Crazy & unwelcome
Most Iranian Azeris don't care for separatist ideas
By Hamid Ahmadi
August 11, 2003
I went to Iran's East Azarbaijan Province on July
3-4, to personally witness people gathering
at Babak Castle in Kalibar. The following is what I think should
-- According to regional journalists and cultural
activists coming from
Tabriz, the population was much less compared to last year when
showed up (adding 3,000 for some possible nomads nearby). The
estimation of the poulation attending
the ceremony had been relatively reliable. This was done by counting
the cars or buses going there through the
only two entrances.Azarbaijan).
-- The maximum rate
year was about 15,000 to 20,000, I think. Thus the 1,000,000
Pan-Turkist circles in Baku or elsewhere is, as usual, baseless
irrational. The same can be said of Radio Farda which reported
the crowd at 400,000 (I do not know what sources they have used).
I was told that in 2000, there were about 20,000, in 2001 about
and in 2002, 60,000.
2- Generally speaking there is not enough space there for having
or even 400,000 people. There is only one narrow mountain trail
Babak Castle and an arena downhill which can only be a
for a few thousand.
3- Most people attended with their families, enjoying
and beauty of the place and chanting non political songs and
listening to traditional musics. The whole gathering
can be interpreted as a
protest against the clerical establishment, but definitly not
against Iran as
a nation and a country.
I saw a few young teens (16 to 25) bearing
with turkist signs on them. Most people did not pay attention
to them. I
was told by a friend who was at the peak of the Castle that
their number was
not more than 200 to 300 coming from all over Iran. I saw
only two of them
holding Chehregani's picture. They were trying to attend
the popular music
gatherings to propagate for him, but people did not welcomed
the active opposition journalists in Tabriz told me that they consider
Chehregani "crazy" rather than the "leader of Azari
would like to claim. His separatist trends are not welcomed in
and his travels to Baku and Ankara has led to the notion that
he is anti-Iranian and a puppet of Pan-Turkist cicles in the region.
Hamid Ahmadi is associate professor of political
the University of Tehran.
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