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Unrest in Iran grows as Zahedan violence fuels Baloch movement

Iranian security officials brief the parliament about the unrest in the country (Photo: Tehran Times)

The convulsions in Iran over the hijab protests and the killings in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan are fuelling the Baloch separatist movement in south-eastern Iran.

Reportedly, about 40 protesters were killed after security personnel opened fire on people in Sistan-Baluchistan’s capital Zahedan after Friday prayers. The crowd was protesting against the rape of a teenage Baloch girl by an officer in a police station. Baloch groups alleged that Colonel Ebrahim Khouchakzai, police commander in the Iranian port city of Chabahar, called the girl to the police station where he assaulted her.

Protests by the Baloch people, who call Sistan-Baluchistan occupied territory by Iran, have spread from Zahedan to other Iranian cities.

The violence in Sistan-Baluchistan resulted in the deaths of five Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members including two colonels and a senior intelligence official.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA said: “With the death on Saturday night of one of the members of the paramilitary forces, the number of martyrs among the Guards in the terrorist incident in Zahedan on Friday has increased to five”. It added that 32 IRGC members were injured in the clashes.

Iran-based Baloch religious scholar Maulvi Abdul Hameed has blamed Iranian security forces for the killings, alleging: “The bullets have been fired into the heads and hearts of most of the worshipers, and it is clear that it was the work of snipers”. He added that the police did not disperse the protesters but instead fired at them.

The Free Balochistan Movement (FBM), in a statement from London, has criticised Iran for firing at “peaceful Baloch protesters in Iranian-occupied Balochistan” on September 30. The FBM said that Iran has deprived the Baloch people of their national identity and has placed “restrictions on the culture, language and collective thinking of the Baloch people”.

Meanwhile Iran has vowed to avenge the deaths of the IRGC personnel in the Zahedan violence.

The Iran government has blamed the Jaish al-Adl, also known as the Army of Justice, for the unrest in Zahedan. Iran considers it a militant group linked to the Al-Qaeda while the Baloch say that it is fighting for an independent Balochistan. The group operates in south-eastern Iran, close to the border with Pakistan and has carried out numerous bombings in Iran.

Sobdar Baloch, human rights activist and member of the FBM told India Narrative that their leader Hyrbair Marri is supporting the freedom movement of other ethnic communities in Iran like the Kurds and Ahwaz in fighting “Iranian occupation”. The Baloch separatists have also been holding joint protests with the Kurdish separatist groups.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Freedom Party (PAK), a Kurdish nationalist militant group has announced its support to the Baloch nationalist movement. In a statement issued from Turkey, it said: “The Kurdistan Liberation Party supports the Balochi movement”, adding that the people of Balochistan are fighting against ransom and crimes against the State, they are united in the war against Iran”.

The Baloch have been waging an armed struggle against both Pakistan and Iran for independence.

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