Fear of the fissiparous: Iran tries to reconquer the Baluchis

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The Tehran regime is well aware that around 60% of Iran’s population is Persian; the other 40% consists of four distinct ethnic groups. These are the eight million Arabs in Khuzestan, right on the Gulf, where most of Iran’s oil fields are located; the nine million Azeris in northwest Iran, along the border with Azerbaijan, where another eighteen million Azeris live; the ten million Kurds who also live in western Iran, close to the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, and the two million Baluchis, predominantly Sunni, who live in south-eastern Iran, while across the border with Pakistan, another seven and a half lives half a million Baluchis. All of these towns harbor, to a greater or lesser extent, separatist impulses, which have sometimes given rise to open revolts, always repressed -both by the Khomeini regime and by that of the Shah- with great violence. However, the threat persists and the regime in Tehran, having massacred almost a hundred Baloch who were killed on September 30 in the city of Zahedan, has realized that it has to win back the disgruntled Baloch, lest they grow their initial protest against the regime. in a separatist revolt against the state.

A report on this attempt to reach the Baloch can be found here: “Iran’s Leader Sends Delegation To Restless Region Rocked By Deadly Unrest” November 13, 2022:

A delegation from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed sadness and promised solutions on a visit to a southeastern province where dozens of people have been killed in riots, official media said.

Violence in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan province that borders Pakistan, erupted on September 30 and authorities say six members of the security forces were among the dead.

The casualties came against the backdrop of nationwide riots that followed the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, following her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the strict code Iran dress code for women.

Some local figures said the protests in Zahedan were sparked by anger over a police officer’s claim of rape of a teenage girl.

A rape, or even a rumor of such a rape, of a Baluchi girl, by a non-Baluchi police officer, presumably a Persian, would surely arouse murderous rage against those officers. It is to be expected that several of them, six in fact, were killed in revenge.

Activists abroad accused security forces of firing on protesters.

By now, more than these “foreign-based activists” – an allusion to Iranian exiles broadcasting from Iran International in London – have accused the security services of using live ammunition. Such reports can be found everywhere on social media, and have been broadcast not only by Iran International, but also by the Persian-language services of the BBC and VOA, as well as by major media outlets in the Western world. The Iranian regime has been using live ammunition consistently since the second week of protests in late September; more than 400 protesters have been killed to date and thousands have been injured as a result.

Zahedan is one of the few majority Sunni cities in predominantly Shiite Iran.

We came to share the sadness felt by the Supreme Leader over the incidents that have occurred” in the province, said Mohammad-Javad Haj Ali Akbari, spokesman for the delegation that arrived on Saturday.

He said they were also there to “report on the measures decided [by Khamenei] to solve these problems,” state news agency IRNA said on Sunday.

Akbari also referred to a “special plan” by Khamenei to benefit the people of the province, but IRNA did not elaborate on such measures.

It is unheard of for the Supreme Leader to send a delegation to express regret at what his own security services have done. Clearly, the regime does not want the Baloch anger over the September 30 massacre to escalate into a separatist revolt; it’s trying to nip things in the bud with a show of feigned sympathy and unfeigned regret. I suspect that the Supreme Leader’s “special plan” “to benefit the people of the province” means that there will be an infusion of aid as a way of placating discontent in this historically impoverished region.

He also met with the imam of the Makki Mosque of Zahedan, Iran’s largest Sunni house of worship, and said he wanted to see relatives of those killed or injured in the incidents “to console them.”…

It will work? Will the fact that Akbari bring the message of grief directly from the Supreme Leader to Balochistan, and his meeting with the families of those who have been killed or injured by the security services, manage to assuage the grievance and temper the anger? Or will the Baloch stand by and cross the border to their fellow Baloch, hoping to create with them a very different future in an independent Balochistan? Fissiparous fears in Tehran must make it difficult for rulers to sleep at night.

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