January 26, 2021
Baluchi activists say Iranian authorities have demolished the foundations of a Sunni mosque in the city of Iranshahr in the Sistan-Baluchistan Province in order “to pressure” the Sunni minority in the region.
According to the Europe-based Campaign Of Baluch Activists, the demolition took place on January 23, while all the necessary permits had been obtained by the municipality and the prosecutor’s office.
But Iranshahr Mayor Noorahmad Darkhosh told the official government news agency IRNA that the construction had not been approved by the authorities.
IRNA reported that the location has been licensed as an open-air enclosure for prayers, while adding that “based on rules and regulations, it should not be roofed.”
The report said Iranshahr, which has a predominantly ethnic-Baluch population, has 500 Sunni mosques and 80 Shi’ite mosques.
Baluchi activists say authorities have in recent weeks halted the construction of two other Sunni mosques in the region. They have blamed the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Intelligence Ministry for the pressure.
Ethnic and religious minorities in Iran have repeatedly complained of state pressure and discrimination.
In a January letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, prominent Iranian Sunni leader Maulana Abdolhamid criticized what he described as the establishment’s discriminatory treatment of the Sunnis.
“Forty- two years after the victory of the Islamic revolution, Iran’s Sunnis still face many problems and concerns about their civil rights,” the letter said, adding that Sunnis are considered “second-class citizens.”
Abdollah Aref, the director of the Campaign of Baluch Activists, told the BBC that in the past two months his group has documented the execution of 16 members of the Baluch minority.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran reported in December 2020 that three Baluch prisoners had been executed in Sistan-Baluchistan after being convicted of membership in militant Sunni groups that have carried out deadly attacks in Iran in the past.
Human rights attorney Mostafa Nili told the daily Etemad on December 18 that there are at least 10 prisoners on death row in the central prison of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan, in connection with militant groups opposed to the Islamic republic.
Meanwhile, rights activists have reported that about 50 Kurdish activists have been detained in cities in several Iranian provinces in the past two weeks on unknown charges.
The spokesman of the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, Kaveh Kermanshahi, told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that the intelligence branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is believed to be behind the arrests.
“Most of the detainees are political, civil, cultural, environmental, and even art activists and a number of them are ordinary citizens,” Kermanshahi, whose group has published some of the names of the detainees, said.
Kermanshahi added that the reason for the new wave of arrests is not clear.
He expressed concern that the detainees could be pressured to make “forced confessions.”