ADAPP Calls on Iranian Authorities to Respect the Freedom of Assembly as Azerbaijani Iranians Mark the Anniversary of the May, 2006 Demonstrations


VANCOUVER, CANADA: At the anniversary of the May, 2006 demonstrations by Azerbaijani Iranians against the publication of a cartoon degrading and threatening them as an ethnic group, the Association for the Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP) calls on Iranian authorities to be respectful of all citizens' constitutional rights, to stop the arrest and torture of Azerbaijani activists and to release Azerbaijani prisoners of conscience. The Association also calls on human rights organizations and democratic countries to join them in pressuring Iran to respect the freedom of assembly.

On May 16, 2006 the official state newspaper, Iran Daily, published a cartoon which portrayed Azerbaijanis as a cockroach and instructed ten ways to exterminate the insect. In northwest Iran, where Azerbaijanis dominate, hundreds of thousands demonstrated to protest the cartoon and decades of discrimination and humiliation by the state. Although the demonstrations were peaceful and theoretically constitutional, (Article 17 of the Iranian constitution states "Unarmed assemblies and marches may be freely organized, provided that no violation of the foundations of Islam is involved."), the demonstrations were violently suppressed. At least 27 people were killed and over one hundred people were injured. A large number of people were arrested. Many detained activists were tortured and made to sign papers promising not to participate or to urge participation by others in demonstrations. Since May, 2006, arrests of Azerbaijani activists have continued.

For more than eighty years, under both the Pahlavi dynasty and the present Islamic government, Azerbaijanis and other non-Persian ethnic groups of Iran have faced a policy of systematic assimilation. Non_Persian Iranians have experienced severe violations of their basic human rights. Although non-Persians constitute more than fifty percent of Iranian population and the Iranian constitution states that they have rights as ethnic groups they can not represent themselves and are deprived of education in their own languages. Detentions of cultural and human rights activists and threats continue to this day.

The Association appeals to the world community to watch and witness as Azerbaijanis mark the anniversary of the May, 2006 demonstrations. The Iranian government is called on to respect freedom of expression and not to use violent repression.


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