In this blog I want to address some of the accusations of a response to my blog last week, which was made by someone under the name Yek Irani. This person claimed that my blog “is essentially promoting pan-Turkism under the guise of ‘human rights’.” Bravo! you unlocked the secret conspiracy to my human rights blog, which is the promotion of separatism from Iran and Pan-Turkism. No. First, let me say that I barely knew anything about pan-Turkism until last night I looked it up to discover more for myself after reading your post, and I assure you that I am no pan-Turk. Let me explain this convenient tactic used by those Persians who are racist to discredit a peaceful movement.
This post illustrates beautifully, more than I could ever do myself, a harsh reality among Iranians. Anyone who works on behalf of a minority group in Iran is called various names in hopes to be discredited. As I have said in my blog, anytime Azerbaijanis try to develop a voice for their rights to learn the language of their mothers and fathers (which are guaranteed in the Iranian constitution) and to celebrate historical figures and culture, they are labeled as pan-turk or separatist. Yesterday’s post response is a good example (I shall henceforth call him Yek Irani which means “an Iranian” because that is the name this person gave him/herself). Pan-Iranists, pan-aryanists and racist Iranians use the same rhetoric, calling people pan-turk and separatist, that the government of Iran uses to detain, torture and murder people for peacefully promoting human rights. In reality, this movement would not even exist if Persians were to give minorities their basic human rights.
If you notice, when the issue of human rights is addressed, racist Persians tend to bring history and genetics into the matter. They claim Babak Khorramdin was Persian and Azerbaijanis did not exist in that time. They assert that they have no claim to him and no right to celebrate him at Babak castle every year (which is banned). Persians claim that Azerbaijanis were once Persians and forced to speak and adopt Turkish language and culture with the invasion of Oghuz Turks. Azerbaijanis, however, describe that they have been a distinct ethnicity long before the the Indo-Aryan settlement of Iran. Anyway, it is pretty bold for one group of people to say “you can’t celebrate someone because he’s ours.” Another common claim is that Azerbaijani Turks are most genetically linked to Persians because a scientist one time in 2005 decided to take a Azerbaijani Turk and and Persian and compare their DNAs and ruled that they are the same. (Boy, comparing and contrasting genetic features sounds to me a heck of a lot like Nazi Germany) So the then we hear: since we are the same, you should “persianize” and accept your ancient culture and history. Well, let’s assume that this behavior is OK. How about instead, we send a team of scientists to Iran to sample DNA throughout the country, excavate artifacts and shed some light on Iranian history. The history we read today is not much different from the anti-Ottoman revisionist history of the 19th century and the construction of the Aryanist myth implemented in Nazi Germany. Any argument of a history that kind of contradicts this notion is met with extreme resistance. That aside, genetics is not always a determinant of ethnicity. Ethnicity can be determined by language and culture just the same.
I shall use a deconstructionist approach to falsify Irani’s primary assumption and thus unravel his/her entire argument. First, Yek Irani builds an entire arguement on the assumption that this blog masks pan-Turkism behind the facade of human rights. Well, frankly, that is impossible. Before my responsibilities to ADAPP, I am a peace fellow with the Advocacy Project, which sends graduate fellows all over the world to provide a voice for the voiceless. It is a highly credible organization focused solely on human rights that has established a partnership with ADAPP, making it possible for me to come here to Vancouver. I believe that Advocacy Project would not partner with any organization that it felt wasn’t peacefully promoting human rights or had an ulterior motive or was in any way fishy. That being said, as a human rights activist, I am indiscriminate on the injustice of people around the world. Minority rights in Iran just happen to be the focus of my fellowship and I am obligated to focus on ADAPP and its activities, which is why I cannot discuss disenfranchised people all around the world. Mr. Irani brings up points about the treatment of Turks around the world on minorities. These are great points, but in response to an accusation of me being a pan-turk. In reality, I am a human rights activist and I am not bound by any loyalty other than to justice and equality. He/she makes a point that my attendance in the Uighur protests do not belong in a blog about minority rights in Iran and that is true and I apologize for my small paragraph on the issue. I was merely expressing my involvement in a demonstration where ADAPP was invited along with Turkic communities throughout Vancouver and the Tibetan community to protest China’s treatment of minorities. We also attended a candlelight vigil in Vancouver for the post-election crisis in Iran and we were not very welcome (I am currently creating a video blog on our experience) I never thought that I would have to apologize for my involvement in a human rights issue. But then, if attending a demonstration for a marginalized people is pan-Turkist, then feel free to call me one. Why do I have to be a pan-Turk to fight against and injustice like this.
Mr. Irani does raise an important point about the demographics. He notes that he pulled facts from Ethnologue citing that 11 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran. Actually, this is sort of a marvel because it has changed recently. Before, I myself quoted Ethnologue for claiming that 23 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran and I guess within the past few weeks that changed on the website. Ethnologue changed it to 11 million and rising, which was estimated in 2001. But Ethnologue also claims that there are 67 million total people in Iran while the World Bank shows 73 million. The CIA world factbook shows that 24% of Iranians are Azerbaijani, which is over 17 million. Azerbaijani activists on the ground claim 30 million. So why is this such a contested issue? This is because the Iranian government has never truly taken a census based on ethnicity. These are all estimates. The last census, conducted in 2006 included data on religion, but not ethnicity. Mr. Irani, you are right, we need an ethnicity census for Iran.
If the Azerbaijanis of Iran are much less than previously estimated, then in reality they have less power and influence than previously assumed. And to say that Iran is in the hands of Azerbaijanis is false. All of those Azerbaijanis who hold power in Iran have spent most of their lives in Tehran and have persianized. They could care less about the treatment of minorities, as I have said time and time and time again.
One thing that is truly disturbing is that Mr. Irani claims that Azerbaijani is taught but just not at the elemetary school level. Truthfully, it is completely banned throughout high school and into college. During the election campagin Ahmadinejad claimed to remove the ban, but we are still waiting for that. Here is a quote from Eurasianet on the issue: During the presidential election campaign, both Mousavi and Ahmadinejad promised to expand civil rights for Azeris. Ahmadinejad, who claimed to speak Turkish, promised to allow Azeri-language classes in universities and schools, the Tabriz source told EurasiaNet. Mousavi, meanwhile, promised to designate Azeri as Iran’s second official language and to grant greater financial autonomy to Azeri-populated regions. We are still waiting Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Now the issue of the cartoon is also a bit disturbing. In a country where racial tensions are so high, the printing of a cartoon which shows an Azerbaijani boy speaking to a cockroach riles a furious crowd. To put it in American terms, it would be the same as a cartoon of a hispanic kid talking to a cockroach and the cockroach saying”que”? Then, it audaciously proceeds to compare the the language to a language of cockroaches and show how to exterminate them… all in the kid’s page of a newspaper! If it isn’t a big deal, tell that to the 10,000 who were arrested, some of which were tortured and the dozens who were killed in the aftermath. Do they not deserve a voice? Were they all pan-Turkists and it is ok to exterminate them like the cockroaches in the cartoon?
Mr. Irani, what is so threatening to Persians about the right to speak their own language or discover their history without someone telling them this is the way it is, you must accept it. Can’t Azerbaijanis see for themselves? If the history of Azerbaijanis and Persians are so intertwined, then beautiful! But what is so threatening about their self-determination then? It is a peaceful movement. I am urging Iranians to change their thinking, to accept the many nations of Iran as equals. If you don’t, you might have a bigger problem than peaceful demonstrations advocating human rights.
Mr. Irani, you are correct about the many injustices in the world. Please set yourself up a blog and blog about those marginalized people around the world who have no voice. I will be your first supporter and I promise not to call you a pan-aryanist. I do support the plight of the Kurds as I have written and the plight of Baluchis (which I will try to devote some time on in the following posts), Turcomens, Uighurs, Talysh, Arabs, Lors, Afghans etc.
Posted By Farzin Farzad
Posted Jul 21st, 2009