Culture Discrimination Policy Against Turks of Iran ( Azerbiajani Turks)

Mofak Salman

Persian chauvinism in Iran has hurt significantly the economic and social well being of South Azerbaijan. Chauvinism as a policy has been practiced implicitly by the Iranian regime and has targeted at its core the national culture of Azeri’s in South Azerbaijan.

The Azeri language had been removed from official use in all areas, including, schools, courts, government structures, and the army. Specific forms of Azeri cultural expression are prohibited as well. In the last parliamentary elections, Mr. Chehregani, who ran on a platform of observing the 15th article of the constitution (that is on, using local languages for literature lessons in elementary schools), was elected in the first round of voting from Tabriz. His victory ended in a police interrogation, his torture and finally in arrest in Tehran.

The national-liberation movement of South Azerbaijan has a history going back 90 years. National-territorial autonomy demands were put before Iranian rulers during various movements—led by Sattarhan (1908-1909), Hiyabani (1920), Pishevari (1945-1946), and Shariat-Madari (1979-1980). In their demands, they outlined various ways to resolve the pressing issues of nationality questions in Iran. There are at least two factors that influence the current situation of the Azeri national movement in Iran:

The rise of Azeri national consciousness and diffusion of the national movement into a higher social strata and the restoration of independent Azerbaijani statehood in the north.

Amongst Azeris in Iran there are three main viewpoints for dealing with the national problem of South Azerbaijan: A group made up of religious, industrialists and bureaucratic, personalities who occupy a prominent position in the Iranian State, and their ideologists support the idea of a united Iran (“national Iran centrists”). They strive to increase the share of authority and capital within a single Iran. They support the notion of Turkistan of Iran. This group supports the idea of the unification of Iran with North Azerbaijan. A group of intellectuals, industrialists and bureaucrats who fear the division of Iran and support the idea of granting South Azerbaijan (at the same time to other ethnic-national minorities) cultural or national-territorial autonomy, which is regarded by them as the optimal way of resolving the Azerbaijan problem. “Democracy to Iran, autonomy to Azerbaijan” is a very popular idea amongst this interest group. The third group is represented by new political organisations and groups, which support the independence of South Azerbaijan and the idea of a United Azerbaijan. The appearance of these organisations signals the beginnings of a new stage in developments related to the question of Azerbaijan in Iran. Those elements that are radical within these groups do not believe that the ethnic question in Iran can be resolved in an evolutionary manner. They believe that in order to achieve their national goals they should use all means possible, including military means if necessary.

Any ethno-national issue in multiethnic Iran is one of the most important factors affecting the future of the country. Choosing the current form of government and its support is closely connected with the multinational structure of Iran. The ideology of Pan-Iranism was hurt by the collapse of Shah’s regime. Islam, as the centralising ideology, became the main factor and brought the different nations together. The problem of non-Persian national minorities in Iran coincides with the problem of divided nations as well. The Iranian leadership deals with these problems by trying to involve representatives of ethnic groups and national minorities into government structures, but they do not make any concessions in the fields of language, culture or self-governance.

The sudden emergence of the independent Azerbaijan State in the North has caused many problems for the Iranian leadership. The mere existence of Azerbaijan Republic, above all, has had an important influence and impact on the national movement in Iranian Azerbaijan. The overall conclusion is that the future of Iranian statehood itself could be problematic. A Part of the Iranian leadership, especially high-level politicians of Azeri origin, supports inclusion of the “ancient Iranian land,” i.e., the Azerbaijan Republic into Iran. Most of the Iranian leadership, however, rejects such idea as unrealistic and undesirable. In their opinion, an increase in the Azeri elements in Iran and the politicisation of the Azeri population will cause additional concern for Persian nationalism. Therefore, the current Iranian regime tries to bring the Azerbaijan Republic into its political sphere of influence in an effort to eliminate the influence of the Azerbaijan Republic on the Azeri population of Iran. In so doing, Iran is demonstrating the following political interests:

To prevent the formation of a truly independent and prosperous Azerbaijan Republic and minimise its influence in South Azerbaijan, in order to insure the territorial integrity and internal stability of Iran,

To prevent the increase of US and Turkish influence in Azerbaijan and Central Asia,

To prevent integration of the Turkic world,

To gain strongholds in order to influence the Muslims of the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Russian Volga region,

To have free access to Azerbaijan’s market and natural resources, in accordance with the official “export of Islamic revolution” doctrine, to create an Islamic, pro-Iranian regime in Azerbaijan.

Recently, there was intensified ideological activity in Iran on the Azerbaijan question. The active propaganda on the “absence” of ethnic unity in both North and South Azerbaijan, the increased ideological struggle against Turkism and the Turkic world by official propaganda, the ignorance of existence of independent Azerbaijan by the people are all characteristic features of the official policy of Tehran. In addition, repressive measures and the police regime toward the Azeri activists in Iran have also been increasing.