On the eve of the International Mother Language Day, Iranian Azerbaijani civil rights activists, as well as students and journalists, face increasing intimidation and harassment by Iranian authorities. The advocates for human rights of the Azerbaijani population in Iran are under growing pressure as the Iranian regime initiates a new wave of arrests against Azerbaijani activists.
Ibrahim Rashidi, Ruzbeh Saatati, Afshin Shahbazi, Mehrdad Karami, Muhammad Ahmadi, are among those arrested recently.
International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on the 21st of February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. It was first announced by UNESCO on the 17th of November 1999. Azerbaijanis and other ethnic minorities, Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis, Turkmen and others, have been celebrating this day to bring light to the multicultural and multilingual nature of Iranian society and protest the monolingual education system of Iran. The only language of instruction in the education system is Persian / Farsi so far as non-Persian languages are prohibited in national institutions including schools.
Non-Persian Iranians are forbidden to assemble during International Mother Language Day. During the Mother Language Day in February 2007, hundreds of protesters were arrested during peaceful rallies aimed at promoting Azerbaijani-Turkish language in struction in grade schools.
The Azerbaijani population of Iran is the largest linguistic minority group in Iran, comprisingan estimated 25-35% of the total population of the country. They resideprimarily in the North and Northwest of Iran, although a significant number of communities are scattered through out the country. Azerbaijanis speak a dialect of Turkish, closely related to the Azerbaijani-Turkish spoken in the Republic of Azerbaijan. Along with other minorities in Iran, Azerbaijanis are subjected to racism and cultural, linguistic and economic discrimination.
The Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran, ADAPP, calls on the Iranian government to allow education in Azerbaijani-Turkish, as well as other non-Persian languages, in Iranian schools, to release all prisoners of conscience who have been unlawfully arrested for advocating for Azerbaijani linguistic and cultural rights, and to allow uninterrupted peaceful assembly of Azerbaijanis, demonstrating in favour of linguistic and cultural rights as guaranteed by Article 27 of the Iranian Constitution.
ADAPP believes that a practical recognition of non-Persian cultures and languages in Iran and a respect for the multicultural nature of Iranian society is an essential development, not only for non-Persian communities, but also for the Persian people and the entire country.
Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP)
Fakhteh Luna Zamani Executive Director Vancouver, Canada