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Discussions on Iranian Azeris in Washington, DC

AZOH: WASHINGTON, DC. April 12, 2012: For the first time in recent years, the problems of the Iranian Azeris have been publicly discussed at the US capital with the participation of the members of the Iranian-Azeri Diaspora, DC’s think-tank community, as well as some current and former Administration members of the US, TURAN’s Washington DC correspondent reports. The event titled “Azeris in Iran: Their Condition, Status and Future Prospects” took place at Johns Hopkins University’s Central Asia-Caucasus Institute on April 11. Two main speakers – Dr. Shapoor Ansari, Iranian Azeri activist in California, and Huseyn Panahov, an Azeri native who is the president of the International Cadets Council at the US Military Academy, discussed the topic.




The speakers pointed out that for nearly two centuries after the Turkmenchay treaty between Russia and Iran divided Azerbaijan between the two, the Iranian Azeris have been bravely struggling over their basic rights, especially the right to speak in their own language. “Today Iran officially admits that - this statement came from the Iranian foreign minister early this year during his Turkey visit - there are 40% of Iranians who speak in Turkic (Azeri language is calle ‘turk dili’ and Iranian Azeris are called ‘turk’ by the ethnic belonging of the Azeri nation - Azerireport). But we have no single Turkic-language school or classes in Iran,” said Dr. Ansari. “The regime banned all the TV and radio channels which were broadcasting in Azeri Turkish. Dozens of Azeri activist, like a young man named Metinpour, are still in prison, due to their fight against Article 15 which eliminated the second official language in Iran’s territory,” said Dr. Ansari.




Speaking about history, Mr. Ansari mentioned that almost all Iranian regimes, including Shahs and Mullahs, have followed the same policy of standing against the Azeri culture and language in their territory, “although there are very big differences between those regimes”. During the Shah years, he said, the government forces were even “killing those who spoke in Turkic”. “There was an official decree of denying a child’s Turkic name back then. Also, some discrimination practices, such as portraying the Turkic people as unintelligent in the media, was very popular then”, he argued. “Where was the US back then?” asks Dr. Ansari.




Ansari explains that the Washington intelligence community, had gotten “wrong messages” regarding the Iranian internal developments back then; for example, just 15 days before the Tabriz rallies early in 1978, President Carter called Iran a “land of stability”.




Mr. Ansari also mentioned the anti-Turkic attitudes in the current Iranian policy, arguing that Tehran always advocates forcing Israelis from Palestinians’ occupied lands, but it stays silent about the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict.


“Iran didn’t accept Azeri refugees during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in the early 1990’s” adding “although Tehran has opened its doors to the refugees from Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, during the wars in those countries”.




Today, as the tension around Iran escalates to an international level, Ansari says, there is only one way out for Iranian leaders and that is to democratize the country.




“The key elements of the democratization are the following: the failed policy has to be discarded; the Turkish language should be given some status at every level of education, government and media as Persian has; other nations should be given equal rights”, he underlined (Turan).





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