March 7, 2007


Iran fires back at the West (Kimia Sanati , 3/08/07, Asia Times)

As a Shi'ite-majority country with several large ethnic groups such as the Kurds, Arabs and Balochs that follow the Sunni faith, Iran has for years been vulnerable to unrest, riots and terrorist attacks that officials routinely attribute to foreign powers. [...]

Ethnic conflict in Kordestan and in the Kurdish-populated cities of West Azarbaijan province in northwestern Iran date back to the days following the Islamic Revolution of 1978. In July 2005, pictures of the tortured body of a young Kurdish activist shot dead by government agents in Mahabad in northwestern Iran set off riots that quickly spread to other Kurdish cities in Kordestan and Oroumiyeh provinces. But these were quickly suppressed and more than a hundred Kurdish activists arrested.

"Kurds, many of them Sunnis, have been fighting for many years for their civil rights," a Kurdish journalist in Tehran said, asking not to be quoted by name. "Their ways are now becoming more civil-oriented rather than being a continuation of armed encounter with the central government as in the past. PJAK and Komele, both rather small leftist parties, still carry on with armed struggle, something that many other Kurdish rights activists now find irrelevant and useless.

"Freedom of expression and freedom to use our mother language in education are among the demands of the Kurdish people," he said. "There are several million Kurds in this country, but there is not one high-ranking Kurdish government official. It is next to impossible for a Kurd, especially a Sunni Kurd, to rise in rank to high positions.

"And elections are never free. There is a screening procedure, not only for Kurds or other minorities but for all citizens, that serves as a powerful tool to bar the opposition from entering elected bodies like the Parliament or city and village councils."

Shi'ite Azeris, Iran's largest ethnic minority, have their own issues too. Last May, a cartoon allegedly insulting to Azeri speakers that appeared in the official government gazette sparked demonstrations and riots in Tabriz, East Azarbaijan province, that quickly spread to other cities and towns and left several dead.

Khuzestan in southwestern Iran is another problem zone. Home to 2 million Arabs, the province has a huge share of Iran's oilfields. Badly damaged by the war between Iran and Iraq (1980-88), the province is one of the less developed regions of the country, and there have been several incidents of popular riots as well as terrorist bombings by Arab separatist groups in the past two years. The attacks, on oil pipelines and in urban areas, have brought about death and destruction, particularly in Ahwaz, the provincial capital.

"A total of 40 people were jailed in connection with bombings and 22 were sentenced to death," said Emadeddin Baghi, founder of Iran's first death-penalty abolition society. "Some of these men had no role in any of the actual bombing operations but had possessed bombs. One was a minor at the time of his arrest and another man had been in jail two months before the alleged bombing took place," said Baghi, chairman of the Society for Defending Prisoners' Rights.

Of the 22 Arabs sentenced to death for involvement in the Khuzestan bombings, 12 have been hanged, three of them on the day of the bombing in Zahedan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 7, 2007 7:29 AM

Until the Reagan administration the Communists had a monopoly on the use of guerrilla movements to topple regimes and establish pro-Soviet dictatorships. Reagan's brilliant insight was the fact we in the West could also use guerrillas such as the Contras and mujahaden to counter the Soviets. The men int eh Kremline found to their dismay that they werent the only ones who knew how to use guerrillas.

Until recently Iran and friends had a monopoly on the use of terrorists. What is needed is a Reagan-like insight into the fact America and the West can also use terrorists. Don't be surprised if a car bombing campaign starts in Teheran and has the same results on the Iranian mullahocracy as Reagan's support of freedom fighters had on the Soviets.

Posted by: OTR at March 7, 2007 9:36 PM