The Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Kochiro Matsuura

We are writing to bring your attention to the systematic suppression of the Turkish language and the imposition of Persian by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).

In most societies, the written and the spoken languages are the same. In such a society International Mother Language Day, February 21st, is a day of celebration and jubilation, but not for 35 million Turks in Iran.

Since 1925, Iranian governments have banned the usage of Turkish in the educational system. Millions of children born to Azerbaijani Turkish parents do not even have one school in which they can study in their language. In its place, Farsi is forced on them as the only legitimate Iranian language.

Currently in Iran, aside from three Azerbaijani provinces, Turkish is spoken in the provinces and regions of Zanjan, Hamadan, Arak, Saveh and Northern Khorasan. Turkish is also spoken by the Qashqayi Turks as well as various other Turkish-speaking peoples concentrated in the province of Fars and in central Iran. All of these people live under the Iranian administration with not a single course in their language available to them during their education from primary school to high school.

Every year, the people of Azerbaijan have tried to obtain permission to celebrate February 21st as International Mother Language Day, but are constantly denied assembling permits. The IRI regime imprisons cultural-linguistic activists who are trying to raise awareness about one of our most basic and fundamental rights as a people. Journalists or writers who publish in Turkish become victims of the secret police, Etelaat. They are constantly harassed and tagged with labels such as ?Pan-Turks? or ?Separatists?.

Culture is a product of the history of a people and language is integral to culture. Subsequently, culture carries the entire body of values by which a nation comes to perceive themselves and their place in the world. By prohibiting individuals to study in their mother tongue, not only is language destroyed, but also the culture, history, heritage and economy of that people.

We urge you to place a particular importance on this issue which affects more than 30 million people in Iran. On behalf of Turks in Iran, we ask that you take action to protect our mother tongue.


The Undersigned