Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank this organization for giving me the opportunity to talk about discrimination by the Iranian authorities against Azerbaijanis.
Azerbaijanis are the largest ethnic formations in Iran, almost 30 million, and this is even larger than Persians. In the past, they Azerbaijani Turks were empire builders and governed the country for centuries through their well-established culture of rule by consensus. However, this is all gone ever since 1925, during which the Persians took the reign of power, including the period of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1979. My intention is not to talk about the history of Azerbaijan and its enslavement in Iran, but I will talk about 5 issues to describe the situation of Azerbaijanis in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Issue 1 – right of education in mother language: Azerbaijanis are well-aware of their rights to education in mother language and they know that the Iranian authorities are not only doing nothing to fulfil their international obligations and ratifying the meagre provision of their own constitutions known as Article 15 of the Constitution, instead they are securitising the right to education in mother language.
The international community needs to recognise and communicate that it is one of the heinous acts that the Islamic Republic of Iran violates the basic right of education in mother language and securitises it. The problem is that Article 15 and 19 of the Iranian Constitution make a meagre allowance but the Iranian authorities even violate their own constitution. Sensitivity of the world community is needed to the securitisation of Azerbaijani Turkish, the language of more than 30 million Azerbaijanis.
Today, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, even the use of Azerbaijani names for children, places, streets, businesses and cities is discouraged, hampered or even forbidden or not allowed. They even call our language as an alien language (biganeh). Some children do not have identity card as the Iranian officials refuse to issue birth certificates with Azerbaijani names. The Iranian aggression against Azerbaijani culture is systemic and therefore if they dare against mother language, you can imagine what they do for less visible features of Azerbaijani culture, for instance our historical heritage.
Issue 2 – women issues: Discrimination and racist abuses against Azerbaijanis are widespread in the Iranian media, in football pitches, etc. Azerbaijani women bear the brunt of the discrimination. No budget is provided for the appropriate organisational arrangement to Azerbaijani women to be organised against both modern demands and the onging racist attacks. As they speak their mother language, they have no reinforcement of their language through the education in mother language. The outcome is a surreal situation, in which the thinking is in Azerbaijani Turkish but the access to knowledge is through the secondary language of Farsi. Inevitably, their self-confidence is undermined and without any initiative on education in mother language, lack of self-confidence will not be repaired. You can imagine the impacts on Azerbaijani culture, as the Azerbaijani women has no basis to build up her competence and to bring up her children. Our activism reflects the ideals of Azerbaijani women, who demand our organisation to campaign for creating an atmosphere without intimidation for the preservation of our Azerbaijani national heritage for the enjoyment of the future generation. They want us to inform you and the international community that the ongoing degradation of our culture and historic heritage are violation of their human rights and most destructive.
Issue 3 – Lake Urmia: The catastrophe that is rolling out in relation to Lake Urmia, is the outcome of deliberate Iranian policy of dam constructions and they do not want this program to stop in any way. This means that the Iranian authorities can find funds for constructing dams but do not allocate any budget to reinstate the lake. Let me remind you that as the Iranian authorities intensify the damming of the watercourses flowing into Lake Urmia, no compensation flow is allowed into the lake and this is the reason for the lake to dry.
Iranian authorities do not allocate any budget for the restoration of the Lake Urmia. This brings Azerbaijan to the brink of an ecological catastrophe. Impending events are impacts of salt storms to expose the estimated 14 million people from Azerbaijan and neighbouring countries to as much as 8 billion tons of salt compounds with uncalculated hazards, including migrations from once pleasant wadis. Defenders of the environment and mother language are all treated by the notorious iron fist policies.
Issue 4 – wider environmental issues: The Islamic Republic of Iran is an under-signatory to the Paris Agreement, 2015 and they have to be verifiable that the environmental degradations of ethnic territories are monitored. This is necessary, as the Iranian authorities have transformed ethnic territories to their back garden to wash their dirty linen. As one of the signatories of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the Iranian government must commit to implement all its provisions without degrading and destroying the environment through their falsified policies. Additional attention is needed that the Iranian authorities allocate proportional budets to ethnic territories as to their favourite territories.
Issue 5 – absence of modern institutions: the Iranian authorities have systemically been ruthless on minorities but the most important attack of the Iranian authorities on minorities is the absence of appropriate institutions. Imagine 30 million Azerbaijanis are not being allowed to have institutions on the protection of their environment, on the preservation of their culture, on recording their ethnographic heritage and so on. The initiatives of the individuals are often securitised and they are not allowed to publish as they wish or their writings are transmuted and falsified as a condition for their publication. There are no independent institutions to offer check-and-balances on official publications. There is no legal institution and no effective legislations to ban the discrimination against Azerbaijanis on economical, political, cultural and social spheres. The Members of Parliament from Azerbaijan are by-and-large vetted to be those who are prepared to betray Azerbaijan. It is not surprising that the discrimination against investment in Azerbaijani and Turkish provinces are widespread and the protests are neglected; the potentials of the workforces, their skills and aspirations are not utilised; the Azerbaijanis economical developments have been neglected for decades and currently it is undergoing severe decline. Today, the emerging youth in Azerbaijan are subject to long-term unemployment and destitution. The Iranian authorities are implementing the policy of learned helplessness and are even attacking the resilience of our communities.
Statement of our needs: We need the campaign by international community
- To demand the Iranian authorities to respect multiculturalism in a verifiable manner
- To demand that the right to education in mother language is implemented for all ethnic minorities and the official status of Azerbaijani Turkish is reinstated without securitizing the issue
- To demand that the right to participation in decision-making on the environment is observed through Iran and particularly in Azerbaijan for its impending environmental catastrophe
- To demand that Azerbaijanis must be able to set up their institutions to promote their Azerbaijani Turkish cultures without intimidation from the iron fist of the Ministry of Information
- To demand that activists must be free for their creativity and remain free of persecution and exile
- To demand that the members of minorities have also the right for citizenships without betraying their own ethnic cultures
- To demand that the Iranian authorities must set free Azerbaijani prisoners of conscience and stop the persecution of activists and stop the harassment of their families