So I’m sorry for the delay of this blog. I know a lot of you are starving for information from Iran right now. First off, I’d like to say that I can’t believe that I am a part of this amazing opportunity during a time like this. It has truly been inspiring to see how social media and advocacy is changing the rules for Iran. History in the making 🙂 I encourage everyone to hop on Twitter and check out some of the news feeds. I am in awe of the resilience of young Iranians who are not afraid to spread news and information even at the risk of their own safety. The crackdown, however, is starting to take a bit of an emotional toll on me, though I will try to stay objective for this blog.
So, as you can imagine this week has been absolutely nuts. I have had quite a bit of work. ADAPP has been writing reports of incidents as they have been coming in, but it has been extremely hard to gather information. The Iranian government has been filtering many internet sites and our usual methods of communication have been blocked (I can’t really explain what they are) so we’ve been trying to find alternate methods to avoid the filters. But for roughly 2 days, we haven’t been able to get any information from the Azerbaijani provinces of Iran. All the news that is coming out in the media thus far has been from the predominantly Persian areas of Iran (Tehran, Ishfahan etc.). There have been absolutely no reporting on Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Baluchis, Semitic Peoples, Afghanis, Turcomens, Qashqai and Ahwazi Arabs. All of the information and reports that ADAPP has tried to send to Radio Farda and VOA Persian have been rejected because in Azerbaijan, the protests have been coupled with Azerbaijani rights demonstrations. Apparently the Persian-run media does not like that.
That being said, I do have some information to spread. Let me just start by saying that while there were protests in Iranian Azerbaijan, they were slow to start and spread. Many Azerbaijani rights groups were very apathetic about the election protests over the weekend. Azerbaijanis are still scarred from the crackdown of the May 2006 (in the future, I plan on dedicating an entire post to this) cartoon protests. Scores were killed in 2006 and roughly 10,000 were arrested and some tortured, all while the reformists were publicly supporting the crackdown. Seemingly, however more and more Azerbaijanis are beginning to take to the streets. Their cause is, however unique. Their chants have been coupled with Azerbaijani rights slogans. Here is an amateur video taken on a cell phone on June 13 in the city of Urmia: Protests in Urmia, Iran. In the video, residents of Urmia are chanting (in Azerbaijani Turkish) “Azerbaijan yatmiyib, Musevini atmiyib” losely translating to “Azerbaijan is not asleep, it has not abandoned Musavi“. Other videos show Azerbaijanis chanting “Azerbaijan is not asleep, it has not abandoned its own son”. This is especially powerful because Musavi is an Azerbaijani Turk himself and this shows the Azerbaijani support behind Musavi despite the government insisting that Azerbaijanis overwhelmingly voted for Ahmadinejad.
Here are images from Urmia:
The bottom row shows images from Tabriz University from Sunday. In Tabriz, over the weekend the government was expecting mass protests so they sent police, militias and Revolutionary Guard to patrol Tabriz University and the town. The first picture shows Tabrizi police and the subsequent 2 pictures are images of protests in Tabriz University. As you can see Tabriz was fairly quiet over the weekend compared to Tehran. Unfortunately, this meant that police were prepared to quell protests. Yesterday I received word that in the beginning of the week as protests grew in size in Tabriz University, police and revolutionary guards brutally beat and suppressed them. I don’t have images but I was told there were literally puddles of blood across campus. Some police, RGs, and militia members are running around in plain clothing beating students and activists. Look at this smug (**insert expletive here**).
I did find a video from Tabriz city dated June 15: Tabriz Protests. Yes, the size the protests in Iranian Azerbaijan are growing. Thus far we have heard from witnesses that 2 people have died in the protests in Tabriz.
Brutal repression also occurred in Urmia, Iran the past few days. Yesterday I received word that they had arrested 300 protesters and sent them to Urmia prison. Of those 300, prison guards were separating those with backgrounds in Azerbaijani activism. Activists were literally shoved into a minibus and driven to an undisclosed location. It is my belief that they were sent to a Ministry of Intelligence detention facility. God only knows what will become of them. We have also confirmed that 2 have died in the Urmia protests.
I don’t have any word from Ardabil or Khamaneh Musavi’s hometown or any other city with a majority population of Iranian Azerbaijanis. If anyone gets any word on what’s going on in these places, please let us know!!
There is still absolutely no word on the dozens that were arrested before Friday’s election. Many Azerbaijani activists have been taken by the Ministry of Intelligence (Etilaat) and are most likely being tortured, which is pretty normal. They are not allowed to get in contact with their families and nobody is aware of a trial date, their whereabouts or their health conditions. University Professor Alireza Farshi, who I have grown to admire, is one of them. His wife and family know absolutely nothing about his condition. He was arrested on May 22.
On a side note (I know this is not really relevant), I am hearing rumors that former Iranian President and current head of the Assembly of Experts, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is actively trying to call an emergency meeting of the 86-member government body. The Assembly is responsible for the election and supervision of the Supreme Leader. Rafsanjani, a very prominent and RICH (and possibly very corrupt) mullah, has been at odds with the Supreme Leader Khamanei and has called for the transformation of Iran to a more pragmatic and open country. He and his reformist camp have been growing in power in recent years. He put his backing behind Presidential candidate Musavi. It is rumored that Rafsanjani might call for a special meeting of the Assembly of Experts to call a vote to oust Khamanei. You didn’t hear it from me.
Posted By Farzin Farzad
Posted Jun 17th, 2009