UNPO Delegation to Washington DC Discusses Human Rights Situation, Baloch Language Broadcasting, and the Geopolitics Behind the ‘Balochistan Question’
Mr Nasser Boladai, President of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and Spokesperson for the Balochistan’s Peoples Party, together with Mr Marvin Kumetat, US Program Coordinator at UNPO, held a round of advocacy meetings in Washington DC to raise awareness of the human rights situation in the Iranian and Pakistani parts of Balochistan. The delegation also made further headway towards the establishment of Baloch language broadcasting with Voice of America. The delegation also partook in a roundtable discussion at the prestigious Hudson Institute, focusing on the geopolitics behind the conflict around Balochistan, and on ways to strengthen indigenous capacities in order to bring about change from within the country. Some of the points discussed during these meetings, Mr Boladai was also able to raise during a primetime live interview with the VOA Persian section.
During their 5-day visit to Washington DC in September 2016, the UNPO delegation met with Members of Congress and the US Senate, experts of various think tanks, US Department of Defense staff, as well as USAID officials. Through these targeted advocacy meetings, the delegation was successful in raising awareness of the human rights situation in the Iranian and Pakistani parts of Balochistan. The delegation also made further headway towards the establishment of Baloch language broadcasting with Voice of America, underlining in discussions with policymakers on the Hill the urgent need to counter state-sponsored media in both Iran in Pakistan which are dominated by religious sectarian narratives and are often violent in content.
The delegation’s visit built on the momentum of previous rounds of advocacy meetings in November 2015, May 2016 and July 2016, and was thus an opportunity to renew pre-existing links with supporters and advocates of Balochistan and to establish new ties with US policy-makers and government representatives not yet familiar with the Baloch cause. This month’s meetings served to sensitize US government officials for the problems associated with the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Deal, most notably the fact that it prioritizes economic benefits over addressing blatant human rights violations perpetrated by the regime in Tehran against the various nationalities of Iran. Blatant human rights violations committed by the regime include enforced disappearances, torture and extra-judicial killings. The Baloch in particular are disproportionately affected by extra-judicial executions.
Just as during previous visits to Washington DC, the issue of Baloch language broadcasting with Voice of America was a prime concern raised during the advocacy meetings. The delegation stressed the fact that in both Iran and Pakistan the Baloch people are on the frontline in the fight against terrorism and extremist forces – a situation compounded by Iranian and Pakistani media, as well as news outlets based in the Gulf countries, systematically publishing, broadcasting and publicizing news in Balochistan which seek to radicalize the region’s population. Tragically, the Baloch – traditionally a secular and liberal people – are thus subjected to extremist ideological worldviews and propaganda on all sides, meaning that, now more than ever, there is a dire need for breaking the Iranian and Pakistani regimes’ monopoly on news and information by providing the Baloch with independent and objective news coverage about their respective home countries and the world writ large.
The delegation also partook in a roundtable discussion at the prestigious Hudson Institute, a Washington-based domestic and foreign policy think tank. Attended by Iran experts at the Hudson Institute, as well as Kurdish representatives and staff of the US Department of Defense, the roundtable focused on the geopolitics behind the conflict around Balochistan, mostly in the Iranian part. In his keynote speech, Mr Nasser Boladai – who is also the spokesperson for the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran – elaborated on current developments in Iran pertaining to the situation of the country’s many national minorities, and suggested potential ways for international actors to strengthen indigenous capacities in order to bring about change from within the country.