The Issue of Azerbaijani Turks in Iran

M. Reza Kheshti

Historical Aspect
Historically the existing people of Azerbaijan are the extension of the Asiatic People, which moved to the current geographic plateau possibly more than ten thousand years ago. According to the French Historian Peter Amier, we can observe the foot print of those people in human history in the form of the Elamid Dynasty, which ruled the Iranian Plateau, with today’s terminology, for 2800 years (since 3500 +/– B.C.) utilizing the Agglutinative Language. The Elamid is not the only ones that ruled the region. There were other dynasties such as: Kas’sies, Hur’ries, Orarturs, Qut’ties, Lolobies, Qarqars, Kaspies (Caspians), and more recent Man’nas, and Medes are the “Ancestor-Predecessors” of Azerbaijanis.

After the arrival of Indo-European speaking groups of people on the plateau, and after the defeat of the first Persian Dynasty of Archiamids by Alexander the Great, the Satrap, or governor of Azerbaijan, Atropakan, negotiated a peace treaty with Alexander, which guaranteed the Independence of the land to the north and south of the Arax River.

The ruling of the land was continued by Achkadids with Agglutinative language group for almost 450+/- years, and Sasanids, until the fall of the dynasty through the intervention of Islam. The ruling of Islam continued for 250+/– years, and then for a short period of time the land was ruled by Sef’farids and Samanids, an Indo-European speaking group of people. Prior to the English-led coupe made on behalf of the Persians in the early 1920s, which contributed to the fall of the last “Qajar Dynasty”, Qeznevids and the dynasties after them ruled the land as Agglutinative-speaking peoples for more than a thousand years.

In the 20th century the Pahlavi Dynasty was brought to power, by the means of coup, in order to implement the Great Brittan’s colonialist doctrine for better control and advancement of the land and region in the future, utilizing the slogan of “One Nation, One Race, and One Language”. Since then cultural assimilation policies have been imposed on the five major non Persian ethnic group of the region: Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Baluchies, Kurds, and Turkmen. Following the Pahlavi’s foot print, the Islamic Republic of Iran, IRI, rubber-stamped the same policy which was imposed by predecessor. The era after coup is called “The Period of Persianization.”

The period of Persianization in the last 100+/– years after the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1911 in general, and after the 1920’s coup, more specifically has had major impacts:
1 – The Loss of Land and Territory;
2 – Economic Deprivation;
3 – Denial of Human and Social Rights;
4 – The Denial of Turkic History through the Imposition of Persian Nationalism.

1-The Loss of Land and TerritoryHistorically the land of Azerbaijan has been shrunk to its current size through the creation of provinces known as:

Zenjan Province, Qezvin Province, Hemedan Province, Arak Province, Gilan Province, Merkezi (Central) Province, and recently Erdebil province.

This geographic renaming has reduced Azerbaijan to two provinces-- Eastern and Western--which in reality is only 40% of the total land historically understood to be Azerbaijan. Additionally the names of mountains, rivers, towns and cities have been changed to Farsi as another way of approaching Persianization. The samples are as follow:

A- Cities and Towns (Urmia to Rezaiyeh, Soyuq Bulaq to Mahabad, Selmas to Shahpur, Qara Bulaq to Siyah Cheshmeh, Qosha Chay to Miyandoab, Dehkharqan to Azershehr, Sayinqala To Shahindej, Sulduz to Neqedeh, Khiyav to Meshkinshehr, Khana to Piranshahr),

B- Mountains (Qara Daq to Eresbaran, Savalan to Sebelan),

C- Rivers (Aji Chay to Telkherud, Akhma Qaya to Ahmeqiyeh, Jighati To Siminehrud, Petovi To Zerrinehrud).

It is worth noting that during the course of the history of Iran, it has never been considered one country; instead it was consisted as seven countries, administered and called as “Unified Countries”, Memaleke Mehruseh, which they had their own independence, including: Arabistan, Azerbaijan, Baluchistan, Farsistan (Persian territory), Khorasan, Kurdistan, and Tabaristan (included Turkmen Territory). For the fist time the name of “Iran” is used after the coup, in the term of “Kingship of Iran”, in relation with Aryan Race”, which resemble the Baluchies, Kurds, and Persians.

2-Economic DeprivationNeither the Pahlavi regime nor the IRI have invested in Azerbaijan’s economic progress. Instead Azerbaijani investors were encouraged to move their capital, factories, production, plants, etc. to the Persian core of the country, in order to receive tax breaks, credit, and discounts. This has resulted in a high percentage of unemployment in Azerbaijan and the migration of thousands people in search of jobs. This migration has reduced the population of Azerbaijan, brought other ethnicities such as Kurds to Azerbaijan, and has reduced the Azerbaijani ratio in their geographic homeland. Although an agriculturally rich land, most of the peasants and farmers go elsewhere in search of job, in result, melting in the cultural pot of “Persianisim” by intermingling in the Persian oriented society, receiving education in forced Persian language, and inter marriage with them. Most of the villages are vacant, and remaining inhabitants are elderly.

3-Denial of Human and Social RightsBoth regimes were and are signatures of the “Declaration of Human Rights” yet both denied these rights to ethnic groups. For example: people were denied an education in their native language, denied the right to name newborns in Azerbaijani, denied media in the Azerbaijani language, denial of self governing of their own land, Etc.

4-Denial of the HistorySince1920s’, Persian Historians have been trying to deny the history of the people who inhabited the land for years prior to their arrival in 900 B.C. The calendar of the country is based on the first Persian kingship, denying 4000-5000 years of indigenous history. Ethnically, Persians constitute somewhere between 25%-30% of the population—a minority which unjustly rules a 70%-75% non-Persian majority. Including the Turks of Khorasan, Kerman, Fars Provinces, and city of Tehran (the most populated Azerbaijani city in the world), one can easily say that Azerbaijanis are the most populous ethnic group calculated at somewhere in vicinity of 50%, according to the UN report on Human Rights in 2002.

ConclusionWith analysis of contemporary history of Iran, we can easily detect the “Persian Chauvinism” as a factor of deferment, deprivation, impoverishment of non Persian ethnics including South Azerbaijanis.

The prescription of “Federalism” is obsolete in Iranian case. The two big factors of: “to be raised, educated, and developed in democratic and secular society”, and “all ethnics cooperate in approach of same goal” are the prerequisite for establishment of a “Federative state”, and neither one of those factors are exist in Iran, since the country was ruled by dictatorial regimes in recent hundred years of modern history, and the ruling ethnic, Persians, is not willing to loose or share the power, which they gained thru coup with the help of England, with other ethnics.

“The Right to Self Determination” is the only democratic solution for such multi ethnic society. This Right has been spelled out in “Declaration of Human Rights”, and has been practiced in the case of “peacefully separation” of Czech and Slovakia, and in the case of “peacefully annexation” of two Germanys. If the South Azerbaijanis come to such conclusion for their own “Self Determination”, any disruption in secession process will be on burden of ruling ethnic, The Persians.

The attempt of IRI to have an access to Atomic Energy would be disastrous for non-Persians ethnics in Iran. Ruling ethnic had enough tools to suppress and humiliate other ethnics, and undeniably this one would be above all. Instead of Uranium, IRI should implement their own Constitution and respect to their own signature on Declaration of Human Rights, let the people practice the freedom in the full extend, whether or not they want to stay in the union or peacefully leave it.