Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Iranian minorities: Baloch

Despite nominally having their own province in Baluchistan and Sistan, the Baloch are one of the poorest and most deprived of Iran's minorities. The extent of the Baluchi nation crosses the borders between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan and as can be seen here, the main part lies in Pakistan. However, they make up about 3% of the population of Iran. Like the Kurds, they speak a language related to Persian, but also like the Kurds, they are looked down on as being cultural inferior. They are mostly Sunni whereas the Islamic Republic is Shia. They are also intentionally kept underdeveloped. This is the case in Pakistan too where their land has many natural resources.

The society is mostly tribal and subsists mainly on cultivating a largely mountainous terrain as well as smuggling across the porous border which runs through the Baluchi region. In Iran they are considered drug barons due to the massive amounts of opium which makes its way from Afghanistan to Iran through Baluchistan. Of course, in such a deprived area drugs provide a necessary income and a quite lucrative one considering Iran's world-leading drug problem [1]. Of course, being a tribal society, there is quite a strict hierarchical structure and this little economic equality. Repression breeds corruption.

One of the consequences of this situation is the group Jundallah who have been carrying out attacks in Iran (although based in Pakistan) over the last few years as well as being involved in the smuggling of drugs. Although few in number, they are responsible for the deaths of quite a few Iranian civilians as well as some high-ranking military commanders [2]. The group calls for equality for Sunni Muslims in Iran and denies a separatist agenda. Unsurprisingly the Islamic Republic accuses such groups of cooperating with the enemies of Iran, namely the USA, and while this is often a standard accusation towards anyone who disagrees with the regime, considering the US' continued presence in the region -through deals with local insurgents- and stated aim of regaining control over Iran and its oil fields, there could indeed be some truth in it.

The Baluchi language is apparently more closely related to Kurdish, which is spoken on the other side of the Iranian plateau, than to the neighbouring Persian or Pashto languages.

An Iranian Baluchi song:

2 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balochistan_conflict#Attacks_by_Jundallah_in_Iran

This is part of a series of posts on Iranian minorities, the other posts can be found here: ArabsKurds

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