This note is intended to reflect the concerns the standpoints of the Turks of Southern Azerbaijan and those living in the other parts of Iran, as well as that of the other peoples and nations living in Iran.
Although being in minority can never be an acceptable excuse for violating the fundamental rights of a person or a society, but still we should emphasis that the non-Fars nations of Iran altogether make up more than half of the population of the country, and violation of their individual or collective rights means that the majority- not the minority¹- of Iran’s population are denied their rights.
We hope that this note will lay the groundwork for more attention to the problems of the non-Fars societies in Iran, and that it be an initial step towards more study and dialogue on the issue.
Appreciation: First of all, we regard it as necessary to thank you and your colleagues for your considerable effort and endeavor to pursue the human rights affairs in Iran. We also express the special gratitude of ours and of the civil and human rights activists of the Turks of Iran and of Southern Azerbaijan for reflecting the human rights violation and the environmental crisis in the protests about the drying-up Urmia Lake.
Terminology: in your periodic report, special terminology has been used about which we consider it necessary to point out some controversial issues as Turk activists of Azerbaijan.
A) Ethnic group or nation?
Almost all non-Fars activists are especially sensitive to these terms. Since the establishment of the semi-modern government in Iran (almost 90 years ago), denial of the independent identities of the non-Fars groups which was intended to lead to the formation of modern Fars nation, has been a whether obvious or hidden policy of all governments ever since. Almost all of the activists belonging to these groups call themselves “Nations”, and not ethnic groups. For instance, Azerbaijani Turks call themselves Azerbaijani nation or Turk nation, and the same is about the Turkmens, Balouches, Kurds and Arabs living in Iran. However, we are fully aware of the difficulties of definitions and terminology in social sciences and we know about the relativity of the definitions of ethnic group, nation, nationality and minority. Therefore, we ask you to pay more attention to such matters in your main reports and notice their distinguishing importance in the methodology of the report.
B) Azeri or Turk?
In your report, the Turks residing in the north-west of Iran are referred to as Azeri(s). Due to the special sensitivity to this word and the different discussions which are held about it, we should mention the following points:
B-1) No Azerbaijani Turk calls him/herself Azeri. Even the Fars community uses the name “Turk” for Azerbaijani people just the same as they do.
B-2)The word “Azeri” which has now reached a prominent position, is a blend of two processes. Firstly, the semi-modern government of Reza Shah tried to theorize and officially advertise the concept in order to separate the Turks living in Iran from the Turks of Azerbaijan Republic and those of other neighboring countries. Second is Stalin’s policies who, during the period of the Soviet Union, used the terms: nation of Uzbek, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Azeri, etc. to attribute separate identities to the Turks living in the country. He published many books and articles on the issue, which succeeded to a considerable extent.
B-3) Anyhow, we, the Turks living in Southern Azerbaijan, Iran, and the Turks diaspora, consider it rightful that we own our name, and we regard the violation and distortion of the names of the nations as one of the most prominent indicators of the violation of their identities; even if such names are used worldwide and they are being supported by some orientalist centers and the propaganda of certain beneficiary powers.
B-4) We request from you to use the word “Turks” or “Iran’s Turks” to refer to the Turks living all over Iran, including Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Qashqayi, Khalaj Turks and other immigrant Turks and diaspora, and use the word Azerbaijani Turks or at least Azerbaijani to refer to the Turks living in Southern Azerbaijan; and please avoid using the false word “Azeri” which is the symbol of the distortion, identity denial and colonization of our nation.
Resources: Doubtlessly, you have also noticed that different people, groups and organizations are active in the field of human rights affairs in Iran. These groups are sporadic and some of them have some other political motives as well. We feel obliged to express our concern about the information provided by many of such groups about the nations living in Iran, and especially about the Turks of Iran and Southern Azerbaijan. Whereas most of these groups and people are at odds with the central government and claim advocacy of the human rights, unfortunately they themselves act as racists in the slyest way. Even if they oppose any action of the government of Iran, they confirm the suppressive measures and the transmutation and assimilation policies of Tehran whether explicitly or implicitly. Censoring the news and current realities and distorting them has been a daily routine to them, and is even considered as their national task and a sign of their patriotism.
Unfortunately the human rights activists of Iran’s nations have come to the bitter conclusion that in the eyes of the centripetal organizations and people claiming human rights advocacy, all Iranian people are equal, but those who are Farser, are more equal! Even more regrettable is the fact that many of the mentioned people have been awarded prestigious prizes like Nobel Prize for peace, and they are under the provision of International human rights organizations and are being financially and logistically supported by some hostile countries, and finally they have become the exclusive spokespeople of the public of Iran, thanks to the mentioned supports.
Not intending to devalue their creditable endeavor in the field of human rights, we frankly state that they can’t be fair and impartial resources for the problems of the non-Fars peoples. Everyone who starts activities of human rights in Iran will soon notice that a large number of Iranian people observe their measures skeptically, and that they regard any such activities as a struggle for occupying political power and gaining Iran’s oil, but only within different crusts.
Definitely the main success for you and your colleagues is to draw and hold Iran’s public attention and trust, for which we deeply hope. We wish that your activity will lead to the betterment of Iranian people’s views about the international human rights organizations, and that it alters the public belief about their biased and discriminative policies. We ask you to refer to the human rights organizations, Azerbaijani activists, victims and their families to access the authentic news about the violated rights of millions of Turks living in Iran.²
Criticism: Although your periodic report has covered the crisis of the Urmia Lake and the protests about it in 2 paragraphs, still we regard it as necessary to express our standpoints and criticism as an active medium about the problems of the Turks living in Iran and Southern Azerbaijan.
A) In your report, the crisis of the Urmia Lake has been reflected as a solely environmental matter, and its ethnic aspects have not at all been taken into consideration. The reality is that environmental problems exist everywhere in Iran, but when Azerbaijani people put it beside other measures of the central government of Iran, they come to a different conclusion, and therefore, for the first time in the history of the countries of the region, environmental-ethnic protests come to existence in Azerbaijan. It is disappointing to figure out that the human rights advocacy pretenders and the opposition media, including Persian-speaking foreign channels such as BBC Persian, run biased policies which result in ignoring the national aspect and highlighting the environmental side of the matter. So our people are right to believe that BBC, human rights organizations and Iran’s government seek common benefits in some fields.
B) When being interviewed by BBC television channel, you stated that your reference to the names of some people has been quite symbolic and that it does not include all cases. However, we expect that when you point out the violated rights of thousands of Bahayi(s) and hundreds of Gonabadi Darvish(es) [sectarian minorities], you also mention symbolically the violated rights of millions of Turks living in Iran. Unfortunately, some groups have been able to achieve a more specific and even exclusive position for them with the help of powerful lobbies, but we hope that you be the voice of the deprived and tribuneless people, and balance this unjust trend. We accept that unfair behavior toward a prime minister, a president or a parliamentarian (during whose period even harsher events have happened) must be covered very specially, but please be careful that always the worst events, tortures, murders and rapes happen to the most anonymous people; those who neither possess the fame of the prime minister, nor the wealth of the parliamentarian, and not even the support of powerful friends.
In your report, you have pointed out the worrying condition of Azerbaijani activist, Mr. Maleki Aronaghi, as a blogger, and this is the whole that has been mentioned. Moreover, you have expressed your concern about the critical condition of Mrs. Faranak Farid, these two remarks being the only reference to the human rights affairs in Southern Azerbaijan. On the other hand, you have mentioned the inhumane behavior toward Mr. Abdollah Momeni as an instance. He is one of the fairest and boldest human rights advocates who held impartial views towards Iran’s Turks, even though he did not belong to our nation; but you have forgotten a more symbolic one: Saeed Matinpour, Abdollah Momeni’s jail roommate, has been in prison before him. He has been kept in the solitary confinement of the Information Office for more than 250 days, and has been tortured in the worst possible way so as to confess to the activities that they urged him to pretend having done. He has served more than 3 years of his 8-year imprisonment term with no right of furlough, and is now suffering from cardiac problems and stomach hemorrhage. Furthermore, numerous human rights advocates and hundreds of Azerbaijani activists are under the most inhumane conditions at the moment. We specially call your attention to the unfavorable status of Abbas Lesani, Saeed Na’imi and Mousa Barzin.
Conclusion: Finally, we hope that we have been honest enough in reflecting the hopes, worries and expectations of the Turk nation living in Iran. We also hope that your activities will add a hue of justice to the unfair current trend, which can lead to attaining the public trust of Azerbaijan’s activists and its millionth mass. We impatiently look forward to your final and complete report on the human rights status in Iran.
With sincere thanks and respect
1) When we state that the ethnic groups and nations living in Iran are not minorities, we mean to emphasize a demographical index; and if minority, considering some legal and sociopolitical definitions, is to be defined as a group of people who are marginal and deprived of political power, these non-Fars groups are, to the real sense of the word, minorities. There is no authentic information about the population of ethno-national groups in Iran. In none of the official censuses, including the one held in 2006, no question ever has been assigned to the ethnic groups or to the languages. However, different organizations and societies provide different statistics for the percentages of the ethnic groups living in Iran, most of which are contradictory and distorted by political interests. Even those organizations which are at odds with the government, being dominated by the opposition groups, influenced by Fars powers, release remarkable statistics. For instance, in such statistics the population of the Turks living in Iran( including Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Qashqayi and Khalaj Turks as well as the immigrant Turks living in other parts of Iran) has been estimated to be 18-35 millions, and about Kurds to be 3-8 millions; but the most striking is that most of these so-called neutral and even anti-governmental groups emphasize the 51% (50+1 %) population of Fars people in Iran. If requested, we can provide you with a brief explanation of the population of the Turks living in Iran and Southern Azerbaijan, with references to various sources.
2) For example ADAP, the association for defending Azerbaijani Prisoners (http://www.savalansesi.com), is only one of the many human rights societies that has close connection with Azerbaijani people and activists. ADAP, together with some other human rights and university societies in Azerbaijan, has managed to be regarded as the most reliable source of human rights in the Iranian Turks’ society.
10 December 2011