Sistan and Baluchestan

‘It’s the closest thing to Mars on Earth,’ concluded a group of US geologists visiting the region of Sistan and Balochistan in the early 1970s. And since Iran’s revolution in 1979, the country’s southeast feels as little explored as the Red Planet.

Balochistan, as the Baloch refer to their homeland, is divided today between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the fact that the region is a virtual no-go area for the international media shouldn’t disguise its potential strategic importance. After all, the area—roughly the size of France—holds significant reserves of gas, gold, copper, oil and uranium, and also has a 1,000-kilometre coastline at the gates of the Persian Gulf.

‘(But) unlike what happened in Pakistani-controlled Balochistan, Tehran hasn’t exploited the energy and mineral reserves in the area,’ says Prof. Taj Muhammad Breseeg. ‘It prefers that the region’s resources and population remain undeveloped.’

‘(But) unlike what happened in Pakistani-controlled Balochistan, Tehran hasn’t exploited the energy and mineral reserves in the area,’ says Prof. Taj Muhammad Breseeg. ‘It prefers that the region’s resources and population remain undeveloped.’

Today, the region has the lowest per capita income in Iran, with almost 80 percent of the Baloch people living below the poverty line by some estimates. The average life expectancy, meanwhile, is at least eight years lower than the national average, while infant mortality rates are the highest in the country. It all results, suggests Breseeg, from Tehran’s ‘policy of assimilation.’

‘Annexation of the region to Iran in 1928 brought terrible episodes of repression, caused a mass exodus of the local population and saw virtually every Baloch place name changed toa Persian one,’ Breseeg says.

The problem for Balochs is that they are Sunni Muslims in a Shiite-ruled nation. ‘The Islamic Shiite missionaries sent by Tehran told us that we’d have no jobs, no schools and no opportunities unless we converted,’ says Faiz Baloch, one of thousands of Baloch refugees who were forced to leave their homeland.

Now based in Britain, Faiz recounts the incident 10 years ago that he says was the last straw in pushing him out. ‘(I had) a heated discussion with two Islamic Guards. They raided our home and wanted to arrest me,’ he says. ‘I managed to escape, but they took my father instead. That was the last time I saw or heard from him.’ Faiz says he believes it likely his father was hanged soon after he was detained.

According to figures from Amnesty International, Iran executed at least 1,481 people from 2004 to 2009, with the London-based International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons claiming that about 55 percent of these were Baloch. The organization claims that the Baloch in Iran have endured the highest concentration of death penalties handed down as a percentage of population in the world for nearly a decade under the Islamic regime.

Faiz is studying for university admission exams, something he says would have been much harder in his native Sistan and Balochistan. ‘There are currently about 3.3 million university students in Iran, but Baloch account for probably only 2,000 students,’ he says. ‘Most Baloch students don’t find a job after graduation anyway.’

It was this harsh economic and political climate that fostered the creation of Jundallah—a religious and political organisation established in 2002 claiming rights for the local Baloch. Jundallah is believed to organize a range of disruptive activities in support of its cause, including suicide bombings and more selective attacks, such as the alleged kidnapping of an Iranian nuclear scientist last September.

‘The greatest paradox of all this is that it was the Ayatollahs’ regime that initially supported the Sunni Mullahs in the early 1980s,’ says Shahzavar Karimzadi, a Baloch economist and human rights activist who currently teaches at London Metropolitan University. ‘It was another way to counter the ever increasing popularity of the progressive secular democratic left among Baloch people.

 

history of city:

The said province covers an area of 178,431 sq. km. and is located to the east of Iran. The various townships of this province are, Iran Shahr, Chabahar, Khash, Zabol, Zahedan, Saravan, and Nik Shahr. Zahedan is the center of this province. The province comprises of two sectors, ‘Sistan’ in the north and ‘Baluchestan’ in the south. In the east it has common borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the south is the Oman, to the north and northwest is Khorassan province and to the west stand Kerman and Hormozgan provinces.

In the year 1996, the province had a population of approximately 723,000, of which 46.1 % resided in the urban areas, 52.8 % in the rural areas and the rest accounted as non-residents.

According to the natural relief, the formation of this area relates to the late Cenozoic period, and due to the tectonic movements, the mountains have been segregated from the sea. Thence, calcareous sedimentation from the sea, in addition to other comparatively large and soft sediments, have piled up on each other. The southern part of the province known as Mokran, is gradually subsiding due to the thickness of the clay or sandy sedimentation of the Cenozoic period. The altitudes of the province belong to the Mezozoic and Cenozoic periods and are composed mainly of limestone and gypsum.

Some of the mountains of this province, for example Taftan volcano, are of the late Cenozoic and early Quaternary periods. The altitudes or heights of Sistan Va Baluchestan are part of the central mountain ranges of Iran, and comprise of the uneven lands of the eastern sector of the Challeh Loot and the elevations of the eastern and southern walls of the Challeh Jazmoorian. These mountainous walls stretch out from north to south, and reach a maximum in the area between Iran Shahr and Koohak. These irregularities form both distinctive sections of the mountains of Sistan Va Baluchestan.

 

With regards to the geographical location of this province, Sistan Va Baluchestan comes under the influence of various air currents and also high pressure of medium latitudes. The most prominent climatological phenomenon of the region being the heat. Besides which the strong seasonal winds, sand storms, torrential showers a high percentage of humidity and morning fog are other factors to be considered. Basically this province experiences long, hot summers and short winters, the coldest city being Zahedan and the warmest Iran Shahr. Whereas the coastal region of the Oman Sea has warm weather coupled with a higher percentage of humidity.

Sistan Va Baluchestan province accounts for one of the driest regions of the country with an increase in rainfall from east to west, and an obvious rise in humidity in the coastal regions. The province is subject to seasonal winds from different directions, the most important of which are, the 120-day wind of Sistan known as Levar, the Qousse wind, the seventh (Gavkosh) wind, the Nambi or south wind, the Hooshak wind, the humid and seasonal winds of the Indian Ocean, the North or (Gurich) wind and the western (Gard) wind.

 

The province is comprised of two distinct segments from the point of view of its natural characteristics and habitation. Namely being Sistan and Baluchestan. The current Sistan is situated in the north of the province, and due to its strategic position and geographical location, has been considered an important region throughout history. In the epigraphs of Bistoon and Persepolis (Tahkht-e-Jamshid), Sistan has been mentioned as one of the eastern territories of Darius (Dariyoosh). The name Sistan is derived from ‘Seka’ one of the Aryan tribes that had taken control over this area in the year 128 BC. From the Sassanide period till the early Islamic period, Sistan flourished considerably

During the reign of Ardeshir Babakan, Sistan came under the jurisdiction of the Sassanids, and in the year 23 AH., the Arab moslems gained access to this territory. Such that during the rule of Moaviyeh, this region was completely under his domain. The primal governor of this region was the renounced Yaqoob Lais Saffari, whose descendants dominated this area for many centuries. Other dynasties such as the Saffarian, Samanides or (Samani), Qaznavid, and Saljuqi also ruled over this territory for a period. But the region witnessed heavy damage during the Mongol assault.

In the year 914 AH., Shah Esmail Safavid conquered Sistan, and in the reign of Nader Shah due to internal discrepancies, the region saw damages too. The ancient name of Baluchestan was ‘Moka’ and through the passage of time it changed to Mokran, which is known as the southern sector of Baluchestan. This territory came to be known as Baluchestan from the time that the Baluch tribes settled here. According to the relics discovered in the hillocks of Baluchestan, the history of this region dates back to the 3000 BC.

During the reign of the second caliph, this territory was conquered by the Arabs and an Arab commander was assigned as governor. In the year 304 AH., Baluchestan was conquered by the Daylamians and thereafter the Saljuqis, when it became a part of Kerman. After the reign of Nader Shah, Baluchestan was formally, a part of Iran, but devoid of a local self-rule. Mohammad Shah Qajar beseiged the territory of Iran Shahr and gradually the coastal region of Baluchestan came under the rule of the central government.

Generally speaking, the inhabitants of the province of Sistan Va Baluchestan embrace their own norms and traditions, and this region can be accounted as one of the sight-seeing areas in the country. Two of the important tribes, named as ‘Barahuie’ and ‘Baluch’ reside in Sistan Va Baluchestan province. Their means of livelihood, life-style, mode of dwelling, customs, traditions and tribal paths all form a cultural background worth seeing. A group of scholars, orators and literary personalities have sprung up from this part of the country, amongst which are the reputed Farrokhi Sistani, Yaqoob Lais and Rostam.

 

Abstract:

The province of Sistan & Baluchestan, having beautiful and various geomorphologic sites, could be considered as one of the tourist attractions in Iran which draws many geotourists to this region: Mud volcanoes are among the most important geomorphologic attractions which are very interesting, fresh and eye-catching. The best-known mud volcanoes are Napag, Pirgel, Ain and Borborook. Each of these, according to its characteristics and functions has certain attraction for geotourists and can bring benefits to this province through attracting tourists, and be considered as a profitable economical choice. The aim of this paper is, through describing the features and functions of significant mud volcanoes, to draw the officials and researchers, attention to the geotourist importance and role of mud volcanoes, so that a strategy is taken to develop this unprivileged region.

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