Rafsanjani and the other half of Iran

Since the announcement of Hashemi Rafsanjani’s death, there have been various analyses regarding his role in the arena of Iranian politics. However, there has been little spoken about his political involvement in policies perpetrated against the other half of Iran’s population: non-Persians. 

We have seen this ignorance specifically from the Persian dominated media, such as BBC Persian which provided extensive and in-depth coverage of Hashemi Rafsanjani’s political prospects without bringing to the discussion any points concerning his denial regarding other ethnic groups in Iran.
Unfortunately, most political analysis has shown a great deal of variation in their views about Hashemi Rafsanjani’s political roles within the regime, evaluating his competence. However, in other non-Persian criteria, his political accomplishments have been exceptionally bad.
I’m here to point out few of Rafsanjani’s policies and strategies toward the other half of the Iranian nation: the non-Persians:

Even after transitions in his political power and roles within the regime, we have not seen any considerable progression or evolution in his views towards the non-Persian dilemma in Iran, and his point of view has remained in-line with the regime’s main agendas.
Rafsanjani always had a negative view towards non-Persian people and this stemmed from the predominance of his Persian-Shia mentality. Therefore, most Persian reformists, intellectuals and nationalists praised him despite the fact that he was an assassin and disregarding his involvement in atrocious activities during his reign.
His racial prejudice is predominately evident when he acts in a subjective manner towards his hometown, Kerman.
Statistics published by Deemaj magazine in Khatami’s era showed how Rafsanjani has invested in Kerman 300 times more than all the Turks residents’ provinces in North Iran.
He did not believe in the equal rights of all Iranian ethnic groups and essentially he didn’t want to make any changes in the composition of the political system that has been inherited from the Reza Shah era.
Unlike Khatami and   Hassan Rouhani, who at least orally have expressed the necessity of implementing Article 15 of the Iranian constitution, which allows teaching in other languages than Persian in national schools, Rafsanjani never addressed this requirement.  For this reason, he was faced with great outrage and widespread dissatisfaction by Turkish students and human rights activists when he visited their province. He certainly was one of those Islamic regime’s partners who was deeply involved in cracking down the Turks’ movement under Ayatollah Sharit Madari’s leadership.
Rafsanjani’s bloody claws are far crueler on the Kurdish people than on any other ethnic group in Iran.  The repression of the Kurdish movement in the beginning of 1980’s is not unknown, where Kurdistan served as a shelter for other opposition groups. At that time, Rafsanjani was second in command of the Iranian armed forces.  He was heavily involved and responsible in terrorizing Kurdish leaders and other Kurdish diaspora cadres in Europe. Those who were assassinated by the regime include: Abdulrahman Ghasemlou, KDPI leader and his successor Sadegh Sharafkindi. Interestingly, Ghasemlou was victim of his trust and over-confidence in Rafsanjani’s envoys.
Both Turks and Kurds have opposed Rafsanjani’s discriminatory policies and this eventually resulted in the people rejecting him as a presidential candidate, refusing to vote for him. In 1993, during the 6th presidential election and despite the repressive atmosphere prevailing in the country, the majority of the Kurdish voters have voted in favour of Ahmad Tavakoli; Rafsanjani’s rival, as sign of dissatisfaction with Rafsanjani. He also received the least votes from Ahwazi-Arabs during the 2005 election.
During the 9th presidential elections in 2005, the majority of Iranian-Turks have voted in favour of Mohsen Alizadeh, Dr Moein and Karooubi; Rafsanjani’s political rivals.
Rafsanjani was responsible for the revival of the Shah’s sugar cane project in the Arabs’ land in Al Ahwaz (Khuzestan). This project, which has had immense, devastating impact on the Ahwazi-Arabs’ lives and on the province’s ecosystem, was initially rejected by many economic experts as a cost effective project to deploy. It was merely a political project against Ahwazi-Arabs, aimed at confiscating the lands of thousands of Ahwazi villagers who were living on the banks  of Karoon River, from Shushter  to Mohammareh (Khoramshahr). Rafsanjani himself admitted to the political intention of this project.
The project, which was approved and implemented during the period of his presidency, has caused conflicts between Ahwazi Arabs, who inherited their lands from their ancestors, and the Iranian regime security forces, leaving dozens killed or wounded. Rafsanjani’s intention was to change the texture of the Al Ahwaz region from Arab-dominated in favour of non-Arab incomers. This policy remained after the period of his presidency.
Rafsanjani, on two occasions at least, falsely claimed that the names of Al Ahwaz (Arabistan) and other cities are different than their historical and original Arabic names. He claimed Khuzestan is true name of the region, instead of Arabistan, to which I have responded to him in 2001. The Centre for Anti-Racism Organisation in Iran has also responded in 2015 to the same claim.
He was involved in the construction and had set up the plan of building dozens of dams on the Karoon River, the arterial river of the province, which eventually led to reduction in the water level of the Karoon. He was also the first official person who stressed the necessity of diverting water from the Karoon to the other provinces such as Kerman and Isfahan. His role in brutal suppression of the Mohammareh uprising and the exile of Ayatollah Mohammad Taher Shobir Khaghani; an Ahwazi spiritual leader, in April and May 1979, is no secret to the public.
Rafsanjani is held accountable for his insistence on the continuation of the war with Iraq, which eventually resulted in more casualties and destruction on Al Ahwaz, in which the province received the bulk of the negative effects of this disastrous war. He served as Iran’s highest armed forces commander for eight years at that time, and by continuing the war he tried to satisfy his racial hatred towards Arabs.
In fact, his religious bigotry against Kurdish Sunni demands and his racial bigotry against the Ahwazi-Arabs and Turks regarding their human rights are clearly noticeable.

By Yousef Azizi

Ahwaz Monitor

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