So I’m following Iran’s elections right now and though there seem to be some irregularities, I am happy with the turnout and the participation of Iran’s population. While I won’t say my pick for the election. I will make a quick note about how Azerbaijanis fit into the debate.
The two front-runners thus far are Mir-Hossein Musavi and incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the run-up to the campaign, Musavi visited a few cities in South Azerbaijan to sort of charge the 30 million or so Azerbaijanis living in Iran. As I mentioned before, he is an Azerbaijani Turk himself and he spoke Azerbaijani in a few of his speeches. In some videos on the internet, you can see the crowds going wild during his Turkish language speeches. He is a public advocate of Articles 15 and 19 of the Iranian constitution which guarantee equal rights and the right to teach languages other than Persian and use those languages in public and the media. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, has fashioned himself a champion for Iran’s poor and has diverted a lot of Iran’s oil wealth to poor families. He has also tried to gain the favor of Azerbaijanis by praising the language and claiming that he is fluent.
Both candidates, however, have shared their crimes against Iran and minorities. Musavi was Iran’s last Prime Minister and held office during some of the Iranian government’s worst crimes against it’s people. Ahmadinejad has also been quite repressive of minorities in the past 4 years. Whoever wins though, absolute power will still ulimately be held in the Supreme Leader’s hands who has final veto power over all actions proposed by anyone in Iran.
Also, it’s a shame that as the candidates try to gain the support of the Azerbaijani population, activists are still being arrested and beaten for promoting language rights. This week on June 9, Behnam Sheykhi and Mahmud Ojaghli were arrested in Eslamshahr. Behnam Sheykhi was seen spray painting slogans on the walls of buildings calling for the implemention of Articles 15 and 19. One of the walls happened to be on the Musavi campaign headquarters. Later on, Iranian intelligence officials came to arrest him in his shop. When his brother asked the officers show a warrant, he and his brother were severly beaten and Behnam was taken away. Then, Ojaghli was beaten and arrested himself for videotaping the beatings across the street. Both Behnam Sheykhi and Mahmud Ojaghli are indefinitely detained by Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. We don’t know the status of their health or whether or not they are being tortured (which is actually quite common). Both activists were Musavi campaign volunteers.
Another thing to note is that while a presidential candidate’s appeal to a minority group is quite novel and shows that Azerbaijanis do play an important role in Iran, I have yet to hear any other minorities getting any attention (though I am told that Musavi has traveled to other regions to praise other ethnicities, they haven’t received as much attention as Azeris). I am learning that the Iranian government is still continuing it’s campaign to forcefully displace various ethnic groups to mix up Iranian society. Hopefully, I will report on that as time goes by, but I am aware of some atrocities that the government is committing against Baluchis, Qashqai, Turkomen and semitic peoples.
Time magazine wrote an article about this not too long ago: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1901667,00.html
As far as my work, this week has been super busy. I have been editing all sorts of documents and press releases to spread the word. We are trying to secure various types of funding for ADAPP as well. If anyone has any ideas, please feel free to shoot them my way.
I am really enjoying Vancouver, I have yet to have a bad experience with food here and they weather has been really nice thus far.
Posted By Farzin Farzad
Posted Jun 12th, 2009