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Untold Stories of Nasir Abad – Interview with Habibollah Sarbazi

Posted on: 17th February, 2015
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HRANA News Agency – Nasirabad is one of the villages in the county of Sarbaz located in the province of Sistan and Balouchestan (Rusk as its capital). This village become centre of attention of Human Rights Organisations after security forces raided the village and arrested 30 locals on 4:00 am, 04 January 2015.
Those arrested are from a wide range, from religious authorities to students and pupils. But what is the reason behind these arrests?

According to the reports sent to HRANA (Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran), these arrests took place after a local Basiji militia named ” Adham Sabouri” and an outsider teacher named ” Isa Shahraki” were assassinated. Although after couple of months from the incidents, none of the armed groups in the region claimed the responsibility for the assassinations, Iranian security officials held “Jaish-al-Adl” and “Jaish-al-Nasr” responsible for it. However, questions are endless with regards to this.

HRANA intends to investigate and evaluate the situation and while creating a foundation to track the status of detainees at Nasirabad, also find answers too many uncertainties.

What follows is the second interview of a series report made by Alireza Sarbazi on this issue which has been conducted with Mohammad Omar Mollazehi- a local at this village with good knowledge on the case.

The full text of this conversation exactly as follows:

HRANA: Mr Habibollah Sarbazi I am contacting you on behalf of HRANA to hear and record your comments with regards to the mass arrests at Nasir Abad village.  Of course we have already contacted the families of the detainees but they have been excused from telling us the story and refused to provide information over the phone. We have decided to gather information through a Balouch activist like you just like the interview with Mr “Mohammad Omar Mollazehi” which proved to be extremely useful. 

Habibollah Sarbazi: fortunately, since the incident of arrests at Nasir Abad covered by media to some extent, families of the detainees started to overcome their fear and provided me with detailed useful information. Apart from this    photos by the children of detainees holding a handwritten placard of “ my father is innocent , let him go” and also the letter by Ms” Somayieh Bahramzehi” the wife of Mr “Edris Balideie” which was  written to the chief of Sistan and Balouchestan Police have encouraged the families of the detainees. Arrests with such format and motives are not accepted for by the residents of the area. During the last week 6 of the residents have been summoned with regards to speaking to media on two occasions and they have been warned and also they have been interrogated because they provided information about the prisoners of the Nasir Abad incident. Some other have been summoned today but they refused to attend since they were scared of being arrested. There is a fear vibe in the area. I even received a photo on my phone from one of the locals showing a message that said: “you have publicised the news about the summoning of 6 individuals, this is your last warning” . During the first couple of days of the incident almost no one agreed to cooperate with me. I have made many attempts to send a message to locals and stop them worrying and encourage them to inform others. Since there was the possibility of execution the detainees on the allegations given to them if the media remained silent. These incidents are absolutely possible in Sistan and Balouchestan. Imagine, on 05 December 2013, if I am not mistaking, Jish-ol-Adl attacked Iranian border control guards and killed 14 people and the day after and during couple of hours, Zahedan public prosecutor Mr “Mohammad Marzbeh” executed 16 prisoners in the province and hours later the media announced these executions in response to the attacks of Jish-ol-Adl.  My point is that there is no incident like this anywhere in the country. My media activities in this domain started after the arrest of Moulavi Naghsh Bandi and several others on the charge of assassination of “Moulavi Jangi Zehi” since I was sure they are innocent. After the incident covered by media even the family of “Moulavi Jangi Zehi “announced they know the murderers and those arrested are innocent.

HRANA: Mr Sarbazi , do you know who are accused by “Moulavi Jangi Zehi” family as assassins ?

Habibollah Sarbazi: No, unfortunately they did not name anyone.

HRANA: What’s your guess about this?

Habibollah Sarbazi:it is difficult to guess on this but the family believed the assassins of Moulavi Jangi Zehi are “entering and leaving the country”. They might mean Jish-ol-Adl because they used to be called “Jondollah” and they twice attacked Moulavi Jangi Zehi’s house. On one occasion he was not at home and attackers faced his children. Of course jondollah mentioned on their website that his children were not happy about their father behaviour and they have explained this to the attackers.

HRANA: do you believe the claims of “Jondolah “are close to the reality at that time? Is the family of “Moulavi Jangi Zehi” had that opinion about him?

Habibollah Sarbazi: I cannot confirm that claim but at the time he was the commander of a Basij base in the area of “Haji Abad” in the province of Sarbaz close to “Rask”. In that time “Jondollah” threatened those cooperating with the governments on several occasions.  The point I am trying to make is that after the arrest of “ Moulavi Naghsh Bandi” he send letters and voice recordings from the prison in which he gave accounts of  all the tortures he and his son “Abdolghafar Naghsh Bandi” went under . People of the “Rusk” even arranged for a demonstration in support of them as they knew they are innocent but Intelligent Services does not retreat from its position. On the day they were supposed to be released, “Moulavi Abdulhamid Esmaeel Zehi” in his speech at the Nasir Abad area answered people questions about the “freedom of Moulavi Naghsh Bandi” and said base on our follow up they will be released this week. These words were also said by the representative of “Sarbaz and Iranshahr”, Mr “Arbabi” in his meeting with “Moulavi Naghsh Bandi” in prison. We have covered these words on behalf of all oldest of the tribes in media.  “Amin Naghsh Bandi”, son of Moulavi even announced that he has been asked to bring necessary cloths and personal belonging of prisoners to Zahedan Prison so they can be handed over to prisoners at the time of their release. Specifically during the same week that we were waiting for their freedom, the verdicts of 15 and 13 years imprisonment for Moulavi Naghsh Bandi and his son issued along with the death sentence for 4 others.

HRANA: These sentences overturned later, I am right?

Habibollah Sarbazi: breaking these verdicts happened 8 months after it was issued and by the Supreme Court order. I have heard this news through Mr “Amin Naghshbandi”. He also received this news in a short telephone message from the Supreme Court which was later confirmed after the meeting with the lawyers of these prisoners. However, he still does not know which charge has been dropped.

HRANA: So you can not officially confirm if the charge of assisting in murder for “Moulavi Jangi Zehi” has been dropped?

Habibollah Sarbazi: this is exactly our problem and is something that has worried me within the past couple of days. In my opinion the intelligence Services are playing with public opinion. Why? Because he was not charged with assisting the murder of  “Moulavi Naghshbandi”. Whereas his charges were “acting against national security” ,… and other charges like these . I can even remember that last year during a conversation I had with Mr “Amin Naghshbandi”, he quoted from an official that even if his charges for acting againt national security are going to drop we will prosecute him for murder. It is clear that these prisoners are not going to be released easily and new charges are being alleged to them instantly.  Anyway, the overturn verdict at this point is the result of the follow ups from me and Mr “Mouldavi Abdulhamid”, because he also held several meetings with the deputy of Supreme Court and Mr Younesi about this issue. But it is probable that Zahedan Intelligence Services are attempting to sabotage. Mr “Moulavi Naghshbandi” has mentioned several times that there are powerful authorities in the Security and Intelligence of the province who take me as their enemy. Because he is a very good speaker, he has the support of the locals in a way that whoever he supported would have had a better chance in being elected in any elections. Apart from this after the plan  of “reforming religion schools” was signed by “Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad” , he was part of those representatives who travelled to Khorasan , Kurdistan , Hormozgan and other Sunni majority  locating son behalf of “Moulavi Abdulhamid Esmaeel Zehi”  and grabbed people attention against this plan. “Moulavi Naghsh Bandi” claims that these two issues of supporting a specific candidate and positioning against the plan of reforming religion schools where among the allegations he was charged with in the interrogations. Based on these, he considers the charge of murder given to him as a way of banning him from such civil activities. There were others arrested in Nasir Abad such as “Moulavi Salaheddin” and “moulavi Zare”  and before them “Moulavi Abdolqodos Dehghan” (which I was involved with his case) and “Moulavi Mohammad Yousef Sohrabi” which were executed. Hence, considering such examples I decided not to remain silent on this incident because being our silence will make it very easy to execute these prisoners and we are asking you to attend to the topic as much as you can.

HRANA: in your opinion what is the effect of such security incidents on civil and economical condition of Balouchistan?

Habibollah Sarbazi: I give you an example. In Qaleh Sar village close to Chabar , a non-local individual occupied a land belonging to a known figure in the village to build a slaughterhouse. The person from the village couldn’t get what was rightfully his because of the connections the other party had with Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Sepah Pasdaran). As of now all the village has been raised to dust by the support of police and NAJA. (Apparently this report has been given to HRANA before but because there was no mean to hear the account of the individual from the village, the report was not covered). If this report was covered by media, there is a possibility that not all Iranians would believe such news and say Iran is not Palestine and it cannot be that a village with 300-400 individuals occupied and turn to dust! My point is due to the absolute silence by media and the secure perimeter which is the result of  Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution( Sepah Pasdaran) efforts , incidents happening here which is second to none around the country. Now that I have decided to report, my father, my brother and my friends have been summoned several times and have send threatening messages through them  to the point that my family has contacted me and asked me to stop following the issue up because of the insecurity they feel and due to the threatening messages sent to me. But the truth is that I believe the innocence of these people. These are the people who have been executed with no reasons. Someone should break this barrier. I am grateful to you for all your efforts and would like to emphasise that the incidents happening in Balouchistan is second to none around the country. I personally have found out through the HRANA statistics that although 2% of all human right reports from this province have been covered by media, but in terms of statistics it stands among the top 10provience in the country.  Now imagine the volume of reports if you had access to 10% of the information about the incidents happening in the province.

HRANA: all we care about is to gather as much detailed report as possible about the incidents at this province specially Nasir Abad area. At this point HRANA would like to ask for other human rights and civil activists’ attention to the events at this province .Hence, we would like to hear from you that if allegations made to Balouch people about their interest in separation from the country which have been often used by the government to weaken the body of province civil activists are true and if Balouch society would condemn acts similar to what Jish-ol-Adl and Jondollah has done so far or Balouch society is on the same side with them ?

Habibollah Sarbazi: in response to this question, I would like to invite you to search google for the keyword “the letter of Torkaman Zei to Habibollah Sarbazi”. This letter was sent from Mr Torkaman Zei who is the spokespersonof Jish-ol-Adl to me. The content of the letter is about them being unsatisfied with me and asked why do I detest them instead of cooperating with them since I wrote several times on different excuses against this group. I have wrote that if the funds spent by this group on bomb and RPG was transferred to cultural activist in the area we could have had an independent media and we could have had more cultural and legal activities to project the pain and suffering of the locals to everyone and grab attentions towards oppressed Balouch people. Whereas, acts like this initiated by Jish-ol-Adl only adds to our problems instead of solving them.  I personally detest armed activities 100% and other Balouch activist believe in negative combat but unfortunately, the number of those inside the boarders who can inform others properly is very small. Those who decide to leave under the pressure, search for new land in Pakistan and Afghanistan only because of their geographical and cultural factors.  Because of this after a fairly short period they get absorbed by the armed combat activates which are not short in the area. Hence, many of the members of these groups have join them as the last resort and because they had no other means. However, I am sure if there is space and facility to put cultural activities as the main way of combat for Balouch people, god helps there will be much better results. Be sure that armed combat would not give us any result at this point.  This is the vote of me and others that I am in contact with.  Especially the Sunni religious clerics that live in Iran have the same opinion and vote that armed will not give any result and just add to our suffering .since 12 years ago that Jondollah entered such activities, boarders got closed and many innocent Blouch people have been arrested and executed. Even the group itself knows the pressure which have been put on locals because their activities but on the other hand they accept these pressures as a side effect to their cause. These groups state that civil resistance will not solve the problem. In this regard they refer to the fate of “Yaghoub Mehr Nahad” , a civil activist and blogger who was sentenced to death. In addition, “Moulavi Naghshbandi” who only believed in civil activities has been in jail for a long time now. There are many examples like these. But my argument with these groups is that Cultural and civil activities are not possible from inside the country but it can be performed outside the country.

HRANA: the message I receive from this part of your comments is that there are people in Balouchistan who understand the value of negative and civil combat despite all prevention from their economical and civil rights and they are attempting to revive their rights just like “Mandella”. With the same method, a larger body of human right activists can be invited to support the legal demands of the locals. Just as the human right awards of the year has gone to “Moulavi Abdulhamid Esmaeel Zehi “this year. But the other question here is that in spite the family of “adham Sabouri “confessed that the detainees had no relation to his killing, who you think organised these killings?

Habibollah Sarbazi: if these killing happened during the Jondollah period, I would have strongly and clearly said that it was them. Because during that time Jondollah attacked both military and civilians and “Abdulmalek Rigi” even said if my father and brother worked with the Islamic regime, they will be beheaded if they are arrested. But Jish-ol-Adl has adopted a new approach since 2 years ago and only attacked the military personnel and during this period there has not been even a single attack on civilians reported. At the moment we should search for those who benefit more than other from these killings. In similar situations only an specific group benefited from these incidents in the province which is the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Sepah Pasdaran) and they allies. There are individuals in the area such as Mr “Shahriary” which is Zahedan MP and he is known as the representative of Sistanies in Zahedan not Blouch people because this person has a special grudge against Balouch people in the area and all Bouchs agree that a person like him is the main reason that the province is lagging behind in recent years. There is also the representative of Sistan Mr “Hosseini” who made statements in his interview with the parliament reporter went on media in regards to the necessity of ongoing arrests. How this person can insist on continuing illegal arrests. He believes that there is always the potential in the area that individuals perform such acts with the support of foreigners and hence the arrests should not be limited to couple of individuals. Imagine! Although no one has been proved to be guilty but because this representative believes there is the possibility that locals are being abused by domestic and foreign motives, hence such arrests should continue.   This is a sick logic against the Sunni population of the region specially the Balouchs from south of province.  The same person, made comments in the commemoration ceremony of the other killed teacher, Mr “Nourozi”, disrespectfully called Balouch people of the region illiterate and common. He said Sistanies have built universities and hospitals and welfare facilities for them and even used the rude term that  Baoulch people where used to drink from “Hootak” ( a pot full of slime and mud which is the habitat for leeches) and they have managed to become civilised under the management of Sistanies. Unfortunately, the reaction of Balouch activists to these rude, hateful and separatists words were not adequate and there was only mentioned there will be a complaint in the parliament which never been followed up and its result is unknown. Whereas, when some comidian attempted to imitate the accent of sistanies on national TV, the same Mr “Hussieni” investigated the issue in the parliament and pushed the parliament to investigate and force the person to apologize. (Apparently the interviewee is referring to the case of imitating the accent by Rambod Javan in one of the TV shows). Apart from this, the mentioned individual, in another speech in the parliament named “Makki Mosque” as the first enemy of the local people. After Blouch activists and religious clerics became popular when they act as intermediary in the case of kidnapping of boarder control soldiers by “Jish-olAdl”, he refered to “Moulavi Abdulhamid” and said “they are the one kidnapping and they are the one releasing” and another word accused Balouch activities of  Jish-ol-Adl kidnaping . This MP insists on showing that local people are struggling with ideological issues. At some point he even compared Balouchistan people to “Mousel” to refer to the IS ideology among the local people. Even the Parliament Security Committee complains to him for his comparison. To make it short, his view of the local people is with racism, discrimination, rudeness and subject to ideology. Even in publications such as “Hamon”, “Zahedan Press” and “Sistan Press” he uses any means and even uses the name of the Sunni clerics to introduce them as the enemy of people in the area. So in answer to your question, I have to say, so far “Sepah Pasdaran” and people like him most benefited from the terror attacked in the region. If you look at the published news from the province you would find out that massive efforts are being made to prove Sistan and Balouchistan is a safe area. Most active in this regards are “Tasnim”, “Fars” and other depended of Sepah Pasdaran. Since 2009, Sepah has taken the responsibility of the regions security. I can confidently say that since then millions of dollars have been spent on the region. In every village and area and every corner of the boarder they installed guarding towers and set up Basij base. Tens of website have been setup and hundreds have joined Basij . A very expensive and costly plan. So it is clear that the capital would ask about the insecurities that can be seen in the region after such volume of investment and cooperation of intelligence services and even control of police by “Sepah Pasdaran”. Hence, in such condition, even if there is a criminal and not terrorist act happens in the region, it would be followed by massive arrests to provide an answer to such questions. Even in this special occasion and in spite the view of General “Zolfaghari” (the head of Border security) who called the incident a criminal act , the day after the incident , intelligence services announce the mass arrest of terrorists in NasirAbad! Hence, the incident is being considered with a complete different point of view in capital to what is being dictated in the province by security forces. I would refer to Mr “Mahmoud Hosseini” the Governor of Sistan and Blouchistan in the reform era who said: “the problems in the region are being exaggerated to are really happening. For example the security organisation sin Tehran has announced that they have received many reports that Wahhabis have bought land from locals in the region. Investigation teams were arranged and we tracked to see if Sunnis and Wahhabis are buying land from Shias?! After investigation we found out that such reports have no grounds and the only sources for it are the local people and local managers who have old ideological issues with Sunnis”. But after the end of reform era and replacement of the Governor’s office team and when Sepah and conservatives took over all low and high posts such as Mr “Dah Mardeh”, pressure increased to huge extent. Such conditions have been used to efficiently weaken the Sunnis positions. Acts such as the plan for reforming Sunni religious schools were approved in such conditions. However, I should confess that the current Governor is such a valuable person although he can only do as much as he can by himself, on the outside he an active person who always tries to reduce the economical discrimination and to set correct goals. But in current conditions, the same person is being subject to extreme unkindness by the conservatives, Sepah and the Supreme Leader office for example , every time someone is being attacked , the first thing the dominant party  say is that “ development of the province is impossible without security”  . This means that they consider themselves in charge of security and claim that every development plan in the region would require their presence in the region. Hence, they are looking to get their share and in confrontation between the two governmental group only Sunnis (us) are being sacrificed.

HRANA: in the end I would like to ask about your expectation from other human rights activists in Iran and explain what would the main body of Balouch- political activists expect from the civil society of Iran and what sort of help they would like to receive?

Habibollah Sarbazi: unfortunately, apart from (Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran) that I am in contact with among other activists from London, US and …there is view coming from the lack of information about the region or a view caused by their love to the capital and ignorance toward the condition of people from other tribes and religion which resulted is closing eyes on the condition of Balouch people in the region.  My First expectation is for this view to be corrected. It is necessary to attend to people issues more than before in this region. Considering that there are issues in this province that are second to none in the country. Human right and political activists can be the salvation to Balouch problems.  Next, the barrier of media for the region should be taken down. For example we don’t want when Sepah Pasdaran announces   a terrorist group has been arrested in the region the same news with the same terminology being used by “VOA” , “BBC”, “Radio Farda” or “Radio Zamaneh”. We expect the truth behind the news being investigated by these News Agencies.  And because there is a foundation and suspicion about terrorist activities in the region such news are being easily believed. Such errors would change the people view even from neutral to negative.    Apart from this, I want the organisations which can be beneficial to the people in the region to be supported by other civil activists in terms of information and funds.    Another point is that people in the region need special and specific trainings. For example, organisations such as “Tavana” can arrange to special training plans for deprived regions. And to spend part of their energy and experience in teaching them civil activities, informing the society by local population and also training for civil journalism to the people in the deprived areas.   Such activities can overturn the region in the long run and improve the condition of the region. Otherwise, there will be no difference and this negative look of terrorism among the local population would not be corrected and in return none of our help requests would affects others position and this should not happen.

HRANA: Many thanks and it has been my pleasure speaking with you.

Habibollah Sarbazi: same here and much obliged.