Ahwazi Arabs have rejected claims by Ahwaz City's interim Friday prayers leader, Hojjatoleslam Heydari, that the state religion unites Iran, and pointed out that the regime itself is the cause of ethnic division.
Heydari claimed ethnic tensions were being prompted by foreigners intent on undermining the unity of the Islamic republic. "Khuzestan was the first place where Iran contacted Islam and Shiism; in fact Khuzestan can be known as the gateway to Islam and Shiism for Iran," he said. "Religious bonds are the main reason for unity among various ethnic groups in Khuzestan."
BAFS spokeman Nasser Ban-Assad said: "Islam believes that all are equal, regardless of race, nationality or language. So why is it that in Khuzestan, where Arabs are the largest ethnic group, there are no Arab Friday imams in the largest cities: Ahwaz City, Khorramshahr and Abadan? Why does the Islamic Republic ban Arabic newspapers and deny Arabs the right to watch Arabic television? The regime is fundamentally anti-Arab; it does not believe in equality but ethnic Persian supremacy."
Arabs are faced with discrimination in both the public and private sector. Khuzestan's commerce, services and industrial sectors are mainly in the hands of non-Arabs. Of the top 25 governmental positions, only two or three are Arabs. This 10-15% ratio of Arabs to non-Arabs in the Ahwaz City administration drops to less than 5% at the provincial level. This means that 70% of the population of Khuzestan (the Arabs) holds less than 5% of the key and important governmental positions.
"The Ahwazi Arabs have no problem with Iranians from other ethnic groups," said Ban-Assad. "They don't want disharmony, they want equality. Last month's uprising was not communal violence but a revolt against the injustices perpetrated by a violent, greedy and racist government. It was a revolt against a tyranny that uses religion as a tool of oppression for its own survival."