Statement of AHRAZ on the large-scale arrests related to the protests on July 24, 2021, in the Azerbaijani region of Iran in solidarity with Arab protestors in Khuzestan

The Islamic Republic of Iran must immediately release the detained Azerbaijani activists and end systemic discrimination against Azerbaijani Turks and other ethnic minorities.

On July 24, 2021, the Security Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran arrested hundreds of Azerbaijani Turk activists in Tabriz. These arrests took place after Azerbaijani activists called the region’s population to show their solidarity with the Arab people of Khuzestan and protest Tehran’s destructive and systemic discriminatory policies against the ethnic groups. 

Despite their large population, Turks in Iran are facing systematic ethnic discrimination.  Azerbaijani Turks’ language is prohibited in schools, courts, and governmental offices in Iran. Although the Azerbaijan region of Iran is rich in natural resources, Tehran transferres the resources to the central regions of Iran without any investment in the region and any benefit for the region’s population. Tehran deliberately designs policies to destroy the environment and ecosystem in the areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. According to experts, Lake Urmia is drying up due to the illicit policies of the government.  The salt left by the lake can lead to the migration of 15 million people. Similarly, the diversion of water resources from Khuzestan province to the central areas of Iran has led to the drying of Hawizeh Marshes, also known as Hur Al-Azim (The Great Marsh), and the lack of water for inhabitants of this region.

The wave of unprecedented ethno-environment protests started on July 15 in the Khozestan region. After more than a week, following the calls by the activists,  Azerbaijani Turks in Tabriz managed to have a peaceful protest on July 24, 2021. However, Iran’s anti-riot police and security 

forces attacked, beat, and arrested more than  150 protestors and activists.  These mistreatments and arrests violate the articles 9th and 27th of Iran’s constitution regarding peaceful protests. These 

articles clearly state that people have the right to peaceful demonstrations without carrying weapons, and no one is allowed to violate this right for the sake of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country.

In addition, according to the local reports, police and security forces were densely present in the main streets and centers of the other Azerbaijani cities. Moreover, before the protests,  intelligence agents called or summoned many Azerbaijani activists and urged them not to participate.

Security forces arrested more than 150 protestors and activists in  Tabriz, Urmia, Ardabil, Tehran, and other cities.  AHRAZ could not verify the identity of all the detainees. However, some of the detainees are listed as below:  

Yashar Piri, Rahim Sasanian, Saadollah Sasanian, Mohsen Abbaspour, Mohammd Pourali, Ashkan Saadatmehr, Akbar Golizadeh, Mohammd Mahmoudi, Davoud Rahimi, Ulduz Gasemi, Shahin Barzegar, Shahrouz Barzegar, Amir Sattari Rauf, Vahid Abhari, Mojtaba Abdoli, Siyamak Kushi, Mortaza Mohammadi, Alireza Mehri, Shiva Moradi, Karim Esmailzadeh, Parviz Siyabi, Nader Sadegian, Mohammad Mardi, Yousef Salahshur, Zahra Khadem, Amir Mohammad Khalilzadeh, Yashar Khalilzadeh, Pouya  Khodayi, Mokhtar Molayi, Masume Shahed, 2 young brothers of Mehdi pour, and a woman with last name of Golzar.

Yashar Piri, Rahim Sasanian, Saadollah Sasanian, Mohsen Abaspour, Mohammad Pourali, Ashkan Saadatmehr, Siyamak Kushi, Mohammad Mahmudi, and Akbar Golizadeh got released temporarily under bail.

According to the witnesses, police was brutally beating protesters during the arrests. None of the detainees had access to a lawyer, and they were not allowed to contact their families during the interrogations.

Iranian police forces Attacked Tabriz’s protest, while article 27th of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s constitution recognizes the rights for peaceful demonstrations and assemblies unless the demonstrations are against Islam. In addition, article 21 of the international covenant on economic, social, and cultural rights, which Iran signed and ratified in 1975, recognizes the freedom of peaceful assembly. Moreover, Iran signed and ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1968, which recognizes the right to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association regardless of race. These treaties obligate the Islamic Republic of Iran to recognize freedom of expression and assembly for any group of people, including the Azerbaijani Turks population of Iran

AHRAZ condemns the acts by the forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran that violated the human rights and the rights to have a peaceful assembly and freedom of expression for the Azerbaijani Turk citizens of Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran must unconditionally release all the detained Azerbaijanis for peacefully exercising their constitutional rights protect all detainees from torture and other ill-treatment. AHRAZ asks international communities to look into Iran’s actions in violating human rights of ethno-national populations, especially Azerbaijani Turks in Iran, and urge Iran to stop systemic discrimination against ethnic minorities in Iran.

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