Why is South Azerbaijan rebelling?

Ali Hajizade

Editor’s column

AHajizade


This is my first post in my editorial, it so happened that it coincided with another wave of protests in South Azerbaijan (some sources call this area the Iranian Azerbaijan).

Many people in the West are not aware, but Iran is a multinational country, I will not touch on historical aspects of how it happened that Iran has become such as it is, I will proceed from the realities of today. The second largest major ethnic group living in Iran is the Azerbaijanis, the Turkic people, living mainly in the north of Iran. In today’s Iran, it is difficult to calculate the exact number of Azerbaijanis living in this country. The Iranian regime juggles statistics in its own favor.  The number of Azerbaijanis in Iran range from 15 million to 30 million people. This gap is associated with the totalitarian nature of the Iranian state. Mullahs’ regime seeks to replace the national identity of citizens with the religious one. That is, the Iranian regime would benefit if the Kurds, Arabs and Azerbaijanis living in Iran, considered themselves primarily Shia Muslims or, at most, identified themselves as the Persians, that is, the title nation of Iran.

It is worth noting that, mullahs’ regime achieved certain success in erasing national identity. However, they were unable to turn the tide in their favor. From time to time, there are protests among the Kurds, Arabs, and Azerbaijanis living in Iran. In South Azerbaijan protests are mainly related to racist attacks from Tehran officials, for instance, in Iran, where all media are state-controlled, the central newspaper can compare some nation living in the country with cockroaches, or Iranian television can use their broadcasts to propagate racial hatred and intolerance. It is commonplace in today’s Iran, as well as mass and public executions, torture, total control over the Internet, and so on. Western politicians, who shake hands with Iranian leaders, wanting to snatch a bigger piece off the Iranian table, prefer not to notice all that. The major international human rights organizations have the same sluggish reaction to the atrocities in Iran.

The current outbreak of anger in South Azerbaijan is due to another racist attack from Iranian media, namely one Persian-language newspaper. Mass protests are taking place in the major cities in South Azerbaijan, such as Tabriz and Urmia. Iranian police and security forces detained a large number of protesters. There is no doubt that they will be tortured. The international community, including the Western human rights defenders and human rights organizations, will, as always, ignore this violence in Iran. In fact, the problem of Azerbaijanis, Kurds and Arabs in Iran (particularly Sunnis) requires a much deeper study and reflection. But while we are studying and trying to reflect, people in Iran are being killed and tortured, just because they do not want to tolerate racism, and constant harassment and abuse.

Author: Ali Hajizade, head of “The Great Middle East” project

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