The government of the Islamic Republic has launched a new wave of executions in Iran's Balochistan province, which has caused concern and a strong reaction from human rights activists. For example, only on June 6, this year (2022), 11 men and a woman were executed in Zahedan Central Prison. Six of these prisoners were charged with drug-related offenses, and six others were executed on "murder" charges.
Generally the Islamic Republic executed 27 Balochs in the course of 22 days in June 2022. Since the beginning of 2022, 62 Baloch prisoners got executed in the prisons of the Islamic Republic, which is a double increase compared to last year. This means, that even though the Balochs make up only 5% of the Iranian population, they make up more than 21% of the executed.
In 2016, Shahindokht Movalardi (Iran's vice president for women and family affairs in the government period of Hassan Rouhani) said: “We have a village in Sistan and Balochistan, where all the men in the village have been executed. Today the survivors are potential smugglers; in order to avenge their fathers as to provide for the financial needs of their families. There is no support for these people.” He did not name the village, though.
Execution is legal in the Islamic Republic, and in terms of population and execution rate, it ranks first in the world in the execution of its citizens. Some of the crimes that are punishable by death under Iranian law include the likes of murder, rape, sexual abuse of children, homosexuality, fornication (if repeated), drug trafficking, kidnapping, aircraft hijacking and moharebeh (“waging war against God”).
Usually the Islamic Republic uses the political situation in the world, as well as the excuses that spring up with it, to commit human rights violations on a very large scale, especially in Balochistan.
Looking back, when one of the opposition parties to the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out an operation in Balochistan, the government executed 16 innocent young Balochs in retaliation. They executed everyone in one day without a trial.
When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (BARJAM) was signed, several Baloch youths were executed. Before the execution, one of the prisoners said, that he was told “If BARJAM is signed, we will execute you, and if it is not signed, we will not execute you.” Because if it wasn’t signed, there would still be political and global pressure against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and this was a sensitive issue for Iran not to execute in this case.
With the signing, the UN Security Council, the European Union and the United States dismissed the cases of several carried executions very easily. During the final months, we saw the political views of the world and international organizations focus on the US elections, following a lack of attention and condemnation towards Iran.
The systematic killing of Balochs is not limited to executions. The direct attacks from the border and military forces of the Islamic Republic, on people who carry fuel across the border to earn a minimum income and make a living (fuel trucks), shapes the daily news about Sistan and Balochistan province. In July 2022, the border and military forces of the Islamic Republic shot at three people, including two children, who were transporting only 3 liters of gasoline!
Unfortunately, Sistan and Balochistan is among the poorest and least developed provinces in Iran. For this reason, there has always been the highest rates of unemployment and crime statistics in the country as well as being on a transit route of drug trafficking. This fact pushes people of the region towards criminality and gives the government the necessary excuses for executions and killings.
In addition to executions or the killing of fuel operators in Balochistan, there has been a dramatic increase of detentions as well as security political pressure on Baloch citizens, in the past two months.
These situation escalated to the point, that in January 2021, the foundation of a big Sunni prayer hall in Iranshahr was demolished with the involvement of security forces. The destruction of Sunni shrines in Iranshahr has been accompanied by a wave of protests from citizens. Baloch activists view it as revenge for Rumi Mohammad Tayeb Mollazehi, the Sunni Imam of Iranshahr, who had been critical of the government.
After the protests of December 2017 and November 2019, the protests among the Iranian people have increased. Accordingly, the government seeks to take armed action in the region, presenting itself as a victim of terrorism. By carrying out the death sentences, they want to intimidate and take away the courage to protest from the people. ■