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An interview with journalist Karlos Zurutuza

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An interview with journalist Karlos Zurutuza

Post  Bolan on Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:37 pm

“The indifference of the international community towards the Baloch issue is outrageous”

By Sara Etxart

As a freelance journalist, Karlos Zurutuza has spent several years covering the so called “frozen conflicts” around the Caucasus, the Middle East and the Central Asian regions. Yesterday he gave a talk in San Sebastian called “Balochistan, a land off limits”, which helped to unveil the dire situation of the Baluch people. Zurutuza visited both Iran- and Pakistan-controlled Baloch areas and last year his journalistic work was recognised with the Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti Reporting Award.
What is the current geopolitical situation of Baluchistan?
The Baluch people are today divided by three countries: Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is a nation with its own language, Balochi, its own culture and traditions and a common history to each of the three parts divided today by the borders the British drew back in the nineteenth century.

Which are the reasons behind this division?
On the one hand we have the imperialist policies of the main actors in the region: the Persians in Iran, the Punjabis in Pakistan and the Pashtuns in Afghanistan. On the other hand, we cannot forget the complex international agenda for the region. Balochistan happens to lay at the very confluence of future oil and gas pipelines projected for the Central Asian region. In addition, it has a long coastline coast is just at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. We may still know too little about Balochistan in Europe but be sure that we’re talking about one of the most important geo-strategic regions in the world. And we cannot forget that this land is rich in energy resources like coal, gas, oil, uranium; minerals like gold and copper… Countries such as Australia, Canada, China or Chile, are exploiting Baluchistan's immense treasures and the local population gets no revenues out of it. Beneath this barren part the world hide some of Asia's biggest resources.

Why is the conflict being silenced?
Blame it on the international agenda mentioned above. When talking geopolitics, Baluchistan may hold the key for the future of the region in the short term.

How many Baloch are there?
Unfortunately, there is no official census as the dominating governments practically deny the existence of the Baloch, but figures may be somewhere in between 10 and 15 million people. The Diaspora is also very strong because of the huge numbers of Baloch being forced to leave throughout history due to the harsh situation.

How was your experience in Baluchistan?
I had the feeling that I was travelling to an area from which I knew too little due to the lack of information. I'm used to gathering much more information before going on assignment to a conflict area, but this time I realised that it was a region poorly explored which needed, and still needs, a lot of reporting.

What captured your attention most?
The imbalance between the drama the Baloch are suffering and the indifference they get from the so called “first world”. The indifference of the international community towards the Baloch issue is outrageous. It was appalling to check their living conditions on the field and realise at the same time that no one seems to care about it. It seems to me that a stateless nation is always considered to be a second class one. People just close their eyes to stateless nations' problems.

Can you give us any examples of this neglect?
For example, the illiteracy rate in Pakistan controlled Balochistan reaches 80%. Thousands of people are reported missing, humble villagers are bombed, families displaced and dissidents hanged in public places like in Iran-controlled Balochistan, or thrown out of a helicopter like in East Balochistan…Survival is a real challenge for most of the Baloch in the three provinces.

Did you ever feel in danger during your visit to the area?
I was so well protected by my Baloch friends that I never felt at risk. In fact, I was, and still am, more worried about the personal security of those who helped me as they may be victims of reprisals. Baloch hospitality was overwhelming everywhere I was in Balochistan.

You were awarded with the Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti Reporting Award for your journalistic job. How did you find this recognition?
Needless to say that I felt very proud and honoured but, at the same time, I couldn't forget about the high number of fellow Baloch journalists who are reporting daily and at high risk of being arrested, or even losing their lives. During the award ceremony in London I dedicated the recognition to them.

Any story you'd like to share with us?
During my visit last year I had the chance to visit an area where an enormous amount of gas was discovered in the 1950's. Just a few years later after the discovery, a lot of kitchens in Punjab and Sindh regions benefited from that gas supply. Today, the local Baloch families living near the gas wells are still cooking with camel's dung and firewood they had to buy from neighbouring regions. I think this short story speaks volumes about the injustice the Baloch have to face.

Karlos Zurutuza is a freelance correspondent and writes in Basque, Spanish and English. His work has been published in several newspapers and magazines.
Original version in Spanish Language http://www.noticiasdegipuzkoa.com/2010/05/13/sociedad/euskadi/es-frustrante-ver-el-drama-que-viven-algunos-pueblos-y-que-no-haya-nadie-hablando-de-ello
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Bolan
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