May 18, 2011

THERE IS NO IRAN:

Inside Iran’s Most Secretive Region: Sistan and Balochistan has been described as akin to Mars on Earth. For all the attention they get from Tehran, many Baloch feel they may as well be on another planet. (Karlos Zurutuza, May 16, 2011, The Diplomat)

‘It’s the closest thing to Mars on Earth,’ concluded a group of US geologists visiting the region of Sistan and Balochistan in the early 1970s. And since Iran’s revolution in 1979, the country’s southeast feels as little explored as the Red Planet.

Balochistan, as the Baloch refer to their homeland, is divided today between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the fact that the region is a virtual no-go area for the international media shouldn’t disguise its potential strategic importance. After all, the area—roughly the size of France—holds significant reserves of gas, gold, copper, oil and uranium, and also has a 1,000-kilometre coastline at the gates of the Persian Gulf.

‘(But) unlike what happened in Pakistani-controlled Balochistan, Tehran hasn’t exploited the energy and mineral reserves in the area,’ says Prof. Taj Muhammad Breseeg. ‘It prefers that the region’s resources and population remain undeveloped.’

Today, the region has the lowest per capita income in Iran, with almost 80 percent of the Baloch people living below the poverty line by some estimates. The average life expectancy, meanwhile, is at least eight years lower than the national average, while infant mortality rates are the highest in the country. It all results, suggests Breseeg, from Tehran’s ‘policy of assimilation.’

‘Annexation of the region to Iran in 1928 brought terrible episodes of repression, caused a mass exodus of the local population and saw virtually every Baloch place name changed toa Persian one,’ Breseeg says.

The problem for Balochs is that they are Sunni Muslims in a Shiite-ruled nation.

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Posted by at May 18, 2011 6:07 AM
  

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