These documents in this post do not necessary reflect the post’s author’s views.
Tabriz played a leading role in the 1978 events which set off the 1979 Iranian revolution. Since then, it, along with the rest of Azerbaijan, has gone through a particularly tumultuous history which we do not attempt to summarize here. Those who can read Persian are urged to read Mashallah Razmi’s excellent memoirs on the subject, available for free here.
I’ve been searching the internet for information about Iranian Azerbaijan and the coup. Don’t waste your time with Amerikanin sesi (VOA Azerbaijan) or the BBC’s Azerbaijan section–it’s all retreads and translations from the Tehran-based journalists.
The Iranian Azerbaijan (or, as some of them call themselves, South Azerbaijani) groups do not have much concrete information. I provide below a summary of an article by one Qizil Arslan (a pen name taken from the Safavid conqueror of Tabriz) which appeared in Persian in an Azerbaijani Yahoo group AzerNews, to which I subscribe.
Click here to see the rest of the article.
Election Results, the Azerbaijan Movement, and the Tehran Protests
All of the candidates had to play to Azerbaijan and recognize its strength one way or another. The movement was able to place itself on the international stage in its protests against Khatami’s racist and insulting joke.
Karubi openly and Musavi indirectly posed a small fraction of the Azerbaijanis’ demands. But would they act on them?
Their thirty year record shows otherwise.
In particular, while Musavi was prime minister, he played a prominent role in crushing Ayatollah Shariatmadari’s opposition to the vilayat-e faqih and defense of Azerbaijani national rights. He was one of the few who departed from the solid front of Azerbaijanis and allied himself with Khomeini. He showed his anti-Azerbaijani views in the Expediency Council and his yes vote in eliminating the use of local languages in cases of national emergency. In addition, his taking support from Khatami shows his Persian chauvinist character.
As for the election protests, they are mainly in Tehran and by supporters of Musavi. There have been many arrests, despite intense international coverage.
Despite the feelings of many Azerbaijani activists that one must protest the electoral fraud, it is really a power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Musavi, two chauvinists.
As usual, Persian news boycotts reactions in Azerbaijan. English-language broadcasters are only interested in Tehran and Isfahan.
Under these circumstances, it is unforgivable for Azerbaijani activists to participate in this struggle, the outcome of which is bound up with the survival of the Islamic Republic, and for which the Azerbaijani movement will pay a heavy price. It is a struggle between a Turkish and a Persian pan-Iranist.
Wasn’t it under Khatami that the late Engineer Gholam Reza Amani was condemned to five years in prison? Wasnt the newspaper Shams-e Tabriz closed under Khatami? Didn’t the newspapers of his movement refuse to cover the attack on the Tabriz dormitories of 19 Tir on the grounds that separatists were at work? And there are a hundred other examples of why it is that if the reformists return to power, not a bit of the freedom the Persians have gotten will be given to the Azerbaijanis. It would be better that if we don’t have freedom, the Persians don’t, either, so that they are not able to use it to further assimilate the Azerbaijanis.
In addition, a lack of protests over the elections in the major cities of Azerbaijan will send a powerful message to the world’s power centers and Western analysts, that it is because of Mir Hosein Musavi’s Persian chauvinist tendencies that Azerbaijan was not prepared to join the democratic movement alongside Tehran.
Ahmadinejad’s reelection will mean, according the Khamenei’s statements to the moderate right, that the security atmosphere in society will remain in place and be put into Ahmadinejad’s hands.
It is worth saying that with the election of Ahmandinejad for four more years, there is a greater likelihood of an Israeli strike in the near future. In the case of a limited strike on nuclear installations, Iran will retaliate by striking American interests throughout the Middle East and America will be drawn into an unwanted war with Iran. This war will ultimately end in Iran’s military occupation by the US and hasten the Azerbaijani’s achievement of their national rights.
There is little likelihood of a “Velvet Revolution”, since neither Musavi nor Karubi are likely candidates for such, since they will inevitably capitulate to Khamenei’s demands.
Thus, activists must refrain from participating in thee protests, which are between two wings of the Persian chauvinists.
The article clearly reflects an extreme view, but it might, in a distorted way, reflect some of the realities on the ground. Unlike the 1978 events, where Tabriz took the front seat, Tabriz has apparently been quite this time around. It also cuts against the wisdom that Tabriz would automatically line up behind its native son candidate. Maybe they voted for him, but they don’t seem eager to pour into the streets for him.
The more mainstream Azerbaijani intellectual group, the Coordinating Committee of National Activists of Azerbaijan, in a manifesto published before the elections ranked the candidates on their declared level of interest in promoting the national and religious groups existing in Iran. Karubi rated highly, followed closely by Musavi. Rezai made some positive comments about the need to include the Sunnis, and recognized the importance of local languages in protecting the valuable cultural heritage of non-Persians (presumably). Ahmadinejad rated abysmally, in part because he had to run on his dismal record, and in part because he had nothing specific to say on the matter. Otherwise, it refrained from endorsing any of the candidates presented. It had originally planned to support Dr. Akbar A`lani, but he was disqualified by the authorities. The manifesto did note some excitement over the fact that an Azerbaijani was running.
The Tribun, which seeks to maintain a generally high intellectual level and which is published in Scandinavia, had littler or no concrete information that I could find.
Here is a translation, in full, of a document published in tribune.com:
A Very Important Manifest from Activists in the National Movement of Azerbaijan on the Recent Events
After the appearance of widespread popular unrest demanding justice and democracy throughout Iran and Azerbaijan’s relatively calm response, many people have wondered why Azerbaijan and Tabriz have been so quiet.
The answer is very brief and tells of the bitter experience of a great nation which for ten years has born the brand of scoundrels in its breast for decades: the nation of Azerbaijan and the people of Tabriz deeply distrust the policies of the center, and even sees itself as thoroughly victimized by the fascistic and dictatorial policies executed by them in every political, cultural, economic, social, legal, education, etc. field.
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when through the past eighty eight years the governments ruling Iran, from monarchist to the vilayat-e faqih acted towards Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijanis like blood-thirsty bastards.
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when through the past eighty eight years Azerbaijan, the most cultured and culturally creative part of Iran was subjected to the most despicable political and social humiliations and witnessed a flood of insults, from the premiership to the governors’ underlings living in Tehran.
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when through the past eighty eight years when at various times, it was faced with the most violent and bloody massacres in Iran and sacrificed hundreds of thousands of its most distinguished and educated sons were subjected to the genocide of Azer 1325, the political executions of the Pahlavi era, the vast revolution of 1357, the bloody and horrifying Iran-Iraq war, the murder of political prisoners under the vilayat-e faqih, and the anti-apartheid uprising of 1385,while the rest not only did not offer condolences, but vilely considered them fitting for Azerbaijan!
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when through the past eighty eight years the governments ruling Tehran, which were all admittedly based on centralist ideas and Persianizing, pinned medals for courage and skill on the chests on the merciless murderers of Azerbaijan and its shameless humiliaters, as if they considered murdering and insulting what Azerbaijan deserved!
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when through the past eighty eight years, the regimes ruling Tehran systematically did whatever they could against the history, language, culture, and pride of the nation of Azerbaijan and burned its language in its people’s mouths!
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when through the past eighty eight years an area of 300,000 square kilometers of it were sliced off under various pretexts and the historical and native names of its cities were changed and the two sacred names, “Azerbaijan” and “Turk”, which are the basis of our thousands years old character, for which we have sacrificed our lives to protect, have become a toy of the propaganda institutions, distorting and destroying us!
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when through the past eighty eight years they have burned our economy to ashes and have made its people vagrants in the deserts of central Iran!
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when through the past eighty eight years when they have, in a most vile fashion, taken the pick to its historical monuments and uprooted them!
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when through the past eighty eight years when measures have been taken to alter its demographics and historical geography and they have tried, using a thousand and one tricks, to have non-Turks living in the west and south east of Azerbaijan who were guests of our nation to become the hosts and recognize the Armenian occupiers of Qarabagh as masters of the house!
How could Azerbaijan not be distrustful, when after rallies of hundreds of thousands at the Babak Castle, the observations of the anniversary of the martyrdom of Sattar Khan and Baqer Khan and Zehtabi and Pishevari, the string of uprisings of the spring of 1385, the anniversary of the Khojali genocide, International Mother Tongue Day, etc., despite the fact that they have time and again imposed absolutism on Azerbaijan’s freedom-loving children and subjected them to the most intense tortures, yet if today someone in Persianestan were to ask why Azerbaijan and the Turks are quiet, there is no sympathy or concern to be seen!
Today, Azerbaijan asks why, when our homeland has been repeatedly massacred, or honor transgressed against, our property destroyed, our economy burned to ashes, our tongues cut out of our mouths, our children boiled alive, the disfigured bodies of our identity-seeking youths drawn out of the pool in Shah Goli, Tabriz, with their hands bound behind their backs, our children’s eyes blinded, the temples and chests of our youth in Solduz and Meshkinshahr and Urmia and Tabriz broken in by lead blows, etc., you were quiet and didn’t even answer our greeting!
Recognize our rights.
And now we turn to the Persian and Iranian intellectuals.
If you extended a long-suffering hand towards Azerbaijan, you would absolutely see nothing but valor from Azerbaijan.
But what an ugly hand and treacherous hand has been extended to the history-making nation of Azerbaijan, demanding that we rise up and help so that it might, with the utmost villainy, strike at the root of Azerbaijan.
All of Iran, and even the world, know that if Azerbaijan and Tabriz would not rise up, the scattered disturbances of today would not be turned into a revolution and the revolution would not end in victory.
Accept the fact of the existence of a Turkish nation and state it in the clearest terms possible.
Rest assured that Azerbaijan has never been silent and passive.
A rebellion is on its way.
It is a volcanic eruption whose shock will not only shake Iran, but can shake the Middle East as well.