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Location: The eastern provinces of Iran make up a large portion of Iran’s land. The eastern provinces encompass large deserts and mountain ranges. Some of the important areas of the region include Kerman, Sistan, Baluch, and Mashhad. Mashhad is considered Iran’s holiest city.

History: 3000 B.C. - Evidence unearthed shows that Baluchistan province was inhabited as far back as 3000 B.C.
312 B.C. - During Alexander the Great’s reign, Bahman Pour Gashasb establishes the Arg-e Bam kingdom in Bam in southeast Iran. People lived in the ancient citadel up until almost 200 years ago.
3rd Century - Ardeshir I, founder of the Sassanian dynasty, settles the area of Kerman. In the past, the area has been referred to as "Karmania," "Kermania" and "Zhermanya," meaning bravery and combat.
9th Century - Imam Reza is poisoned and martyred in the city of Sanabad. Reza was the eighth Imam and spiritual leader of the Shi'ite Muslims. Many Iranians believe Reza to be the Imam of all Muslims. After Reza’s murder, the city is renamed Mashhad, which means “place of martyrdom.”
1839-1841 - Britain enters into war with Afghanistan, which ends in disaster. The war spills over and involves the people of southeastern Iran.
1958 - The Sultan of Oman, changing the border and size of Iran, sells Gwadar, in the Baluchistan province, to Pakistan.
1968- Town of Ferdows is leveled by earthquake, killing 2000 people
2003- A deadly earthquake hits the city of Bam. The earthquake kills more than 40,000 people and leaves hundreds of thousands homeless and destitute.

Languages: Among the 10 million people in the eastern provinces, Farsi is most widely spoken. However, among the different tribes, their own languages are spoken. The Baluch speak Baluchi, which is also spoken in neighboring Pakistan.

Population: While the eastern provinces comprise one-third of Iran’s landmass, there are only about 10 million people living in the rugged eastern provinces.

Lifestyle: While much of the eastern provinces have breathtaking scenery, there is little in the way of industry and economic advance. Springtime in Kerman Province means mountains full of tulips and poppies. These flowers are too often used for heroin and opium. The eastern provinces are the most remote and poorest areas of Iran. With little hope of employment, a large number of young people turn to drugs for escape from the harsh realities of life.
The industries of the area include metals, pistachios, dried fruit, carpets, dates, and decorative stones.
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Spiritual Identity: With the eastern provinces so remote and difficult to control, many people here have either become nominal Muslims or held onto their traditional beliefs. The most common non-Muslim belief in the area is Zoroastrianism.
Zoroastrianism emphasizes monotheism, man's free will, resurrection, final judgment, heaven (the word "paradise" comes from Old Persian), and hell. It also teaches about an almighty, kind, loving and forgiving God. Much of Zoroastrianism significantly influenced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
On the other hand, Mashhad is considered the holiest of all cities. Every year, Mashhad sees millions of pilgrims coming to pay homage to Imam Reza, father of the Shi’ite sect of Islam.
Thanks to the harsh conditions of the eastern provinces, there is also a fatalistic view of god and faith. One man, who had lost scores of family members in a recent earthquake, viewed his aching loss as fate determined by an unconcerned god. He accepted his bleak and hopeless future as his own.

Status of Christianity: In the past there have never been more than 100 believers in the region. These days, that is changing. According to some evangelical organizations, there are over 80 Christian fellowships made up entirely of Muslim-background believers.
Against the backdrop of a tragic disaster, a local man watched as American believers provided food, water and shelter to earthquake victims. As he observed how they did their exhausting work without complaint and with loving spirits, questions began to form in his mind. His questions were answered by another Iranian, “They came here to help people, and they do all they do because they love people, which is what Jesus tells them to do.”
The man watched for a few more days and approached the same Iranian believer with one more question, “How can I become a Christian like these men?”