Feb 25, 2021

Iran: Minorities Continue to be Systematically Targeted

UNPO strongly condemns the systematic targeting of Baluch and Kurdish border carriers by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and calls upon the international community and the relevant UN institutions to take a strong stand against the atrocities committed against a clear increase in violence and repression carried out against minorities in Iran since December 2020.

Since December 2020 there has been a clear increase in targetted attacks against minorities in Iran, with regular reports of arbitrary detentions and summary executions of minority rights defenders, particularly from the Kurdish, Ahwazi Arab, and Baluch communities. Responding to actions against the Kurdish community, in early February of this year, UNPO along with 35 other NGOs and human rights organizations signed a joint letter, urging the international community to secure the release of Kurdish activists and others arbitrarily detained in Iran. UNPO is alarmed that within the same month, we are receiving worrying reports, this time from Baluchistan.

On Monday 22 February, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) opened fire on Baluchi Sukhtbars in Saravan city of Baluchistan-Iran. Sukhtbar literally means ‘’fuel carrier’’.

Due to economical disadvantages, systematic marginalization and lack of investment in the improvised Baluchistan region in Iran, the residence are forced to take part in the practice of transporting fuel from Baluchistan- Iran into Pakistan. For thousands of Baluch families this is the only source of income.

The Iranian government considers the practice as illegal trafficking and random shooting of Sukhtabars is not a rare occurrence. According to reports from local sources, during the recent shooting 10 suskhtabrs were killed and more than 5 were injured.

The IRGC forces blocked the road and dug ditches to prevent the sukhtabrs from crossing the Iran- Pakistan borders. Faced by protests they opened fire on unarmed fuel carriers. As a response, a number of Baluch citizens took the streets to protest. Some blocked the roads leading to Saravan in order to prevent anti riot unite entering the city while other broke into the governor’s building.

The reports also confirm the internet shutdown in Saravan. Internet shut down is an ominous sign suggesting that the crackdown apparatus of the government has been activated. Yesterday, The Hashtag Saravan turned to Twitter trend in Iran. And today residences of several cities including Zahedan and Iranshahr went on strike by closing shops and market places.

The phenomenon of ‘’Sukhtbar’’(fuel carrier) in Baluchistan is equivalent to ‘’Kolbar’’ (border carrier) in Kurdistan. The peripheral regions of Iran, mainly inhabited by ethnic minorities have similar experience of marginalization and economic exclusion. Faced with economic hardship, they are forced to resort to these life- risking professions to make ends meet.

The Iranian government has always kept a tight grip on minority regions, but we are witnessing a substantial increase in crack down against theses vulnerable members of the society. Amnesty international reported that since 1 December 2020, the Iranian authorities have executed at least 49 people, over a third of them Baluchis’’. and ‘’Since 19 December 2020, at least 19 Baluchis have been executed.’’ In this context, it is absolutely imperative that the international community responds to uphold the rights of minorities in Iran.

Photo: pictures of six victims of the recent crackdown taken from social media