balochistan rebels

Willem Marx in Prospect, via Oneworld:

Pakistan_ethnic_80 The Toyota pick-up truck roared through the green gates into the dusty walled compound and juddered to a halt inches from a small well. Eight figures, their faces swathed in cloth, stood up stiffly from their crouched positions before clambering down. They lifted their weapons gingerly from the floor where they had lain concealed. I counted five semi-automatics, a light machine gun and a green rocket-propelled grenade launcher before the vehicle’s driver slammed his door. Iran’s most wanted terrorist walked towards me with his hand extended, a dazzlingly white smile beneath a Pashtun hat.

But 24-year-old Abdulmalik Rigi is not Pashtun, he’s Baloch—an ethnic minority that straddles an area across southeast Iran, southwest Pakistan and south Afghanistan. In February, the Iranian city of Zahedan was hit by a bomb—for which Rigi claimed responsibility—that killed 11 Revolutionary Guards, and placed Rigi at the top of Tehran’s hitlist. A series of American media reports had linked Rigi’s guerrilla attacks to a wider US-sponsored covert war against Iran. Rigi had agreed to meet me, a western journalist, to publicly refute these allegations, which he says have been levelled against his group by the mullahs of Iran.

Balochistan is a vast expanse of territory separating the middle east from the Indian subcontinent (see below—the Baloch region is coloured pink). The Baloch people are ethnically heterogeneous but united by their language and culture, and their Sunni Islam faith. In the late 19th century, the highly tribal Baloch homeland was carved up by British India, Afghanistan and Persia, and the Baloch have thus never enjoyed a modern sovereign state. Nevertheless, the difficult terrain kept the Baloch relatively isolated, allowing them to preserve a centuries-old cultural heritage, and in both Iran and Pakistan they have offered armed resistance to central government control since the early 20th century.

More here.