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 History

 
 

o Pre-Islamic History:

The province of Khouzestan is one of the centers of ancient civilization, based around Susa. The first large scale empire based here was that of the powerful 4th millennium BC Elamites.
Archeological ruins verify the entire province of Khouzestan to be home to the Elamite civilization, a non-Semitic, and non-Indo-European-speaking kingdom, and "the earliest civilization of Persia".
The name Khouzestan is derived from the Elamites (Uvja). In fact the Elamites were "the founders of the first Iranian empire in the geographic sense." Hence the central geopolitical significance of Khouzestan, the seat of Iran's first empire.
In 640 BC, the Elamites were defeated by Ashurbanipal coming under the rule of the Assyrians who brought destruction upon Susa and Chogha Zanbil. But in 538 BC Cyrus the Great was able to re-conquer the Elamite lands. The city of Susa was then proclaimed as one of the Achaemenid capitals. Darius the Great then erected a grand palace known as Apadana there in 521 BC. But this astonishing period of glory and splendor of the Achaemenian dynasty came to an end by the conquests of Alexander of Macedon. And after Alexander, the Seleucid dynasty ruled the area.
During the early years of the reign of Shapur II (A.D. 309 or 310-379), Arabs crossed the Persian Gulf from Bahrain to "Ardashir-Khora" of Fars and raided the interior. In retaliation, Shapur II led an expedition through Bahrain, defeated the combined forces of the Arab tribes of "Taghleb", "Bakr bin Wael", and "Abd Al-Qays" and advanced temporarily into Yamama in central Najd. The Sassanids resettled these tribes in Kerman and Ahwaz. Arabs named Shapur II, as "Shabur Dhul-akt?f" after this battle.
The existence of prominent scientific and cultural centers such as Academy of Gundishapur which gathered distinguished medical scientists from Egypt, Greece, India, and Rome, shows the importance and prosperity of this region during this era. The School was founded by the order of Shapur I. It was repaired and restored by Shapur II (a.k.a. Zol-Aktaf: "The Possessor of Shoulder Blades") and was completed and expanded during the reign of Anushirvan.

o The Arab Conquest of Khouzestan

The Arab invasion of Khouzestan took place in 639 AD under the command of Abu Musa al-Ash'arifrom Basra, who drove the Persian Hormozan out of Ahwaz. Susa later fell, so Hormozan fled toShushtar. There his forces were besieged by Abu Musa for 18 months. Shushtar finally fell in 642 AD; the Khuzistan Chronicle records that a unknown Arab living in the city befriended a man in the army, and dug tunnels through the wall in return for a third of the spoil. The Basrans purged the Nestorians - the Exegete of the city and the Bishop of Hormizd, and all their students - but kept Hormozan alive.
There followed the conquests of Jondishapoor and of many other districts along the Tigris. The battle of Nehavand finally secured Khouzestan for the Muslim armies.
In the Umayyad period, large groups of nomads from the Hanifa, Bani Tamim, and Abd al-Qays tribes crossed the Persian Gulf and occupied some of the richest Basran territories around Ahwaz and in Fars during the second Islamic civil war in 661-665/680-684 A.D.
In the past eighty years, except during the Iran-Iraq war, the province of Khouzestan thrived and prospered and today accounts for one of the regions in Iran that holds an economic and defensive strategic position.

o The Iran-Iraq war

Prior to 1925, although nominally part of Iranian territory, the area functioned for many years effectively as an autonomous emirate known as "Arabistan". The emirate was dissolved by Reza Shah Government, along with other autonomous regions of Persia, in a bid to centralize the state. The old, historic name of 'Khuzistan' came to be applied once again to the entire territory by 1936.
Being on the border with Iraq, Khouzestan suffered the heaviest damage of all Iranian provinces during the Iran-Iraq war (1980–1988). What used to be Iran's largest refinery at Abadan was destroyed, never to fully recover. Many of the famous nakhlestans (palm groves) were annihilated, cities were destroyed, historical sites were demolished, and nearly half the province went under the boots of Saddam's invading army. This created a mass exodus into other provinces that did not have the logistical capability of taking in such a large number of refugees.
However, by 1982, Iranian forces managed to push Saddam's forces back into Iraq. The battle of "the Liberation of Khorramshahr" (one of Khouzestan's largest cities and the most important Iranian port prior to the war) was a turning point in the war, and is officially celebrated every year in Iran.

o Struggle over the province

Saddam Hussein attempted to control Khouzestan during the Iran-Iraq war, which forced thousands of Iranians to flee the province. He claimed Khouzestan belonged to Iraq because of the large number of Arabic speaking persons in that province.
The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran does not conduct any official ethnic census in Iran, thus it is difficult to determine the exact demographics. Beginning in the early nineties, many ethnic Persian Khouzestanis began returning to the province, a trend which continues to this day as the major urban centers are being rebuilt and restored. Restoration has been slow due to neglect by the regime of the Islamic Republic. The city of Khorramshahr was almost completely destroyed as a result of Saddam's scorched earth policy. Fortunately, Iranian forces were able to prevent the Iraqis from attempting to spread the execution of this policy to other major urban centers.
The Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980 was a siege of the Iranian Embassy in London initiated by an Arab separatist group. Initially it emerged the terrorists wanted autonomy for Khouzestan; later they demanded the release of 91 of their comrades held in Iranian jails. The group which claimed responsibility for the siege- the Arab Popular Movement in Arabistan- gave a number of press conferences in the following months, referring to what it described as "the racist rule of Khomeini". It threatened further international action as part of its campaign to gain self- rule for Khouzestan. But its links with Baghdad served to undermine its argument that it was a purely Iranian opposition group; there were allegations that it was backed by Iran's regional rival, Iraq. Their leader ("Salim" - Awn Ali Mohammed) along with four other members of the group were killed and the fifth member, Fowzi Badavi Nejad, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Iran National Heritage Organization lists 140 sites of historical and cultural significance in Khouzestan, reflecting the fact that the province was once the seat of Iran's most ancient empire.
Some of the more popular sites of attraction include:

  • Choqa Zanbil: The seat of the Elamite Empire, this ziggurat is a magnificent five-story temple that is one of the greatest ancient monuments in the Middle-East today. The monolith, with its labyrinthine walls made of thousands of large bricks with Elamite inscription, manifest the sheer antiquity of the shrine. The temple was religiously sacred and built in the honor ofInshushinak, the protector deity of the city of Susa.
  • Shush-Daniel: Burial site of the Jewish prophet Daniel. He is said to have died in Susa on his way to Jerusalem upon the order of Darius. The grave of Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, who rose against the oppression of the Umayyad Caliphate, is also located nearby.
  • Dezful (Dezh-pol), whose name is taken from a bridge (pol) over the Dez river having 12 spans built by the order of Shapur I. This is the same bridge that was called "Andamesh Bridge" by historians such as Istakhri who says the city of Andimeshk takes its name from this bridge.Muqaddasi called it "The City of the Bridge."
  • Shushtar, Home to the famous Shushtar Watermills andone of the oldest fortress cities in Iran, known as the "City of Forty Elders" in local dialect. In and around Shushtar, there are many displays of ancient hydraulic engineering. There are also the Band Mizan and Band Qeysar, 2000 year old dams on the Karoun river and the famous Shadervan Bridge which is over 2000 years old.The Friday Mosque of Shushtar was built by the Abbasids. The mosque, which features "Roman" arches, has 54 pillars and balconies.
  • Izeh, or Izaj, was one of the main targets of the invading Islamic army in their conquest of Persia. Kharezad Bridge, one of the strangest bridges of the world, is situated in this city and was named after Ardeshir Babakan's mother. It is built over cast pillars of lead each 104 meters high. Ibn Battuta, who visited the city in the 14th century, refers to many monasteries, caravanserais, aqueducts, schools, and fortresses in the town. The brass statue of The Parthian Man, kept at the National Museum of Iran, is from here.
  • Masjed Soleiman, another ancient town, has ancient fire altars and temples such as Sar-masjed and Bard-neshondeh. It is also the winter's resting area of the Bakhtiari tribe, and where William Knox D'Arcy dug Iran's first oil well.
  • Abadan is said to be where the tomb of Elias, the long lived Hebrew prophet is.
  • Iwan of Hermes, and Iwan of Karkheh, two enigmatic ruins north of Susa.

 

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