According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), an ethnic Azerbaijani, Asker Akbarzade, was sentenced to prison in Iran for participating in a peaceful demonstration for the right to use his native Azerbaijani language, according to.
Akbarzade had already been called to the so-called Revolutionary Court in Ahar, a city in the province of Eastern Azerbaijan, for promoting the rights of Azerbaijanis in Iran.
“The persecution of Akbarzade for his participation in the fight for the rights of Azerbaijanis began in 2014, when he was arrested by the agents of the intelligence department for participating in a protest dedicated to the International Mother Language Day. He was then badly beaten and denied to have a lawyer during the interrogation. Despite this, Asker rejected all the accusations, saying that he just attended the meeting of the intelligentsia of the country on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day, “a person close to the Akbarzade family told CHRI on the condition of anonymity.
This time, the 32-year-old Akbarzade is accused of “organizing and leading a group that conducts anti-state activities aimed at undermining Iran’s national security.”
According to Article 27 of the Iranian Constitution, Iranian citizens have the right to hold public assemblies and marches only if they do not damage the fundamental principles of Islam.
In 2007, the Revolutionary Court of Ardabil already sentenced Akbarzade to five years’ imprisonment for alleged membership in the banned “Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement “. Later, he was acquitted on appeal.
Meanwhile, up to 25 percent of Iran’s population is made up of Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanis, who live mainly in the north-western regions of Iran.
Activists of various organizations advocate the restoration of the rights of the Azerbaijani population of Iran, primarily demanding the prohibition on the teaching of the Azerbaijani language in schools, adopted in violation of the country’s Constitution, to be repealed.