The Human Rights Situation of Iran's Baluch Minority
June 10, 2019
Iran’s Baluch citizens, who mainly reside in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, face numerous discriminatory practices and human rights violations. The accounts of several witnesses interviewed by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) demonstrate that torture and abuse of due process rights, such as the right to adequate counsel, occur regularly in cases involving Baluchis charged with national security crimes. In many instances they receive harsh sentences, including the death penalty, in grossly unfair trials.
As Sunni Muslims, Baluch Iranians are both an ethnic and religious minority in the majority-Shia country. The Iranian Constitution explicitly states that Iran’s official religion is Shia Islam, and that the president of the Islamic Republic must be a Shia male. In practice, however, the ban on Sunnis go further, and they are barred from high-level posts such as minister or provincial governor. Furthermore, Iranian authorities curtail Sunnis’ right to free exercise of religion through practices such as demolishing Sunni religious seminaries and prohibiting them from building new mosques in Tehran, Mashhad and many other major cities.
Sistan and Baluchistan is one of Iran’s poorest provinces, with human development indicators lagging far behind the rest of the country. Scarcity of economic opportunity has contributed to proliferation of smuggling as a means for earning a livelihood. Drug offences are punishable by death under Iranian law, and Sistan and Baluchistan Province has one of the highest execution rates compared to other provinces. In addition, many Baluch citizens have been fatally shot by security forces while riding vehicles suspected of smuggling fuel. Statelessness is yet another human rights issue affecting many Baluch Iranians, contributing to their problems.
As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Iran is obligated to respect the rights of its Baluch citizens without discrimination. This report explains how the Iranian government has failed to comply with these international human rights commitments.