Sistan and Baluchestan Province is in the southeast of the country, bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan and its capital is Zahedan. The province is the largest province in Iran with an area of 181,785 km² and a population of 2.5 million.
The counties of the province are Chabahar County, Qasr-e Qand County, Dalgan County, Hirmand County, Iranshahr County, Khash County, Konarak County, Nik Shahr County, Saravan County, Sarbaz County, Sib and Suran County, Zabol County, Mehrestan County, Zahedan County, Zehak County, Hamun County, Nimruz County, Bampur County, Mirjaveh County & Fanuj County.
The population comprises the Baloch who form a majority in the province, followed by the relatively large minority, the Sistani Persians. Smaller communities of Kurds (in the eastern highlands and near Iranshahr), the expatriate Brahui (on the borders between Iran and Pakistan), and other resident and itinerant ethnic groups such as the Gypsies are also found in the province.
Sistan and Balouchestan (Photo:Karlos Zurutuza)
Baluchis are predominantly Sunni Muslims. Sistanis, however, are predominantly Shia Muslims, and as a result of that hold most provincial positions. The underdeveloped status of this remote province can be mostly attributed to its demographics, which is mostly non-Shia and non-Persian.
The province comprises two sections, Sistan in the north and Baluchestan in the south. The combined Sistan and Baluchestan province today accounts for one of the driest regions of Iran with a slight increase in rainfall from east to west, and an obvious rise in humidity in the coastal regions. The province is subject to seasonal winds from different directions, the most important of which are the 120-day wind of Sistan known as Levar, the Qousse wind, the seventh (Gav-kosh) wind, the Nambi or south wind, the Hooshak wind, the humid and seasonal winds of the Indian Ocean, the North or (Gurich) wind and the western (Gard) wind.
Norooz in Sistan va Balouchestan
In the south, east and west of Sistān and Balūchestān, the people are mostly Balōch and speak the Baluchi language, although there also exists among them a small community of speakers of the Indo-Aryan language Jadgali.:25 In the far north of Sistān and Balūchestān, the people are mostly Persians and speak a dialect of the Persian language known as Sistani/Seestani, similar to the Dari Persian language in Afghanistan. The name Balūchestān means "Land of the Balōch" and is used to represent the majority Baloch peoples inhabiting the province, Sistan was added to the name to represent the minority Persian peoples who speak the Sistani dialect of Persian.
Makki Jame Mosque
In the epigraphs of Bistoon and Persepolis, Sistan is mentioned as one of the eastern territories of Darius the Great. The name Sistan, as mentioned above, is derived from Saka (also sometimes Saga, or Sagastan), a Central Asian tribe that had taken control over this area in the year 128 BCE. During the Arsacid Dynasty (248 BC to 224 CE), the province became the seat of Suren-Pahlav Clan. From the Sassanid period till the early Islamic period, Sistan flourished considerably. During the reign of Ardashir I of Persia, Sistan came under the jurisdiction of the Sassanids, and in 644CE, the Arab Muslims gained control as the Persian empire was in its final moments of collapsing. During the reign of the second caliph of Islam, Omar ibn Al-Khattab, this territory was conquered by the Arabs and an Arab commander was assigned as governor.
The famous Persian ruler Ya'qub-i Laith Saffari, whose descendants dominated this area for many centuries, later became governor of this province. In 916 CE, Baluchestan was ruled by the Daylamids and thereafter the Seljuqids, when it became a part of Kerman. Dynasties such as the Saffarids, Samanids, Qaznavids, and Seljuqids, also ruled over this territory. In 1508 CE, Shah Ismail I of the Safavid dynasty conquered Sistan, and during the reign of Nader Shah there was further turmoil.