On the day of the memorial of their death, the Ahwazi people stand silent in tribute to the martyrdom of the unforgettable teachers, Hashem Shabani and Hadi Rashedi, who sacrificed their lives for the plight of AL- Ahwaz.
Hashem and Hadi were both renowned as Ahwazi educators of great intellectual integrity who believed in their own people and the justness of the Al -Ahwaz cause. They wasted no opportunity to defend their people and try to reduce their relentless grievances under the Iranian regime.Through their hard work in promoting the Ahwazi cultural and social activities, Hashem and Hadi have left significant imprints on the history of the struggle of the Ahwazi people. They gained sympathy through their peaceful approach to the struggle, which won them great respect from Ahwazi Arab nation.
Their liberal ideas and the prevailing circumstances of repression inside Iran, made them want to find a way to open dialogue with the other peoples of Iran, to let them know what a great people the Ahwazi Arabs were. To this end they started establishing a foundation they called ‘Al-Hewar’, meaning ‘dialogue’.While focusing on the concerns and suffering of their own people, they also held to noble universal human principles which refuse to succumb in the face of injustice and tyranny.
One of Shabani’s students, Rahim Hamid, himself an Ahwazi activist, remembers how insistent Hashem was on the value of education and stressed the importance of finding ways to raise the level of understanding between people in order to gain more and more knowledge. Both Hashem and Hadi are shining examples of activists who combine thought and action.
In an interview with Ahwaz Monitor Rahim Hamid who based in the USA, said “today is the memory of my two teachers Hashem Shabani and Hadi Rashedi who were executed on 27 January 2014. I do not know how I can express my true feelings about my teachers, despite the passing of three years since their execution.” “My teachers taught a timeless lesson of freedom”. “I could not believe it then, and am still in shock since received the regretful news that the Supreme Court of Iran confirmed death sentences against them and my eyes were filled with tears about their fate when I heard about the news because I was truly sure they had done nothing wrong and they had nothing to do with the fake and baseless charges which were imposed on them”. “They were convicted to death on charges of Moharebeh (“waging war on God”), sowing corruption on earth, acting against national security, and spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. “My teacher Hashem always stressed the crucial importance to all his students of education as the most powerful means to raise awareness of Ahwazis’ plight domestically and internationally. The pen is far stronger than any bullet in penetrating the walls of oppression and reaching the rest of the globe, he told us. The Iranian regime, terrified of this message of freedom and education, could not tolerate such courage and executed him along with Hadi Rashedi three years ago, on January 27, 2014”. “As an ex-student how could I forget and deny my teachers’ efforts, who put themselves at the service of other Ahwazi Arab students like myself, disadvantaged and deprived high school students most of them from remote rural areas. They dedicated their efforts to our education from the bottom of their hearts and never felt tired of teaching us”.
“I dare to say that I have never ever seen such honest and kind-hearted teachers in my life. I still vividly remember that sometimes I had gotten sick but I would not absent myself from school because my classmates and I were really attached to our teachers. Believe me, they treated us like a real father and whenever we faced financial problems they supported us.”
“They were generous and high-spirited teachers and helped all the students by providing various complementary teaching books to them so that the student would be able to pass the university entrance exam”. “Additionally, they helped me and my ex-classmates emotionally and treated us with friendship. How much I would love to be able to describe my adoring teachers with the words that they deserve, but my words are not enough to draw the real and beautiful pictures of what they have done for the students of Khalafiya city”. “They had a pure and peaceful mind and always encouraged us to study hard and look toward a bright future, despite the fact that most of the students were poor. They never let them down and helped their students in every way possible”. “Hashem and Hadi both executed, both were lovers of freedom. They have written beautiful letters just before the end, their vision was clear and their words were strong as they plant seeds of ‘awareness’ to grow into the blooms of Freedom for their beloved Ahwazi Arab people in the future.”
Hashem Shabani, the thinker and intellectual, symbolises the spirit of the Ahwazis who fight for freedom and justice. Although he knew the Iranian regime is drowned in tyranny and theocratic bigotry, controlling Iran since 1979 with violence and horror, he still set up a dialogue with the aim of rejecting confrontation with the regime and ultimately preventing hurt to his own people. The regime’s atrocities against the oppressed Ahwaz nation in Iran are well known, including, but not limited to, depriving Ahwazis from studying in their mother tongue, preventing them from getting good jobs, providing inadequate healthcare, allowing and encouraging the pollution of the Ahwazi air and water supply and much more. As part of this oppression, the death penalty was introduced to silence any criticism of the system. Hashem and Hadi were among those Ahwazis faced with this inhumane treatment by the Iranian regime, which has a long history of mass executions and eradicating any opponents to maintain its control, built on horror and fear.
This regime will not and cannot renew or reform itself as its hands are stained beyond redemption with the blood of innocent people. Due to its phobia of the opposition it has itself created inside Iran, the regime is afraid of everything that moves and any dissent in any region of the country, be it reformist students, a religious movement, or sick Ahwazis wanting better health care, is considered a threat to the regime and treated with ruthlessness.
It is worth mentioning that the arrival of social media has made a huge difference to the nature of activism, as it is now much easier for activists to promote, share and disseminate their ideas and information from their homes, rather than the traditional methods, such as going out and writing graffiti on walls. This increases the fear felt by dictatorial regimes such as Iran, which leads to them cracking down even harder to identify, arrest and execute their opponents. This is a sign of weakness, not of strength.
Hashem and Hadi’s lives and deaths have revealed the true appalling face of the regime and how freedom fighters in Iran are treated. Their deaths, and those of their fellow activists, do not represent just a fleeting moment in our history, but will be a milestone in the case of Ahwaz and a starting point for an increased sense of legitimacy in the struggle of AL- Ahwaz. The following are selections of last letter of Hashem Shabani from prison, published before his execution, and translated here into English:
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued humanitarian support and efforts to speak up for the suffocated voices of my people, and for seeking righteousness, for confronting the wickedness that is dressed up in fascinating images to hide its intentions, and which serves as nothing but a diversion, far from reality and blurring the truth.”
“I must thank you again for exposing the evil hands that have for years endeavored to erase beautiful words, turning them into a fateful poison for us.”
“I started my journey wielding my pen against the tyranny that is trying to enslave and imprison minds and thoughts, colonizing peoples’ minds before colonizing their lands, and destroying peoples’ thoughts before destroying their region.”
“I have tried to remove the obstacles that divided the street (the public eye) from the truth, forcing upon people illusions crafted by tyrants to design a life according to their will. When the tyrants’ hands spilled my ink, a single word came to light in my texts, provoking rage and hatred in the hearts of those men who thrive through spreading darkness. The word is “awareness”. I have been defending and supporting the legitimate rights of all peoples in the world, the right to live and enjoy freedom and civil rights. Despite so much suffering and misery, I have not raised a weapon to fight against the oppression that my Ahwazi people are going through. I have not spilled the blood of any human being. I have only spilled the ink of my humble pen to fight against injustice and oppression.”
Their martyrdom will expose their killers and bring the regime of Iran to justice for the crimes they have committed against humanity. But, they not only belong to the Ahwaz cause, they also belong to the freedom family and liberation movements around the world, due to the globalisation of freedom and human rights.
In commemorating them, we remember their aims and objectives and their people will be proud of them and will follow their ways until the day dawns on freedom and Justice for Ahwaz.
By Rahim Hamid and Yasser Assadi
Note: The views expressed in this article are belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Ahwaz Monitor.