Kümmetkowus şəheri
January 14, 2008 — FACING ethnic revolts in both Baluchistan and Kur distan, the last thing that Tehran might have wanted was a similar problem in another corner of Iran with a non-Persian majority.

Yet that seems to be happening in Golestan, one of Iran’s 30 provinces, with the ethnic Turkmen community seething with anger against Tehran. It all started on Jan. 4, when a gunboat of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot and killed a 20-year-old Turkmen fisherman in the coastal waters of the Caspian Sea.

The authorities claim that the fisherman, one Hissmauddin Khadivar, had been part of an illegal fishing expedition whose 30 or so members were later arrested and that his death was an accident.

As news of the incident spread, bands of angry Turkmen, some armed with daggers and sticks, attacked government offices and set vehicles on fire. One group attacked a police station; another tried to lay siege to the local Revolutionary Guard barracks near the fishing port of Bandar-Turkmen.

Eyewitnesses say the riots lasted until late Sunday night (Jan. 6), ending after reinforcements flew in from other cities. Over the two days, more than 300 people were arrested and taken away to unknown destinations. A spokesman for the Turkmen Human Rights Group said dozens were injured. How many might have died is unclear, because the Guard took some of the injured with them, ostensibly for hospitalization in other towns.

In the following days, anti-government demonstrations rocked a number of other cities, including Gonbad Kavous and Quchan, where Turkmens are a majority. A state of emergency remains in force in Bandar Turkmen and Gonbad Kavous.

The Turkmen anger appears to have been so strong and widespread as to oblige the government in Ashgabat, capital of neighboring Turkmenistan, to stop its flow of natural gas to Iran, provoking a diplomatic tussle with Tehran.

Turkmens number around 2.2 million and form a majority in Golestan province. They are also present in North Khorassan (along the border with the former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan) and the Caspian province of Mazandaran. Turkmens say Iran has gerrymandered them across four provinces to curtail their political influence by denying them the number of seats they might otherwise have won in the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Iran’s ersatz parliament.

An Altaic people sharing racial roots with the Uzbeks, the Kazakh and the Kyrgyz, the Turkmens are easily distinguishable from other Iranians thanks to their skin color, slanted eyes and other Asiatic features. Their distinct languages, Yamut and Koklan, are related to Turkish, Korean, Chinese and Japanese. And they are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, while some 86 percent of Iranians are Shiites.

Web Resource: New York Post