'Abdul Malik Rigi, the leader of the Iranian Baluchi (Balochi) jihadi-insurgent group Jundullah ["God's soldiers"], has written letters to United States president Barack Obama, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, and Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. All three letters are dated November 15, and all three are masterful examples of clever politics. Rigi tailors each letter to its particular intended recipient and portrays Jundullah's insurgency in Iranian Baluchistan as a struggle for human rights against a repressive autocracy (a claim which has an element of truth, as I have noted previously). Jundullah is based primarily in Pakistani Baluchistan, where Rigi is believed to be hiding, a region which borders Iranian Baluchistan.
The group has carried out major attacks against Iranian police, military, Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and political targets, as well as civilians and "collaborators." Its most recent attack occurred on October 18 with two bombings, including a kamikaze (suicide) bombing inside a mosque, that killed 42 people, including senior officers in the IRGC and local Sunni and Shi'i communal leaders. This attack, which was both a political assassination and a terrorist strike that displayed wanton disregard for the safety of civilians, was praised by Iranian Sunni expatriates who follow the Salafi mode of thought within Sunni Islam (even more specifically, the violent jihadi-Salafi fringe within the larger Salafi movement). These radical activists are based in London and run the blog Sons of Sunnah-Iran. I highlighted their celebration of the October 18 attacks and also covered their substantial editing of their original post to (not so) subtly respond to my coverage HERE and HERE.
Rigi states, "We are determined to stop the massacre of the Balouch people in the hands of the Iranian regime and we believe that self-defence is our basic right endorsed by universal human rights instruments, including the United Nations Conventions and Universal Declarations of Human Rights. Our long-term objective is to work for the establishment of a democratic Iran where all citizens, no matter to which ethnic group or religious sect they belong, enjoy justice and equal rights under a federal system and their right to self-determination is respected." Here he cleverly coaches Jundullah's goals in the language of human rights. He even promises to abide by the internationally-accepted code of human rights even when engaged in insurgency: "I assure you and the world community that my organization will abide by the international laws and human rights value as we ourselves are the victims of injustice." Jundullah's most recent attacks belie his claims.
We are ready to lay down arms but only if the Iranian government provides guarantees to respect the rights of the Balouch people as mentioned in the Iranian constitution, In this regard, my organization will welcome your mediatory role. Your efforts in this regard will help in establishing global security, peace and stability that are your organization’s primary goals."
Although much of his letter to U.S. president Barack Obama matches verbatim large sections of his letter to Ki-moon, Rigi tailors his arguments to match more closely the allegations of successive U.S. presidential administrations, including Obama's, against the Iranian state. He raises the issue of "terrorism," writing, "The Iranian regime does not follow any rules or laws. It is sponsoring international terrorism from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Iran and Palestine. The world is clearly seeing how this regime is suppressing its own people who are demanding their rights. A significant number of top Iranian officials have been involved in terrorist acts in the world and are wanted in various countries." Here he references Iran's alleged political and financial support of various groups across the Middle East and Southwest Asia, a popular topic among U.S. bureaucrats and talking heads.
Rigi closes by asking Obama to consider "the Baluchi people" when formulating his administration's policy toward the Iranian state: "I strongly request you as the president of the United States, which is defending democratic and human-friendly values, to consider the Balouch issue while formulating your government’s foreign policy towards Iran. Though foreign policy is always based on national interests, I hope this time human rights values will also be considered by your foreign office." The U.S. government condemned Jundullah's October 18 attacks, though successive U.S. administrations are believed to have supported the group, along with other anti-regime insurgent and terrorist organizations, including several Kurdish Marxist groups and the Islamist-Marxist eccentrics of the Mujahideen-i Khalq and its parent organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
The Mujahideen-i Khalq maintained bases in Iraq during the 1980s and 1990s and received support from the regime of that country's dictator, Saddam Husayn, and his Iraqi Ba'th Party. The group has attempted, somewhat successfully, to utilize unrest following Iran's contested June presidential elections as propaganda tool. There are reportedly ties between Jundullah and the Mujahideen-i Khalq.
As with his letters to Ki-Moon and Obama, the bulk of Rigi's third letter, this one addressed to Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, maintains a uniform structure and wording. However, in the closing, Rigi appeals to Turkey's rich Ottoman past: "I request you as the successor of Ottoman heritage to consider the Balouch issue whiormulating your country’s foreign policy towards Iran because I believe this is your religious and moral obligation. The Baloch and Turkish people have enjoyed brotherly relations in the past. The Ottoman Empire was the first to recognize the independent status of Balochistan in the 17th century and it gave the title of Begler Beigi to the Balouch ruler, Noori Naseer Khan."
Rigi also urges Erdoğan to publicly support Iranian Baluchis, as he did Turkic Uyghurs who are being violently suppressed by China's Communist regime and who have been since China occupied East Turkestan in 1949: "The Muslim world will remember your brave act at the Davos conference as well as your stand on the Chinese government’s assault on Oyghori Muslims. Your Balouch Muslim brothers expect the same stand by you on their issue. I hope that you will respond to your religious and moral call."
A photograph of the body of General Nur (Noor) 'Ali Shushtari, the deputy commander of the IRGC's ground forces and one of the casualties from Jundullah's October 18 attacks, was also recently circulated by the group.