The Baloch: A people without a state
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – Nasser Boladai is visiting Washington DC as a member of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI) and a representative of the Balochistan People’s Party.
Boladai is a Baloch— an ancient people, who, like the Kurds, have their own compact territory as well as their own language and strong cultural traditions.
The Baloch, thus, constitute a nation, but they lack a state. In the 19th century, Great Britain divided the Baloch homeland. As the Kurds suffer from Sykes-Picot, the Baloch suffer from the Goldsmith Line.
Running north to south, the Goldsmith Line accorded to Iran the western half of Balochistan, while the eastern half remained an independent principality, in treaty relations with Britain.
In 1947, the remaining, eastern half of Balochistan was incorporated into the newly independent state of Pakistan, where it now constitutes the country’s largest province.
Balochistan is largely difficult terrain, an arid and mountainous region, but it is rich in valuable minerals and other natural resources, including gold, copper, chromite, and gas.
It is also strategically located, along the Arabian sea, at the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz, where China is building a major port—part of its “Silk Road” project—at Gwadar in Pakistani Balochistan, while India plans a rival port facility across the border, in Chabahar, Iran.
Kurds are a constituent element of the CNFI, and significant similarities exist between the Kurds and Baloch.
Speaking to Kurdistan24, Boladai expressed his support for Kurdish independence. “The Kurds have a right to self-determination,” he affirmed.
Boladai lives now in Sweden, but he is originally from Iran and affirmed that Tehran remains an opponent of the Kurdish people. “It does not want the Kurds to have their self-determination.”
“Iran is afraid of its internal problems,” he said. As a multi-ethnic state in which Persians dominate, the Iranian regime cannot recognize the legitimate rights of one nationality, without jeopardizing its control over the others, including the Baloch.
Boladai suggested that Iranian foreign policy is based on the “wishes” of the top cleric. The task of Iran’s current president, Hassan Rohani “was to get money from the West.” Whatever Iran is investing in Iraq, it is “to destabilize Kurdistan, not to support it,” he said.
Boladai is visiting Washington to highlight Tehran’s massive human rights violations in Iranian Balochistan.
He is also urging the Voice of America to begin broadcasting in Baloch. Currently, residents of Balochistan are bombarded with media from regional sources that promote ethno-nationalism or religious sectarianism, but nothing of liberal US political values.
Indeed, as Boladai explains, “the Baloch are a secular people.” We have “our own Baloch tradition, which we highly respect.” Countries like Iran and Pakistan “want to change us to a kind of Islamic people”—to replace a national identity, with a religious identity—so as to better control the Baloch and their lands.
Boladai suggested that the regimes in both Pakistan and Iran use Islam as a “tool” to mobilize support for unrepresentative governing elites. Iran uses Shiism to project power—all the way to the Mediterranean Sea—and, thereby, pose as a rival to major countries, like the US and Russia.
The Punjabi army elite in Pakistan similarly uses Sunni Islam for its own purposes, creating armed sectarian groups in India, Afghanistan, and among the Baloch. Boladai worries that the “secular Baloch tradition” is endangered by these machinations.
Boladai would like Washington to pay more attention to the peoples of the region, including the Baloch, and not just deal with ruling elites, whether in Pakistan or Iran.
He suggests that minorities are “more inclined to democracy” than the “hegemonic parties, like Persians and Punjabis,” with which the US is accustomed to deal. If the US did, in fact, address the concerns of the region’s minorities, including those in Iran, it would promote democracy, as well as stability, Boladai argues.