The voice of Baloch women: Down with dictatorship, whether with the name of Islam or monarchy!

The voice of Baloch women issued a statement on the alliance project. This project refers to the nominal coalition among known individuals from the right-wing opposition to the Islamic Republic. The toppled Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi, Masih Alinejad, Hamed Esmaeilion, and Nazanin Boniadi are examples of these individuals, each twitted the same post calling 2023 the year of unity among Iranians on new year’s eve. The statement is as follows:

Balochistan is being boycotted in the news. As protests continue in Balochistan, the regime, which has spared no effort to commit all possible crimes in the region during this period, has also increased attacks and arrests. The execution of prisoners who are not known activists has been accelerated and arrested protesters are more and more condemned to the death penalty or long prison sentences. The arrests of students and social media activists, as well as invasions of poor neighborhoods have reached their peak. These are but a small part of what happened last week, since a member of the Revolutionary Guard was appointed to the governor position in the province. However, Balochistan has a modest share of news coverage in the mainstream opposition media. These media only cover Balochistan news when they could politically abuse it and turn the uprising of Baloch people into an ‘alliance project’. 

Nowadays, as the media experts, Hashtag activists, and allied celebrities have taken the responsibility of protecting and advocating the reactionarism of the Aria-mehr (Pahlavi) dynasty, Balochistan is concurrently being both sanctified and distorted and people’s struggles in the region are being censored. Before the Jina uprising, we were not aware of eliminationist policies and censorship in these media to such an extent and didn’t notice these policies as prominently in the case of Balochistan.

But the main question is what meaning lies behind these media and alliances and for whom? Which wishes are being normalized? What is being censored about Balochistan, and which dominant individuals or groups does this censorship serve? Why are the most radical slogans of a region – which is struggling with the most powerful dominant forces and capitalist patriarchal governance of both Mulla and Shah – not worth representing and mentioning by the media? Unfortunately, what is being shown is the image of Balochistan as a fixed homogenized ‘truth’ without any political and religious diversity; an image that the media try to fix each week through exclusion and censorship. This exclusion reveals the policy of ‘alliance’ and ‘offering an alternative for the future’, framed by bosses, media owners and the ones whose voices are covered by the media: this is the policy we have to talk about now more than ever.

In such an exclusionist environment, it is a relief that at least the virtual and seemingly independent media of Balochistan publish the images and narratives of Zahedan’s Fridays, beyond the racist and centrist political considerations of the mainstream opposition and the foreign media’s representation policy. Otherwise, it would not have been clear where and how popular chants such as “Down with the oppressor, whether it be a king or a supreme leader” be documented. There is no doubt that the [rightwing] allies would have silenced these independent voices if they could in order to create a homogeneous image of “normal” at their will. Such an image would depict the Baluch as part of a collective “us” and as a voice that yearns for unity with the right-wing centrists. 

The coalition members and their supporters would rather the Baluch people close their eyes to all forms of institutionalized and historically targeted forms of oppression. They prefer to present a familiar and digestible image away from existing tension, and instead in harmony with their aspirations, hopes and alternatives. This is the false reality they aim to construct. They ignore the political demands of the Baluch people which negate not only the religious rule but also any form of monarchy. It is unfortunate that in this path, even some Baluch activists of the diaspora—who got their credibility from the extensive and bloody protests of the Baluch people—stand by the forces of the protestors’ images and videos with “alliance” and censor the progressive demands of the Baluch. They too do not publish and share the anti-Sheikh [religious leader] and anti-Shah [monarch] sentiments and slogans. For the alliance- empowered by money and the media- Balochs are just supposed to sacrifice themselves for the country, so that the allies could paint themselves as tribunes of the people across the media, and claim that the motivation behind the alliance is the salvation of Balochs. It is clear that “no to the backwardness of the sheikh and the king” does not find credibility within the rightwing opposition, because the latter does not stem from the core of a society that is still mourning the loss of Baluch revolutionaries. Rather, it aims at “consuming” Balch lives for its cause.

We have already explained in previous texts how some forces are trying to reduce the problems of Sistan and Baluchistan to the post-revolutionary era, 1979 onward, by falsifying and distorting history. They act as if the oppression of the Baluch is merely a product of, and specific to religious rule. They do not have a problem with the unequal economic system, hierarchical patriarchal power, and ethnic assimilation. Instead, they isolate and limit everything to the role of the Islamic Republic and consider all economic, social, cultural and environmental problems to be the result of the central religious government. They do so by dehistoricizing the long-term exclusion of the Baluch and instead attributing the ongoing exclusionary politics only to foreign policy and economic corruption.

On account of this, the above-mentioned  forces strip away the meaning of slogans such as “No to cross-border laboring, no to fuel smuggling laboring, yes to freedom and equality” by appropriating them. They ignore decades of freedom-seeking struggles by Baloch people for their religious, political, linguistic and ethnic rights under both regimes. With all these, it is unsurprising that none of the experts on Balochistan issues mentions that the Baloch people do not welcome the Monarchy, while part of Balochistan has explicitly declared their opposition to the Monarchy system. From our perspective, the meaning of such politics is nothing more than controlling and erasing the culture of freedom, erasing the memories of anti-colonialism and the history of our oppression. 

However, as we said, the Baloch people not only said no to the reactionarism of the Shah, they also target the reactionarism of Mullahs. As one of the most misogynist governments in history, the Islamic regime has focused attention on the “oppression of Baloch women” in a deceitful way and with the intention of silencing the protesters. By targeting women’s issues as a tool to eliminate Baloch dissenters and dissidents, the ruling regime victimizes these women for its own good. In order to achieve such a goal, the state creates a toxic and polluted atmosphere in society, so that all the activities and discourses of Baloch women are defamed and seen by mistrust. As a result, the Balouch society itself marginalizes any emancipatory action of women on the pretext of damaging the identity and struggles of the people. 

The Islamic regime wants to silence Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi (imam of the Makki Mosque in Zahedan). Despite that, in recent weeks, Abdolhamid’s words have not only drawn the attention of expatriate centrist oppositionists, and parts of the middle class in the central and peripheral areas, but it has also attracted the attention of parts of the underprivileged and subjugated Balouch people.ٌ 

We have already declared our criticisms of Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi in our previous texts and expressed our clear reasons considering the social and political context of the society. As a group of women critical of this political current, we have tried to express our opinions explicitly and pointed out the danger of the Makki political current as an alternative to the region’s totalitarian and repressive authoritarian state. In our opinion, no one and no institution is sacred, and questioning and holding institutions of authority accountable is emancipatory politics. However, we cannot deny the fact that in a society where the smallest groups and circles are facing threats and being oppressed by the intelligence services and security agencies, Makki’s organized institution and apparatus can profit from the mass resentment and turn the situation to its own advantage.

But what scares the Islamic Republic more than before is not even Abdulhamid and his many supporters, but the continuous presence of marginalized people in Zahedan’s justice-seeking Fridays. Of those recently killed and arrested, many are from the lowest economic strata of society. Most of them are displaced, abandoned, and unorganized youths who have found the mosque to be the only place of assembly, and seeking justice, whose doors are open to them. At the same time, they have reclaimed the streets as a field of common action and found each other. By producing various forms of resistance against the ruling order, they have disturbed both normal everyday life and the ruling class’s understanding of them. Many of those arrested have no birth certificate and face the risk of being deported from the country. Those who have nothing to lose in life except their chains. Now, in such an atmosphere, the Islamic Republic wants to target woman activists – who live at the intersection of gender, religious, and ethnic oppressions. Place them in opposition to the protesters, and manipulate the most sensitive religious sentiments, to hit two birds with one stone: eliminate the women, and suppress the protesters. As a result of this scenario, on the one hand, women will be forced to retreat into their dens, and on the other hand, some of the youth and marginalized people will be suppressed at an unbelievably accelerated pace either by their own society or by the regime, as in previous years. The retaliatory executions of the last few months are also carried out with the same purpose and to intimidate the most subaltern layers of the marginalized and the workers.

Fighting against these reactionary forces is a complicated and difficult task at a time when the coalitionists are suffocating and abusing the struggles of the Baloch people. Nevertheless, the Baloch people continue the struggle on different planes. They show that such reactions by the Sheikh and the Shah are reminders of the unrepresented and silent history of suppression, underdevelopment, police state, and normalization of poverty and misery for them. Resistance against the forces of reaction, and discrediting them is not possible except by rethinking and revising historical narratives, reclaiming memories, and positioning ourselves in the field of struggle.

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