The Islamic Republic's crimes against ethnic minorities in Iran - opinion

Race has become Iran’s radicals’ new battleground and narrative – most likely a reflection of its inability to subdue the many ethnic minorities that populate its land.

 THEN-IRANIAN foreign minister Javad Zarif meets with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Tehran, in 2020. Human rights in Iran are a victim of negotiations on the nuclear file and trade between the EU and Iran, says the writer (photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
THEN-IRANIAN foreign minister Javad Zarif meets with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Tehran, in 2020. Human rights in Iran are a victim of negotiations on the nuclear file and trade between the EU and Iran, says the writer
(photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)

It is said that to defeat evil one must give it a name... but what of that evil whose iterations are so many, words fail to describe them all? 

The Islamic Republic of Iran, I fear, falls within such a category – its crimes so grave and so unpalatable, they defy comprehension. 

As we busy ourselves with the nuclear deal, one must admit is but a grand deflection and a ruse so the regime would be free to accelerate its agenda away from public scrutiny, Iran consolidates its ideological base, this time playing theo-eugenics to secure a future it wants decidedly Persian. 

The irony of it all of course is that the very leadership making such a claim is not...Persian that is, but then again Tehran is no stranger to such intellectual dissonance.

Race has become Iran’s radicals’ new battleground and narrative – most likely a reflection of its inability to subdue the many ethnic minorities that populate its land. Iran’s mullahs would like their revolution to be purely and absolutely Persian. 

 An anti-US mural is seen on a building at a street in Tehran, Iran August 16, 2022 (credit: VIA REUTERS) An anti-US mural is seen on a building at a street in Tehran, Iran August 16, 2022 (credit: VIA REUTERS)

Toward that goal they are ready to rewrite their country’s demographic – the heinous echo of a past we thought forever buried. It is unlikely that you will read such news in the press... media have made a habit of disconnecting tales of human trafficking, enslavement and ethnic discrimination to the agenda driving them. 

Shielded by our denial and naivety, the regime was given room to pursue the darkest corners of its ideology. All the while we have concerned ourselves with talks of normalization and nuclear truce.

There is a school of thought within Iran’s clergy increasingly calling for theological revisionism, pushing the claim that all its prophets are in fact of Persian descent. This ludicrous exercise of racial appropriation of the Scriptures has given credence and momentum to the theory that to assert itself a grand master over the region, Iran needs to reclaim its Persian identity and thus push back against those communities that are not. 

And though such ideologues remain small in their numbers, a minority few divorced from the greater whole, their voices have found an echo among IRGC commanders – those men from whom subjugation remains the ultimate goal, whichever way they may achieve it.

In 2021, Abdul Sattar Doshouki, director of the London-based Center for Balochistan Studies, brushed on the matter when he noted in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council Forum on Minority Issues: “It is a well-known fact that discrimination in Iran is institutionalized through the constitution. The Iranian regime’s policy in Sistan and Balochistan, and for that matter in other provinces too, is based on racial discrimination, assimilation, linguistic discrimination, religious prejudice and inequality, brutal oppression, deprivation and exclusion of the people who are the majority in their own respective provinces and regions.”

Countless activists over the years have warned of the Islamic Republic’s agenda without ever daring uttering the word: eugenics. And we ought to. If we do not we will become a party to its horrors. 

Saleh Hamid, an Ahwazi Arab cultural and political activist formerly imprisoned by the regime for allegedly distributing anti-regime propaganda, is adamant the regime’s ambitions to “wipe out ethnic identities that cannot be subsumed under the Islamic Republic’s hegemonic ideology. Human rights in Iran are a victim of negotiations on the nuclear file and trade between the EU and Iran. 

“When they negotiate, they forget human rights, about the suppression and crackdown. We want human rights cases to be one of the main negotiating points with the regime. There is discrimination in all fields. If you ask an Arab citizen in Iran if he’s benefited from the oil, they’ll tell you ‘nothing but smoke.’”

Masih Alinejad, a prominent rights activist, has spoken too of the regime’s systematic and brutal oppression of ethnic minorities in Iran, recalling the arrests, expropriations, executions, maimings and disappearances of those deemed “unfit and unworthy” of the Islamic Republic.

But there is more... more and much darker. Again, crumbs of Iran’s agenda have transpired over the years without ever fully coming to light. And yet it is there for us to see if only we were to look beyond the surface and recognize in the cries of a people for freedom the battle they wage against theo-fascism. 

Today, as I write these words, Iran’s regime is dispatching its men to remote areas, where minorities dwell away from prying eyes, to kidnap women and children so they could be sold into slavery – rounded up as cattle on the basis that their lineage has been deemed lesser. 

Local reports of mass sterilization have surfaced, even if sporadically, such has been the brutality of Tehran’s crackdown and its determination to prevent information from reaching our eyes, our ears and consciousness. Millions of men, women and children stand to fall prey to such an agenda, while state officials argue back and forth the merits of the JCPOA. 

If the regime has not yet industrialized its ethnic agenda, one would hope we shall not wait for such a day to pass to raise the alarm and demand of our leaders that they call Iran into account for its crimes against humanity. It is not war-mongering to call for actions against the brutality of a system that calls for the blood of minorities on account they do not fit the narrative of its ideology.

There are battles we simply cannot run away from, if we wish to hold on to our humanity.

The writer is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.