Reactions to the insulting article published in Iran Newspaper about azerbaijanis

Fakhteh Zamani

Following the publication of the insulting cartoons in the nationwide newspaper “Iran”, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis protested against “Persian chauvinism” in the streets of Tabriz on Monday, May 22nd. The cartoons made analogies such that the Azerbaijani people were compared to cockroaches that should be exterminated by cutting off their food source (excrements). The May 22nd demonstration was a continuation of protests by Azeri students in Tabriz, Urmia, Ardebil, Tehran and Zanjan. Below is a report describing this demonstration:


Hundreds of demonstrators started to protest in front of “Rasteh kucheh” and the Bazaar of Tabriz and moved towards the Eastern Azerbaijan’s governor’s house. At the same time and in other part of the city, students of Tabriz University began peaceful demonstrations by asking for basic human rights for the Azerbaijani nation. Many onlookers joined in while they were moving from the University towards the governor’s house. Special Forces and the police blocked the university movement and did not let the groups to unite. By the time the “Rasteh kucheh” group had reached the governor’s house, their numbers had increased several times.

The protesters shouted slogans such as: “Down with Chauvinism!”, “Azerbaijani nation will not bow to such abasements!”, “When North and South Azerbaijan will unite, Tabriz will be its center!” [Translator’s Note: “Northern Azerbaijan” is the Republic of Azerbaijan which is located in the north of Araz river and “South Azerbaijan” lies in North western Iran, south of Araz River], “Death or Independence!”, “Coward governor, come and answer to this!”, “Iran newspaper has to be closed!” and “Sattar khan, Bagher khan, your sons have all been awakened!” [Translator’s Note: Sattar khan and Bagher khan are two Azerbaijani Freedom heroes who fought for democracy and freedom in “Constitutional Revolution”. They were honored by the title of "Sardar-e Melli" (National General) and "Salar -e- Melli" (National Leader) respectively by the order of the Assembly.] None of the governor’s officials appearedin front of the protestors. Meanwhile under police attack, the demonstration’s path changed to “Bank -e- Melli” (National bank) and Amin’s T-section (name of the street). Interference by fire trucks and the attack of the police using tear gas caused chaos among the protestors. The tear gas had caused people to run from the governor’s office. Some of them started to throw stones at the government building and resulted in an increased force from the police. Police pursuit forced demonstrators to move towards Shariati Avenue.

Confronting a huge crowd of people, the officers from the Police Station #12 retreated inside the building, which allowed people to go on.

Demonstrators reaffirmed their slogans and without any violence continued moving towards Tabriz University passing through Clock Tower Square, Mansour crossway and Abresan crossway.

Special Forces and Revolutionary Guards quietly continued to repress the movement by stopping and arresting those who were filming and photographing. Some shootings had been heard around Tabriz University. Forty-eight people have been reported injured. Some unconfirmed sources talk of six people killed. Approximately 187 demonstrators were reported to have been arrested. Some of injured at the Behbood hospital (police hospital) are under arrest, three of them are injured because of gun shootings.

The number of demonstrators has been estimated to be between 200 and 300 thousand people. This is the largest protest of Azerbaijanis against the violation of their human rights since 1979.The newspaper, like all other governmental newspapers, must have all of its content thoroughly checked and approved by the Iranian government prior to publication. This is not the first time a cartoon of this nature has been published, which has infuriated University students in Azeri cities in Iran, and has raised protests and hunger strikes in Tabriz, Urmia, Tehran, Ardebil, Maragheh and Zanjan Universities.

Students have not forgotten the racist survey that was distributed by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) in 1995 that insulted Azeri Turks.

Students have also seen their mother language ridiculed in movies and in soap operas which are broadcast by the single TV outlet which is government monopolized.Today, “Persian” is the only official language in Iran even though articles #15 and #19 of the constitution specify that education and the development of culture and language of other ethnic groups are guaranteed. This article has never been implemented towards Azeri-Turks and other minorities in Iran.

Azerbaijanis (also Azeri(s), or Azeri-Turks) are the largest ethnic “minority” group in Iran.

Of the sixty million total population of Iran, the Azeri nation comprises over 30 million people, residing mainly in Western and Eastern Azerbaijan, Ardebil and Zanjan provinces.

As a comparison, the population of the neighboring Republic of Azerbaijan (north of Iran) is eight million. During the last few decades, Azeris in Iran have been subjected to humiliations under the chauvinistic rules of the Shah and Islamic Republic.