American-Baluch Council's letter to The Honorable Kenneth Weinstein Chairman of The Broadcasting
The Honorable Kenneth Weinstein July 30, 2018
The Broadcasting Board of Governors
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237
Subject: VOA Baluchi-Program Broadcasting to Iran
Dear Chairman Weinstein:
The American-Baluch Council (http://www.americanbaluchcouncil.org) has the honor to present its compliments to you and BBG and to present the attached letter supporting a Baluchi-language program by VOA. Such a program will: definitely attract millions of Baluch viewers; improve the US image among Baluch by promoting American values such as democracy, rule of law, and human rights; counter the hateful propaganda of religious extremists in Baluchistan; counter the ongoing campaign by Iran and Pakistan (the main sources of Shiite and Sunni terrorism respectively) to Talibanize the Baluch population; and serve the overall US strategic interests in the region. In addition, VOA already broadcasts in all other languages spoken in Iran (Persian, Kurdish, Azari, Arabic). Therefore, a Baluchi program will also fill a very important gap in VOA coverage.
The importance of a VOA Baluchi program becomes more apparent when placed in the context of the US strategic interests in Asia. Baluchistan is already a focal point of geo-political rivalry between the US and China and between India and China in Asia. For example, under CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) China is investing $56 billion to connect Western China to Gwadar Port in Baluchistan via a network of roads, railways and pipeline. India is countering China by developing Chahbahar Port in Iranian Baluchistan and connecting it to Central Asia. (https://lobelog.com/rivalry-at-irans-chabahar-port/). Therefore, a VOA Baluchi program can play a crucial role in attracting the Baluch population to the US side in this New Great Game in Asia. (https://www.demrawan.com/single-post/2016/09/05/India-Iran-Chabahar-Agreement-The-Geopolitics-of-Baluchistan-Regional-and-International-Implications).
A Baluch-language program will definitely attract millions of new viewers to VOA. There are 6.5 million people in Baluch areas of Iran, according to the 2016 official census data released by the Iranian Government. Administratively Iranian or Western Baluchistan is divided into three parts: the province of Sistan and Baluchistan in the southeast with a population of 2.8 million (amar.kr.ir/images/sarshomari95/g_n_95.pdf); Hormuzgan province in the southwest with a population of 1.8 million (http://www.hormozgan.ir/index.aspx?siteid=1&fkeyid=&siteid=1&pageid=178); and the northern part of Baluchistan, incorporated administratively into Kerman province, with a population of 1,156,000 (https://kerman.mporg.ir/Portal/View/Page.aspx?PageId=78eb7920-e93c-450b-82ad-71b20f213bbf&t=19); and Baluch speaking areas of the two Khorasan provinces with a population of about 750,000.
The numbers cited above are corroborated by ethno- linguistic maps of Iran, including the Ethno-Linguistic Map of Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (see Appendix II) in Selig S. Harrison’s pioneering treatise on Baluchistan, In Afghanistan’s Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1981), fig. 1; the Ethno-Linguistic Map of Iran published by the Naval Intelligence Division, Geographical Series, Persia (Oxford: Oxford University Press for H.M. Press Office, 1945), p. 318, fig. 50 ; and the Map of Greater Baluchistan produced by the Baluch Liberation Front (BLF), as quoted and translated by Selig S. Harrison in his aforementioned book . The same ethno-linguistic data and maps are also supported by more recent research and maps including retired US Army Col. Ralph Peters’ Blood Borders Map http://armedforcesjournal.com/peters-blood-borders-map/ and Dr. M. Hosseinbor’s book Iran and Its Nationalities: the Case of Baluch Nationalism (Karachi: Adab Publication, 2000).
Moreover, a Baluchi program by VOA will attract not only the Iranian Baluch, but also the larger Baluch population living in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Gulf Arab states. The total Baluch population is estimated to be around 30 million. Therefore, with Baluchi broadcasts, VOA has the potential to gain 10 to 20 million new viewers among the Baluch.
Linguistically, Farsi is a foreign language to the Baluch. To understand the importance of a Baluch program, it is worth noting that Baluchi along with Kurdish, Farsi, and Pashtu are categorized by linguists as separate languages forming the group of Iranian languages belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. As such, each is a separate and distinct language. They are not mutually intelligible. Persians do not understand Baluchi, Kurdish, or Pashtu and vice versa.
Naturally, the Baluch prefer broadcasts in their mother tongue and are certain to welcome and to view VOA broadcasts in Baluchi by millions for several reasons. First, a Baluch-program by VOA will be the first of its kind and a historical event that will be viewed and celebrated by Baluch everywhere. Second, all Baluch use their mother tongue in their homes, social gatherings, and daily activities. Among Iranian Baluch, Persian is used only by a small segment of highly educated Baluch working for the government and only in an official setting as dictated by the government. Outside they use their mother language. Third, aside from its linguistic value, Baluchi language reflects common Baluch culture, values, history, homeland, art, music and so on. These are the most important factors in attracting the Baluch en masse to VOA Baluchi broadcasts if and when offered.
Finally, only a very tiny percentage of highly educated Baluch may watch VOA Persian broadcasts. The main reason is that the present VOA Persian programs are tailored to Persian-speaking viewers, produced by Persians, and reflect Persian outlook and values. For example, news and events in Baluchistan are hardly reported by VOA Farsi. A prime example is the continuing and intensifying hostility between Baluch and the clerical regime. It is the main concern of every Baluch, but rarely reflected in VOA Persian programs.
In short, a Baluch program will attract millions of new viewers to VOA, serves the US strategic interests, and will be highly timely in supporting the US policy toward Iran.
We look forward to the honor of your response and your urgent action in this matter.
Dr. M. Hosseinbor