Long live free and united Balochistan

Long live free and united Balochistan

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Iran’s Ethno Religious Minorities Under Siege

Karim Abdian; Representative
of Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI)



House Office Building B-340Ladies and Gentlemen:

National minorities in Iran, which are estimated to make up at least half to 2/3 of the population, include: The Azeris in north and northwest, the Kurds in the West and northwest, the Arabs in the southwest, the Baluchis in the southeast and Turkmen in the Northeast Lack of freedoms and fundamental rights, brutal oppression, injustice, high unemployment and poverty, religious and ethnic discrimination under totalitarian Islamic Republic regime in Iran are unparalleled anywhere in the world. Knowing that these same conditions set the context for the Arab Spring, its safe to assume that change will come to

Iran- sooner or later, we hope sooner.Iranian State with the emergence of Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925, embarked on a project of "nation-building" at the beginning of the 20th century aiming to create a singular "Iranian nation" by suppressing ethnic diversity within the country and imposing a Persian ethnic identity on Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Baluch and Turkmen ethnic communities. By all counts, nation building in

Iran has failed and Shi'a-Persian-State nationalism has been repeatedly challenged.Oppressed non-dominant nationalities in

Iran have been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy over the last 3 decades. In the outlaying oppressed regions of Khuzestan (al-Ahwaz), Kurdistan, Baluchistan and

Azerbaijan we currently have active anti-government movements ranging from full-blown insurgencies to civil resistance and civil disobedience. Regime's response has been invariably brutal suppression of the any protestation or demands - even the demands for implementation of the Iranian constitutional articles of 15 and 19 that allows for some autonomy and language rights.

In my own majority Arabprovince of

Khuzestan or Al-Ahwaz there has been 39 executions of human rights and political activists in the past five weeks since 14 April 2011, the start of Arab peaceful demonstration against

Tehran's ethnic cleansing an ethnic restructuring policies. This last week 3 Ahwazi Arab activists were hanged in public in the Maleshieh section of Ahwaz City and 6 were executed in Ahwaz Karoon prison- just lastFriday 3 days ago, Mr Jabar Kaabi died under torture in Sapidar prison in Ahwaz, as reported by Amnesty International. But

Tehran media were silent to all thisand other executions of ethnic minorities news- so were the US-funded Persian services media.

Iranian reformist or nationalist media have rarely protested or condemned the extensive human rights violations against ethnicminorities and sometimes even carried out deliberate misinterpretation of national minority objectives. This lack of solidarity has fomented mistrusttowards the nationalist opposition. Minorities' calls for decentralisation regarded as threats to Iran's territorial integrity, although none of the major parties or organisations of non-dominant nationalities call for the break-up of Iran and all have publicly rejected secessionist policies. Instead, federalism and regional autonomy were presented as alternative that would enable national minority groups to better manage their issues, such as land rights, cultural identity, equal access to resources and study in their own mother languages.

We believe a secular, federalrepublic of

Iran can be established by the voluntary unity of Iranian nationalities and ethnic groups. A federal constitution could feasibly unite the population of

Iran by ensuring equal rights for all citizens and accepting the diversity in culture and language, replacing the present highly centralized and chauvinistic political structure. In a multi-ethnic State, citizens of

Iran should have the opportunity to decide their future, without being forcibly subject to a cultural hierarchy, and to solve the chronic internal crisis perpetuated by successive dictatorships.

It was toward this end that Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran -CNFI was established on 25 Feb 2003 with 17 regional political parties and organization - representing Azeri Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Baluchistan, Turkmen and Lurs- to strengthen relations among various national and religious groups within Iran; to promote democracy, social justice, federalism, rule of law, human rights, including equal rights for women, and protection of the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities. CNFI is a part of the transition of the Iranian society to a democratic system, advocating for peaceful change from within Iran by its peoples- we believe that Iran should belong to all of its constituent nationalities and peoples and all should rule with equal voice and actively participate in all affairs of its governance. Therefore Inclusiveness is a key driver for democratic and social equality not only for ethnic minority groups, but also for women and religious groups.

e believe that the failure of the leaders of the so-called "Green Movement" to articulate or reflect the demands and needs of the non-Persians ethnic groups did not garner the needed enthusiastic support in outlying ethnic provinces hence limited its potentials. Iranian National groups have been extremely suspicious of any changes that do not guarantee their place in a future Iran. They have clearly demonstrated that theyWill not risk another change in the country without clear assurances that the future government in

Iran will be theirs as well.

Unfortunately, US policy is also guided by the same misunderstanding and in doing so alienates ethnic minorities. Some points to this as the cause for the paralysis in the US-Iran policy- unable to understand the fundamentals of

Iran's society.

Here in the US as CNFI representatives we seek to inform policymakers and the public about the situation of minorities in Iran and to increase understanding of the need for inclusiveness in developing democracy strategies.

Without the participation of all its nationalities, without the peoples' opportunity to rule the country and the regions that they live in, the realization of freedom, development, and peace is impossible. We believe that devolution of power under a federalist system of government is the only political mechanism that is enduring, and allows all Iranian nationalities to realize their aspirations and exercise self-rule in the framework of a free, united and democratic Iran. And, prevents re-emergence of dictatorships.

Some of the basis of CNFI coalition in 2003 was as follows:1. Removal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a totalitarian, anti-democratic state, and violator of the rights of the Iranian peoples- 3. Separation of religion and state. 4. Removal of any and all gender discrimination, and full equality of men and women in every sphere of life - social, political, economic, etc. 5. Guarantee of freedom of thought, speech and assembly, and freedom toorganize social and political organizations to ensure and provide for the equal rights of all citizens in legal enjoyment of these freedoms. 6. Guarantee of social and political equality and justice, and enhancement of the quality of life of all citizens. 7. Establishment of peaceful relations with all countries on the basis of mutual respect and respect for international norms and accords, and resolution of conflicts employing peaceful means and international law. 8. Opposition to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in the region and internationally; cooperation with international endeavours toward achievement of this objective, and support. Iran
is amulti-national and a multi-ethnic country - in fact Iran is the most diverse country in the

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