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  US administration must force Iran’s regime to stop killing Balochis

Demonstrations have spread in several Balochi cities against Iran’s repressive policies almost a week after Balochi activists announced the killing of about 10 Balochi citizens in the city of Saravan in eastern Iran. Balochi human rights sources reported that the Iranian regime has sent lethal weapons and large numbers of IRGC personnel from Kerman, Khorasan and Zahedan (the capital of Balochistan) to suppress the Balochi revolution in the city of Saravan.

The sources said that the IRGC attacked a group of impoverished fuel dealers in the area, who scrape a living from smuggling small quantities of fuel across the border, killing 10 people, including young men under 19 years of age, which prompted hundreds of Saravan residents to demonstrate and storm government buildings due to the latest savage crackdown by Iran’s regime. The sources indicated that the number of deaths has now risen to over 50 since the popular protests were first announced. 

The Baloch Activists Campaign condemned the “latest violent attacks by the Iranian regime on the Balochi people,” confirming that “regime forces are increasingly targeting the Balochi people.” The Balochi Activists Campaign reported that several children and women were injured in a recent brutal assault by the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) personnel on the city of Saravan, adding that this led to the spread of demonstrations, with “protests spreading in the city of Palan Dashtak, Zahedan, Mirjave and other cities in Balochistan.” 

Balochi sources reported that 10 men were killed and 40 other wounded in the Revolutionary Guards’ shooting at Balochi fuel workers on the Iran-Pakistan border. However, the number of deaths increased dramatically after the protest spread in Saravan and other Balochi cities.

Speaking on condition of anonymity due to well-founded fears of regime reprisals, a Balochi activist explained, “Many Balochi citizens are forced to transport fuel on the Pakistan-Iran border due to poverty and unemployment – the Iranian regime attacks and kills these people instead of providing them with job opportunities.” The activist told DUC that the fuel trade is the only way for many citizens in the poverty-stricken region to scrape a living extreme poverty and unemployment in Balochistan, particularly in Saravan, where malnutrition is widespread. The activist stated baldly, “the regime is deliberately impoverishing and marginalising the Balochi people.”

Speaking to DUSC on the dire situation of Balochistan, Abdullah Aref, another human rights activist from the region, said, “The killing of fuel transporters is not a new phenomenon,” noting, “According to the Balochi Activists’ Campaign Organisation reports, at least 40 Baluch civilians carrying fuel are killed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard annually.”  

Aref continued, “A large number of Balochi citizens are forced to engage in deadly work such as fuel-dealing to earn a subsistence income which is often just enough to buy bread for their families due to the high unemployment and poverty rates,” emphasising, “According to the statement by the Iranian MP, Aleem Yar Mohammad Zayi, more than 70% of the Balochi people live below the poverty line.”

Aref went on: “By increasing poverty and unemployment in Balochistan, the Iranian regime is trying to achieve several goals, including forcing the Baluchi people to move to other provinces in Iran in order to change the demographic of Balochistan. The second goal is forcing poor families to join the Revolutionary Guard in order to attain some economic benefits.” 

He added that IRGC recently launched the ‘Razak project’, which aims to control the citizens’ fuel-trading and smuggling of oil derivatives across borders in order to give the regime the smuggling monopoly, allowing it to sell the fuel on the black market to neighbouring countries; this has led to hundreds of thousands of Balochi people, already living a precarious hand-to-mouth existence, losing what income they had, with many left completely destitute. Thus, he said, thousands of families in the region will be plunged into further poverty, with approximately 1.5 million Balochis’ income dependent on some aspect of the fuel-smuggling trade.

Aref pointed out that IRGC began its preparations for implementing this cruel project by launching murderous assaults against fuel-traders on the border, using heavy weapons indiscriminately against the unarmed, desperately poor traders whose only real ‘crime’ is their desperation to feed their families. Asef added that this confirms the premeditated nature of the IRGC’s all-out assault against the region and its deliberate intention to kill citizens, with these crimes violating international law that strictly prohibits using such weapons against civilians.

Aref said that it is clear that the ‘Razak project’, in fact, another tool being used by the regime to circumvent US sanctions against Iran and the IRGC, whose financial resources required to fund regional militias have been depleted to some extent. Fuel-smuggling, taking the little money that each of the desperately poor Balochi traders depends on, provides a substantial illegal income. 

Balochi human rights activists have urged the US administration to force Iran’s regime to stop killing Balochis and to end its brutal ill-treatment of civilians.

Speaking to DUSC about this issue, Manel Msalmi, the President of the European Association for The Defence of Minorities and an EU Advisor on MENA, condemned the regime’s brutality against Balochis, saying, “The Iranian regime attacks and kills poor civilians who are protesting for their basic rights – killing innocent people is a crime against humanity.” She added, “The right to demonstrate is a fundamental and international human right, and the Iranian regime must listen to the demands of the persecuted population.” 

Msalmi concluded, “Of course, Europe calls for the respect of human rights, dignity, freedom and democracy, so this repression in Balochistan is a reminder that the Iranian regime does not share European values, with Europeans always putting values first on their agendas.

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