Hamideh Dorzadeh
Aicha Elbasri
Mehran Kamrava
During the seminar discussion
Seminar attendees

On 8 June 2022, Hamideh Dorzadeh, Assistant Researcher and Coordinator of the Iranian Studies Unit at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), presented her research project titled “Protracted Temporary Status and Transnational Lives of the Baloch Community,” as part of the ACRPS seminar series.

Dorzadeh began by providing an overview of the literature that exists on the Baloch in the Gulf region, noting that “despite the significant presence of the Baloch in the region, so much remains to be written.” The available literature, according to Dorzadeh, focuses primarily on Oman, albeit at a macro level, and does not pay attention to the lives of the Baloch in other parts of the Gulf. Factors behind Baloch migration to the region are broad and not context specific. The impact of gender on Baloch migration in the Gulf is overlooked, resulting in a homogenization of their experiences. Women are conspicuously absent from this history, which focuses primarily on male migrants. Most importantly, in the limited scholarly literature, economic and military explanatory factors for Baloch migration are prevalent. Existing stereotypes about the Baloch are reinforced in the literature, which frequently reduces them to a military occupation. This literature is also frozen in time, barely explaining how Baloch migration to the region evolved over time.

Dorzadeh contributes to the existing literature on Baloch in the Gulf by focusing on the lived experiences of Baloch in Qatar through her oral history and ethnographic work in Freej al Baloush, the Baloch compound, in Abu Hamour with Baloch from a low socioeconomic status. She emphasized that “the lives of the Baloch in Qatar have not been researched and there is no scholarly work on their migration and experiences in the country.” She identified three overarching themes in the narrative of the Baloch migration to Qatar as told by her older-generation Baloch interviewees who participated in the journey: economic and sociopolitical motivations for migration, lack of official documents (e.g., passports and identity documents) to enter Qatar, and group solidarity and chain migration among Baloch.

She then addressed how the legal status of the Baloch in Qatar, as temporary residents, impacts their transnational lives. Dorzadeh argued that given their sense of temporariness and precarious lives, Baloch need to cultivate transnational social field(s) with their relatives in Balochistan, Iran. According to Dorzadeh, purchasing land/property and building houses in Balochistan has become a significant transnational activity for the Baloch. They have been unable to do so in Qatar, owing to their low socioeconomic status, with many struggling to make ends meet. Iran’s macroeconomic condition, particularly currency depreciation as a result of sanctions, has benefited Baloch residents of Qatar by allowing them to purchase property at a lower cost. Dorzadeh maintained that this is a form of “reactive transnationalism,” as the Baloch engage in these activities as a result of their temporary status.

Experiences of transnationalism, however, differ among Baloch based on gender, age, legal status, and economic conditions. Dorzadeh explained that, for some Baloch, strained relations with people in Iran, along with a sense of lack of belonging (to Iran), discourage their engagement in transnational activities, making Iran primarily a medical or tourist destination, rather than a place of material and emotional investment. She argued that Baloch men residents of Qatar, especially those who are married and older, are expected to own property in Iran, as the responsibility of providing for the family and managing the plan for eventual return to Iran is placed on men rather than women. She concluded by highlighting that neither temporariness nor transnationalism, including owning land in Iran, have prevented Baloch from developing a sense of belonging to Qatar.