Some are separatists
On reviving the question of Azerbaijan
By Aidin Fathalizadeh Gharehshaban
August 11, 2003
Fresh discussion regarding Azerbaijanis in Iran has
been ignited. Such is evident here at Iranian.com by the three
recently published articles, "Are
there any questions?", "Azeri
is Iranian Nationalism", and "We
deserve better". Most
abroad (Azerbaijanis and well as Persians) must be asking why this is?
I, for one, am no definitive authority of matters such as these, but I may
be able to shed some light on this issue. Recently, in fact just this past
Mahmudali Chehreganli, leader of the Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening
Movement (SANAM), announced that "the federal government of Azerbaijan will be proclaimed
within 18 months in Iran" (according to his website, cehreganli.com).
Chehreganli, a linguistics professor, was elected
as a parliamentary representative from the province of Azerbaijan
and was imprisoned for three years following
his outspoken opposition to the current Iranian regime. He has been in exile
ever since working to garner support for his movement. Chehreganli recently
toured the United States and is currently in the Azerbaijan Republic.
Every year, on what is known as Tavalode Babak, Azerbaijanis gather at Babak
Qalasi (Babak's Castle), to celebrate their Azerbaijani culture (Babak Khoramdin
lead a group of warriors who fought off the Arab/Muslim invaders from taking
Azerbaijan for 21 years in the 9th century). During this anniversary, Azerbaijanis
gather at the castle to sing, dance, recite poetry, etc. . .
has been looked down upon by the Islamic Republic. The government identifies
Khoramdin as a "kafar" who slaughtered thousands of Muslims
and whose life should not be celebrated. In the past, the government,
of a build
up of Azerbaijani nationalism, has set up rallies and demonstrations
in some Azerbaijani cities dissuading the people to partake in the annual
Government officials have gone so far as to arrest participants.
This past month, near the beginning of July, supporters of SANAM attended
Tavalode Babak. Chehreganli himself was not at hand, but his presence
felt. The group venerated Azerbaijani figures such as Sattar Khan, Babak
Khoramdin, and Kor Oglu and denounced what they deemed to be the "mullah regime" as
well as "Persian chauvinism."
The Iranian government is aware of the danger a revival of Azerbaijani
pride may pose. The government, for instance, has urged the Azerbaijan
to banish Chehreganli from Baku. History has exposed the power
that proud Azerbaijani people have.
On December 12, 1945, the National Parliament
of Azerbaijan in Tabriz challenged the puppet government of the Shah
in Tehran by declaring the Autonomous Government of Azerbaijan, a government
the "premiership" of
Mir Jafar Pishevari designed to safeguard the autonomy of Azerbaijan.
A similar Kurdish government was setup a few months later.
As of today, separatist notions have not been adopted by the majority
of Iran's Azerbaijanis. There are, however, some who do embrace such
of Azerbaijani nationalism is defiantly possible; some may argue that
such a revival is already underway. What all this means only
tell. But it is quite evident that Azerbaijanis will play a prominent
role in shaping Iran's future.
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