In the late 1960s when the concept of “development” and “economic take-off” was all the rage in academic and media circles, many experts insisted that the so-called “developing nations” needed to showcase at least part of their territory as a model for progress and an inspiration for modernization.
Being one of those so-called “developing nations” Iran, under the Shah, chose its southwestern province Khuzestan as that showcase.
The choice wasn’t difficult. For, Khuzestan was a resource-rich province and already dotted with some of the modern infrastructures that other provinces had to wait a decade or more to acquire. Thanks to the oil industry, Khuzestan was the first province to have a modern electricity generating system and piped water in most of its cities, at least 20 years before the capital Tehran did. The province was also the hub of Iran’s sole railway network, the famous Trans-Iranian which connected it to the Caspian Sea via Tehran.
Because the oil industry offered a large number of comparatively well-paid jobs, the province attracted migrants from all over Iran; in fact, apart from Tehran, it was the only part of Iran that served as magnet for young rural Iranians looking for a better life in urban centers.
Thanks to its abundant water resources and fertile plains, Khuzestan was also something of a breadbasket for the rest of the country.