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Erasing History in Ahwaz: The State-Sponsored Destruction of Heritage

"Ahwazna"

 There have been growing fears among the majority of Ahwazi Arab people in Al- Ahwaz region in south-western Iran that the Iranian regime is planning to demolish the palace of Sheikh Abdul Hamid Bin Khazaal in the city of Hamidieh, north of Ahwaz city that is one of the landmarks of Ahwazi cultural heritage.

This palace was built when Sheikh Khazaal bin Jaber, who ruled the Ahwaz region from Mohammareh between 1897 and 1925, made his eldest son and heir, Abdel Hamid, governor of the district of Ahwaz. Abdel Hamid built the city of Hamidieh, naming it after himself.

The Iranian regime has demolished a large number of historic sites in Ahwaz. Most of the palaces and government building dating back to the reign of Sheikh Khazaal have been completely demolished. The remaining sites are in danger of collapsing or being demolished, due to deliberate neglect by Iranian authorities.

Ahmed Al-Jaafari, an Ahwazi activist interested in heritage and historic sites, said that suspicious activity was taking place in the palace, the aim of which was to destroy the palace, which forms an integral part of the cultural heritage of the Ahwaz region.

He said, “Heavy vehicles arrive [at the palace] on a daily basis. Large parts of the palace have been damaged and the operation is in full swing. We are worried that this historic site will meet the same fate as other historic sites in Ahwaz, which have been damaged and destroyed.”

Al-Jaafari said that there was a memorandum of understanding between the Karkheh ve-Shauur irrigation company – which uses the palace as a storehouse for its heavy equipment and machinery – and the Heritage, Historic Sites, and Tourism Authority in Ahwaz. This memorandum was signed seven months ago and said that all heavy equipment and machinery should be removed from the palace immediately. It also said that the Heritage, Historic Sites, and Tourism Authority should take over the palace. However, the Karkheh ve-Shauur company is still using this palace as a storehouse amid silence from the Heritage Authority and its officials.

Al-Jaafari added that, “the area of the palace is eight hectares. It is made up of four buildings. Three of these have been damaged because of deliberate neglect by the company using it as a storehouse. In 2001, the Iranian state listed the palace as a historic site. This means that it should be administered by the Heritage Authority.”

Al-Jaafari called on the people of Ahwaz to unite in order to put pressure on the Karkheh ve-Shauur company to leave the palace and to demand that the Heritage Authority live up to its responsibility to protect the historic site.

There have been other cases of historic sites in Ahwaz being demolished by the Iranian regime. On 4 November 2010, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard blew up the Fayliyah Palace near Mohammareh,   which overlooks the Shatt al-Arab waterway. This palace was completely destroyed even though it was listed as a historic site by the Iranian regime, and theoretically protected by law.

In March last year, an Iranian from outside the Ahwaz region claimed ownership of the Sallah Palace (also known as Sarai al-Ajam) in the centre of Ahwaz city. He destroyed approximately 80% of the palace after receiving permission from the regime’s prosecutor-general in Ahwaz. If it was not for protests by the people of the city, he would have completely demolished the building.

Ahwazis believe that the destruction and demolition of historic sites is a systematic effort to suppress the Arab identity of the region and create the false impression that Ahwaz has always been part of Iran. Through the destruction of heritage, the Iranian regime seeks to erase the historical record and suppress the fact that the Ahwazi people once governed themselves.

 

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