Iranians are using the #FreeIranianSoldiers hashtag to spread awareness about five Iranian border guards abducted at the Iran-Pakistan border. The Baloch Sunni Muslim insurgent group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) claimed responsibility and published the above photo of the abducted soldiers through their Twitter account.
Jaish-al-Adl operate in Sistan-Baluchestan, one of Iran's largest and poorest provinces, which is home to 2 million Sunni-muslims. The ethnic Baloch and Sunni-muslim insurgents in the area have been demanding more autonomy from the Shia-government in Tehran in recent years.
In October 2013, Jaish-ul-Adl, which is called a terrorist group by the Irani state, ambushed and killed 14 Iranian border guards. In response, authorities in the Shia-dominant country executed 16 people from Sistan-Baluchestan allegedly associated with Jaish-ul-Adl.
Mohammad Reza Aref, an Iranian reformist politician, tweeted:
the Iranian soldiers are defending our borders for, our Justice, security and peace #FreeIranianSoldiers
— MohammadRezaAref (@MohamadRezaAref) February 9, 2014
Iranian social media researcher and blogger Narima Gharib tweeted:
— Nariman Gharib (@ListenToUs) February 10, 2014
Canadian-Iranian Maryam Nayeb Yazdi tweeted:
Iran citizens tweeting on #FreeIranianSoldiers regard the soldiers as their brothers rather than regime forces. They're defending their own.
— Maryam Nayeb Yazdi (@maryamnayebyazd) February 10, 2014
Iran-based Twitter user Opium called for unity:
Hey you, don't tell me there's no hope at all Together we stand, divided we fall. #FreeIranianSoldiers
— opium (@opiums) February 10, 2014
Since 2006, Baluchis, who make up 2 percent of Iran’s population, have accounted for about 20 percent of state executions, according to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, a US-based group which tracks human rights abuses in Iran.
The Irani government believes Jaish-ul-Adl is hiding in Pakistan's Balochistan province, which borders Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province. Pakistan is battling its own Baluchi insurgency and has been criticized by Iran for failing to crack down on militant camps in its territory.