The Arab Conquest of Khuzestan
The Arab invasion of Khuzestan took place in 639 AD under the command of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari from Basra, who drove the Persian "Hormozan" out of Ahvaz. Susa later fell, so Hormozan fled to Shushtar. There his forces were besieged by Abu Musa for 18 months. Shushtar finally fell in 642 AD; the "Khuzistan Chronicle" records that a Qatari 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. [Hoyland, Robert G., "Seeing Islam as Others Saw It", Darwin Press, 1998, ISBN 0-87850-125-8 p184]
There followed the conquests of Jondishapoor and of many other districts along the Tigris. The battle of Nehavand finally secured Khuzestan for the Muslim armies. [Encyclopedia Iranica, p.206]
It is interesting to notice that there was much cooperation between Sassanids and non-Muslim Arabs during the Muslim conquest period, which shows that those wars were not Arab vs. Persian, rather Muslim vs. non-Muslims. For instance in 633-634, Khaled ibn Walid leader of the Muslim Army, defeated a force of the Sassanids' Christian Arab auxiliaries from the tribes of "Bakr", "'Ejl", "Taghleb" and "Namer" at "'Ayn Al-Tamr". [Encyclopaedia Iranica, page 204, under "Arab conquest of Persia"]
The Arab settlements by military garrisons in southern Iran was soon followed by other types of colonization. Some Arab families, for example, took the opportunity to gain control of private estates. [Encyclopedia Iranica, p.212] . Like the rest of Iran, the Arab invasion thus brought Khuzestan under occupation of the Arabs of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, until Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, from southeastern Iran, raised the flag of independence once more, and ultimately regained control over Khuzestan, among other parts of Iran, founding the short-lived Saffarid dynasty. From that point on, Iranian dynasties would continue to rule the region in succession as an important part of Iran.
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 Ahvaz and in Fars during the second Islamic civil war in 661-665/680-684 A.D. [Encyclopaedia Iranica, p.215, under "Arab Tribes of Iran"] .
During the Abbassid period, in the second half of the 10th century, the "Assad" tribe, taking advantage of quarrels under the Buwayhids, penetrated into Khuzestan, where a group of "Tamim" had been living since pre-Islamic times.Factdate=February 2007 However, following the fall of the Abbassid dynasty, the flow of Arab immigrants into Persia gradually diminished, but it nonetheless continued.
In the latter part of the 16th century, the "Bani Kaab", from Kuwait, settled in Khuzestan. [See J.R. Perry, "The Banu Ka'b: An Amphibious Brigand State in Khuzestan", Le Monde Iranien et L'Islam I", 1971, p133] And during the succeeding centuries, many more Arab tribes moved from southern Iraq to Khuzestan, and as a result, Khuzestan became "extensively Arabized". [Encyclopedia Iranica, p216] . According to C.E. Bosworth in Encyclopedia Iranica, under the Qajar dynasty "the province was known, as in Safavid times, as Arabistan, and during the Qajar period was administratively a governor-generalate."
In the mid 1800s Britain initiated a war with Iran in a failed attempt to dominate Khuzestan. Tribal forces led by Sheikh Jabir al-Kaabi, the Sheikh of Mohammerah, had been vital in successfully defending the province. In the past eighty years, except during the Iran-Iraq war, the province of Khuzestan thrived and prospered and today accounts for one of the regions in Iran that holds an economic and defensive strategic position.
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 Khan with the aid of the british in 1925 and renamed 'Khuzestan' in 1936. Journal of Middle Eastern studies, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Aug., 1993), pp. 541-543]
The Iran-Iraq war
Being on the border with Iraq, Khuzestan 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 [See ] . 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 Khuzestan'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.
truggle over the province
Domination of Khuzestan was Saddam Hussein's primary strategic objective that launched the Iran-Iraq war, which forced thousands of Iranians to flee the 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 Khuzestanis began returning to the province, a trend which continues to this day as the major urban centres 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 centres.
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 Khuzestan; later they demanded the release of 91 of their comrades held in Iranian jails. [See:*BBC link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/uk/2000/iranian_embassy_siege/703016.stm*BBC link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/uk/2000/iranian_embassy_siege/720640.stm] 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 Khuzestan. 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. [BBC link: