A province in southwestern Iran with its capital at Ahvaz.
The Iranian province of Khuzistan is in a fertile southwestern region of alluvial plains made by two
rivers, the Karkheh and Karun. It is situated between the Zagros Mountains and the sea. On the north Khuzistan borders Lorestan (Luristan) province; on the south, the Persian Gulf. The Iran-Iraq border forms the western part of its boundaries, and on the east lies the Hindiya or Hindijan River.
Khuzistan's climate is hot and very humid in the summer due to a lack of altitude—averaging only 10 meters (33 feet) and in the south and 100 meters (328 feet) in the central parts of the region; the southerly inclination of the land (which makes it susceptible to maximum effects of the sun); the hot winds from the Syrian Desert and Saudi Arabia; and the lack of snow-covered mountains, forests, or open water to ease the effect of these winds. In spite of its heat and humidity, Khuzistan has always been amply provided with water by the Karkheh, Diz, and Karun rivers, and noted from earliest times for its prosperity. Thriving agriculture produces plentiful grain, rice, sugarcane, citrus fruits, melons, and dates, as well as cotton. The Persian Gulf provides abundant seafood.
Arabs form a substantial portion of the Khuzistani population. The local Arab Shiʿite dynasty of the Mushaʿsha (who established their rule in the region for a short period in the fifteenth century and acted as powerful governors of the region until the nineteenth century), and other Arab tribes such as the Banu Kaʿb and Banu Lam (who immigrated from Arabia and the lower course of the Tigris in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), generally referred to the region as Arabistan, especially the western parts of the province. In 1925, under Reza Shah Pahlavi, the ancient name of the region, Khuzistan, was established as the official, legal name.
The prosperity of Khuzistan declined after the eighteenth century primarily beause of Iranian–Arab hostility, damage to agriculture by migrations and nomadism, raiding of trade caravans (especially by the Banu Lam), and lack of central authority. Prosperity returned to Khuzistan in the twentieth century because of various factors: the discovery of oil at Masjed Soleyman in 1908; the construction and growth of the Abadan oil refinery by the 1950s; the construction of the Trans-Iranian railway in 1938; the 1962 construction of the Muhammad Reza Pahlavi Dam on the Diz River (which provided the
region not only with hydroelectricity but also with water for market gardening and other agricultural projects on a large scale); the development of the natural-gas industry (which exported 28 billion cubic feet of natural gas to the U.S.S.R. in 1973); and the development of Khorramshahr as one of the major ports of entry on the Persian Gulf. The Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988) was largely fought in Khuzistan, causing extensive damage. According to the 1996 census, the population of the province was 3,746,772.