The Problem of Southern Azerbaijan
No.: 513/ 2009
Date: 13 March
The Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights,
circulate this to the
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary
it is also of relevance to:
Working Group on
on the independence of judges
on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia
Expert on Minority Issues
CC Mr Dyke and Mrs. Harrison,
Amnesty International, London
Also: Human Rights Watch;
Human Rights Server; and Helsinki Human Rights
UPDATE 1 MR YUNIS AGHAYAN IN IMMINENT DANGER OF
to our earlier Communication (Ref: 349/2006 on 16 July 2006; Ref:365/2006 on
19 August 2006 and also Ref: 485/2008 on 28 January 2008), now Mr. Yunis
Aghayan, a national of Southern Azerbaijan and therefore a citizen of the
Islamic Republic of Iran, is on death row and in imminent danger of
execution by the Iranian authorities. It is within your mandates to
intervene when capital punishment is imposed after an unfair trial and this
is the case for the reasons presented in this Update. Your action is needed
urgently as another Southern Azerbaijani national, Mr. Mehdi Qasimzade
(please refer to349/2006 on 16 July 2006 for our collective information on
both victims), was executed on 3 March 2009 by the Iranian authorities, who
was exactly in a similar situation.
details for the arbitrary treatment of Mr Aghayan by the Iranian authorities
are presented in Table 1 and summarized below:
In winter 2003,
a number of youth in the village of Uch-Tepe, the birthplace of Mr.
Aghayan, published a pamphlet explaining the desolate conditions of the
village in terms of their religion (the Elevi sect of Islam) and their
Azerbaijani nationality. This led to the detention of five youth from
In spring 2004,
the detainees were released on bail but later armed officers raided the
village to re-arrest them, as the authorities held that their animal
farming centre was also a centre of blasphemy. This led to a
confrontation, during which the armed officers shot dead 6 Azerbaijani-Elevi
villagers including three of those released on bail but also the armed
officers killed two of their own in their friendly cross-fire.
Mr Qasimzade was then rounded up in this process and this may include
Mr. Aghayan, who were innocent but they were condemned to death penalty
by the Soyuqbulaq (Mahabad) court.
the appeal court in Tehran confirmed this arbitrary sentence but Mr.
Aghayan was promised with a commutation of his death sentence if he
repented from his Elevi faith. Mr. Qasimzade suffered the death penalty
3 March 2009 but Mr. Aghayan is now confirmed to
be in death row.
deplorable death sentence by the Iranian authorities is a violation of the
right to life of Mr. Yunis Aghayan. This right is enshrined in article 3 of
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html)
and in article 6 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stating that “Every
human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by
law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. (http://www2.ohchr.org/English/law/ccpr.htm)”
We believe this right is a legally enforceable right in every United Nations
member state and therefore we appeal to you to campaign on behalf of Mr.
Aghayan to save his life and safeguard his human rights. Thank you in
advance for your care.
Chairperson of the Committee for the Defence of the
Rights of World Azerbaijanis
Detailed Account of the Case of Mr. Yunis Aghayan
The term Elevi is transcribed
according to Azerbaijani but its transcription from Turkish is Alevi
and that from Farsi is Alavi.
Name: Mr. Yunis Aghayan
City: Qoshachay (translated
to Farsi as Miyandoab)
Province: West Azerbaijan,
as one of one seven Southern Azerbaijani provinces ruled by Iran
Religion: This is unfortunately an
issue as the victim is affiliated to the Elevi sect of Islam
but the Iranian authorities do not tolerate any religion in Iran
other than Shia and Armenians and they also do not tolerate any
nationalities other than Farsi-speakers and Armenians. This means
that, Mr. Aghayan has been a victim of his religion and nationality.
But more details are given below.
Population: There is no exact
information but the numbers of Elevi-s in Azerbaijan may be about
Spread: They are spread all over
Azerbaijan and have no distinguished feature other than their
The Roots of the Case:
As Elevi-s are
disadvantaged in Iran for both being non-Shia and for being
Azerbaijanis, the Iranian authorities have repressed them for a
variety of reasons. A number of youth in the village of Uch-Tepe
published a pamphlet in 2003 expressing their concern on the ongoing
critical situation and distributed the pamphlet among the villagers
and also in Qoshachay.
It is understood
that in the winter 2003, the authorities arrested and detained five
individuals from the village of Uch-Tepe as responsible for the
pamphlet. Their names are Seyfeli Shiri (50
years old), Sultaneli Mehemmedi (50 years old) and Huseyin Mehemmedi
(18-19 years old), Sehendeli Mehemmedi and another individual and
were detained in Urmu at the detention unit of the Ministry of
Information. These were released on bail after a few months.
After the release
of the above individuals, armed officers raid the village, seemingly
according to a prepared plan, and aim to arrest more individuals, as
the authorities held that their animal farming centre was also a
centre of blasphemy. This led to a confrontation when the villagers
aimed to diffuse the situation and prevent innocent people being
arbitrarily arrested. The provocation of the armed officers got out
of hand and they shot dead 6 innocent villagers but two officers
also lost their lives. Experts have confirmed that the loss of the
armed officers was solely by the friendly fire of their fellow
officers and the villagers did not play any role in it. The
villagers have confirmed that the above named three individuals (Seyfeli
Shiri, Sultaneli Mehemmedi and Huseyin Mehemmedi)
were among the victims shot dead and another name is known to be
The armed officers
incited with their act of terror, rounded up more individuals and
these included Mehdi Qasimzade (the victim who
was executed on 3 March 2009) and Yunis Aghayan.
The Iranian authorities are reportedly tricked the families to hand
over their sons for interrogations and these included Sehendeli
Mehemmedi, Bakhshali Mehemmedi and Ibadulla Qasimzade. An Iranian
court condemnsed these five individuals and passed a death penalty
against all five of them in 2005 in the Soyuqbulaq (Mahabad) court.
After the appeal of
these victims, the cases of appeal were dealt with in Tehran in a
higher court in 2006, which confirmed the death penalty against
Mehdi Qasimzade and Yunis Aghayan and commuted the sentence on
Sehendeli Mehemmedi, Bakhshali Mehemmedi and Ibadulla Qasimzade to
13 years of imprisonment and banishment into exile. These three
individuals are now in a prison in Yazd, some 2000Km from Azerbaijan
and they are on a hunger strike protesting against their inhumane
Mehdi Qasimzade was executed on 3 March 2009 in Urmu prison and this
happened rather unexpectedly and therefore there was little
opportunity to campaign for him. His body has not yet been handed to
his family. After his execution, Iranian and Kurdish media tried to
misinform the public and falsely claimed a Kurdish identity to Mr.
Mehdi Qasimzade. This is utterly deplorable and tantamount to
rubbing the grave. We hope that you regard such dishonesty as an
incitement of tension in the region.
Mr. Yunis Aghayan
is now on death row in Urmu prison. Voice of America broadcasted the
situation and Amnesty International has also campaigned for both of