While there are small, non-Muslim religious minorities–Zoroastrians, Baha’is, Jews, Christians, etc.–the numerically and politically important minorities in Iran are ethnic groups and regions, and Muslim minorities, especially Sunnis. Those of the four corners of Iran–the Arabs of the southwest, the Kurds of the northwest, the Turkmen of the northeast, and the Baluch of the southeast–are highly discontent with the Islamic Republic regime for what they regard as discrimination and oppression.

Common complaints are discrimination against minorities and in favour of Shia Persians in education places and jobs; discrimination against minority languages and cultures; the flooding of minority regions with populations of Shia Persians; restrictions on Sunni Islam, and vigorous attempts at converting Sunnis to Shiism; and brutal repression of minority leaders who oppose Islamic Republic policies.

Demonstrations, riots, and insurgencies have arisen in these minority regions, leading to the deaths of I. R. security personnel and officials, and followed by government reprisals and a generous number of executions. But the opposition continues, and perhaps gains strength.

The Islamic Republic government explains these ethnic upheavals in terms of foreign intervention and conspiracy. They are alleged to be the result of what outsiders do–prime suspects are always the U.S.A. and Israel, follow by Britain, and newly in favour is Saudi Arabia–but never considered as results of what the Islamic Republic government does. Amir Taheri, in The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution (p. 353), says that ethnic resistence and rebellion "highlight the failure of a narrowly based ideological regime to understand the pluralist nature of Iranian society and the legitimate aspirations of its diverse component parts for dignity, equal opportunity, and a fair share in decision-making."

Two questions: Is this a fair assessment of the situation of ethnic minorities under the Islamic Republic regime? What does this alleged conflict or contradiction indicate for the future of the Islamic Republic?

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