On May 19, Iran’s mullahs will elect the nation’s next president. While Iran’s president has executive authority, his power remains secondary to that of the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. Even with that curious arrangement, it’s not a done deal until Khamenei can solve a major riddle to ensure that his favorite candidate wins at the ballot box.
Throughout this presidential election, Khamenei faces different dilemmas, because the vast majority of Iranians reject the six hand-picked candidates for the presidential election and call it a sham. So, by fair means or foul, the mullahs will get what they want, but the role and dilemma of ethnic minorities in Iranian society is an important parameter to consider in this vote. Minorities such as Arab, Baluch, Kurd, Lor, Turk, and Turkmen make up almost 50% of the population and inhabit about 70% of Iran’s land mass. Iran’s ethnic minorities have been heavily ignored and marginalized by the theocratic government.
Economic and political issues have proven effective at mobilizing ethnic minorities. In the past year, both Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (known by its initials IRGC) and the Basij units have conducted large-scale military exercises in Baluchistan, the southeastern province in Iran, and in the city of Ahwaz in Khuzestan, an oil-rich province. The IRGC has also been linked to drug traffickers’ gangs to smuggle opium from Iran through the ethnic minorities’ areas, especially Baluchistan, bringing havoc to those areas.
During the last three months, IRGC ground forces and security forces frequently have come under fire by ethnic minority insurgents.
On April 11, 2017, a senior IRGC commander was assassinated in Baluchistan.
On April 26, 2017, a clash erupted near the town of Mirjaveh, resulting in the death of ten IRGC patrol units.
Recently, political unrest and clashes drew some media attention, but little attention is paid to the everyday reality in Iran’s ethnic minorities areas. According to one report:
Since the 2009 demonstrations during the presidential elections, which were often times violently suppressed, the situation for minorities in Iran has deteriorated significantly. To curb all forms of opposition and instills fear, the government has intensified violent measures against minorities, particularly political and rights, activists.
Balochs are living in Sistan and Baluchistan, This desert province is marked with despondence and deprivation, grapples with severe water shortage, and underdeveloped infrastructure and poorest of Iran’s provinces[.] …
Ethnic minorities are predominantly Sunni Muslims, and as a result of that, are systematically prosecuted by repressive ground forces of Iran’s revolutionary guard’s corps (IRGC) and Iran’s ministry of intelligence. Iran frequently blames ethnic minorities hostile dependent on outside powers, but this hollow blames is just to cover up the regime’s violation of human rights and aggressive attack of IRGC in their province who fears their unity and steadfastness among them. The country has not allowed ethnic minorities to teach or study in their own languages in schools, and non-Persian language press and publications have been very limited.
The rate of executions increased in ethnic minorities in last decades. The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center documented 529 executions of whom 100 were Baloch, who only constitute about 2% of the population.
Regime sent at least 12 prisoners to gallows in various cities across Iran in the six days from February 25 to March 2, raising the number of the executions to at least 150 since the beginning of 2014.
Balochi’s showed their grievances and anger in the short stories written by authors Balochis, Brahvi, and Pashto, Some of the stories bring up haunting images and situations: “An ageing woman returns to her ancestral village and finds it transformed after the nuclear tests” or “A young man wants to take his ailing sister to the nearest hospital”, “A young woman finds the legendary ‘injeer” flower and sacrifices her feelings to keep the flour bin full”. “Is there no hope of conditions improving?”
During the past 38 years of the religious dictatorship, with the help of the IRGC, the mullahs have resorted to the assassination of Sunni clergy, the trustees, and civilians in this province. According to a National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) report:
3 years ago, Mowlavi Abdullah Baji Zehi, the preacher of Shirabad Mosque in Zahedan, was targeted with four bullets in his head as he was leaving the mosque and passed away on the spot. On the same day, two 34 and 40-year-old civilians by the last name of Shahoozehi were machine-gunned and murdered by the mullahs’ regime’s murderers.
On Monday, April 1st of 2014, Mr. Morad Kahrazehi, 45, was shot with 8 bullets in Zahedan and was severely injured. He is currently in a coma.
How does this relate to Iran’s presidential election?
In a recent statement, a group of Baluchi and Brahui people (this is the big tribe in Baluchistan whose people are Muslim, mostly a Sunni sect of Islam) announced that: “The upcoming election in 19 May is a fraudulent election, The crimes and atrocities committed by this theocratic regime over the past 38 years are appalling in our Ahourai soil, we boycott the election, we never vote in for mass killers or imposters, who brought in our province nothing except death, destruction, poverty, unemployment and corruption, particularly through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).we never betray our martyrdom.”
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and social media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.