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Poverty And Discrimination Lead To Violence, Insecurity In Iran's Baluchistan

Iranian Border Security soldiers in Sistan-Baluchestan, undated

The abduction by Jaysh al-Adl insurgents of several Iranian border guards including military men, members of the Bassij militia as well as two IRGC intelligence agents at the Mirjaveh border in Iran's Sistan and Baluchistan Province on Tuesday October 16 is an indication of Iran’s failure in restoring sustainable security in the region.

Following another case of abduction involving the kidnapping of 16 Iranian border guards some 11 years ago by Jondollah, later re-branded as Jaysh al-Adl, the IRGC launched operation Tribal Mobilization in order to create a border guard of local tribesmen within the frameworks of the Bassij in order to combat insurgency in the volatile province.

Widespread poverty in Sistan and Baluchistan is the main motivation for poor tribesmen to join the Bassij. On the other hand, groups such as Jaysh al-Adl also recruit their members from among poor tribesmen in the area.

Discrimination and poverty in Baluchistan region lead to many security implications. Even the Islamic Republic's own research institutes have maintained that the Islamic Republic's discrimination against the Baluchis has created poverty in the region.

Distribution of drinking water in Sistan Balouchestan Province – Iran
Distribution of drinking water in Sistan Balouchestan Province – Iran

Recently, IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim published a research that poverty in the province has led to a marked increase in the number of those who leave schools, concluding that the rise in the number of drop-outs has had several social, economic, cultural and security implications.

The report added that some 50 percent of those who quit education live in Sistan and Baluchistan Province. Alim Yarmohammadi, a member of the Iranian Parliament for the provincial capital city Zahedan, told reporters that all those who quit education in the province belong to the Sunni-populated Baluchistan part of the province.

The province hosts a rather large number of non-government Sunni religious schools. Many poor families send their children to these religious schools because education at these schools is free of charge. There are no government schools in that region. Educational facilities are scarce even in larger towns such as Chabahar where thousands of children are without school.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly claimed that those who study at Sunni religious schools later join Jaysh al-Adl. One such former religious school student was Mawlavi Hashem Mohammad Zehi, the number 2 man in Jaysh al-Adl who was killed in clashes with IRGC two weeks ago.

Recurrent clashes between IRGC and Jaysh al-Adl in the border area between Iran and Pakistan during recent months mark the failure of the Islamic Republic's security strategy in the region.

In the meantime, several Baluchis have been killed while smuggling gas-oil to make ends meet in this unemployment-stricken area. Security forces are not answerable for the murders.

IRGC got an extra 42 percent budget this year. This comes while according to local MPs the budget for education in the region has dramatically dropped regardless of the ten percent rise in the country's overall budget for the education sector, deliberately depriving over 120,000 Baluchi students of education.

In interviews with the Iranian Parliament's news agency (ICANA), local MPs have expressed concern for the lack of fair opportunity for going to school in Baluchistan. The MPs for the Baluchi towns of Khash and Iranshahr told ICANA that they have complained about shortcomings in the province’s educational infrastructure in many meetings with the minister of education, but the problems are still there.

It appears that based on what local MPs and Tasnim news agency say, the shortcomings in Baluchistan are deliberately created. Such a situation appears to be tantamount to "systematic and targeted discrimination" against the Baluchis. Further to widespread poverty and malnutrition, deprivation from education is gradually weakening a generation of Baluchi children.

They are an unfortunate generation that inevitably end up being recruited by Jaysh al-Adl or the Bassij militia to complete and repeat the vicious circle of discrimination and violence in Baluchistan.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Radio Farda