“It’s been two days since fuel traders (carriers) were kept at the border, and out of hunger and thirst, they asked the security forces to open the doors.” Abdullah Aref, the director of the Baloch Activists’ Campaign, reported these events two days ago, on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, in an interview with Anatoly News Agency about what had happened in Saravan. The people, who were hungry and thirsty, after two days “demonstrated” on Monday, February 22, 2021, “because security forces did not respond to their request.” Thus, killing of local people and shooting at fuel traders by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps agents at the border of Saravan city on Monday, goes back to two days before that, Saturday February 20, 2021. On that day, IRGC agents blocked the way for Iranian fuel carriers to enter their country. They were starved and forced to tolerate thirst for two days. They began to protest after enduring two days of dehydration and hunger. IRGC agents also responded to people who had been kept thirsty and hungry in the desert: shooting and killing.
On that day, IRGC killed at least 10 Iranian citizens who had been fed up with thirst and hunger. Five injuries were also reported. Local activists published the names of those killed online the day after Saravan’s massacre.
On the same day, locals and relatives of victims of IRGC violence rallied in front of the Saravan governor’s office. The response to these protests was violence and repression, too. The result of this repression, however, was an outburst of people’s wrath. People took over the governor’s building that day. They set fire to several repressive forces’ vehicles. Saravan uprose. To take control of the city, the regime poured armed forces into the city from surrounding towns. Internet and telephone lines were cut off. The entrances and exits of Saravan were closed and martial law implemented in the city. As of Tuesday, no one knows exactly what crime the regime is committing behind closed doors in Saravan.
Yesterday, Wednesday, February 24, a wave of protests spread to other cities in the province. Merchants and bazaars in the cities of Iranshahr, Zahedan and Dezap went on strike in protest of the Saravan massacre. The internet was either shut down or severely disrupted across the province. In Zahedan county, people of Kurin district in Sarjangal city clashed with the oppressive forces. Sarjangal military base fell on Wednesday and people took control of it. The atmosphere in the cities of Khash, Saravan and Zahedan was severely inflamed and security forces were at every corner. Shooting and clashes continued in these areas last night.
Examining how the state-controlled media covered these events also reveals the regime’s role in this crime. The first reaction of the media was to deny and conceal the truth. After the volume of images and documents increased, in its first reaction, IRIB arranged an interview with Mohammad Hadi Mar’ashi, Deputy Governor of Sistan-Baluchestan in Security Affairs, on Tuesday, February 24. The security official claimed that the killing of Iranian fuel traders was carried out by Pakistani border guards on Monday and blamed them for firing on Iranian citizens. He also stated 2 people were killed and 4 were injured. According to this narrative, Iranian citizens were shot dead by Pakistani forces in front of IRGC border forces, without any reaction from IRGC agents. In addition to IRGC’s inaction, regime’s diplomatic apparatus, specifically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic, has so far shown no reaction (for example, summoning the ambassador of Pakistan). Of course, there was a very simple reason for this: the claim that the Pakistani border guards killed the fuel carriers was a lie! Irfan Qarshin, the Makran district commissioner in the Kharan region of Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, in an interview with Radio Farda today denied the claim that Pakistani border agents had shot fuel traders at the Saravan’s Shamsar checkpoint.
Razzaq: The Quds Force plan to circumvent sanctions and monopolize fuel smuggling
On the same Tuesday that state media tried to cover up and hide the dimensions of the crime in Saravan and were preparing false reports about the “return of calm to Saravan and the normal conditions to Sistan and Baluchestan cities”, a project called “Razzaq plan” (Sustainer plan) was reflected in the media. This plan was first introduced during Ahmadinejad’s presidency. Border villages’ residents up to a 20-kilometer radius of the border were allowed to buy fuel and transport it across the border for sale. The Ministry of Oil was also responsible for building fuel stations in the border area. However, the government’s plan, with increasing international sanctions against IRGC, which has taken over much of the country’s economy, was confiscated by the Quds Force in 2018. In the same year, Mohammad Marani, commander of the Quds Force base in the south, described the Razzaq plan as a “security” plan, saying of fuel operators that “fuel smugglers are wealthy people, and loaded.” Like many security plans, Razzaq was widely reported in the media with many empty promises and without offering any details. In an interview with IRNA in December 2018, Mohammad Marani revealed the IRGC’s intention to monopolize fuel smuggling:
“A passage was opened illegally. About 400 to 500 motorcycles, each with 2 to 3 containers of 60 liters of fuel, wanted to cross the border. Border guards, police and Sajjad base agents and Basij (a branch of IRGC) stopped them. They protested, saying this is our right, why did you stop us? What right do they (fuel carriers) have to do this? The border is our territory. What these people do is a crime, but they consider it their right. We must defend our border.” “We have to identify these people and verify their poverty,” he said of those eligible for fuel trading licenses. “Otherwise, some border residents are filthy rich.”
In this statement, it is clear that from the very beginning, IRGC saw people who had no choice but to make a living by carrying fuel as rivals in their lucrative business. Fuel traders “have no right”, the widespread smuggling of fuel across the border is the exclusive IRGC “territory”. What happened in Saravan and sparked protests in other cities and parts of the province is along the same line of monopolization, insatiability, and unbridled ambitions of the Revolutionary Guards.
In addition to concealing, denial, and normalizing the situation, the regime’s propaganda seeks to introduce the IRGC’s activities in the region as legal and anti-trafficking. For example, yesterday, Wednesday, February 24, Borna News Agency reported the “seizure of 785 kilograms of opium in Saravan,” quoting “Sardar Mohammad Mollashahi,” one of the agents and officials responsible for the repression of the local people. A photo of the seized drugs along with an exciting account of the Saravan Border Regiment operation, was also published by the news agency, and then copied and pasted by a number of other regime’s news agencies. The photo of the drugs seized in Saravan, actually belonged to a similar news in Urmia in 2018. Mollashahi claims that clashes and shootings between the smugglers and Saravan Regiment lasted so long that the smugglers finally left the two vehicles carrying the drugs and fled: the image of the smuggled cargo in this news, fake and the smuggler missing! Legends of the courage and bravery of the repressive and intelligence brothers: Ridiculous.
Continuation and spread of protests and strikes and internet outage
Contrary to the claims of IRGC media (Fars, Tasnim, Young Journalists Club, etc.), which have been unanimously announcing the end of the protests and return of calm to the cities since yesterday, reports, photos and videos are circulating online and in social networks, indicating fierce clashes and shootings of IRGC forces at unarmed people. According to these reports, the Sarjangal checkpoint was captured by people yesterday. The Baluch Activists Campaign reported on its Telegram channel on Thursday that there was a “widespread internet outage” in Sistan and Baluchestan province and announced: “Shopkeepers’ strike continue in Iranshahr, Zahedan and Jekigur. The strike began on the second day of the protests. Also, the received reports which are confirmed, show security and anti-riot forces from neighboring cities have come to suppress the protests in the big cities of the province. Following the protests, two protesting citizens, including a teenager named “Hassan Mohammad Zehi” and “Mohammad Saleh Moghaddami”, have died in Qala-e-Bid. At the same time, the campaign has received reports from Zahedan that the death toll is 15 but has not yet been able to confirm them due to widespread internet outages and disruptions in telecommunications networks. During the protests in Zahedan yesterday, anti-riot forces reportedly wounded a number of citizens by firing tear gas and case-shots at women.”
The contradiction and lies in the news published by IRGC media in this regard become gross and undeniable when the governor of Zahedan, in an interview with Asr Hamoon, confirms the occurrence of clashes between the people’s forces and IRGC agents in Kurin district. Of course, in this interview, Abuzar Mehdi Nakhaei calls the people “thugs”, thugs who attacked Kurin checkpoint with “light weapons and grenade launchers”. Let’s watch a video of police shooting at the “thugs” armed to the teeth with stone slingshots:
Translation of this post by Sahar.