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History of Khuzestan (part 1)

the province of khuzestan

The province of Khuzestan is one of the centers of ancient civilization, based around Susa. French archeologists such as Jaques De Morgan date the civilization here as far back as 8000 BCE when excavating areas such as Tal-e Ali Kosh. The first large scale empire based here was that of the powerful 4th millennium BCE Elamites, a non-Semitic kingdom independent of Mesopotamia. Archeological ruins verify the entire province of Khuzestan to be home to the Elamite civilization.

In previous ages, Iranians referred to Khuzestan as Elam; and historically historians refer to this province as ancient Elam, whose capital was in Susa.

Khuzestan is the most ancient Iranian province and is often referred to Iran as the ‘birthplace of the nation’, as this is the area where Aryan tribes first settled, assimilating the native Elamite population, and thus laying the foundation for the future Persian Empires of Median, Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid.

In 640 BCE, the Elamites were defeated by Ashurbanipal coming under the rule of the Assyrians who wrought destruction upon Susa and Chogha Zanbil. But in 538 BCE Cyrus the Great was able to re-conquer the Elamite lands. The city of Susa was then proclaimed as one of the Achaemenian capitals. Darius the Great then erected a grand palace known as Hadish there in 521 BCE. But this astonishing period of glory and splendor of the Achaemenian dynasty came to an end by the invasion of Alexander of Macedon. And after Alexander, the Seleucid dynasty ruled the area.

As the Seleucid dynasty weakened, Mehrdad I the Parthian (171-137 BCE), gained victory over the region. During the Sassanid dynasty this area thrived tremendously and flourished, and this dynasty was responsible for the many constructions that were erected in Ahvaz, Shushtar and Andimeshk.

The intellectual center or city of Sassanid Empire was Jondishapour (or Gundishapur), founded in 271 CE, by Shapur I, one of the most powerful rulers of the Sassanid dynasty, in Khuzestan near Ahvaz and not far from the Karun River. Gundishapur was home to the world's oldest known teaching hospital, and also comprised a library and a university. According to ‘The Cambridge History of Iran (vol 4, p396.)’, it was the most important medical center of the ancient world (defined as Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East) during the 6th and 7th centuries.

windmill in shushtar

Jondishapour medical center was the Mecca of its time, and used to attract the distinguished medical scientists from Greece, Egypt, India, and Rome, shows the importance and prosperity of this region during ancient times.

Jondishapour (or Gundishapur) Academy offered training not only in medicine but also in philosophy, theology and science. The faculties were versed not only in the Zoroastrian and Persian traditions, but in Greek and Indian learning as well

In 639 CE, Arabs Muslims, under the command of Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari from Basra, invaded Khuzestan and drove the Persian Hormozan out of Ahvaz. Susa fell in two days, so Hormozan fled to Shushtar where his forces were besieged by Arab invaders for 18 months. Shushtar finally fell in 642 CE, and Arab invaders purged the entire Nestorian population of the city along with the Bishop of Hormizd There after followed the conquests of Jondishapour and of many other districts of Kuzestan. The battle of Nehavand finally secured Khuzestan for the Muslim invaders.

The Arab settlements, by military garrisons in southern Iran, were soon followed by other types of colonization. Some Arab families, for example, took the opportunity to gain control of private estates. Like the rest of Iran, the Arab invasion thus brought Khuzestan under occupation of the Arabs Muslims of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, until Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, from Sistan on the eastern part of 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 1440 CE an Arab extremist Shi'a sect, Mshashaiya, initiated a wave of attacks on Khuzestan, leading to a gradual increase in the Arab population of Khuzestan. From the middle of the 15th century to the 19th century, they came to dominate much of western Khuzestan and were in continual conflict with the Safavid rulers during the reign of that dynasty, as well as with Iranian Arab tribes. In the latter part of the 16th century, the Bani Kaab, from Kuwait, settled in Khuzestan. 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).

In the mid 1800s Britain initiated a war with Iran in a failed attempt to conquer Khuzestan. Having lost, the British continued in their attempts to wrest control of the province by supporting a number of foreign Arab tribes that had invaded Iran. Sheikh Khaz'al, of Kuwaiti origin, was the ruler of the last remnants of these tribes, who was the first person to launch secessionist unrests in Khuzestan.

Sheikh Khaz'al rose to power in 1897 and had originally been supported by the British colonialists. He was finally defeated and arrested in 1925 by Reza Shah of Pahlavi and the area of Khuzestan he had dominated returned to the province.

suspension bridge

Reza Shah Pahlavi, however, restored the original name of the province from Arabistan to Khuzestan.

Other links:

The province of Kermanshah

History and Culture, Kermanshah

Province of Kurdistan

The Province of West Azarbaijan

Province of East Azarbaijan

Province of Qazvin

The Province of Markazi

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