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Khuzestan is one of the 30 provinces of Iran. It is in the south-west of the country, bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Its center is Ahvaz. Other major cities include Behbahan , Abadan, Khorramshahr, Bandar Imam , Dezful, and Shushtar . Khuzestan is the major oil-producing region of Iran, and as such is the wealthiest province in Iran, though this wealth does not benefit the average citizen.
Historically Khuzestan is what historians refer to as the ancient Elamite Empire, whose capital was in Susa, and in previous ages, Iranians referred to this province as Elam. The Old Persian term for Elam was Hujiyā, which is present in the modern name. Khuzestan is the most ancient Iranian province and is often referred to in 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 empires of Persia, Media, and Parthia. These three empires ultimately came to be united under Cyrus the Great, forming the Persian Empire.
Khuzestan is also where Jondishapour was located.
Struggle over the province
Control of Khuzestan was Saddam Hussein's primary strategic objective during the Iran-Iraq War, which forced thousands of the ethnic Persian majority to flee the province. During the Iran-Iraq War huge numbers of Iraqi Shi'a Arab refugees settled in Khuzestan, and today they are said to form a significant percentage of the overall population, mostly residing in the rural areas. The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran does not conduct any official census, 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. Of all the cities in Khuzestan, Khorramshahr was the only one to have been almost completely decimated as a result of Saddam's scorched earth policy. Fortunately, Iranian forces were able to prevent the Iraqis from attempting to spread the execution this policy to other major urban centres.
The Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980 was a terrorist siege of the Iranian Embassy in London initiated by Arab separatists. Initially it emerged the terrorists wanted autonomy for Khuzestan; later they demanded the release of 91 of their comrades held in Iranian jails. Arab separatists supported Saddam's forces in attacking both Persian Iranian soldiers and civilians, in what could be considered an attempt at an ethnic cleansing of the Persian Khuzestani majority, despite the fact that the majority of the Arab Khuzestani population were loyal to Iran and fought alongside Persian Iranians against Saddam. After the withdrawal of Iraqi forces towards the end of the war, the remainder of Arab separatists fled to Iraq, though Saddam continued to entertain the notion of a potential future invasion of Khuzestan for many years afterwards. Due to the collapse of Saddam's regime in 2003 and the election of a pro-Iranian government in Iraq in 2005, it is unlikely that this is ever likely to happen.
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