Minorities In Iran: Has There Been Any Progress During Hassan Rouhani’s Presidency? The Case Of Balochistan By Nasser Boladai
Rouhani’s rhetoric – like the one of former president Khatami – is dangerous hypocrisy. The Rouhani administration has in fact increased the use of human rights abuses, such as arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings. This is clear evidence that Rouhani’s administration is more intent to use force in Balochistan and suppress dissenting voices, than implementing any of its election promises.
Minorities in Iran: Has there been any progress during Hassan Rouhani’s presidency?
The Case of Balochistan
By Nasser Boladai
President Rouhani coming to power in Iran did not bring about any positive changes on the ground for the people of Balochistan. Instead, it led to an increase in extra-judicial killings, executions, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances. In recent years in particular, security forces have started kidnapping innocent people, some of whose mutilated bodies are then later found showing signs of severe torture. Sadly, this alarming increase in human rights violations does not come as much of a surprise given that Mr. Rouhani’s administration is dominated by people who are part of Iran’s security forces and intelligence circles.
While Iran is facing an economic crisis and suffering from international sanctions, each year, President Rouhani has increased the budget for the Revolutionary Guards, the intelligence services, the army and the security forces. This led to an increased militarization of the Balochistan region.
During the electoral campaign, Rouhani had vowed to implement some of articles in Iran’s Constitution which would benefit national minorities. He had also promised to strengthen ethnic and religious minority rights and stated that he would include representatives of national and ethnic minorities in his cabinet.
Based on these election promises and the programme Rouhani had put forward, people in regions like Balochistan and Kurdistan in particular voted for Rouhani. In what can be seen as a landslide victory, and overwhelming majority of 73 percent of the people of Balochistan voted for him – 20 percent more than the national average, according to the numbers on the election result published by the regime.
After Rouhani’s victory, there were some expectations that – for the first time in the Islamic Republic’s 35-year old history – there would be a minister from a national or religious minority group. But soon after Rouhani’s cabinet had been completed, it became clear that – as usual – national groups and religious minorities would have no representation at all. In addition to that, Rouhani had promised that he would give more power to national and religious minorities in their respective provinces. However, in Balochistan even local posts, such as the position of governor, were not given to people hailing from these regions, but to functionaries from other provinces. The provincial governor of Balochistan, for instance, is a man who was completely unknown in the province prior to his appointment, and most people heard of him for the first time when Rouhani announced him as his pick for this position.
After the election, Rouhani’s administration had announced that it would hire hundreds of new employees. The local population hoped that – even if he had not given the position of provincial governor or other security posts to the Baloch – he would at least make these new positions in the administration available to young Balochs. But the people of Balochistan had their hopes dashed once again. Close to 98 percent of these new positions went to non-Baloch Iranians. The Baloch youth in particular came to realize that Rouhani has many faces, but none of them committed to justice or to keeping his promises.
Even though they are estimated to make up around 20 percent of Iran’s population, there has never been a Sunni minister in Iran. Additionally, there has not been any Baloch ministers since Western Balochistan was incorporated into the newly-established centralized Iranian state in 1928 by Reza Pahlavi.
Since Rouhani has become president, the administration has also intensified its security operations in the Baloch region. His government continued the construction of a border wall, physically separating the three parts of Balochistan, areas in today’s Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.