October 29, 2007

West Balochistan: Poverty and Oppression

Despite abundant natural resources, the Balochi community suffers from severe economic deprivation, and their plight is further compounded by oppression from the Iranian regime.

Despite abundant natural resources, the Balochi community suffers from severe economic deprivation, and their plight is further compounded by oppression from the Iranian regime.

Below is an article published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

The Baluchi minority in southwestern Pakistan and southeastern Iran is increasingly marginalized, discriminated against by the state, and suffers from limited access to the benefits of citizenship, according to political observers and human rights groups.

Although the 6 million-8 million ethnic Baluchis in both countries live in a strategic location atop untapped hydrocarbon and mineral deposits and possible trade routes, it looks unlikely that their grim conditions will improve soon.

[…]

"There is the question of the suppression of all dissent. The cases of the disappeared people are only the tip of the problem," Rehman said. "The real issue in Baluchistan is that the Baluch people think their resources are being monopolized by the government, that their land and their resources are not their own, and that there is no freedom to express their opinions."

The International Crisis Group calls the Baluchi plight a "forgotten conflict." It maintains that the fighting has so far displaced 84,000 people, while thousands of Baluchi nationalist activists languish in jails and hundreds remain missing.

[…]

There some 2 million Baluchis concentrated in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province, representing about 2 percent of the country's total population.

Drewery Dyke, a Middle East researcher for human rights watchdog Amnesty International in London, told Radio Free Afghanistan that Iran's Baluchi population is subject to economic and cultural discrimination. Sistan-Baluchistan is "certainly one of the poorest and most deprived provinces in the country. And it has suffered droughts and extreme weather conditions. And certainly -- with respect to the situation of women and schooling for girls -- there are shortcomings that the state really needs to address," Dyke said.

In a September [2007] report that Dyke helped research, Amnesty International documented rights abuses by Iranian authorities and the armed Baluchi and hard-line Sunni group Jondallah (which has reportedly been renamed the Iranian Peoples' Resistance Movement). Since 2005, Jondallah appears to have carried out lethal attacks on Iranian security forces, and taken and executed hostages. Iranian authorities have blamed Jondollah for other attacks that resulted in civilian casualties, but the group has denied responsibility.

Amnesty International has criticized the arrest of suspected Baluchi militants who might have been subjected to torture to produce forced confessions. The group has expressed concern over special judicial procedures put in place by Iranian authorities, and a steep rise in the number of Baluchis who have been targeted.

Dyke said the Iranian authorities "have established a special court...almost like a security court to deal with what is obviously a very severe situation -- in some respects, an insurgency in the country. It appears to [have led] to a decline, an erosion of the safeguards, [of] the fair-trial standards and a massive rise in the implementation of the death penalty against the Baluchis."

[…]

In Iran, Amnesty International warns that heightened global attention to the Iranian nuclear program might push attention to rights abuses off the international agenda.

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