January 15, 2008


Iran spars with its enemy within (Chris Zambelis, 1/16/08, Asia Times)
Issues of dissent and rebellion among Iran's elaborate patchwork of ethnic and sectarian minority communities are receiving increasing international scrutiny. Many advocacy organizations representing Iranian minorities accuse Tehran of operating a policy of cultural subjugation aimed at erasing identities distinct from Iran's dominant Persian culture and Shi'ite brand of Islam.

In some cases, these grievances have led to unrest and bloodshed. The latest round of violence between ethnic Baloch nationalists led by Jundallah (Soldiers of God) and Iranian security forces in the province of Sistan-Balochistan is indicative of this wider trend in Iranian society. [...]

The Baloch national question has been a source of simmering tensions for decades. Iran's approximately 1 to 4 million-strong Baloch community inhabits the southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan. This desolate and underdeveloped region is one of Iran's poorest provinces. Unlike most Iranians, the Baloch are predominantly Sunni Muslims. Violent crackdowns and repression by security services in the economically backward province have engendered deep-seated animosity toward the Shi'ite Islamist regime among the fiercely independent and proud Baloch people.

Iranian Baloch identify with their kin in neighboring Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan - home to the region's largest Baloch population at approximately 4 to 8 million - and the smaller Baloch community in southern Afghanistan. The Pakistani Baloch are engaged in their own long-running struggle for greater rights and independence through a violent insurgency against Islamabad. The sum of these circumstances imbues the Baloch national consciousness with a sense of historic persecution at the hands of imperial powers that left the Baloch nation divided and without a state of its own. Baloch nationalists see the unification of their people in an independent "Greater Balochistan" as a historical right. The plight of Iranian Balochistan, referred to as "West Balochistan" by Baloch nationalists, is a pillar of the wider Baloch nationalist cause.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 15, 2008 7:37 AM
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