The Foundation for Democracy is preoccupied by reports emanatingfrom Iranian Balouchistan of a wave of arrests and killings in recentweeks, that appear to be aimed at Sunni Moslem clerics and religiousinstitutions in Eastern Iran.
On March 4, Molavi Abdul Malek Mollahzadeh, a Sunni cleric inIran, was murdered as he was leaving his house in Pakistan, familymembers said. Molavi Abdul Malek's movements in Pakistan were beingmonitored by agents of the Islamic Republic because he was awell-known opponent of the regime involved in organizing the Balouchicommunity, family members alleged. The son of Molavi Abdulaziz, themost prominent Sunni cleric in Iran, Molavi Abdulmalek was killedalong with an associate, Jamshid Zahi, by two gunmen in a taxi.
This is the fifth alleged killing of a Sunni Muslim cleric byIranian government agents since 1994. The Foundation reported on someof the earlier killings on Feb. 15, 1996 [AM 007, "Disappearanceand alleged execution of Molavi Ahmad Sayyad."]
These latest killings appear part of a systematic crackdown by theIranian authorities against ethnic Balouchis and against the SunniMuslim minority in Iran.
In Mashad, Iran's most prestigious religious center after Qom,government security agents broke into the Salehabad Sunni Muslimseminary in late February, arresting faculty members and sending manyof the students to military service, family members of those arrestedreported. Under the Islamic Republic's constitution, it is illegalfor the state to oblige seminary students to do their militaryservice. Among those arrested was the head of the school, Mr. MosaviMohialdin, who was forcibly defrocked by the authorities.
Another Sunni cleric and high school teacher, Molavi AbdulrahmanAlahverdi, was arrested by the authorities in late February in theBalouchi town of Saravan, sources in the region reported. So far, hisfate remains unknown. The Foundation for Democracy in Iran willpublish additional details on these events as they becomeavailable.
The Foundation is concerned by reports that the Iranian governmenthas been forcibly relocating Balouchi citizens to remote desertareas, while systematically encouraging non-Balouchis to take theirplace by giving them incentives such as free land, cheap housing,no-interest loans, and government jobs. Such policies amount toethnic cleansing by another name.
Over the past two years, the ethnic balances in major Balouchicities such as Zahedan, Iranshahr, Chabahar, and Khash has becomenon-Balouchi because of these government policies. In the Iranshahrarea, tens of thousands of Balouchis have been forcibly relocatedfrom fertile farming areas to desert communities in Rashkoh, Naygon,Mnzran, and Daman. In the Sarbaz areas, Balouchis have been relocatedto Gornagan, Hamnat, and Sarkor. In the region around Khash, thedesert relocation site is known as Erandegan. When villagers refuseto comply with evacuation orders, they face armed attack. In May1995, for instance, Iranian Revolutionary Guards troops attacked thevillage of Sovrdar of Zardkoh (40 kilometers outside Iranshahr) aftervillagers refused to evacuate their homes and relocate to a desertcommunity.
This policy of forced relocation appears to have begun in 1994,after the February riots in Zahedan, the capital of IranianBalouchistan, when local residents protested the destruction of aSunni Muslim mosque in Mashad. At least fifty people were woundedwhen Revolutionary Guards troops fired into the crowd in Zahedan'sMaki mosque. In another instance, Balouchi sources say that inDecember 1994 Iranian Army helicopters fired rockets into the villageof Maraverti, killing 100 villagers. Another 200 villagers wereeither wounded or arrested in the attack. Those arrested weretransferred to prisons in Kerman, Zahedan, and to Tehran's infamousEvin prison.
Many Balouchis who have protested the forced relocations have beenarrested and accused as drug smugglers or foreign agents, Balouchisources claim. Some have been executed under these false charges. Asthe Foundation has noted in previous communiqués, the Iranianauthorities appear to be using ethnic differences, "banditry" and"smuggling" as pretexts for a brutal crackdown on potential opponentsto the regime. Similarly, the Foundation is concerned that theauthorities are seeking to excite ethnic violence between Sunnis andShiite Muslims in the region.
The Foundation has written to the leader of the Islamic Republic,Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamene'i, President Ali AkbarHashemi-Rafsanjani, the Ministries of Justice, Interior, and ForeignAffairs, and has sent an inquiry to Iran's Permanent Mission to theUnited Nations in New York, requesting that the Government of Iranauthorize a delegation from the Foundation and from other humanrights organizations to visit Iranian Balouchistan to investigatethese allegations.
The Foundation has also requested specific information on thealleged March 4, 1996 murders of Molavi Abdul Malek and Jamshid Zahi;the Feb. 2, 1996 disappearance and subsequent death of Molavi AhmadSayyad; the disappearance in Saravan village of Molavi AbdulrahmanAlahverdi in early February; and the late February attack on theSalehabad Sunni Muslim seminary in Mashad.
The Foundation calls on the Hon. Maurice Copithorne, SpecialRepresentative for Iran of the United Nations Human RightsCommission, to investigate these allegations and, more generally, thehuman rights situation of Balouchi and Sunni Muslim citizens ofIran.
The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is a private,non-profit corporation registered in the State of Maryland.Contact: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Executive Director (email@example.com).FDI materials, including the FDI Newswire, are availablefree-of-charge via the Internet at http://www.iran.org/.