Baku, Azerbaijan, July 7
At least 50 of Iranian Azerbaijani civil right activists have been arrested in various cities of Iran’s north western Azerbaijan region in recent days.
According to local media, the security forces have arrested the activists to prevent them from staging an annual rally at a mountain fortress.
In recent years, Azerbaijani activists have gathered each July at "Babak Fort" in East Azerbaijan province to protest what they say is discrimination against Turkic Azerbaijanis by the government.
The activists have published names of some 50 people, who have been arrested in Tabriz, Ahar, Ardabil, Meshgin Shahr, Khalkhal, Kaleybar and other Azerbaijani cities.
Iran’s main Turkic language speakers – Azerbaijanis, live mainly in north-western areas. There aren’t any accurate or official statistics in reference to the number of Turkic-speaking population of Iran. Nonetheless, Ali Akbar Salehi, Islamic Republic’s former Foreign Minister, during his visit to Turkey in 2012, had stated that about 40 percent of Iranians speak Turkish.
Notwithstanding, at least for the last 100 years, various governments of Iran have seen Turkish language as a national security threat, and have neglected the Azerbaijanis civil rights, including education in their mother tongue.
Iranian politicians have brought the issue to agenda time-by-time in recent years, in particular in election campaigns.
Last April, during a provincial visit to East Azerbaijan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for promoting Azerbaijani language.
In recent months, various Azerbaijani MPs have requested for implementation of the Article 15 of the Islamic republic Constitution and education in mother language.
In mid-May, Iranian MP, Nader Ghazipour, who represents Urmia electoral district in Iran's parliament, criticized certain cultural discrimination against the Turkic people in the country.
“We, 40 million Turkic people in Iran, do not have a nationwide newspaper,” the MP said.
Ghazipour, in an open session of the parliament May 16 criticized lack of countrywide TV for “40 million Turkic people” in Iran.
He further called for respecting the rights of Turkic people, who make “the majority of population in the country.”