Iran has completed another section of its Chahbahar-Zahedan railroad, which is supposed to be part of a larger network of railways that form new strategic corridors.
Normally, the completion of a new section of the railway would be a time to remark about how Iran is trying to knit its economy into that of India and also link it with Central Asia and the Caucasus. But the report about the completion of a section of the railroad, which stretches from the port of Chahbahar to Zahedan in eastern Iran, reflects the focus on protests in that part of the country.
Iran has been accused of massacring protesters in its southeastern Baluchestan province. The rail link to Zahedan is important in this context because the regime would prefer to build rail lines and focus on the economy than deal with protesters. In that context, the regime has used a brutal hand with the protests in this far-off region, with reports of massacres of dissidents.
The Islamic Republic has been careful not to massacre protesters in the center of the country, particularly around Tehran, but it has been more brutal in the Kurdistan Region in western Iran and in the southeast. This is because the regime has gambled that it can treat minority regions with more brutality than the Farsi-speaking center.
What is the railway Iran completed?
In terms of the railroad, the country has been working on sections of these rail lines for many years. The Zahedan-Khash railroad section was inaugurated in August. According to Iranian state media reports at the time, “The first section of Zahedan-Chabahar Railroad stretching from Zahedan to Khash will soon be inaugurated by the President on the occasion of the Government Week in Iran (24-30 August).”
That section included some 154 km. of the 630 km. of this “strategic rail corridor.” According to one of the August reports, this north-south rail corridor is “heading to Sarakhs from the ocean port of Chabahar. The rail route links Iran and South Asia to the Central Asian and northern countries.”
There are some 14,000 km. of railroad in Iran. “With 6,300 km. of railroad under study, in total, 9,600 [km. of] new railroad is planned to be added to the rail network,” a report said at the time. These will include rail lines to Tabriz and Sanandaj in the Kurdistan Region, as well as a line along the Caspian Sea and the one in Baluchestan.
The Fars News Agency report this week discussed the line in Zahedan, but it did not mention the protests in these regions.
“What we are currently pursuing the Zahedan-Khas railway is to carry out technical reviews of the project and obtain approval, and after that, this 154-km. railway line will be ready,” an official said this week in Iran.
Clearly, the regime believes it can build railways over the areas where protesters have been gathering, which appears to show that the government does not believe the protesters will get in the way of its larger agenda.