The Arab-Iranian Disputes and their Ignition to Racism

The disputes between Iran and its Arab neighbors impose behaviors tainted by racism, which is not limited to ordinary citizens, but incorporate a large portion of the elite and sometime fueled by state politics. These racist behaviors are circulating around quickly by the absence of law that punishes such acts in a country that holds a broad patrimony of disputes and discords with its neighbors. 

Akbar Abdi, a well-known comedian actor, has recently raised one of these racial chauvinisms during a live program in a state television. He mentioned a trip with his family to Hajj in which he responded to an Arab man who requested to get his son engaged to his daughter by saying: If I equaled my daughter with Gold, I would not equal Arabs, you or your son with Persian garbage.”

These remarks have sparked an overarching movement via social networks between supporters and otherwise. His supporters stated that he merely expressed his “Iranian national feelings” toward Arabs, whilst the rest accused him of promoting Anti-Arabism and racism. 

It wasn’t the only remark out there that came up against Arabs, but they had been repeated frequently. Last August, Behzad Pax released an album licensed by the Ministry of Culture under the title, “Arab Killer”, in which he addressed Arabs with descriptions such as “Locust Eaters” and invoked the spirit of King Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire because his country is facing “The Threat of Arabs”. He also vowed to kill Arabs because that what the lyrics of the song meant.

Such acts are repeated and escalated every time the disputes between Iran and Arabs came up with regards to diverse issues. The most notable one in the current affairs is the on-going struggle in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. The Iranian regime makes a stand against most of the Arab countries of the Middle East amidst the conflict. In fact, it participates directly in the conflict where sometimes funerals for the dead members of the Revolutionary Guards are held from time to time and the last one was the funeral of General Hussain Hamadani who was killed in Syria.

Historical Resentment

The feeling of revulsion against Arab has a different outlook when it comes to the opposition parties, who point the fingers toward the regime that adopts the Islamic Ideology born from its source, the Arabian Peninsula. 

Such feelings became rampant between the secular elite affected by the national clime during the reign of Pahlavi Dynasty (1925 – 1979). When Shah Reza Pahlavi built the foundation of the modern state, he sought it to be focused on the basis of Persian Nationalism and combating any manifestation of any other identities, including Arabs, Turks, Turkmen, Kurds, and Baluchis under the logo of “One County, One Culture, One Language.” The Persian patriotic feelings evolved during the reign of Mohammed Reza Shah (the son) who considered the Aryan race to be the pillar of his tenants. His overthrow during the Iranian Revolution in February 1979 is considered to some of the opposition leaders to be the collapse of a throne that has ideologies derived from the Arabs.

This has developed among a significant segment of the young generation after the revolution and especially those dissidents and dissatisfied by the regime’s performance. They are fueled by anger because of freedom’s restriction and feelings of nostalgia and the glories of their ancestors and legends regarding their hate against Arab. This promoted a large number of writers and poets to paint an Image of “foul and ugly” Arab versus “beautiful and creative” Persian.

Among these writers were Fateh Ali Akhundzada and Agha Khan Kermani, Mohammad Ali Jamal Zadeh and Sadegh Hedayat. The latter was one of the most prominent writers; his writings catch and inspire the young minds. He poured his feelings of hatred against Arabs. In his book Parvin Dokhtor Sasan, he visualizes the rape of his heroine, Sasan, at the hands of a “Savage Arabs”. He also describes a prostitute pretending to follow the teachings of “Arab Religion” in reference to Islam.

In spite of that, the antagonism against the Arabs in Iran is justified; on the other side of the Arab world, there are many issues reflected against the Persians and are considered the basis of problems, and that include the Arab positions that oppose the achievements of the Iranian regime, such as the nuclear deal, which came at the height of the accusations against Iran and its meddling in the Arab affairs. It would mean that Iran could support its regional allies with money and men.

Ahvas: First Victim

The legitimate acts of racism and manifestations of hostility against the Arabs directly affected Alohoazions before throwing them outside the borders of the state, because they spoke the Persian language and suffered from such behavior in the different facets of life within the country.

Based on the recent remarks of the actor, Akbar Abdi, Arab activists have launched a civil campaign against him via social networks that has the mark of “I am Arab” by sharing images of people in traditional clothing. It was launched in Farsi to address the Persian people. This move quickly set the motion and has been met with responses, including Akbar Abdi who apologized to Alohoazions saying he did not have an idea that that broadcast was live. 

The reactions of this event made plenty of Iranians re-think the concept of racism and the behaviors that carries hatred against the other especially that some people commit such behaviors unknowingly for they were influenced by the saturated historical, literary and political legacy between Arabs and Persians. Therefore, imposing laws that criminalize racist behavior has become necessary; it would help reduce the phenomenon, which began one day and might carry on forever.

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