Since the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty, racism in Iran has hurt significantly the economic and social well being of Azerbaijani Turks. Following the end of the World War II in 1945 when the representatives of Azerbaijani Turks from various groups and classes were gathered in Tabriz, the “Azerbaijan People’s Government” was established in South Azerbaijan (Iranian Azerbaijan) and took power from the central government.
Turkish (Türki) became the official language in Azerbaijan, taught in university, schools, and adult education centers, replacing Farsi. For the first time in Iran, women gained the right to elect as well as to be elected and many democratic laws in favor of gender equality were passed. Roads were built and many economic reforms carried out, the magnitude and speed of implementation of which compared even to today was astonishing.
It also marked the first time universal suffrage was introduced to Muslim Middle East. Women gained the right to elect as well as to be elected. It announced that private property would be respected but that the government would distribute to the landless farmers the state-owned lands as well as the lands of property owners who fled Azerbaijan. The first provincial university in Iran was also built in Tabriz, with thousands of schools built in small towns and villages where compulsory education for children began age six.
The Azerbaijan’s People’s Government lasted only one year and was overthrown when the central army, with the Soviet Union and other great powers’ blessing, invaded in December 1946.
An American jurist, William O. Douglas, who was traveling in Azerbaijan shortly after thedemocratic movement, in his books Strange Lands and Friendly People notes:
When the Persian Army returned to Azerbaijan, it came with a roar. Soldiers ran riot, looting and plundering, taking what they wanted. The Russian Army had been on its best behaviour. The Persian Army–the army of emancipation–was a savage army of occupation. It left a brutal mark on the people. The beards of peasants were burned, their wives and daughters raped. Houses were plundered; livestock was stolen. The Army was out of control. Its mission had been liberation, but it preyed on the civilians, leaving death and destruction behind. (Douglas, 1951, p. 45)
Idea@s Magazine (Arts & science community of the University of Toronto):
“In the mid-1940s, when the autonomous government in Iran was overthrown, Turkish was banned and Persian was instated as the official language. I was 11 and my family was living in Tabriz at the time,” recalls Reza Baraheni. “I wrote a school paper in Azeri, a Turkish dialect that was the mother tongue of the local population, after it was forbidden. When I put it up on the board, the prefect tore it down, grabbed me by the neck and forced me to lick it. The other pupils started laughing. I would come to realize that the repression of writing and language—of the tongue passed down by women—could turn language naturally into a hidden fount wielding enormous power. http://www.ideasmag.artsci.utoronto.ca/issue2_1/idea_s02-profile-baraheni.pdfFor more information:
Iran and the Challenge of Diversity: Islamic Fundamentalism, Aryanist Racism, and Democratic Struggles (Dr. Alireza Asgharzadeh) http://www.amazon.com/Iran-Challenge-Diversity-Fundamentalism-Democratic/dp/1403980802
Strange Lands And Friendly People (William O. Douglas) http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Friendly-People-William-Douglas/dp/1406772046
At the Dawn of the Cold War: The Soviet-American Crisis over Iranian Azerbaijan, 1941D1946 – Harvard Cold War Studies Books (Dr. Jamil Hasanli) http://www.amazon.com/Dawn-Cold-War-Soviet-American-Azerbaijan/dp/0742540553/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1292027907&sr=1-1 Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3xSyWS6sR0