An Article by ArcDH:
The right to a name exercised among Azerbaijanis in Iran comes frequently head-to-head with the authorities in Iran, who steer the country towards a singular nation and to a singular cultural identity. One instance of this conflict has just been aired by a well-celebrated Azerbaijani pop-singer, Mr. Sejjad Jolani. The Iranian authorities just rejected his application to the registry of his selected name before the registrar in Ardabil, where he lives. He has now the mission of exercising his right to name his new-born child as he wishes. So, what is the conflict about? Is there any human rights that are being breached in this respect?
Sejjad Jolani is visually impaired and has conquered all the problems arising from his disability before becoming a popular pop singer. He has just been blessed with a daughter and wants to call her “Ayıl” (pronounced as I’ll, the contracted form of I will), which is an Azerbaijani Turkish word and literally means be enlightened. The short video clip just issued by him is succinct and is yet another page from a widespread Iranian practice of acting in a heavy-handed manner. We learn from the video clip that his application for the registry of his favourite name “Ayil” to call his daughter has been rejected. The explanation given to him does not resemble anything like a justifying reason. Although his application was sent to yet another authority in Tehran, apparently manned by three experts, they rejected the name selected by Mr. Jolani.
The disappointed pop-singer pledges to campaign and ensure that the name, Ayil, is respected by the authorities, otherwise they will be seen as authoritarian. This is not a one-off incident. Normally, Iranian authorities reject the names selected by Azerbaijani parents if they are derived from Azerbaijani Turkish words. Although few Azerbaijani names pass through the filter, the Iranian authorities particularly play up with the right of the parents to select a name if the family has a background on activism.
There are many other instances. Consider the case of Mr Ali Hidayeti, which came head-to-head after 20 months of struggle, when the Registrar in Tikan Tepe (Takab) in West Azerbaijan rejected his application. He then published his grievance on the issue in social media. The name selected by Mr. Hidayet is Onur (An old Azerbaijani Turkish word meaning honour) and again the Iranian authorities did not justify their rejection. He kept his struggle and finally secured his selected name in September 2020 after more than 3.5 years at the expense of a great deal of uncertainty. It is not hard to see that this is one of many deterrence tactics employed by the Iranian authorities against Azerbaijanis. As a result, parents tend to call their children with an Azerbaijani name but they are registered by an approved non-Azerbaijani name.
The question is then the issue of the right to a name as wished by parents. Although the Universal Human Rights Declaration in 1948 fell just short of a solemn declaration for the inclusion of this right in the body of the raft of rights in the Declaration, some of the pursuant conventions have rectified the shortfalls. These include:
_ “Every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have a name” as stimulated in International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted 16 Dec. 1966 with amendments afterwards
_ Also: “the right of the child for preserving his/her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognised by law without unlawful interference” is stipulated by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted 20 November 1989.
The issue here is not the state interventions to prohibit first names seen as confusing, impractical, obscene or offensive. Sometimes, Iranian authorities reject Azerbaijani names by regarding them as ‘alien’ but most of the time they give no reason and no legal justification. They invariably behave in a top-down manner and reject the applications ‘just like that.’ After all, they are sovereign, and in their usual mindset they do not need to give any reason, so it seems. But is this true and what about limitations to sovereignty?
Although the emergence of human rights in 1948 is not in a legally-binding framework, they are solemn declarations with the pre-requisite of good-governance. However, the countries with bad-governance are not expelled from international communities. Instead a host of conventions are adopted to limit their sovereignty, e.g. the promotion of “dignity and worth of the human person,” as stipulated in “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and adopted and entered into force on 23 March 1976, as well as similar conventions. This now sets one class of limits against a state’s sovereignty. The right to a name by parents promoting their diversity sets one such limitation derived from “dignity and worth” of individuals.
The attitude at the international level towards the right to a name selected by parents varies from laissez faire to authoritarian religious or to authoritarian racist countries. One may ask: why should the authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran tolerate non-religious names? However, this is not the case. Iranian authorities behave in a rather liberal way towards non-Azerbaijani names. This is a strong evidence that the authorities in Iran behave in a discriminatory manner and undermine human dignity among Azerbaijanis.Sovereignty is not a licence for arbitrary acts but limited by various strands of measures to achieve good-governance. The mindset for undermining good-governance in some countries is often systemic, where sovereignty should deliver good-governance but exercised towards arbitrary acts. Not surprisingly, such deteriorations are already accelerating in Iran at multiple fronts. World community is aware of some but not all. For instance, it is well documented that the Islamic Republic of Iran is crippled by self-inflicted top-down brakes of corruption, mismanagement, cronyism, nepotism plutarchy through an underworld connections. Some of these are political issues that we would better not to touch them.
We may have started to report on breaching the right to a name selected by parents in Azerbaijan but discovered that the breaches are a sign for underlying chain reactions:
_ As the rights (any right) are undermined, the government erodes its sovereignty
_ Eroded sovereignty gives rise to forms of corruption, cronyism …
_ Not surprising the country is now at the brink of catastrophe.
There is only one way out of existing catastrophe: to resort to the very basics through pledging to the full Universal Human Rights Declaration and its pursuant conventions and amendments. It is time to stop cherry-picking from these human rights instruments. Good-governance works systemically and only well with sustainable future, rejection of assimilation and promotion of inclusion among equal entities/agencies. These are good attributes to work for and to call upon.
Arc Association for the defence of Human Rights of Azerbaijanis in Iran – ArcDH