Fakhteh Zamani: Minority Forum Speech

Madam chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Forum Participants:

It is a well-known fact by now that education in the mother tongue is very central to intellectual, emotional, spiritual and educational development of students. It is, and should be, an undeniable right of all ethnic groups to study, read and write in their natural mother language.

This right, however, has been denied to Iran’s non-Persian ethnic groups: i.e., Azerbaijani-Turks, Kurds, Baluchs, Turkmens, Arabs, Lurs, Gilaki-Mazandaranis, and others.

These ethnic groups constitute the numerical majority in the country. Yet, they are forced to study in Farsi, which is the language of Persian ethnic group. The Persian language has been imposed on the majority-non-Persian population since 1925, the year of Reza Shah’s takeover of political power and establishment of Pahlavi Dynasty. Ever since then, Farsi has been elevated to the status of Iran’s only official language. It is the only language of instruction, education, and government in a country which is one of the most diverse, multicultural and multi-lingual countries of the world.

Ever since 1925, Iran’s diverse ethnic and national communities have been struggling for the right in education in their own natural mother language. The Azerbaijani Turks, for example, constitute about 37 percent of the total population in Iran (well over 20 million) and have been demanding the right to education in their language since 1925. The Pahlavi regime brutally suppressed these demands; and so does the current Islamic Republic. While the constitution of current Islamic regime allows for the studying, reading and writing of non-Persian languages along with Farsi, the government doe not honour its own constitution and keeps arresting, abusing and persecuting those who demand the implementation of this constitutional right.
The Azerbaijani-Turks have been demanding the right to education in their own language, Azeri-Turkic, through peaceful means, from writing collective letters to Iranian authorities to staging peaceful, non-violent demonstrations.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Allow me to conclude by sharing with you two famous mottos of the Azerbaijani community regarding their language and its use in educational centers:

Ana dilim olen deyil Ozge dile chonen deyil
My mother tongue will not die Nor will it be supplanted by other languages

Oz dilinde medrese Olmalidir herkese
Education in the mother tongue Is a must for everyone

Thank you very much!

Forum on Minority Issues