule of this Persian-supremacist Shiite Iranian regime. Without the active presence of justice in all its forms — political, social, cultural, etc. — it will remain impossible for any Iranian government to achieve coexistence among all the country’s peoples. These minorities in Iran are now mobilising all their distinctive components to challenge Persian-supremacy and reclaim their own heritage, language, culture, history and pride.
The Iranian opposition groups need to consider the following questions if they are really determined to change the current regime into something far greater.
- Are you truly serious about bringing real democracy without borders, without discrimination, such as recognising the right to self-determination and granting national autonomy to all the peoples in Iran without exception if so requested?
- Do you realise that it will be almost impossible to accomplish this daunting task without first reassuring and guaranteeing to Iran’s Kurds, Turks, Ahwazis, Balochis and Turkmen, that in a future Iran all these peoples will have truly all the same rights and the equal legal protection as any other Iranian citizen?
- Could it actually be possible for one faction, one group to oust the regime while turning a blind eye to the minorities who collectively comprise over 50 per cent of Iran’s population?
- Will holding gatherings in exile bear fruit in the form of practical changes on the ground without also partnering with and appreciating the sacrifices of Ahwazis, Turks, Kurds and Balochis for freedom?
Without including Ahwazi, Kurds, Turks and Balochis as integral parts of the movement for change, it will be almost impossible to achieve. It is imperative to offer a better and real alternative, a united front to confront the regime. None of these questions have easy answers, and not all can be definitively responded to at this time. The form a post-Khomeneist Iranian government will take cannot be projected. Will it be a confederation of semi-autonomous states that work together to comprise a larger nation within current borders, or perhaps a truly pluralistic nation that embraces all of its heritage rather than a traditionally centralised authority? There may be no need to answer these questions now, but they must be asked and pondered by everyone.
Otherwise, all the fancy gatherings with flag-waving crowds undertaken by the Iranian Persian oppositions will not bring any real change but will instead only strengthen the frustration and hopelessness of the peoples in Iran further, pleasing the regime and giving it the opportunity to intensify its brutality and destroy the whole country.
One of the authors’ own people, the Ahwazis, were stung viciously by trusting too many groups in the early days of the 1979 revolution; having been brutally betrayed once, they will not extend our hands in brotherhood so trustingly again only to be betrayed once again.
Bearing all this in mind, the Iranian Persian oppositions must prove their commitment to freedom and justice by publicly recognising the national rights of Ahwazis along with Iran’s other ethnic minorities. This will be as a step forward in the struggle to oust the brutal regime and bring real freedom, democracy and human rights for all.
From the time a potential uprising begins in Iran until the establishment of a just system, stakeholders invested in the future of Iran can limit potentially disastrous consequences by learning from the history of countries such as Yugoslavia. However, it is now time for the people of Iran to decide exactly what type of non-centralised ruling structure can more effective replace the current regime in order to meet the needs of all people – not just the Persian plurality.
The Khomeneist regime remains on the brink of disaster, but the opposition cannot rely upon the regime to fall by itself, or that the powers of the world will take action. The peoples of Iran must be able to truly unite, secure in the knowledge that after the regime falls, a new era can dawn where the principles of justice, democracy, human rights, and self-determination will apply to all. Let there be a free Iran.
By Rahim Hamid and Aaron Eittan Meyer
Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi author, freelance journalist and human rights advocate. You can follow him on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/samireza42
Aaron Eitan Meyer is an attorney admitted to practice in New York State and before the United State Supreme Court, and a researcher and analyst. He has written extensively on lawfare, international humanitarian, and human rights law. You can follow him on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/aaronemeyer
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Dur Untash Studies Centre.