Just a misunderstanding
We are not Turks;
we are Iranians
By Megabiz Irani
August 11, 2003
Hi, I am Megabiz a 22-year-old college student
at University of Florida. After reading the articles in ethnic
I wrote this article about the origin of Azeri people for enlightenment
of your interested readers.
memories of my childhood and teenage years are unforgettable; even
though, I am now far away from my homeland Iran. As an Azeri
who was born and raised in Tehran, I remember how native Tehranis
would ask my father about his accent to be sure he was a Turk;
his response was always negative. He would say "I am an Azeri
not a Turk!" Proud of his Azeri heritage yet he never forced
me to learn his mother tongue; he believed it was a sub-Turkic
dialect that had penetrated into Azeri.
In the past few weeks, it has been a debate on Iranian.com
about Azeris' right to read and write in their native language
and to celebrate their customs as minorities in Iran. First as
an Azeri, I would like to ask my own people what it means to be
a minority? Since this term entered Iran in the modern era from
European political system, I refer to Oxford dictionary to define
the word "minority": minorities
are groups of people who are different from the entire population
of a country in race or religion.
Having said this, I want to know what the origin
of our race or the word Azeri is? Are Azeri people Turks? To answer
we should start from the ancient history of Iranian plateau. The
word Azeri itself is literary related to "Azar", which
means fire in Pahlavi language. The names of Sasanid shah of Iran
Azar-Narsi and the Iranian vizier Azar-Barin, are just two examples
of this fact.
On the other hand, this word does not have any linguistic
relation to Turkish whatsoever. This region was perhaps called
Azerbaijan because of presence of many Zoroastrian fire temples
in Sasanid era. Also, the word "Azerbaijan" could be
an Arabic version of the ancient Persian term "Atropatekan",
which was one of Iranian provinces in Achaemenid Empire. Since
the letter "P" does not exist in Arabic, it seems Arab
invaders called this land Azerbaijan as they changed the words "Sepahan" to "Isfahan" and "Parsa" to "Fars".
Let me remind you, Turks entered the Middle East
and Iran in mediaeval period, and as it was said before Azeri people
are not ethnically
related to Turks; Azeris are just another Iranian group as are
Persians, Kurds, Lurs, Baluchs and others. Even at the beginning
of their migration to Iran from Central Asia, Aryans were a collection
of different tribes and clans.
From the Aryan origin, Medes, Achaemenid
(old-Persians), Parthians, and Sasanid (mid-Persians) ruled Iran
respectively before Arab invasion. Do Azeris know that the legendary
Iranian hero Babak Khoramdin had an Iranian name? Where were Turks
when he rejected the cruel Arab caliph?
The first time that Turks entered our history was
the establishment of Ghaznavid dynasty in modern Afghanistan. Turks
were just imported
army generals in Samanid court who later became leaders of Eastern
Iran. Later in Seljuk dynasty, Turks invaded Iran and became the
new rulers. Ironically, their capital was Isfahan, and they later
became one of promoters of Persian (Iranian) culture.
The current dialect spoken in Azerbaijan has been
mixed with so many Turkish words because of the presence of neighboring
Turks (modern Turkey), but it doesn't mean that Azeris are
ethnically Turks. This basically means since Farsi has borrowed
many words from Arabic, Persians are ethnically Arab.
Iranians until 100 years ago had forgotten the existence
of Elamite, Mede, Persian, and Parthian kingdoms in ancient Iran,
so how can
we say we know everything about our history when our history is
corrupted by Westerners. The main problem is our inability to distinguish
the word "Persian" from "Iranian". Being an
Iranian doesn't mean you are a Persian since there are other
Farsi is a division of Indo-Iranian languages as
are Old Persian, middle Persian, Tajiki Persian, Dari Persian,
Pashto, Ossetic, Avestian, Parthian (Pahlavi), Bactrian, Sogdian
and Khotanese. Farsi itself is a version of Pahlavi language spoken
in Parthian and Sasanid era, which was first developed in Eastern
Iran after Arab-Muslim invasion and later was adopted by all Iranians.
During long history of Iran all Iranians have contributed
to Iranian civilization. Many Azeri poets like Ohadi Maragheyi,
Sheikh Mahmod Shabestari, and Shams Tabrizi created masterworks
in Farsi, which is truly the native language of Iran. If Westerners
have Romeo and Joliet, thanks to Nizami we have khosro va Shirin.
By the way, was Khosro-Parviz a Turkish sultan or an Iranian shah?
The restoration of Iranian Empire in modern era
under the leadership of an ambitious 15-year-old boy known as Shah
Ismail of Saffavid
is the most significant Azeri contribution to their native land
Iran. As we know, shah Abbas the great moved the capital to Isfahan
to save Iranian integrity from Ottomans' danger, and this
meant that there was no racial difference among Iranians. If Azeris
were Turk, why didn't they join Ottoman Turks against Saffavids?
Do we remember how our fathers sacrificed their lives with bare
hands in battle of Chaldoran to save Iranian independence from
her Turkish enemies?
What is the difference between a Language and a
dialect? People talk about Azeri language, but ignore the fact
that any language
has a script. What is this imaginary Turkish script that we have
never seen? Are we going to choose Latin as our script and call
it our native script? Does Azeri dialect (it's better to
call Turkish since it has borrowed many words from Turkish) have
any script like Persian language? How could one communicate when
he/she travels around the country since Iranians speak different
dialects in different regions?
The Persian language has played a unifying
role in Iran, and we are naïve to undermine its historical
importance. It has been the official language of Iran before and
After Islam, and no dialect is dynamic enough to substitute the
language of our ancestors. Farsi belongs to all Iranians including
Azeris and Persians.
We should come to the conclusion that we are not
Turks; we are Iranians. At last, I hope everyone quits making fun
one has an accent, it doesn't mean he/she is an alien. Any
region has its own accent like Shirazi, Isfahani, Tehrani, khorasani,
Gilani and etc. This is the beauty of a language and should be
appreciated. It's time for Iranians to think beyond their
regional interest and hatred in order to promote their heritage
and culture to exist in 21st century as a strong and unified
nation. Long live Iran and God bless all Iranians.
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