Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Ethnic Unrest in Iran

While Iran's electoral paroxysm captured the world's attention, the simmering of ethnic tension in what many people often perceive to be a monolithic state continued unabated. Only a little more than 50% of Iran's population is Persian; the rest is composed of several other ethnic groups. In recent years, Iran has faced persistent attacks allegedly perpetrated by anti-government elements of the Kurdish, Azeri and Baluchi minorities, among others, who maintain that they face discrimination despite a constitutional guarantee of rights. The Islamic Republic, ruled by a Shi'ite theocracy, has staged mass arrests and put to death dozens of "traitors and criminals." Still, the unrest escalated: in October, a suicide bombing by the minority Sunni group Jundullah killed dozens of people — including at least five commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards — and left dozens of others wounded, the deadliest insurgent strike to that point. Tehran accused the U.S. and Britain of stoking the fire; both countries denied it.