Interview With Farzin Farzad About South Azerbaijan Petition On White House Website

Please introduce yourself to the readers and tell about your activities.
I was born in the city of Urmia and my family immigrated to the U.S. when I was 5. I hold a Master's Degree from International Affairs from American University and an undergraduate degree in political science from McDaniel college. I have been active in the Azerbaijani rights movement since roughly 2009, when I was an intern for Fakhteh Zamani at Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP). I have also been active in the Azerbaijani community in D.C. and help the position of Program Officer at the Karabakh Foundation before leaving to co-found the Network of Azerbaijani-Americans from Iran (NAAI).
We initially formed our organization over a year ago, however 2013 will be our most active year. We hope to represent Azerbaijani-Americans from Iran in the U.S. and build a diaspora network. In the future, we also hope to develop cultural activities, promoting our arts, language, history, and culture.
Araznews: How was the basic idea of putting a petition about south azerbaijan on White House site created?
I read a news article about some interesting petitions that were created on the White House website. When I went to the We the People page to read some of them, I noticed that petitions were open to everyone. I did quite a bit of research about the petitions and learned the rules and procedures and I decided this would be a great opportunity for us to present our case to the White House itself. I created the petition not knowing what to expect, but I thought I would just try anyway.
It was really heart-warming to see something simple that I never thought could succeed become instantly popular and spread all over Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. It truly made me feel like I was part of something much bigger than myself. I felt so close to our millet.
It gave me a renewed confidence and I am now dedicated to try to use all of the tools that are available out there to promote our cause.

Araznews: All political organizations and national activists supported it, what is your opinion about it?
Well as I have said before, this isn't an initiative by any one person or one organization. Petition belongs to all of us, to our nation, and to all who support the basic human rights of Azerbaijanis in Iran. I was surprised and quite happy to see so many groups and media together working for this petition. I feel that I didn't even do much. I just created the text. It was you all who did all the work.
It was actually quite an impressive display of unity. Within days after I created the petition, it was all over the internet. People of different backgrounds, different ideologies were sharing it. People were all uniting around this one thing. It was quite impressive. This is the unity that I had been waiting to see from our people.
Araznews: 25 thousand signatures were collected, is this convince you? So what will happen next?
Well first I would like to say that I honestly did not think that we would even come close to 25,000 signatures. I was worried after the first week, but after I saw that the signature was being shared by ALL of my Facebook friends, I changed my mind. I actually stayed awake to watch the petition reach its 25,000th signature after which I celebrated our victory. I was extremely happy.
This is an important step for us and a great achievement. I think that from here, we will all set aside our differences and come together more often to push for our rights and things that we believe in. I don't think we're now more unified than ever before and it will keep getting better.
Right now we just have to sit and wait for a response from the White House regarding the petition. There is a team that takes each successful petition and sends it to the person in charge of the corresponding division. For example, since our petition was focused on Human Rights and Foreign Policy, the person in charge of those issues at the White House will issue a response. But I want our people to know that no matter what the response we receive, we've reached an important milestone. We might receive some positive news or even something that we don't want to hear. Either way, we achieved something as a united force and nobody can take that away from us now.