This has been a very unbelievable and emotionally-troubling week. Seeing all of the photos and videos pouring in from Iran has been completely surreal. It is hard to believe that a government that came to power through a revolution and that tries to uphold the ideals of that revolution can suppress the will of the people with such callousness. I want to send my sincerest condolences to the families of those who were taken in the violence.
I’ve tried to keep up with sending videos and posting pictures as I see then on my own personal Facebook and twitter accounts. It has been amazing to see the impact of the brave people of Iran using social networking sites to raise awareness of the brutal crackdown on peaceful protests. It’s a shame, however, that Iranian government officials, including militiamen (basijis) have infiltrated these sites and have been posting false reports. I have heard that these have included false claims of protests in various streets of Tehran, where Basijis and police were waiting to ambush Twitterers. Twitter and Facebook have proven to be great tools so far, but unfortunately reports that surface cannot always be trusted.
Even CNN is reporting some of the incorrect Twitters. A couple of days ago, I noticed a man on CNN by the name of Badi Badiozamani claiming that people of Tabriz (the unofficial capital of Iranian Azerbaijan) were beginning to leave their homes to show solidarity with the Persian people. He claimed that since Musavi himself is an Azerbaijani Turk, the Turkic speakers of Iran were beginning to show support for him. Then, I kept seeing videos of protests on YouTube claiming that they had taken place on June 22, 2009. One particular video I saw was sent to ADAPP the week before. It was a video that was filmed on June 10, even before the election itself. IT WAS THE SAME EXACT VIDEO as the one claimed to be from June 22! So, I decided to send the video with some edits to CNN’s IReport. You can watch it here . I also posted the video on the Advocacy Project YouTube page if anyone is interested. I’ve also been Twittering about it using ADAPP’s username ADAPPInfo.
So let’s get this clear, ADAPP is in daily contact with Azerbaijani human rights groups AND various other Azerbaijani civilians across Iranian Azerbaijan (this includes Tabriz, Urmia, Ardabil etc.). In reality, there have been no protests since June 15, 2009. The Azerbaijani provinces of Iran are eerily quiet. But yet again, not enough coverage on Iranian Azerbaijan. However, Azerbaijanis activists were successful in getting some of the word out in an article in EurasiaNet. Also I’ve been following this blog which has some great insights on why. In the next section, I will write about my thoughts as to why Azerbaijanis remain silent.
Firstly, election protests did occur in the Azerbaijani provinces of Iran. People took to the streets in Urmia and Tabriz to chant “Azerbaijani is not asleep, they have not abandoned Musavi” and Azerbaijani rights slogans. However, police and various other security forces were dispatched to South Azerbaijani cities early in anticipation of any protests and riots. My guess is that the government knew something was going to happen in these areas since Musavi is an Azerbaijani Turk. Anyway, I am told protests lasted from June 12-15. The repression was pretty brutal, in my blog last week I mentioned students in Tabriz and Urmia universities were beaten mercilessly. In Urmia, one person was killed on June 12 and again another on June 15. In Tabriz, 3 people were brutally beaten to death during protests of June 15. However, the Iranian state media, VOA, BBC Persian, Radio Farda and others refused to report on these events and refused to publish our reports because these protests were coupled with Azerbaijani rights demonstrations. Persian language media looks at Azerbaijanis as separatists, and I guess for them it’s OK that there are crackdowns in those areas. Well, June 15 was the last protest in any Azerbaijani city that we are aware.
Another reason is that Musavi, though an Azerbaijani Turk, is so assimilated into the government structure that he himself has supported crackdowns on Azerbaijanis in the past. During his campaign, he announced greater linguistic freedoms for Azerbaijanis, but actions speak louder than words. Its all political rhetoric to Azerbaijanis and here’s why:
1) When Musavi was prime minster (his term lasted from 1980-88) he was instrumental in destroying the Ayatollah Shariatmadari movement. During the early years of the revolution, this Ayatollah opposed Khomeini in establishing a velayat-e faqih, the position of supreme Islamic guide. Shariatmadari also called for a seperation of religion and the state and supported Azerbaijani cultural and linguistic rights. His party Khalq Muselman, was roughly 5 million strong and comprised of mostly Azerbaijani Iranians. It was crushed and scores were arrested and executed. Shariatmadari was allegedly tortured to retract his former statements and placed on house arrest until he died. He was well loved by the Azerbaijani community.
2) Even more disturbing is Musavi’s lack of criticism of the May 2006 crackdown. On May 2006, a cartoon was published in state-run Iran newspaper that compared Azerbaijanis to cockroaches and explained how to exterminate them. (I have an article on the cartoon that Fakhteh published if anyone is interested.) Oh, and this was in the kids section of the newspaper 🙁 Anyway after the cartoon appeared on May 22, 1 million in South Azerbaijan took to the streets in the same fashion this month’s election protests. Here is a video of the May 2006 Protests; and this is a video showing some of the protests and riots in various cities; and another showing Tabriz in the one-year anniversary of the May 2006 protests. Many cities in Iranian Azerbaijan saw protests and riots. Azerbaijanis were just fed up in general with they way they had been treated. The government crackdown was severe. Security officers fired indiscriminately on crowds, killing dozens. They shot anti-riot ammunition into the crowds, which blinded many people. In the aftermath roughly 10,000 were arrested and many of them were brutally tortured. But alas, there was no reporting of this event in Persian media. Many of the so-called “reformist” candidates, which Musavi associates himself with, were supporting the crackdown. Musavi was silent. Azerbaijanis are still scarred from this event.
These are photos of the crackdown. Cand you tell the difference between these and the photos that are emerging now?:
Azerbaijanis now would rather not get involved with the current election crisis. Essentially, why should they get involved if they are not guaranteed their own rights by Persians. ADAPP’s contacts report that Kurdistan is pretty much the same way. There are no protests in Kurdistan, just a few strikes here and there; nothing significant. The following chart, which was in an e-mail to ADAPP from the British-Ahwazi Friendship Society, shows ethnicity and turnout for the recent elections. As you can seen Kurds and Azerbaijanis were the bottom two ethnicities in voter turnout:
So, I’m sorry for the length of this post but I had a lot to say. I will conclude by mentioning that in order for these uprisings to become a country-wide revolution, Persians must embrace their ethnic minority groups. The racism that exists deep within Iranian society must be completely eradicated. Minorities must be guaranteed that their regions will receive some kind of stake in any new government or change to the current regime. Linguistic and cultural rights must be acknowledged! After 1979, despite a new constitution being written which gives minorities equal rights and the right to study their own languages, the shah’s policies endured. Some say that the 1979 revolution would have never happend if the city of the city of Tabriz did not join the movement. Tabriz played a critical role in 1978. In this current movement, minorities must finally be guaranteed these rights. Otherwise, why would they risk their lives for the status quo? What’s in it for them?
Posted By Farzin Farzad
Posted Jun 24th, 2009