Farzin Farzad

Farzin Farzad (Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran - ADAPP): Farzin is a native Azerbaijani speaker who spent the early years of his life in Iran and Turkey. He graduated in 2005 with a B.A. in political science from McDaniel College with a concentration in international studies and a minor in cross-cultural studies. He then went on to earn a graduate degree in International Affairs from American University in December of 2008. His regional focus was the Middle East, particularly Iranian security. During his undergraduate and graduate studies, Farzin held positions in research and analysis with professors at Johns Hopkins SAIS and Columbia University. As a research intern at the East-West Center, he researched for and helped edit a book on nuclear weapons security in Asia. During the summer of his graduate program, Farzin studied the political history of the Gulf States at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. After his fellowship, Farzin wrote: “Ironically, I am more assertive person. Being a 'Peace' Fellow toughened me up.”

Addressing Questions / Canada Day

03 Jul

Answering Questions

Let me start off this blog first by answering some excellent questions that had been posed as comments to my previous blogs. Firstly, a question was raised about my optimism for the future of Iran’s minorities. Well, essentially the minority issue in the June 12 election  was just rhetoric, but it’s rhetoric that’s never been used before. Candidates appealed to the Azerbaijanis by complementing the language of Azerbaijani Turks. The two other candidates that we didn’t hear much about discussed this issue as well. Karroubi called for greater rights for Iran’s linguistic and ethnic minorities to include rights granted by Iran’s constitution, which are as follows:

Article 15
The Official Language and script of Iran, the lingua franca of its people, is Persian. Official documents, correspondence, and texts, as well as text-books, must be in this language and script. However, the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools, is allowed in addition to Persian.

Article 19
All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; color, race, language, and the like, do not bestow any privilege.

Here is an interview with Press TV where he discussed this issue. Musavi also promised implementation of articles 15 and 19 in a speech in Azerbaijani Iran. Rezaie also discussed the issue of minorities to some degree. He said he would look into the establishment of a federalist state whereby each ethnic region could have some degree of economic autonomy. These, along with Ahmadinejad and Musavi’s remarks on the Azerbaijani language, were very progressive and have never really been addressed in the history of the Islamic Republic (or the reign of the Pahlavi kings for that matter). So while much of it was the art of rhetoric, which Iranians are all too familiar with, I wrote that I was optimistic because at least there was some mention of minorities in this year’s debates.

A second point was raised as to why Azerbaijanis and other minorities were reluctant to join the protests and get involved in the “Twitter Revolution”. Well what I gather from my discussions with Azerbaijanis is that it was a combination of fear and marginalization. The government made sure to be well prepared in the minority areas of Iran to brutally suppress any kind of peaceful protests. Minorities feel that they are regarded as second class citizens in the Islamic Republic so repression is much more brutal for them; and they are right. Another aspect of the discussion is minority interaction with the media and social networking. The refusal of VOA, BBC Persian, Radio Farda, Press TV and Iranian news organizations to provide any reporting on Azerbaijani, Baluchi, Kurd, Arab, Turcomen, Qashqai, Afghan, Lori or Khorasani Turk areas, left them almost hopeless about their position in Iran’s future. This is quite dangerous for Iran because this type of behavior is the reason why seperatist ideals are starting to gain traction in many regions of Iran.

In my previous blogs, I discussed that there were many false tweets and facebook posts about protests and riots in Azerbaijani and Kurdish areas of Iran. In reality, minorities in Iran have not been using social networking media because these regions are in worse economic shape than the Persian areas of Iran. Those that are lucky to have access to a computer are not even that familiar with alot of the programs that exist. Even then, Azerbaijanis are much better connected than regions such as Khuzestan (predominantly Arab) or Baluchistan. So, we can hear all the lies about these regions we want and not many can say otherwise. I’ve been trying to do my best to educate some of ADAPP’s overseas contacts to use Twitter and other web programs, but it’s not that easy. Hopefully it will catch on.  I hope these answer some of your questions. I’d like to thank Iain Guest for the insightful comments and questions. If you guys have any other questions, please feel free to comment and I will be sure to include answers in my next blog.

Racist Drawing

I had a quick bone to pick with a Persian website. Fakhteh found this cartoon on Jokestan.com showing the evolution of an Azerbaijani Turk donkey from Ardabil (a predominantly-Azerbaijani city in Iran) into a human being upon his travel to more Persianized areas, ending with Tehran.

The Evolution of Turks

The Evolution of Turks

The writing at the top translates roughly to “The evolution of Turks.” Basically this implies that Turks are donkeys until they Persianize. To Jokestan.com: come on guys, this is not nice. Actually, this is infuriating. 5 out of 7 of the “Jokes of the Week” on this website were about Turks, 1 about Arabs and 1 about a mullah. I’m noticing that alot of Persian jokes in general have to do with minorities, especially Azerbaijani Turks.

Canada Day

I’d like to end this week’s blog, however, on a high note. Yesterday I got a chance to go to the Canada Day celebration here Vancouver. I had a great time. I strolled around Granville Island and it was amazing seeing performances, food and culture from all the different ethnicities in Canada.

In Toronto, a couple memebers of ADAPP were able to put together a small exhibit on Iranian Azerbaijan. During Toronto’s Canada Day festivities, Amnesty International asked ADAPP to showcase the art and culture of Azerbaijanis in Iran. ADAPP members were able to secure a sculptor, who made elaborate sculptures depicting Azerbaijani national heroes, and Azerbaijani dancers and musicians who performed on stage in the evening. In all, the exhibit was a success and we were able to circulate 2 petitions: 1) to lift the ban on the Azerbaijani language in Iran and 2) to support ADAPP’s work. Here are some pictures from the event:

Showcasing Azerbaijani Artwork and Sculpture at the ADAPP tent

Showcasing Azerbaijani artwork and sculpture at the ADAPP tent

Children Singing Traditional Azerbaijani Song

Children singing traditional Azerbaijani song - Jujelerim

Azerbaijani men doing the Traditional Lezgi dance

Azerbaijani men doing a traditional dance

Traditional Azerbaijani Dance

Traditional Azerbaijani dance

Azerbaijani plays Traditional Instrument - Baghlama

Azerbaijani plays a traditional instrument - Baghlama

Posted By Farzin Farzad

Posted Jul 3rd, 2009

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