May 24, 2016

UNPO Delegation to Washington DC Discusses Human Rights and Baloch Language Broadcasting

Mr. Nasser Boladai discusses Balochistan with Congressman Steve King

Mr. Nasser Boladai, Spokesperson of the Balochistan People’s Party (BPP) and President of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) visited Washington D.C. for two weeks this May together with Johanna Green, UNPO Program Manager. During the trip, which ended on 20 May, they had the opportunity to raise awareness at the political level about the ongoing dire human rights situation in both the Iranian and Pakistan parts of Balochistan, through targeted advocacy meetings and through a conference and Congressional Briefing on the matter.

The delegation met with Members of Congress, Senators, administrative officials and experts on foreign affairs. They had the opportunity to renew links with supporters and advocates for Balochistan, and to forge new relationships and establish fresh avenues for cooperation and dialogue.

This trip built on the momentum of the delegation’s visit in November of 2015, not long after the passing of the Iranian Nuclear Deal, where concerns were raised that the increase of funding available to Iran would serve to sanction the intensification of human rights abuses in Balochistan. In Iran, the regime uses brutal methods to suppress the rights of the Baloch, including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and execution. It was noted again that despite comprising a relatively small percentage of the Iranian population, the Baloch are drastically overrepresented in the execution statistics. Pakistan’s ongoing “kill and dump” policy was also highlighted as an area of concern.

Mr Boladai with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren

The issue of terrorism was raised, and that in both Iran and Pakistan the Baloch people are on the frontline in the fight against terrorism and extremist forces. The delegation urged greater support from the U.S. government given this important role played by the Baloch. The issue of the geopolitical and strategic importance of Balochistan was also discussed, along with the rich natural resources of the region. These valuable features of Balochistan are exploited by the regional powers, who offer no compensation in return and brutally suppress any opposition. Policies aimed at shifting the demography of the region are also having a devastating impact on the population. The delegation urged that continued financial support must be made conditional on improving the human rights situation in Balochistan.

The delegation also discussed with members of the House of Representatives the possibility of drafting a bill on the funding of Baloch language broadcasting. The Baloch have no access to a free and independent media in their own language, rather they are targeted on all sides by media that promotes extremist ideologies and non-liberal values. In both Iran and Pakistan, the state-sponsored media is dominated by religious sectarian narratives that are often violent in content. Native language broadcasting would help to provide Baloch with non-biased news and liberal and democratic values.