Treatment by authorities of Sunni fishermen (1979 to June 1990) [IRN34779.E]

No specific mention of the treatment by authorities specific to Sunni fishermen (1979 to June 1990) could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate although there is some information on the treatment of Sunnis in general in Iran..

"Sunni muslims are largely drawn from the Kurdish, Arab, Turkoman, Baluchi and other ethnic minorities" (IND Apr. 2000; HRW Sept. 1997; Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999 9 Sept. 1999). IND writes that:

They live mainly in the southern provinces of Sistan/Baluchistan and Khorassan. The area is economically poor, with limited developmental prospects. Of the occasional clashes between the Sunnis and the Shias in areas of mixed population, most have been in west Azerbaijan and in Sistan/Baluchistan. ...
The Sunni Arabs tend to live on the Gulf coastline. Attempts to gain autonomy in 1979 gave way to support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Many are employed in the agriculture and oil industries.
The Baluchis are Sunni muslims, numbering between one and two million. They live mainly in the poorer and less economically developed south-eastern region of Iran (Apr. 2000).

David Zeidan is the author of The Middle East Handbook: Information on States and People Groups in the Middle East and is affiliated with Operation Mobilisation, a Christian evangelistic movement, for whom he worked in Israel for 17 years. He describes the Baluch as primarily Sunni Muslims with a history of rebellion against central rule (1995). He also states that some are fishermen (ibid.).

The Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999 states that:

Although Sunni Muslims are accorded full respect under the terms of the Constitution, some groups claim discrimination on the part of the Government. In particular, Sunnis cite the lack of a Sunni mosque in Tehran and claim that authorities refuse to authorize construction of a Sunni place of worship in the capital.
Human Rights Watch reported in 1998 the killing of Sunni prayer leader Molavi Imam Bakhsh Narouie in the province of Sistan va-Baluchistan in the southeast. This led to protests from the local community, which believed that government authorities were involved in the murder. ...
Sunni Muslims encounter religious discrimination at the local level, and reports of discrimination against practitioners of the Sufi tradition surfaced during the year (9 Sept. 1999).

The following information is contained in the September 1997 Human Rights Watch publication Iran Religious and Ethnic Minorities: Discrimination in Law And Practice:

Sunni Muslims are by far Iran's largest religious minority, making up as much as 20 percent of the population. The great majority of Iranian Kurds, Baluchis and Turkamen are Sunni Muslims. The ascendancy of the Shi'a clergy since the formation of the Islamic Republic has accentuated Sunni grievances. Speaking at a conference in London in February 1997, Dr. Hossein Khalighi, an Iranian Sunni Kurd living in exile, stated:
We Muslim Sunni of Iran bear with daily insults ushered at us by the Shi'a clergy. They destroy our mosques to build and expand theirs, they humiliate our most sacred men and values in the officially controlled media, they encourage religious wars between Sunnis and Shi'as, they arrest, torture and kill Sunni Muftis and personalities, force Sunnis to convert to Shi'ism, forbid Sunni teaching in the schools in Sunni dominated areas, refer to Sunni ulama as apostates, and produce many volumes on Shi'ism while forbidding the printing of Sunni books. ...
The Baluchis are another ethnic group that is predominantly Sunni Muslim. Many of the religious leaders from the Sunni Baluchi community go to Saudi Arabia for their religious training. This creates tension with the government because in Saudi Arabia religious students are exposed to instruction that is hostile to Shi'ism, especially from Wahhabi instructors who regard Shi'ism as heresy. Political tensions between the Iranian and Saudi Arabian governments only exacerbate this tension. Periodically Sunni religious leaders are detained and accused of being Wahhabi spies.
There are few Sunni seminaries in Iran. In February 1996 security forces raided the Salehabad seminary in Mashad, detaining members of the faculty and obliging seminary students to leave their studies to do their military service. In contrast, Shi'a seminary students are exempt from military service. This type of disruption of seminary education for Sunni clerics in Iran encourages them to seek their education in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.
There are a number of incidents in which violence appear to have been politically motivated and in which the Iranian government appears complicit in the killing of Baluchi religious and political leaders. [The report describes the circumstances of the 1994 death of "Haji Mohammed Ziaie, a prominent Sunni figure who had been critical of the government's policy toward the Sunni minority] ...
As many as sixty Sunni religious leaders, mainly from the Baluchi community, are reported to be in prison for their support of demands for parity for Sunni Islam in Iran and for an end to repression in Baluchestan. These Sunni religious leaders had founded the Islamic Society Association in Zahedan, the major city in Sistan va-Baluchestan province, to promote the rights and interests of Sunni Muslims. One of the prisoners, Molavi Abdulrahman Alahverdi, a religious leader in the Baluchi town of Saravan, was detained in late February, apparently for his activities in support of the rights of Sunni Baluchis.
[The report describes the circumstances of the death of "Molavi Ahmad Sayyad ... a leader of the Baluchi Sunni community"] ...
Some leading figures in the Sunni Baluchi opposition movement have fled the country to avoid imprisonment and carry out their opposition activities from abroad. These opposition figures abroad have also been the target of fatal attacks in which the Iranian government is suspected of involvement. For example, on March 4, 1996, Molavi Abdul Malek, the son of the most prominent Sunni cleric in Iran, Molavi Abdul Aziz, was gunned down outside his house in Karachi, Pakistan. According to Sunni activists, he had been under constant surveillance by Iranian agents active in Karachi because of his activities on behalf of the Baluchi community.
The recent arrests and killings of Baluchi religious leaders appears to be part of a concerted campaign to suppress Baluchi claims for parity for Sunni Islam and respect for their cultural and linguistic traditions. The heavy-handed war on drugs carried out in Baluchi areas for many years has resulted in many human rights violations and provided cover for acts of political repression by the government.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999. 9 September 1999. Washington: U.S. Department of State. [Accessed 6 July 2000]

Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), Home Office, UK. April 2000. Country Assessment on Iran. [Accessed 5 July 2000]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). September 1997. Vol. 9, No. 7. Iran Religious and Ethnic Minorities: Discrimination in Law And Practice. [Accessed 6 July 2000]

Zeidan, David. 1995. The Middle East Handbook: Information on States and People Groups in the Middle East. [Accessed 6 July 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases



RFE/RL Iran Report [Prague]. November 1998 - June 2000.

World News Connection (WNC)

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International

The Iranian [Bethesa, MD].

Human Rights Watch

Iran: Virtual Library

Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)

NetIran Website. Encompassing IRNA 1993-98, Iran News 1993-99, Tehran Times 1995-98.

Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI), News Archive March - June 2000.

Search engines including: