in Iran, the “enemies of
Story and photos by Karlos Zurutuza
Originally published in Spanish by gara.net
The last Jundallah attack
in Western Balochistan´s capital has exposed
the dire situation local Baloch face under Tehran´s
rule. Since the annexation of Western Balochistan
to Iran in 1928, Iranian Baloch have been condemned
to an assimilation based on both ethnic and religious
“This city sucks”, complains
Abdullah, a young Saudi businessman who has already spent
over two months In Zahedan trying to close a deal with
Baloch camel merchants.
“No women, no alcohol, no fun…and,
what is more, everybody takes me for an Al-Qaeda terrorist!”,
complains this 27 year old bearded Arab. He can hardly
wait to return to his native Riyadh.
Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and
Baluchistan province. Sharing borders with Afghanistan
and Pakistan, here every “non farsi" is a
potential "terrorist", “drug dealer",
or both at the same time. And if you are a Westerner,
you must be an “agent”. The ayatollahs accuse
the Baloch of collaborating with the West and the armed
People's Liberation Army of Iran (formerly "Jundallah"),
a Wahabi type group, of allegedly receiving assistance
from both the CIA and Al-Qaeda. True or not, the Shia
regime seems not to distinguish between the fight against
drugs and political dissidents. The result of this conflation
is the public hanging of Baloch without benefit of trial.
Just last June, 19 "enemies of God" were executed
in Zahedan. They were characterized as "corrupt
on earth"--in other words, both “terrorists” and “drug
"Did you know that here they use
camels to smuggle heroin from Afghanistan? Once they
are taught the route, the drug is then grafted inside
the hump and the animals make their way across the border",
explains the young Saudi with a smile shining from his
In fact, drugs have always been an
issue here. When Western Balochistan was annexed by Iran
in 1928, Britain had already introduced the opium trade
to the region long before. Compared to other parts of
the country, its use here was still rare, limited to
a handful of tribal leaders. But the consumption of heroin
in Western Baluchistan was given a boost with the Pahlevis,
whose huge windfall profits were not lost on the ayatollahs.
Local public Farsi officers (Baloch are prevented from
governmental positions) amassed huge fortunes and now
continue to make money with the drug traffic that comes
from neighbouring Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Tehran directs
their “war on drugs” at small dealers. Drug
abuse itself it not worried by Tehran, for a Baloch population
hooked on opiates, estimated to be as high as 50%, simply
translates as 50% fewer potential dissidents.
Neither men nor names
First local place names just vanish (Zahedan was Duzzap
until the early '30s) and the same happens later with
the local Baloch population. Today, 6 out of 10 people
in Zahedan are Farsis. Unsurprisingly, there are no
official figures for the missing local Baloch.
But there must be many, as added to
the plethora of Persian security forces and intelligence
services is now also the Mersad. It is a paramilitary
group said to be operating under the direct orders of
the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, that specializes in random
beatings and shootings; doubtless an effective way to
spread the sense of terror and insecurity among the local
population. This unemployed young man from Khash came
across them last year. "It was about six in the
morning. We were waiting at the entrance of the village
for someone to offer us work in the harvest. Suddenly,
we heard firing from a Toyota van. Three died and other
eight were wounded", explains this young man whilst
he shows a bullet wound on his left shoulder.
When the British entered the region
in the 18th century, they asked the local Baloch people
how they wanted to settle civil cases. Unlike their neighbours
who cried “Sharia (Islamic law)”,
the Baloch shouted “Rawaj (Baloch traditional code
of conduct)”. Tehran has obviously not bothered
to ask anybody so, despite the constant killing of Baloch
dissidents and Sunni religious leaders, no one in Tehran
ever speaks of “religious conflict”. Such
is the Persian version of the “war on terror”… and
"It is a tyrannical regime that
seeks the Farsis total hegemony in Iran, nothing else”,
complains one of the very few ethnic Baloch professors
at the University of Sistan and Baluchistan. He denounces
that out of over 20,000 students on the campus, only
500 are Baloch. Needless to say, discrimination in the
classroom is proportional to the labour market.
"70 years ago this province was
just called Baluchistan; later it turned into Baluchistan
and Sistan', and today it´s `Sistan and Baluchistan'.
If we stick to this trend, in the future it will be just
called `Sistan´", explains this maths teacher. "The
power in Iran is held by the Farsis since the Shah´s
times. Nonetheless, with the Pahlevis our only 'sin'
was our ethnicity, but today Tehran also hates us because
we are Sunnis", he adds.
The Kurds in the northwest of the country,
or the Arabs in the south also have to cope with this “double
handicap”. That´s the price to pay in a country
which claims to be a republic, but is very much ruled
as an empire.
"The main obstacle is the Iranian
Constitution itself. It limits the Persian identity with
Shiism as the only religion and Farsi as the only language",
says Ibrahim, a student in the campus. "This is
the source of the apartheid imposed on us by the ayatollahs," he
"I am Iranian"
Whatever the case, the university still remains an unattainable
dream for most Balochs here, for Sistan and Balochistan
provice has been deliberately abandoned to become the
poorest region in the Islamic Republic. Mansur has
a small appliance store in the impoverished town of
Iranshar (once Parah), the second largest settlement
in Western Balochistan.
In Tehran people take Mansur for an
outsider for his dark complexion and, above all, for
his white shalwar kameez, that long shirt and baggy pants
set that is indistinguishable between nationalities in
Central and South Asia.
"When I go to Tehran they always
ask me whether I am Pakistani or Indian”, says
the trader. "Then they get puzzled when I tell them
in perfect Farsi that I happen to come from their very
same country" he says.
"You are not Iranian," Mansur
often has to hear on such occasions. "Unfortunately,