Date: 26 Dec 2006
The Problem of Southern Azerbaijan
Re A REPORT ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT OF SOUTHERN AZERBAIJAN (1945-46)
Please find enclosed report on the final calendar events in 2006 related to the commemoration of the anniversary of the national government of Southern Azerbaijan (1945-46). Once again, the right to freedom of expression and association was denied to Southern Azerbaijanis by Iranian authorities. The report explains the importance of this calendar event and collates a host of supporting evidence.
The report provides a focus to the ongoing series of detentions and arbitrary sentences, clearly showing that the arbitrary acts of the Iranian authorities against Southern Azerbaijanis are not freak but persistent. Conversely, the report argues that on the one hand the national movement of Southern Azerbaijan is no longer in the domain of intellectual individuals alone but a network of activists all over Southern Azerbaijan playing a role in the heart and mind of the nation of Southern Azerbaijan, with insistence on the reinstatement of national and human rights. We hope that you will not mistake the new phase of the national movement with transient skirmishes but you can see the onset of a new model of struggle based on human rights proclamations. Therefore, if you do not apply your mandate for safeguarding the national and human rights of the nation of Southern Azerbaijan, besides appeasing Iranian aggressors this new model of struggle will be undermined.
We endeavour to provide you sufficient information and trust that you see through evidence that only your mandates can defend the nation of Southern Azerbaijan.
For and on behalf of
The Committee for the Defence of the Rights of World Azerbaijanis
The Problem of Southern Azerbaijan
The Anniversary of the National Government of Southern Azerbaijan (1945-46)
List of Content
This year the Anniversary of the national government of Southern Azerbaijan (1945-46) was commemorated on a national scale, in contrast to previous years when only daring activists defied the heavy-handed repressions of the Iranian authorities. This report outlines an analysis of the events related to the anniversary of our national government in the context of ongoing events this year.
This objective of this report is to explain the Anniversary within the context of the events in this year:
1. A series of demonstrations were staged in Tebriz expressing solidarity with the issue of Qarabagh.
2. The May 2006 Mass Protests during which at least 2 millions joined rank-and-file activists.
3. The Babek Assembly in 29-30 June 2006, which also encompassed the whole of Azerbaijan.
4. The campaign for the reinstatement of the official status of our mother tongue in 23 September 2006.
5. The commemoration of the Anniversary of our National Government (1945-46).
2. The National Government of Southern Azerbaijan (1945-46)
The National Government of Southern Azerbaijan gained the mandate in 12 December 1945 from a democratic election to proclaim the power in its capital city, Tebriz. By this time, the newly formed United Nations introduced the right to self-determination in the UN Charter signed on 26 June 1945. The fledgling national government was one of the first nations to appeal for the UN support in 1946. However, no support materialised and not surprisingly after the invasion of the Iranian government against Southern Azerbaijan in December 1946, the national government was illegally overthrown. According to the research by Prof. Jemil Hesenli (Book: Southern Azerbaijan – Relations among Tehran, Baki, Moscow, 1939-45 in Azerbaijani), this episode is one of the very first instances of the onset of the cold war, but the democratic world turned a blind eye to the ensuing massacre inflicted by Iran and the subsequent cultural genocide.
2.2 The Backdrop for the Emergence of the National Government
The national government might have emerged at the wake of the 2nd World War but it was a culmination of a rich history of Southern Azerbaijanis modernising Iran. Azerbaijan played the primary role in the modernisation of Iran during the Constitution movement (1906-14) with outstanding leadership role of Settar Khan (1868-1914). This movement bore little fruit to Southern Azerbaijan and therefore a more nationalistic movement emerged in 1920 under the leadership of Sheikh Mehemmed Khiyabani (1879-1920). He was a unique leader and merged democracy, liberalism and religion, proclaimed independence to Azerbaijan but his government was overthrown through a military intervention of Iran.
From this time on, the history of Southern Azerbaijan had a rough ride due to a host of reasons including:
· The onset of Persian hegemony since 26 April 1926, when the Pahlavide dynasty took the reign of power. This was largely due to the British policy formulated by the Lord Ironside toward favouring a strong central government in Iran and earmarking Reza Mirpenj to head the new administration.
· The Pahlavide dynasty stifled the emerging democratic movements and made Persian racism as their official policy, a legacy that persists in Iran ever since. To this end, the country was officially called the Protectorate States of Qajar, was renamed as Iran, since 21 March 1935.
· It may be noted that up to the overthrow of the Mehemmed Khiyabaini’s national government, education was in mother tongue in Southern Azerbaijan, although Arabic and Farsi was also used.
2.3 The Program of the National Government
The 2nd World War created new conditions and therefore Southern Azerbaijani leaders, many of which were just released from Iranian dungeons, regrouped towards the reinstatement of the status of Azerbaijan. The undisputed leader was Mr. Jefer Pisheveri (1892-1947), who might have subscribed to the social-democratic movements of the past but never subordinated the cause for Azerbaijan to class struggle dogmas.
The right to vote and to be elected to the Azerbaijani Parliament for women was one of the effective and primary acts of the national government and an unprecedented act in Iran. Azerbaijani Turkic was reinstated as the official language of Azerbaijan and once again the Azerbaijani culture flourished. Hundreds of newspapers and books resumed their publications in mother tongue. Theatres, philharmonic orchestras inaugurated their activities and hospitals were opened. The Azerbaijani radio services were established … and the University of Tebriz was inaugurated. Morris Hindrus, a reporter from US Herald Tribune, wrote that the achievement of the Democratic Party in Azerbaijan in one year would overwhelm ten years of the best achievements in other countries.
The reforms and the national movement of the south were inevitably influenced by Northern Azerbaijan. On the surface, perhaps the Democratic Party was supported by the dictatorial regime of Stalin but beneath the roll-out of the events was considered against the interests of the Russian Empire for the following reasons:
· The leader of the national government was running a sovereign policy;
· The national government refused to be tuned by Moscow and determined not to betray own people;
· A determination was shown not to conform to Moscow;
· Local red subservient agents could not infiltrate the Democratic Party to undermine it from inside; and
· The synergy between the governments of Southern and Northern Azerbaijan concerned Stalin.
2.4 The Aftermath
Behind the scenes, Moscow conspired with Tehran to plan the overthrow of the government of Southern Azerbaijan. Mohammad Reza’s regime in Tehran particularly sensed the threat by the reforms of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan and the spread of Azerbaijani democratic ideals. Thus, two colonial powers conspired to the same decision against the destiny of our nation, leading to the invasion of Southern Azerbaijan by Iran. The invading Army marched to Azerbaijan with a free hand:
· To massacre, e.g. they killed more than 30 thousands Azerbaijanis; jailed and tortured thousands; exiled many more but others migrated to escape the persecution.
· The leaders of the national government, including Pisheveri, were murdered; thousands lost their lives after seeking refuge on the northern banks of Araz by being exiled to Siberia or to other hostile camps; but culprits and subservient agents were rewarded by a welfare; a few elected silence to live their lives.
After suppressing the national government, the imperial regime in Tehran intensified its repressive campaigns against the nation of Azerbaijan, burnt books in Azerbaijani, and officially banned any education and publication in the Azerbaijani Turkic language. Humiliating our people became the official policy spearheaded by Tehran. The world community turned a blind eye to arbitrary acts that Iran inflicted upon Southern Azerbaijanis. Ever since, the domineering Persian chauvinists began a policy of assimilation through:
· Estranging Azerbaijanis of being Azerbaijani and Turkic and to do away with the Azerbaijani identity;
· Balkanising Azerbaijani territories and bringing them under Persian sphere of influence;
· Undermining national economy and social framework and by dispersing nationalists, and intellectuals;
· Plundering the natural resources of Azerbaijan; and
· Transformed Southern Azerbaijan into a prison, stripping national rights and banning mother tongue.
3.5 Photo Illustration of the Past Events
3. Transition from Intellectual to National Scale
3.1 The National Government as a Source of Inspiration
The national government has now been turned into a utopia for Southern Azerbaijan. This part of our history enables our nation to withstand bitter attacks by Persian racists to our national integrity. This source of inspiration fully conforms to the human rights covenant on self-determination (UN Resolution, 1514 (XV), 947th plenary meeting, 14 December 1960) and not surprisingly Southern Azerbaijani activists are at a full steam with human rights declarations and covenants to form their vision towards the reinstatement of their national and human rights. Fortunately, the right to self-determination is gaining significance in the UN circles. For instance, the symposium on “The Right to Self-Determination in International Law” convened in The Hague in 29 September – 1 October 2006 stated (http://www.unpo.org/article.php?id=5469):
The participants of The Hague Symposium underline that the principle and fundamental right to self-determination of all peoples, as enshrined in the UN Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and as firmly established in International Law, should be enjoyed universally without any distinctions.
3.2 The Long-term Legacy of the National Government
The onslaught of the Iranian racism has been resisted through passive resistance since 1946 with the following episodes and milestones:
· Popular folklore was never extinguished in Southern Azerbaijan and served as a hearth for the rebirth of many phoenixes from the ashes of the predecessors, e.g. Semed Behrengi (1939-67), well-respected writer, journalist and teacher who turned into a bastion for defending mother tongue; Shehriyar (1905-88), a classic in Persian poetry, who revolted against Persian racism and rebuffed them loud and clear.
· The disaffected Southern Azerbaijan turned into the wellspring of dissidents and fed many leaders and prominent intellectuals into the mainstream of the Iranian politics. Many of the emerging political groups had their roots in Southern Azerbaijan but through a Persian “transmutation.” All these groups and parties proclaimed a thesis that democracy will solve all our problems and therefore every other issue is of the secondary significance, including the problem of nationality. When Tebriz was leading the revolt against Shah’s regime, theocrats argued that Shah is source of all the ills and everything else is of a secondary significance. As soon as Shah’s Reign of power was dismantled, the issue of nationality was reduced to the oppression to the people of Tebriz, Isfahan … followed by a massive repression and many summary trials and executions. As far as the emerging Iranian authorities and the various political parties were concerned, the issue of Southern Azerbaijan were seen as an agenda for the future and soon swept under the carpet.
· Tebriz remained a traditional centre of dissidents and at the first opportunity, the democratic and nationalist elements regrouped around the moderate and pro-secular clergies under the banner of the Popular Islamic Party (1979) and staged the first significant revolt against the firmly establishing racism radiating from the Islamic Tehran. This was ruthlessly suppressed and a significant number of activists were executed first and tried posthumously.
· Azerbaijani activists went underground again to regroup and wait for the next opportunity.
· Southern Azerbaijan needed a fundamental approach to counteract Persian racism and this came through an intellectual movement driven by Prof. Mehemmed Taghi Kirishchi (Zehtabi) (1923-98) and a range of intellectuals, who reappraised the history of Azerbaijan and connected our Turkic origins to the Sumerians but not to the “invading blood-thirsty Mongolian who dared against pure Aryan race and introduced Turkic into the region,” as the official falsifications had preached for nearly a century. Iranian racism was exposed and Southern Azerbaijan became increasingly aware of its roots in a matter of ten years in the 1980s.
· The breakdown of the Soviet Union, the establishment of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the occupation of Qarabagh (Karabakh) by Armenia meant a regional realignment. Therefore, Iran was aligned with Armenian aggression and individuals like Akber Ganji devised more sophisticated tactics to shroud and preserve Persian racism.
· In the meantime, Southern Azerbaijan was being equipped with an emerging array of activists in the 1990s, who were well versed with:
(i) The history taught in Iran is largely manufactured and being a Turk is not offensive after all;
(ii) Iranian political principles of solidarity with fellow Moslems and Palestinians are driven by geopolitics, as they fail to express solidarity for Qarabagh against Armenian occupation;
(iii) The Azerbaijani language is rich and articulate – this became self-evident when contacts with our brothers in Northern Azerbaijan increased.
The disaffected nation of Southern Azerbaijan was also concerned with double acts of the central government towards “Fars” regions and Azerbaijan both in terms of economy and chopping Azerbaijan into many parts and chipping away from Azerbaijan. The Babek Assembly and the issue of Qarabagh (through the sit-in protests in Erdebil by Mr. Abbas Leysanli Hojjetulislam Ezimi Qedim and their fellow activists in Sarcheshme Mosque, later renamed as the Qarabagh Mosque) served as two catalysts for the intellectuals to form the new class of Southern Azerbaijani activists. The leading role of Mr. Leysanli and his fellow activists in both of these events are of historic significance.
· The first TV station was launched for Southern Azerbaijan from Chicago in 2004, which is maintained purely by donations received from the Azerbaijani Diaspora in Europe. The distinguished role of Mr. Ehmed Obali in this initiative filled another gap in the national movement.
So by the end of 2005, Southern Azerbaijan national movements had attained a degree of maturity, owing to its discontented and disaffected nation and well-organised activists. It is futile to attribute the history-making events in 2006 to the abuse of the national integrity of Southern Azerbaijanis in the official daily newspaper of Iran on 12 May 2006. Nonetheless, it is true that it served as a spark in a climate ready to embark upon change. An established array of activists played an effective role in facilitating this, whereby an official abuse was transformed by mass protest to gain a mandate for demanding national and human rights for the nation of Southern Azerbaijan through the following events:
1. In the first three months of 2006, there were a series of demonstrations to express solidarity with the brothers in the Republic of Azerbaijan. In these events, the activists from all over Southern Azerbaijan joined their rank-and-files in their capital city of Tebriz.
2. The May 2006 Mass Protests during which at least two million people joined rank-and-file activists with the simple slogan that “my heart cries that I am a Turk” or similar ones on mother tongue and the national and territorial integrity of our motherland Southern Azerbaijan. There was hardly a place left in Southern Azerbaijan which was not touched by these ongoing historic events.
3. The Babek Assembly in 29-30 June 2006, which also encompassed the whole Azerbaijan.
4. The campaign for the reinstatement of the official status of our mother tongue in 23 September 2006; this confirmed that the connection between the activists and the nation of Southern Azerbaijan was not a freak event but deeply rooted in a broader process.
5. The commemoration of the Anniversary of our National Government (1945-46) as well as the death of Settar Khan; this was also orchestrated at a national scale and confirmed that the falsehoods of the Iranian racists are unacceptable.
The year 2006 will be remembered as the pivotal event-making year in the history of Azerbaijan. The commemoration of the Anniversary the National Government is the final chapter in the developments of the year 2006 and its overview is presented below.
3.3 Photo Album
4. Deterrent acts of the Iranian government
Once again, the Iranian authorities resorted to repression of the commemoration of the anniversary of the national government of Southern Azerbaijan and as such they failed to comply with their governance duties and with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the right to freedom of expression and association. The evidence for this is presented in Table 1, which was widely circulated in Southern Azerbaijani websites, although it is not signed. Nonetheless, the events confirm that the authorities were anticipating the events and acted repressively.
The repressive measures implemented by the authorities include:
1. Intimidation through issuing many arbitrary sentences, see Table 2. The table shows that there were at least 40 instances of intimidation by issuing sentences or similar acts in approximately 3 weeks. In one case, the authorities seemingly designed a news item on trying some 80 activists in Erdebil, evidently to create fear among them as a deterrent.
2. Detaining activists across Southern Azerbaijan, see Table 3. At least 9 instances have been reported in Southern Azerbaijani websites.
The authorities also created repressive atmospheres in the streets of the various Southern Azerbaijani cities by the presence of their armed anti-riot units. Therefore, there was no opportunity for exercising the right to the freedom of expression and association. However, this was counteracted by various techniques as discussed in the next section.
5. Initiatives of the activists to Defy Iranian repressions
As may be seen from Section 4, the activists received crystal clear signals of the oncoming repression. These signals did not deter the activists and having taken into account the past experience, they resorted to a host of failsafe measures with effective outcomes. These are outlined below:
1. An all-Azerbaijani firework displays – a glimpse of this initiative is captured in Table 4. A film of the fireworks in Tebriz also reached GunAzTV at the same day. Also cars left their light on daytime and Azerbaijani music was played by car owners, as a safe measure of the defiance. Table 4 gives references t reports from 10 cities but this was just a glimpse of the scale and the reports in GunAzTV indicated that the initiative was at a national scale.
2. In Erdebil, the activists walked towards the house of Mr. Abbas Leysanli, a leader of the national movement. This unique act took the shape of paying respect to Mr. Leysanli. However, soon the plainclothes agents blocked the roads to Mr. Leysanli’s house and prevented the initiative. http://www.baybak.com/Baybak/?p=3697
3. As strong protest to burning of masses of book in Azerbaijani Turkic by the invading Iran in 17 December 1946, activists have announced the week of the year within this day to be Book Week in Southern Azerbaijan, see for example http://www.baybak.com/Baybak/?p=3768. Book exhibitions were organised in many cities including:
Southern Azerbaijanis do not sanction a tit-for-tat reaction against offensive Farsi books, however such initiatives by individuals cannot be ruled out, which can even be carried out by invisible hands as a red herring.
4. Azerbaijani Diaspora expressed their solidarity with their compatriot by various provisions including those in the Republic of Azerbaijan, Britain, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Turkey and the USA.
The voice of defiance is self evidence in the statement issued by the Southern Azerbaijani Students Movement, which is provided in Table 5. Voice of America also presented a report in their Azerbaijani and Farsi news services regarding the events.
6. Conclusion: The Emerging Vision
The year 2006 will be remembered as the pivotal event-making year in the history of Azerbaijan. The commemoration of the Anniversary the National Government is the final chapter in the developments of the year 2006.
This report provided a cursory background to the national movement and outlined the episodes and milestones in its evolution. It showed that Southern Azerbaijanis are inspired to fully conform to the human rights covenant on self-determination (UN Resolution, 1514 (XV), 947th plenary meeting, 14 December 1960). The report outlined the nation of Southern Azerbaijan is fully attuned to the national movement and the movement has both its intellectual and activists in tandem. It is now recognised the coalition among the various groups and parties safeguarding the national and human rights of Southern Azerbaijan is of the primary importance and this can be achieved by a teamwork, a culture of inclusion and patiently promoting the problem of Southern Azerbaijan to the world community.
The emerging vision of the national movement of Southern Azerbaijan is encapsulated by human rights and the task ahead of Southern Azerbaijanis is to invoke human rights organisations towards:
· The problem of Southern Azerbaijan is an undeniable reality;
· The nation of Southern Azerbaijan shall not compromise on the official status of mother tongue;
· The nation of Southern Azerbaijan shall not negotiate the right to self-determination;Southern Azerbaijan is in full steam towards safeguarding human rights and subsequent declarations