Iran: Innocent Bystanders Killed in Anti-Smuggling Operations

Over 100 people, including innocent bystanders, are killed every year in anti-smuggling operations in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province, according to human rights campaigner Habibollah Sarbazi.

“There are no jobs in the area and even educated people have to resort to smuggling fuel to make a living,” Sarbazi, the director of the Baloch Activists Campaign, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on October 4, 2017.

Sistan and Baluchestan are some of Iran’s poorest provinces. The predominantly Sunni Muslim inhabitants are also subjected to ethnic and religious discrimination by Iran’s Shia-majority state agencies. Sarbazi spoke to CHRI after a three-year-old and his father were killed during a police chase in the southeastern city of Iranshahr on September 28, 2017.

According to him, the police raided a home where several men suspected of smuggling refugees and fuel between Iran and Afghanistan were hiding, killing one suspect, as well as a boy and his father who were caught in the line of fire.

“Instead of opening fire on these people, or trying to overturn their vehicles in road chases, the police could choose less dangerous options such as summoning suspects and pursuing them through the judicial system and impounding their vehicles,” Sarbazi told CHRI.

A local member of Parliament has also criticized the police for the way they handled the operation.

“Unfortunately, during the exchange of fire, a child and his father lost their lives,” said Mohammad Naim Aminifard, the MP from Iranshahr, in an interview with the parliamentary news service, ICANA, on September 29, 2017.

“The police should have taken precautions to avoid hurting family members in the home,” he added. “It is very difficult to gather information in this area, but our statistics show that every year between 100 and 200 people are killed as a result of police actions against individuals branded as bandits who have never been found guilty in a court of law,” Sarbazi told CHRI.

The Baloch Activists Campaign keeps track of the deaths through media reports and word mouth, seeking to corroborate them with at least one eyewitness.