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Human rights situation in the Azerbaijan regions- 15 March 2014 ArcDH

Joint Submission to the UPR of the Islamic Republic of Iran

15 March 2014

Human rights situation in the Azerbaijan regions

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, systematic abuse of human rights in the Azarbaijan region has continued to this date. This report presents an up-to-date account on the harassment, detention, torture and exile of many civil society activists who campaign on a number of issues including: the use of mother tongue, against environmental destruction, the economy of the region and better living standards as well as dealing with natural disasters such as the 2012 earthquake.

A. The right to study in mother language

Every language can only thrive if the population can have easy and widespread access to the printed materials in that language. Depriving a nation of this basic right is against the basic human rights, especially for children who must be able to write and read in their mother language.

The right to mother language is incorporated in the United Nations Mother Language Charter, the International Declaration of Mother Language (Barcelona, 1996) and other international declarations as well as Iran’s constitution.

Education in the mother language for the non-Persian peoples of Iran has been banned since 1925 when Farsi became the national language. The Islamic republic of Iran incorporated the right to mother language in articles 15 and 19 of the constitution. Yet, in practice it has never materialised and the people who advocate such right are systematically detained and imprisoned.

In 2009, the minister of education announced that 70% of Iran’s students speak dual languages. Yet, this majority are deprived to get education in their mother language.

The promise President Rowhani made to set up an academy of Azari language has not materialised and the Academy of Persian Language has declared such move a threat to the Persian language.

B. Environmental threats

The dying of Lake Orumieh which is the second salt lake in the world and located between the two western and eastern Azarbaijan provinces is one of the biggest eco-environmental disasters. In the past 20 years the Islamic republic constructed 40 dams of various sizes on the rivers leading to this lake and drove it to extinction of up to 95%.

In the lack of supervision and neglect, the remaining parts of the lake are contaminated by factory wastes which end up to the lake after destroying the agricultural lands. Activists who have campaigned to save the lake are treated as a threat and are detained in various prisons.

C. Discrimination against the Azaris in the stadiums

Discrimination and abuse of the Azari nationals is wide spread. In a match between players from the Tractor factory and Kerman copper industry workers, abusive and hatred words continued throughout the match and broadcast from the national TV. While hatred comments had been imbedded in the stadiums, Azari fans are detained collectively and sent to prison (on 15 May 2011 tens were detained in the Tabriz Sahand stadium).

D. Writers, journalists and poets

At present, 12 Azari writers and poets are either in prison or have received suspended sentences for defending the Azari language. The Islamic Republic of Iran has ignored International Conventions on the rights of minorities including Convention 97B of the UN (18/12/1992) and articles 15 and 19 of Iran’s constitution on the right of minorities to their mother language.

E. Expulsion and suspension of university students

In the first years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency in 2005, the phenomenon of “starring students[1] accelerated. Once under suspicion, many university students at any level and under any pretext (political, religious, cultural, ethnic origin or social) have been labelled with a star and refused to continue their education. The decisions were usually made by the selecting committees of the university, revolutionary guards, students Basij and the ministry of intelligence which had been the ultimate decision maker.

[1] Term used in universities to refer to the fact that a student has been simply intimidated by various types of supervisions and controls, suspended or expelled from university