Tractor sazi football club and Racism in Iran

Yashar Bugun

Maybe when chiefs of tractor Manufacturing Co. (ITMCO) decided to establish a football club in Tabriz city in 1970, they didn’t think that this football club will be converted to tribune of Azerbaijani people and it will be more than football club. Tractor Football Club (Persian: تراکتور, Azerbaijani: تراختور) is an Iranian football club based in Tabriz. Red wolves play in Iran's Pro League. Average number of spectators at home games in Sahand stadium (Yadegar-e-Emam , this name is governmental name, but popular and current name for this stadium is Sahand) is more than 60,000. Even, nearly the number of tractor fans in games external like in Tehran is equal with the number of fans of home's teams.
For example, the number of all fans at the games of tractor with Esteghlal and Persepolis teams was 80000 in last year, which half of them were tractor fans. One of their slogans in stadiums, which emphasise necessity of implementation of fifteenth article of Iran's constitution, is call for education of mother language (Türk dilində mədrəsə--olmlıdır hər kəsə) and another slogan relating to environmental disaster of Urmiyeh (Urmu) lake ask for saving of this lake from drying out."gəlin gedax ağlıyax—urmu gölün doldurax" that means : Let's go and cry--- fill lake up with our tears. Other slogans, for example, "viva the Azerbaijan" (Yaşasın azərbaycan), "long live Azerbaijan -- shame on enemies of Azerbaijan" (azərbaycan var olsun--istəmiyən kör olsun) and "Azerbaijan is our land—tractor is our red wolf"(Azərbaycan yurdumuz—tiraxtur boz qurdumuz) which have national meaning for Azerbaijani Turks. But this team and its fans have faced with harsh and ruthless actions of security forces in this two year.

Repressive and closed social conditions of today's Iran along with open atmosphere of football stadiums has caused that football fields is converted to the protesting meeting of Azerbaijani Turks. Recently tractor fans are pointing to ruthless actions such as violence, attacking with baton, illegal arrest and imprisonment, prevention and delaying behind the doors and other violent acts by security forces. At the present tens of tractor fans have been imprisoned and their crime is adoration to Azerbaijan and Tiraxtur.

One of the most important features of these enthusiastic fans is high activity in internet. Many fans of tractor don’t believe governmental media and they follow news of Azerbaijan and tractor from independent media. But totalitarian system in Iran doesn't allow that this media to form a centralized place to flow news freely. Tractor fans have a lot of websites and every day many of them are filtered and closed. Most well-know websites of these enthusiastic fans were and that closed by security forces because their basic server located in Iran and managers and owners of this website are in prison. In addition to these obstructions, the fans of red wolves have a further problem that related to new military management of tractor sazi football club. Tractor sazi football club is sponsored by tractor manufacturing company and great amount of company's stock belong to governmental organisations, as a result, members of guardian's military of Islamic republic are assigned to management council and presidency posts by security organisations. According to the rules of FIFA, governments cannot interfere in affairs of football federations and clubs but there is no obstacle in front of security organisations in Iran. Unfortunately executives of FIFA don’t know about current affairs that happen in Iran.

One of the issues that relates directly to FIFA is racist slogans that spectators of competitors are using in stadiums and television channels broadcast this slogans. As it is stated above, tractor FC has been related to the national consciousness of Azerbaijani Turks in Iran and racist slogans of fans of competitors has targeted ethnicity of Turks. For example television cameras in cities of Kerman, Isfahan and Bushehr were witnessed to offensive and racist slogans pointing Turks. Unfortunately, disciplinary committee of Iranian Pro League didn't make its duties and finally in game with Persepolis in Tehran, that Persepolis was host team, thousands of host fans insult to Turks and these slogans were broadcasted in live program from channel 3. After those happenings, spectators of tractorsazi start to protest the silence of referee and football federation. After that, tractor's fans start to fire seats of stadium and security forces attacked them violently.

Disciplinary committee, that hadn’t punished opponent's fans due to their racist slogans by that time, sentenced tractorsazi to two games without spectators and financial punishments. Subsequently, fans of tractor readied a petition and demanded from executives of FIFA to oversee these injustices and racist atmosphere in Iran.