Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Iran's Ethnic Azeris And The Language Question

A man holds a placard that reads in Azeri, "Everyone must have school in [their] mother tongue," as Iranian Azeris attend a rally for International Mother Language Day. (file photo)A man holds a placard that reads in Azeri, "Everyone must have school in [their] mother tongue," as Iranian Azeris attend a rally for International Mother Language Day. (file photo)
A man holds a placard that reads in Azeri, "Everyone must have school in [their] mother tongue," as Iranian Azeris attend a rally for International Mother Language Day. (file photo)
A man holds a placard that reads in Azeri, "Everyone must have school in [their] mother tongue," as Iranian Azeris attend a rally for International Mother Language Day. (file photo)
By Abbas Djavadi
Call it discrimination or even chauvinism: Millions of Iran's ethnic Azeris have no right of education in their mother tongue. But, surprisingly, it appears the majority of them don't care much about this inequality.

Over the last two months, I have interviewed more than 80 people, mostly from Tabriz, Ardabil, Khoy, and Tehran. The people I spoke to worked in bazaars or as nurses, as government employees and housewives, computer traders, lawyers, students, medical doctors, and laborers. But I found only five who said they were very interested in seeing education in Azeri Turkish in Iranian Azeri schools.

Most of the others were uninterested and didn't view it as a priority. Some supported the idea in principle but said that it could lead to elevated social tensions. Some suggested Azeri Turkish could be offered as an optional course of two or so hours per week, although they suspected most parents wouldn't send their kids to those courses for fear it would weaken their acquisition of Persian. A smaller group even opposed the idea outright.

Whenever the subject of "Iranian Azeris" -- those who speak Azeri Turkish as their native language -- comes up, there are disputes about how many people we are talking about. Iranian censuses don't include data about native languages, so no one can say for certain how many Azeris live in the country. Officially, the population of the four Azeri-inhabited provinces (Eastern and Western Azerbaijan, Ardabil, and Zanjan) is about 10 million. A few million more ethnic Azeris live in Gilan and Khorasan provinces, as well as in Tehran and other urban centers. The total is probably about 15 million.

No Schooling In Azeri Turkish

At home and in their communities, these people speak Azeri Turkish. But the spoken language is strongly influenced by Persian in terms of lexicon, pronunciation, and even sentence structure. This is especially true of the language spoken among the more highly educated portion of the population. The basic language is "more Turkish" ("Turki" or "Torki," as we say in Iran), while the more you want to talk about complex or contemporary topics, the stronger Persian's influence becomes.

Iran's Azeris have played and continue to play an active role in the country's development, politics, economy, and culture -- on a par with their Persian-speaking compatriots. The only difference they feel is language.
Written communication is carried out almost exclusively in Persian. Only a tiny minority tends to write in Azeri Turkish -- and most of them do so with a conscious ethnic awareness or political motivation. But their written language is heavily influenced by either the official Azeri of the South Caucasus country of Azerbaijan or by the Turkish spoken in Turkey. There is no standardization of the written language used by Iranian Azeris, and the result is that using the written language often produces alienation from the majority of their fellow Azeri Turks.

There is one major reason for this situation: There has been no schooling or other education in Azeri Turkish in Iran for the last 90 years (with the exception of 1945-46, when the Soviet imposed Pishavari government allowed it). This situation remained unchanged after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran's current constitution says the country's "official and educational language is Persian, but the languages of other ethnic groups may also be used." This article, however, has never been applied.

Prior to the 1920s, there was no centralized government in Iran. There was no central army, no clear borders, no state educations system, and, of course, no "official language." Students in traditional religious schools learned in Persian and Arabic for the most part, but there was no ban on education in Azeri Turkish. During the centuries of the ethnic Azeri dynasties in Iran -- from the Safavids in the 16th century through the Qajars from 1794 until 1925 -- Persian was promoted as the language of government and literature, Arabic was used for religious culture, and Azeri Turkish was spoken privately in the court of the shah and among all Iranian Azeris.

'National Culture'

The establishment of a central and modernizing government by Reza Shah Pahlavi beginning in 1925 also brought the promotion of a "national culture" based on an official state language -- Persian. All other languages were banned from official use and from the educational sphere (Arabic remained in the "unofficial" sphere of the clergy, who had been deprived of their legal status and political authority).

Modernization also saw a surge of migration of ethnic Azeris to Tehran and other major cities. There, communication in Persian was a key to social progress, contributing to the assimilation of Iranian Azeris into the larger national culture based on Persian. It also led to the deepening of the influence of Persian on spoken Azeri Turkish.

Iran's Azeris have never felt like aliens in the country they have lived in for thousands of years. They are as proud of Iran's achievements and as distressed by its shortcomings as any other Iranians are. They have played and continue to play an active role in the country's development, politics, economy, and culture -- on a par with their Persian-speaking compatriots. The only difference they feel is language.

Despite the discrimination against their language, Iranian Azeris have compelling reasons for feeling fully Iranian. For one thing, Iranian-Azeri dynasties ruled the country for centuries and did much to uphold the nation's existence and unity. Having been in Iran for thousands of years, Iran's Azeris have never felt like a minority or newly arrived people.

Mir Hossein Musavi is an ethnic Azeri.
In the 16th century, the ethnic-Azeri Safavid dynasty restored Iran's unity after the destruction and chaos of the Mongol invasion. They introduced Shi'ite Islam as the country's state religion, a key part of the country's emerging national identity.

In the first part of the 20th century, ethnic Azeris led the Constitutional Revolution against the despotism of the (ethnic Azeri) Qajar regime and the imperialism of Russia and Great Britain.

Religion also plays a key factor in uniting ethnic Azeris with other Iranians. Sharing the Shi'ite confession of Islam with their Persian compatriots means that Iranian Azeris have felt closer to them than to Sunni Turks or other peoples beyond Iran's borders. The Iranian Azeri opposition to Islamic republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was led by Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari from Tabriz and was not based on ethnicity but on his insistence of the need to separate religion and the state.

Unfavorable Starting Point

Some scholars have argued that since the 1920s, Iran has built a sort of meritocracy that allows social progress for any citizen who accepts the national language and culture of a united Iran without regard to ethnicity. This is true, but only partially. Sunni Muslims and some recognized non-Muslim communities hold a few seats in Iran's parliament. These communities can generally live in peace as long as they abide by some politically and religiously discriminatory restrictions. For instance, no Suni Kurd or Armenian Christian could become a minister.

As Shi'a, Iran's Azeris do not face such restrictions. Both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi are ethnic Azeris. However, it cannot be denied that because Persian is not their native language, Iranian Azeris begin from an unfavorable starting point with regard to education and social mobility.

Nonetheless, as my interviews with Iranian Azeris show, they have largely adapted to this injustice and are not much exercised by the language question. But this could change if demands for liberalization and increased individual liberties continue to mount in Iranian society.

As Touraj Atabaki of the University of Amsterdam argues: "The fate of Iran's ethnic compositions and territorial integrity may depend, more than any other factor, on the introduction of reforms in the country's political structure to secure individual as well as collective rights in a nondiscriminatory inclusion and access to economic opportunities, political participation or cultural status, including language recognition, either on an individual basis or through some pattern of group proportionality. Or else, nothing is eternal."

Abbas Djavadi is an associate director of broadcasting at RFE/RL. The views expressed in this commentary -- which is based on a speech presented at a conference in Istanbul organized by the German Orient-Institut and Turkey's Bilkent University on June 5-6, 2010 -- are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL
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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Despan from: Armenia
July 19, 2010 12:02
Why do Azerbaijanis need schooling though? I don't understand.
In Response

by: Aydın from: Kanada
July 19, 2010 18:50
Apparently, you need schooling to understand this.
In Response

by: Despan from: Armenia
July 20, 2010 12:08
Canada not Kanada, einstein.
I think Azerbaijanis cannot master the Persian characters- way too hard for them.
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
July 21, 2010 03:27
It could be that Despan meant that young Azeris in the so-called "Republic of Azerbaijan" know that no matter how hard they study in school all the jobs are distributed among the ruling clan members.

The corrupt system does not allow anyone who is not connected to the corrupt ruling clan to get any benefit from the oil bonanza. On the other hand, these who belong to the clan don't need to study because they will get anything they want anyway. Just like the current president (Ilham Aliyev) got his presidency from his father - the former president Heydar Aliyev and the future president Heydar Aliyev, Jr. will get it from his father.
In Response

by: Aydın from: Kanada
July 21, 2010 23:21
In my language Canada is written as Kanada ( like Կանադա in your language).
Anyway, Iran Azerbaijanis are waiting still. We want to show to our Persian "brothers" what the result of supporting Armenians and Kurds is, what the ultimate result of assimilating others is and what they will gain from faking history. You guys gambled about 100 years ago and lost it. Those people also started gambling about the same time. They were also loser from the first day but because of superpowers support, it was not clear. Now, that there is no communism fear, there is no need to feed them. Soon, they will end up in hand of Arabs as they were thousand years ago and we helped them. We won't help them this time. We will see what they will do with their neighbours: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, and Arabs.

You should also think about your own nation. After having our own government, you will have a tough time. This will be the result of your second gambling that occurred 20 years ago. You are losing that one too. The good thing is that there are enough wise people in Armenia to foresee this and look for peace. Day by day, they see that you have lost Russian's support. I hope that they put an end on occupation in Qarabaq soon and start peaceful life with their neighbours.
In Response

by: Seyran from: Armenia
July 23, 2010 01:18
What are you talking about Aydın? You are a Turk, Azaries are Persians. The fact they speak a Turkic language doesn't mean they are Turkic people, it's the result of years of oppression and rule by the Turks. Indigenous people of South America speak Spanish, does that mean they are Spaniards?

The only ones faking history here is you, the Turks from "Azerbaijan". Also about your "7000 years of Turkic history in Iran", just by that you can clearly see the kind of brainwashing you've been subjected too. There is no such thing as 7000 years of Turkic history, maybe in your homeland, the Altai region in Central Asia, but Turks presence in the region can't be traced back neither in the Middle East, in the Caucasus or in Europe no less than 1000 years ago when the Seljuks arrived. There is no such thing as "Turkic" names in Iran, those are Persian names, and they are all over the region. Names of places even in Armenia and Georgia are of Persian origin, and yes, Azerbaijan..specially Azerbaijan. If Azaries want to learn their languages, there is no problem, I condemn that kind of repression, even if it is only linguistic repression.

Oh and you comment about Armenia and Karabakh, if you mean to traitor Ter-Petrosyan speaking about "giving it all up" in exchange for "peace", or his version of "peace", (the same kind of arguments that threw him of power), I am glad to tell you...even the guys in his party disagree with him. We don't agree with him, and I don't support my government. I recommend you stop listening to the opposition we have, the only thing they do is try to scare people in order to get in power, but they are as useless as the government and everyone knows that. But hey, at least we have an opposition. We prefer not having friends, that having friends pretending to be friends. The only ones not wanting peace in the region is yourselves, Azerbaijanis, so the ones who should stop "gambling" with your future is yourselves...war will be destructive for both of us, so don't think you can get out unpunished by the same weapons you buy today.

Kosovo's declaration of independence was delcared legal, so it is just a matter of time before NKR and others in a similar situation will have the same right.

In Response

by: Alex from: Seattle
July 23, 2010 04:39
Yeah, no, Aydın it's strange to call it an occupation when Armenians have been living in that territory for the last 2,000 years. And no, we won that "gamble", remember? And recall, it's Azerbaijan that's the zealous and boisterous warmonger in the region, not Armenia. Aliyev seems to have developed oil "cajones", but can't afford to lose another war, lest he desires to go out like Mussolini.
In Response

by: Afa Rizvan gizi from: USA
July 26, 2010 04:04
This is exactly what Aydin is trying to tell us - in nomadic Turkish culture it's OK to call Canada "Kanada" because so her daughter can claim it "Turkish" land later on. Just like Constantinople is now called "Istanbul" and therefor must be a Turkish city. Notice, it doesn't work the other way around! The places can only be renamed to accommodate nomadic Mongol-Turkish ear but not back to it's original sound and meaning. This is why huge areas of Armenia, Iran, Talyshestan, Greece and Arab lands can be claimed Turkish - they all have simple Turkic names like "Black Mountains", "White Sheep", etc. Just because Mongol-speaking nomads could not pronounce local languages geographic names, Aydin can now claim them as her own, and her great-granddaughters will tell you that Kanada is an ancient Turk land because it is spelled with "K" - be prepared...
In Response

by: Eric from: Canada
July 23, 2010 07:31
Alex, Seriously?!! is that what you think?? if 100K Armenians have lived in NK they have right to ethnically cleanse more than million Azerbaijanis who lived there as well for 2000 years??? is that your justification??? with that logic you are not going to far. with the same justification Nazi exterminated Jews.

There is a respect to international borders. Armenians lived in Azerbaijan for many years and they had right to remain there. just like Azerbaijanis lived in Armenia for 1000 years. Should Mexico attack and annex Texas just because there lots of Mexicans live there???

In Response

by: Seyran from: Armenia
July 23, 2010 18:06
What 2000 years are you talking about? There is no such thing. The region today known as Nagorno-Karabakh was for more than 3000 years inhabitaded by Armenians and Albanians, both Christian nations. When the Turks came no less than 1000 years ago and established their empires, they oppressed the Albanians with genocide, Turkification, and conversion to Islam. They exterminated the Albanians, a Caucasian people, and they settled in their lands. Just as they did all over Anatolia.

Azerbaijanis claim they are Turks, and Turks are people originated in Central Asia who moved West. How can they claim that they have lived for more than 2000 years in the region, if there is no trace of them up until the 9th or 10th AD? Furthermore, how can they claim they are Turks and proud of their Turkicness, and at the same time claim they are ethnic Caucasians? They better decide what they are in reality, because their claims are more than stupid, unbelievable.

The Caucasus and Anatolia is the home of Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Kurds, Georgians and different people of the Caucasus. Turks home is the Altai region of Central Asia.

The Armenians of NKR declared independence just as any of the former USSR republics, but the Azeries attacked and unleashed a war attempting to erase them from their homes. And they succeed doing in Shahumyan, and we were not going to allow that. Also, Armenians were ethnically cleansed from Baku, Sumgait, Ganja and in the most savage way, and those regions are very very far from NKR. Azeries fleed from Armenia under their own fear out of revenge from what they saw their people in Azerbaijan did to us, yet we never attacked them, and there was never any report of violence against Azeries in Armenia...and don't come to me that there was, that was Azerbaijani provocateur propaganda. Why you always forget to mention that?

Any independentist movement resorted to ethnic cleansing because it was necessary, look at Abkhazia, S. Ossetia, the same Kosovo, oh and the Turkish Cyprus. Furthermore, the same Turkey supports the independence of Kosovo...whose military ethnically cleansed Serbs and has restored to violence to them ever since? And historically, look at ethnic Brits in America, ethnic Spaniards and Portguese in Latinamerica, ethnic French in Africa. There is nothing knew in that, all nations followed the same process to proclaim independence.

And stop with your comparison of Nazi Germany to this issue, it is nothing more than brainwashing and silliness. Jews were exterminated by pure ethnic hatred and desire to build up a solely-Aryan race. If Armenians would want to create a sole Armenian state, then why there are Yezidie/Kurds, Assyrians, Russians, Greeks, Ukrainians living in there? In Karabakh there is also minorities, and they well there. Jut Azeries believe the world rounds around them. If they do not live in Armenia/NKR anymore, then no one lives but Armenians! Muslim Kurds live in Armenia in better conditions they live in Turkey, they live peacefully and subject to the same conditions Armenians live. Ask anyone.

Azeries are the only ones who don't want any peace, nor politically nor socially. And honestly, I don't want to live next to people who would kill me while I sleep and then be proclaimed national hero in Azerbaijan. Take your own conclusions

In Response

by: Despan from: Amenian
July 25, 2010 12:29
"Armenians lived in Azerbaijan for many years..." - now where does such logic come from? Azerbaijan was never a country. There was no country by that name. It is just a name of territory: plain and simple. This "nationality" was created by the USSR (just like Kyrgyz and their kind)
In Response

by: Eric from: Canada
July 26, 2010 07:52
Despan, you have certainly red the history from the books printed in Armenia! But, who cares if there was a country or not and what was the country!! Azerbaijani Turks lived in Caucasus, so called todays Armenia, and northern Iran for 1000s of years! i guess, only Armenian propaganda can deny it and the people brainwashed like you can believe in it!

The point, is Armenians did live in Karabakh and other regions of Azerbaijan for centuries! That does not give anyone right to ethnically cleanse them! No one even regime by Kocharyan and Sarkisyan along with their nationalistic propaganda can justify ethnically cleansing Karbakh and surrounding regions from Azerbaijanis with military war, and destruction!!! Ethnically cleansing of a nation is crime with a huge price that someone will pay for it!!!
In Response

by: Eric from: Canada
July 26, 2010 08:09
Seyran, you noted "If Armenians would want to create a sole Armenian state, then why there are Yezidie/Kurds, Assyrians, Russians, Greeks, Ukrainians living in there?"

Do you remember what the wife of your president told two years ago in opening of a blood donation centre?? She claimed that this center should only transplant the Armenian blood! Yes, Armenia is ruled by the people who preach hatred to hold on to power. that is the nationalistic hatred ideology preached against Turks and Azerbaijanis by the government.

Please do not try to justify ethnic cleansing by any means! We are now living in 21st century! YOU can no way bring any justification for ethnic cleansing under any circumstances! Learn from Hitler! he did try exterminate the Jews and brought only death and destruction! who ever tries to eradicate a nation will face a heavy price to pay!

Finally, NK had no internationally recognized right to declare its independence when the soviet union collapsed. Just like Chechnya was part of Russia, NK was only an autonomous oblast within the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan (de-yure Azerbaijan was an independent republic within USSR. please do not try to argue against). no single country has recognized its sovereignty and will never do so!
In Response

by: Despan from: Armenia
July 27, 2010 10:18
yes, and there was war many years ago and the two populations were physically separated. You want to mix them back together? For what purpose?? Think. good you learned to spell Canada though
In Response

by: Eric from: Canada
July 28, 2010 22:11
Despan: of course, that is what i learned in Canada! Where millions from different ethnicity and religious background live together with no conflict! You know why? they can think smart and look forward and not behind! if "the 100000s years" of Armenian history makes you enemy with your neighbors then, perhaps its time to abandon it for the shake of your children. If you do so, there is a chance that they will also survive another 1000 years. if not, nationalism, ethnic cleansing etc. will bring more hatred and destruction! You will need to learn how to live together with your neighbors without hating them! think forward not backward! in 1990s Armenia was lucky to have Russia behind! it does not happen that way all the time, and you never know what the next war will bring to you nation.

Learn to love! it is very easy to hate!

by: Mario Rossi from: Italy
July 19, 2010 12:28
First of all, it is not true that there was "no central government" in Iran before the 1920s. Often it did not work very well, but Iran has a central government since 1501 (with brief spells of anarchy and civil war in the 18th and 20th centuries).

Secondly, the Safavids came from Azerbaijan but calling them Azeri is incorrect because a) they did not see themselves as such, and b) the very word Azeri did not exist at the time (not to mention the problem of their mixed ethnic origin). Ditto for the Qajars. It is much more correct to describe them as Turkic.

In other words, what holds true today (in this case, the existence of an Azeri people) did not necessarily hold true in the past.
In Response

by: Despan from: Armenia
July 20, 2010 12:12
True words. Also, the use of the word 'Azeri' instead of "Azerbaijani' is misleading. There is no ethnicty called "Azeri". the full name should be used. It is like calling Germans 'gerry' or some such absurd name. The photo shows that Azerbaijanis are actually demaning a madrasa. Did anyone notice that?!
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
July 21, 2010 03:41
I think there is a misconception that is being exploited here to try to launch a "regime change" from within Iran at any cost. The article assumes that people living in Iranian province called Azerbaijan are Azeri Turks and therefore have to be against the majority Persians of the country. This ignores the history of the region where not too long ago the same people were Persian and spoke Farsi. Then the Mongol Turks invaded and tried to "Turkify" the population by forcing them to speak Turk (or a mixture of Farsi and Turk later called "Azeri Turk".) However, the local Iranian population even after loosing it's language can perfectly identify themselves with the Persian culture and doesn't see any connection to the Mongol nomadic Turk invaders.
In Response

by: Aydın from: Kanada
July 21, 2010 23:35
There was not such a thing as "Mongol Turks". If Mongols wanted to change others languages, they would change it to their own languages. They conquered a lot of regions and they never changed language of any region. How would this be possible while the majority of them were illiterate? They were looking for lands and power, not languages nor religions. Turks have more than 7000 years of history in Iran. You cannot find even one square kilometre of Iran were name of a mountain, a village, a city, a river, or another thing is not Turkish; even after 90 years of government supported official assimilation policies and name Turkish name changes.
The only language that we are sure has nothing to do with Iran's identity is Farsi. It came from north-east of Afghanistan and Tajikistan about thousand years ago. The only tie that it has with other languages in Iran is that it is Indo-European.
In Response

by: Alex from: Seattle
July 24, 2010 20:37
7,000 years of history in Iran? You seemed relatively reasonable, but I think you put far too much stock in Azerbaijan's version of world history. 7,000 years ago, the Turks were nomads living across Central Asia and Siberia. To say that the Turks have 7,000 years in Iran is nothing short of delusional.

by: Abbas Djavadi from: Prague
July 19, 2010 17:42
To Despan from Armenia: Hard to understand the question. You, yourself don't need the right of schooling in your mother tongue?
To Mario from Italy: I agree, at least partially, but especially with your final statement. It's also true that the sense of ethnic (or even national) cohesion and "we are the nation" is new in our lands (also in many Western countries) . Until the mid 19th or early 20th century it was more of Muslim vs. non-Muslim, Shi'a vs. non-Shi'a etc. Also, we had an awareness of being more Iranian rather than Azeri or Persian-speaking, absolutely true. Some national awareness (not ethnic Azeri) very much started also with the introduction of first European maps during the Safavid rule and defintely after the borders were clearly marked after the Iranian-Russian wars in 1820s.
In Response

by: FDR from: Australia
July 20, 2010 03:48
Dear Abbas,

As far back as Kourosh and during the Sassanids Iran has had a national identity. Indeed during the central rule of the Sassanids, Iranvija and citizens of Iranshahr which were from different ethnicities were not discriminated against. Azarbaijan, is actually Azarpategan the place of fire dating back to preislam Iran. In linguistic and predominantly racial terms, the Azeris are actually Iranians and the reason for this linguistic difference remains that. As your article accepts, Iranian Azeris are just Iranian than the rest of us, they have defended this country and are part of its culture despite ill wishers I can not forsee fomenting discord in the near future on this subject , perhaps they will have more success with other ethnic divides. Good luck
In Response

by: Aydın from: Kanada
July 21, 2010 23:39
Kurush (Cyrus) called himself the king of Enshan and Shush, not Iran. The term Iran was not a political term up to the time that Moguls conquered Iran. It was just an epic name with no geographical meaning. As we see in Sahname, Ferdovsi did not know the geographical location of Iran. Based on his description, Iran was not Kerman, Ehvaz, Teberistan, Azerbaijan, Zabulestan,... This shows that his idea from Iran was different than the present political term.

by: Aydın from: Kanada
July 19, 2010 19:00
The reason that just 5 out of 80 told you that they are interested in seeing education, is that it is very dangerous to talk about this issues in Iran. You could be a spy. We all know how the government in Iran is acting. You can never trust strangers and you cannot express your opinion freely. To get an idea of the percentage of people who are interested in schooling in their mother tongue, you can take a look at Azerbaijan's sport teams like Tiraxtor. There, people can express themselves because police cannot arrest hundred of thousands people.
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
July 21, 2010 03:54
Again, we are mixing the name of a geographic region "Azerbaijan" in Iran with the name of an artificial country "Republic of Azerbaijan" that was created by Turkish army and Lenin's Bolsheviks in the beginning of the last century on the lands of non-Turkish Farsi speaking Tolysh people, Armenians, Lezgi and other natives just north of the Iranian province. That was done on purpose to try to annex part of Iran that never belonged to the Mongol invaders.

The winning wrestlers from Azerbaijan are most likely ethnic Tolysh that know this ancient Iranian sport because it is their culture. However, in the modern Republic of Azerbaijan they are not allowed to speak and study in their native Farsi language because the minority Turkic speaking (but ethnic Kurdish!) elite is trying to create a new nation of "Azeris" by killing and expelling all peoples native to that land and forcing the youth to believe that they are "Turk Azeris".

by: Abbas Djavadi from: Prague
July 20, 2010 04:42
Aydin, sorry, all people I talked to were people I know and people who know and trust me...
In Response

by: Vugar from: Berlin
July 20, 2010 19:10
Abbas, but are you sure they were not afraid that the conversation/interview could be listened by secret police? I remember the video of thousands of people who took to the streets after the cartoon in 2006.

Anyway, your statistics could still correctly reflect the realities, I don't question it.

What is your prediction? Will the Azeri-Turkce education ever be allowed in iran?
In Response

by: Urmiyeli
July 23, 2010 17:31
Very Interesting!
Mr. Javadi talked to 80 Azerbaijanis who he knows them in person.
What a reasonable survey!!
In Response

by: Farzin from: America
July 20, 2010 20:38
This commentary should not have been written with such bias. Until formal surveys, censuses and polling conducted using proper statistical techniques, articles like this will purport claims of Iranian cohesion. Commentaries like this are a wonderful example of how much bias and lack of proper analysis of center-periphery relations exist between the core Persians and peripheral linguistic minorities.

It is a foolishly written commentary and the author is a relic of Iran's pre-revolutionary past, trying to revive the ghosts of Imperial Iran, when he believes things went quite well for all Iranians.

If one is to truly understand the tensions that exist between Iran's Azerbaijanis and it's Persian majority, it is necessary to look at it with an open mind. The truth is there is no schooling in Azerbaijani in Iran and no ability to practice culture despite the constitutional guarantees. There are many cases when student organization which have been formed to teach the Azerbaijani language even at the college level have been closed down and the founders arrested. (See ADAPP Monthly reports)

To subscribe to this type of thinking is detrimental to Iran's cohesion. What you are doing is glossing over an issue that many Azerbaijanis hold dear to their hearts, the issue of language education. The idea of "one nation, one identity" is a false construct created during the Pahlavi dynasty and has continued into today's Iran.

The fact that this discussion still even exists is testament to the fact that things are not progressing as they should. And we all wonder why Azerbaijanis aren't rushing to support the Green Movement? Well, it's because authors like this writing these ridiculous, counter-productive commentaries.
In Response

by: Aydın from: Kanada
July 21, 2010 23:44
You have never mentioned in your paper that you talked only with people that you know. If this is the case, your analysis and statistics is confined to people that you know. An Armenian can come to Tabriz, talk with his Armenian friends and get their opinion. It would be false if he publish this as the opinion of Iran Azerbaijanis. Hope that I made my point.
In Response

by: Eric. from: Canada
July 23, 2010 01:15

to Abbas Djavadi: can you please describe the sampling method you used in conducting your survey? How representative is your sample and to what extent can you generalize the findings? If you did not have proper methodology to back please refrain from generalizing it! The article also fails to enlighten several issues:
1. Some Azerbaijanis prefer to study in Farsi not because they hate their mother tongue, but because they acknowledge that being fluent in Farsi and having education in Faris is the only way they can be accepted in the society, gain social status and avoid being discriminated against and labeled as inferior. Just like during the Russian occupation of Northren Azerbaijan, some families preferred Russian schools because it guaranteed them better opportunities.
2. Iranian government not only avoid to invest in promoting Azerbaijani culture and language, but it also support propaganda against it! the 'interior language and culture' label has been artificially created by the governments to assimilate them. it creates identify issues among some young people who 'choose' to be accepted by the society by denying their own identify, language and heritage. Those who lose identify become a tool on the hands of government to further discriminate against, make fun, and marginalize the ones that still loyal to own identity. every time we someone criticize Iran for Azerbaijani rights, they always use the same tactics 'he/she was Azerbaijani hisself, 'they do not want own language etc.' In fact, this assimilation strategy is designed and successfully implemented by the Farsi nationalists.
In Response

by: Reza from: Tabriz
July 24, 2010 04:31
Abbas i am sure i can find you hundreds who have been prosecuted, arrested, in-prisoned, bitten, and even killed just because they possessed books in Azerbaijani or demanded right to study in their own language!
In Response

by: Mustafa from: Baku
July 24, 2010 04:32
Perhaps you failed to speak to 100s of thousands who marched on the streets of Tebriz on May 2006 screaming "Oz dilinde medrese olmalidir her kese"

by: Abbas Djavadi from: Prague
July 21, 2010 11:12
To Vugar and Farzin: Again, they were people I know, so, no "fear factor" in this case. Secondly, yes, it was and cannot be anything scientific and by no means claiming to be representative for the majority of Iran's ethnic Azeris. But it was a confirmation for me of the sense I am getting in talking to many Azeris in and outside Iran. Yes, I think it is a discrimination that at some point may become a major social and political problem. We saw a few examples in the past few years with people demonstrating in favor of their mother language. But I'd say this trend still represents a really marginal portion of the Iranian Azeri community. Again, whether or not this is accurate, I don't know and I guess nobody can reasonably argue it's not, either.

by: Sevda from: Iran
July 22, 2010 17:29
I don't think that ethnic identity is something that should not be mentioned, especially when it's obvious that non-Persian groups are seeing extra repression by the government. Of course Iran is a mixture of many cultures but now Persian is the only official language-ethnicity, and this situation causes Kurdish, Turkish (Azari), Arab, Baluch... Iranians to face more difficulties in education and social life. So this problem is a reality of today's Iran and without a solution for this, a democracy in Iran wouldn't be possible.

by: bulud from: Canada
July 22, 2010 17:32
Iran’s Ethnic Azeri??????????
Mr. Abbas Djavadi, before writing anything please do some homework or at least check out the meaning of ethnic in dictionary. In Iran we have ethnics like Armenians, Assures, which they have full access to the langue right to impress international communities, but Azerbaijanis and Kurd, Arab, Baluch and Turkmen don’t have the same rights because they are nations, if the full right all nations respected then democracy will prevail in Iran., Iran will eventually divide not because of deferent nationalities in Iran, because people like you hiding behind the truth in the name of Pan Aryanism and coming up with baseless statistic. Your statistic is remind me of Mr. Ahmedinijad remarks who said that we don’t have guys in Iran,

by: Urmiyeli
July 22, 2010 22:05
A) Mr. Javadi says, " I found only five who said they were very interested in seeing education in Azeri Turkish in Iranian Azeri schools."
Who is “very interested” in Mr. Javadi's points of view? For example, an Azerbaijani who prefers to study in her/his mother tongue but due to financial problems mostly cares about food and shelter for his children. In which category does Mr. Javadi put him/her? Interested, very interested or a little bit interested?

B) Mr. Javadi gives a specific number of Azerbaijanis who are “very interested” in education in Turkish in Iran. (5 out of more than 80 Azerbaijanis)
Does Mr. Javadi say the truth? Has really Mr. Javadi spoken to 80 Azerbaijanis and found only 5 of them who are “very interested” in their basic rights? Why not?
But his next statements clearly show that Mr. Javadi is not and can not be an unbiased person in ethnic minorities issue in Iran. He writes: “Iran's Azeris have never felt like aliens in the country they have lived in for thousands of years. They are as proud of Iran's achievements and as distressed by its shortcomings as any other Iranians are.”
Mr. Javadi mostly seems to be a Pan-Iranist.

C) I suggest Mr. Javadi to do a similar survey about the women rights in Iran. One could wonder that how many Iranian women would tell him that they are interested in equal rights with men.

by: Jake from: Wisconsin
July 23, 2010 01:49
Mr. Djavadi, thank you for this analysis. Always a very interesting topic.

Most local commentaries seem to agree with you that separatism is still not very popular among Iranian Azeris, but could you (or anyone else) explain for an outsider's benefit how the two Azeri communities view each other on a more basic level? Clearly that's a complicated question that defies a short answer, but when peoples are split into like-sized communities by a long-standing border (Pashtuns, Kurds, Baluchis, Albanians, etc.), they tend to acquire idiosyncratic views of each other that aren't obvious to outsiders. The most common schism seems to be along an economic or educational axis, with one side seen as too decadent or secular by the other, who in turn is seen as ignorant and provincial by their kin.

My apologies for such a vague question. I suppose I'm wondering if the lack of enthusiasm for "Greater Azerbaijan" among Iran's Azeris isn't so much because of any heartfelt fondness for Iran as, instead, a lack of affinity toward their ex-Soviet kinfolk. Thank you.

And regarding one comment above, both regimes seem evenly matched regarding flagrant nepotism and corruption. Since public disillusionment with one's own regime is probably seen as a universal constant, I don't see how it would be important in one side's view of the other. "That's just the way it is, everywhere."
In Response

by: Master from: Vancouver
July 23, 2010 07:25
Jake, Iranian azerbaijanis are learning a lot about their culture and heritage through the republic of Azerbaijan. Every year thousands Iranian Azerbaijanis come to Azerbaijan republic to receive education, celebrate Nowruz or just travel and see their own country. Last year, Iranian government tried to impose several restrictions to slow down the outflow of students into Azerbaijan. The government is afraid that once they recognize own culture, they will demand own rights from the government. Azerbaijani TVs are broadcasted into Iran and they watch programs in their own language.

In Response

by: Narmin Vugar gizi from: Kanada
July 26, 2010 04:26
This is true that young Iranian men are attracted by Azerbaijan's more then available girls not required to wear hijabs or much of anything, but a more significant outflow is noticed in the opposite direction. Iran had to impose harsh visa restrictions on Azeris trying to flee the oppressive anti-Islam (how many masques they have destroyed lately?) government of Ilham Aliyev.
In Response

by: Master from: Vancouver
July 26, 2010 21:32
Narmin, i do not think you have correct evidence! i remember, recently Iran has lifted visa restrictions so Azerbaijani citizens have a free chance to entry to Iran (except Journalists). Instead, Azerbaijan is not lifting its visa restrictions on Iranian citizens with the fear that the country will be overpopulated by the Iranian citizens.

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