The Submission of Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ) to theUN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran Mr. Javaid Rehman

The Submission of Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ) to theUN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran Mr. Javaid Rehman

 Title The Submission of Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ) to theUN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran Mr. Javaid Rehman
Organization Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ)
Primary Contact
Email info@ahraz.org
Telephone +

Introduction

Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ) is a non-governmental organization, established and registered in 2014 that is based in Norway. As parts of core activities, it provides regular updates on the situation of human rights of the Azerbaijani Turkic populations who are living in Iran. Focus areas are situation of the people deprived of their right to freedom and life as well as rights of women and workers. AHRAZ only publishes reports that are verified by authentic and multiple sources.

Azerbaijani Turks (known and called as Turks in Iran) who speak the south-west branch of the Turkic languages, Azerbaijani Turkic, comprises the largest ethnic and language minority population in Iran with the majority living in the Azerbaijani region, located in the north-west of Iran, mainly in the provinces such as[ West and East Azerbaijan, Ardabil, Zanjan, Qazvin, and Hamadan. In addition, there are many other Turkic populations also live in other regions and provinces of Iran. Regardless of their population size, the Azerbaijani Turkic people are deprived of their political, civil, cultural, and linguistic rights. Many Azerbaijani Turk activists ask for the recognition of their ethnic rights and respect to them by the Iranian Government but, instead, the Iranian regime rejects these demands, arrest and condemns them to heavy and unfair sentences in prison and put them under constant psychological torture/harassments as well as physical tortures under interrogation and/or in detention. 

The current update/report will focus on the main human rights violations occurring in Iran, with a special emphasis on the recent situation of human rights of the Azerbaijani Turks in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Summary:

The current update covers situation of twelve Azerbaijani Turk political, civil, and human rights activists who are currently in prison. Moreover, this report includes eighteen Azerbaijani ethnic prisoners who were executed recently in the Azerbaijani region of Iran: 

Legal Framework 

International Treaties Ratified by Iran

  1. Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).[1]The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Iran in 1975, entails a number of provisions regarding the rights of minorities.[2]Article 2 of the ICCPR requires that all states accord with the rights provided for in the Covenant to allindividuals “without distinction of any kind”; the principle of non-discrimination is also echoed in Article 2(2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, that Iran also ratified in 1975.[3]

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)

  • The Constitution of IRI includes a chapter called “The Rights of the People”, in which it claims to ensure the protection of the rights of all people, including religious and ethnic minorities.[4]Some of the articles of the Constitution that will be  addressed later in this section, appear to partially ensure the protection of human rights at first glance. However, there are two key challenges in these constitutional principles: (a) The articles are conditional, leaving ground for discriminations on such basis as religion and belief, and (b) The law is implemented in conformity with the Islamic criteria, creating a legislative grey area, according to which certain activities might be considered crime.
  • Article 19 of the Constitution of IRI, which guarantees that all citizens of Iran enjoy equal rights, conspicuously omits religion as a protected demographic[5 
  • Although articles 1, 2, and 12 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran states that Shia is the official religion of the people of Iran and Persian/Farsi is the official language of the country, Article 15 allows “the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools.” Regardless of these articles, the “one religion, one language” foundation causes not only  a severe and the worst form of discrimination against religious minorities and ethnic groups, it also implies that in order to enjoy full rights and freedoms and suffer less from the preexiting institutionalized discrimination in Iran, one must follow the official religion and language.[6]

Civil and Political Rights 

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) limits the human rights of all citizens. Yet, in such a restrictive environment ethnic groups face exacerbated discrimination in relation to their civil and political rights, evident in IRI’s record of human rights violations in areas such as right to life, arbitrary detention of political prisoners, access to education in mother tongue  and freedom of religion or belief, among other aspects of civil and political rights.[7]

arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of the Azerbaijani Turk activists in the Islamic Republic of Iran: 

Dr. Latif Hasani 

Dr. Latif Hasani 

Latif Hasani, an Azerbaijani political prisoner who has been serving hisnine years imprisonment since 2013, is kept in inhuman and degrading condition in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj City According to AHRAZ. Mr. Hasani is kept in section 10, part 4, where the windows cannot be opened and there is no ventilation in the rooms. It makes the rooms intolerable especially during summers. In such condition, there is just two-three hours yard time per day. The political prisoners have been deprived from the rights that other criminal convicted prisoners have normally access to. They have no access to library and sport gym. It is almost two years that the authorities have forbidden the prisoners to have their own books and even governmental newspaper. There is extremely limited access to telephone, just 10 minutes per week, to call families. Depending on the authority’s permission, there are just three days leave of absence in every four months.

 Mr. Hasani went to hunger strike in June 2014 for 52 days, asking to be transferred from Tabriz Prison to a prison in his hometown, Karaj, while it is prisoner’s right to serve imprisonment penalty in his/her hometown based on Iranian law.

Dr. Latif Hasani, born in 1970, is one of the prominent political activists engaged in the rights for the Iranian Turks, for which he has been arrested and sentenced several times. Mr. Hasani had participated as a candidate to the former Iranian parliament election but his candidacy request got rejected by the authorities due to his activities and political views. He was also the columnist writer on “Navid Azerbaijan” and “Omide Zangan” magazines.  These magazines were banned from publishing with the authorities’ order. We need to add that Mr. Hasani is the general secretary of the “Yeni GAMOH” party.

“Yeni Gamoh” is a peaceful political organization, based inside Iran. They have an open political activity with the goal of defending democracy, human, cultural, and political rights of the Azerbaijani people in Iran.

Dr. Latif Hasani got arrested on 6 Feb 2013 in Karaj (near Tehran) and after two days his family was informed that he was transferred to a solitary custody at Intelligence Services in Tabriz. On 4 March 2013 he has been transferred to the Central Prison of Tabriz. On his previous arrest in 2010, he had been kept in solitary confinement for more than 8 months and was tortured both physically and mentally. He was then released on bail of 1000 million Rials (100 thousands USD) and had been sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment which is confirmed later in the appeal court. “Propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security” by the membership in organization of “Yeni GAMOH” were the main accusations. He was arrested this time waiting to serve the previous imprisonment sentence and had been threatened several times by the security forces to stop his activities. Following the current detention, the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tabriz, Branch 3, headed by the Judge Bagherpour held the hearing in 24-25 April 2013, which was non-public, and the prosecuter was absent. 

The court sentenced him and four other activists (who were on conditional release) to 9 years in prison for the charge of “the founding an illegal group” and one year for “the propaganda against the government”. On 12 June 2013, the appeals court of branch 6 at the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tabriz, headed by the judge Imani, confirmed the sentence without having the hearing session. 

Abbas Lesani

Abbas Lesani

In 15 January 2019, Iranian security officials arrested Abbas Lesani, prominent Azerbaijani Turk activist after he was present at Tabriz Revolutionary Court, Branch II. Regardless of continuous follow-up by his family and friends, there is still no accurate news on the location of his detention and his current condition. Iranian officials rejected his family’s request for a family visit. This issue together with Lesani`s hunger strike has caused serious concerns over his situation. On 12 February 2019, Tabriz Revolutionary Court rejected Lesani`s appeal to the court conforming the court order of 10 months of imprisonment with the accusation of “propaganda against the regime and for the interest of the opposition groups”. On the order from Ardabil City Revolutionary Court, Abbas Lesani was arrested on 5 January 2019 and was transferred to the Tabriz Prison to start his sentence for 10 months in prison. However, he was then temporarily released on bail. On 02 July 2018, Iranian Ministry of Intelligence officials in Ardabil City arrested Abbas Lesani, just a few days after he attended annual gathering of the Azerbaijani Turks in Babak Castel. He was then released on bail on 11 July 2018. He had released a video to encourage attendance of more people at this annual gathering. [8]

Lesani, an Azerbaijani Turk civil right activist from Ardabil city ended his hunger strike after 12 days and was transferred to the general ward. In an interview with AHRAZ, this civil activist’s wife, confirmed the news and said that, after she had a meeting with him, the head of Ardabil prison promised not to exile him and Mr. Lesani was convinced to end his hunger strike. Roqieh Alizadeh, Abbas Lesani’s wife, also talked about her husband’s physical condition: “He has extremely lost his weight and his physical condition is not good, and during this time, in addition to the hunger strike, he was held under difficult conditions”. She added that by informing him about his friends and family’s concerns, she requested ending his hunger strike.

According to Mrs. Alizadeh, her husband had gone on hunger strike to protest against the harassment in prison, and threats of exile. Abbas Lesani was arrested on 22 July 2018, when he was going to his work place, and was transferred to Ardabil prison to serve his sentence. According to his wife,  Mr. Lesani is in need of continuous medical care due to a herniated disc, but,  his imprisonment and lack of access to essential cares, would exacerbate his problems. The Branch 1 of the Ardabil Appeal Court rejected the defense of Abbas Lisani in June, and also rejected the prosecutor’s request to exile Mr. Lesani, and just upheld his sentence of one-year-imprisonment.

He was charged with the accusation of “ propaganda against the regime and forming a group to disrupt the national  security”. He was released on 5 November 2018, after 55 days of detention in Ardabil Intelligence service’s detention, on the bail of 1 billion IRR. Lesani ended his hunger strike after a week in Shiraz prison while in exile in solitary confinement. On 15 Nov 2015, Abbas Lesani had informed his family in a telephone conversation that he ended hunger strike based on request from the family and his friends. He was sent from Ardabil city prison to Shiraz city prison in exile after he had announced his hunger strike. He went on hunger strike at the same time when massive public protest erupted against racism in Iran on 9 Nov 2015. Meanwhile, Abbas Lesani was in Ardabil prison because of the court’s decision of one year imprisonment. On 22 Jul 2015 while going to work security forces arrested this civil rights activist , due to his earlier  one year imprisonment sentence.

The Ardabil Appeal Court rejected the appeal prepared for Abbas Lesani, Azerbaijani Turk civil rights activist from Ardabil on the claim of consistency of crime with punishment and eventually the court confirmed a year in prison for him. Need to be mentioned that in April 2015, the Branch 1 of Ardabil Revolutionary Court sentenced Abbas Lesani to a year of prison with the  accusation of “propaganda against regime”. He was formerly arrested in Ardabil in September 2011 because of protest of Azerbaijanis against drying up of Lake  Urmia. He was then released on bail after 55 days in temporary detention. He was once sentenced to 30 months in prison because of participation in the public demonstrations of 2006 as well as participation in the annual ceremonies at Babak Castle in 2005. He was in prison in 2006-2008, part of which was spent in exile and prison in Yazd. He was formerly arrested many times in 2003-2005 during ceremonies at Babak Castle, participation in anniversary of the Constitution Movement in 2005, publication of Turkic calendar in 2003, protest at Ardabil Sarcheshme Mosque in 2004, participation at the anniversary of Azerbaijani martyrs of 2006 as well as on the occasion of Mother Language Day. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations defended him and have announced their concerns over his situation.

Siamak Mirzayi

Saamak Mirzayi

Siamak Mirzayi, an Azerbaijani Turk activist, was arrested without a warrant by the Ministry of Intelligence on 14 December 2016 in Parsabad Moghan and transferred to Evin prison. In January 2017, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and two years in exile with the accusations of  ”acting against national security” and ”insulting the leader,”’ in connection with his participation in a gathering to mark International Mother Language Day on 21 February 2016. According to AHRAZ, although he posted bail (set at one billion tomans or $308,185 USD), he continued to be kept in prison illegally. The Appeals Court claimed it could not deliberate on his case because the lower court had not forwarded the required evidence and transcripts. In June 2017, Mirzayi began a hunger strike in protest, which ended in July 2017.43 

In a letter to the prosecutor, published on 1 November 2017, Mirzayi wrote: ’The arrest, detention, or sentencing a person should be based on legal charges. How did you find that I am creating a network and acting against national security? Security agents accused me of creating a network, while they could not find any name or evidence for it. I have fought for my father’s mother tongue and the right to education and training in my mother tongue with only a pen as a weapon. From Lake Urumia, I have fought for the region’s economic development and its natural identity. And I have fought against the legal system of mono-linguism, extreme centralism, and the lack of economic development of noncentral regions of Iran. I have fought against the lack of freedom of the press and parties and the lack of freedom of expression and association. [These efforts] are not in conflict with the security and integrity of the country. Theyare nothing but demands for the unity, reform and peace of the country”.

Mr. Ebrahim Nouri

Ebrahim Nouri

Ebrahim Nouri was arrested in Tehran on 2 July 2018 and transferred to Section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison, which belongs to Ministry of Intelligence. In the days prior to his arrest, the agents of the ministry of Intelligence had warned him and his brother Faraj Nouri that they were not allowed to take part in the annual Babak Fort gathering and if they attend the ceremony, they will be arrested. Apart from one short telephone call to his family  in the day after his arrest, he has not been allowed to contact his family or any lawyer. Ebrahim Nouri has been previously arrested on numerous occasions solely because of his peaceful activities. He got arrested in2006, 2013, 2014, and 2015 for taking part in private ceremonies to mark International Mother Language Day. He has been prosecuted, convicted and sentenced in three separate cases to a total of 16 months in prison and additional suspended  10-months of imprisonment charged entirely due to his peaceful activities which are considered as  “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”. 

Mr. Mehdi Kukhian 

Mehdi Kukhian

Mr. Mehdi Kukhian, Iranian Turk civil activist has been arrested in city of Malekan on 8 April 2019. Mr. Kukhian is the administrator for channel of “The News City of Malekan” in Telgram, which is an application for smart phone and commonly and widely used in Iran. He had been threatened several times by Melakan’s representative in the Islamic Parliament, Mr. Salman Khodadadi who is accused of rape and murder of Ms. Zahra Navidpour. The security forces of Iranian intelligence service (Ettelaat) have arrested him at home and inspected his house. According to witnesses, during arrest, Mr. Kukhian got beaten and his head was bloody.

Mehdi Kukhian had been previously arrested several times due to his activities and charged with imperisonment several times. His latest arrest was in 2017 when he was sentenced to 18 months in prison by the revolutionary court of Maragheh City. The revolutionary court of Maragheh has found him guilty on charge of “propaganda against the regime”. Malakan (Malek Kandi -Malikan) with more than one hundred thousand inhabitants is located in the southwest of East Azarbaijan province near the major city of Maragheh.

Tohid Amir Amini and Kiyanush Aslani

Tohid Amir Amini and Kiyanush Aslani

Two Azerbaijani activists, Tohid Amir Amini and Kiyanush Aslani, who were detained in Tehran on February 21, are still held in an uncertain state as no official charges have been laid against them. These activists were detained by intelligence officers on 21 Feb 2019, the International Mother Language Day. One day after his detention Kiyanush Aslani in a brief call  with his family told that he was held in the 209th Division of the “Evin” Prison in Tehran. The activists’ family has repeatedly appealed to the competent authorities to investigate the reasons and condition of their detention, but no response has been released so far. 

The Islamic of republic of Iran has refused to release any information regarding the reasons that these activists are currently being held. However, it is presumed that they are being detained for publishing some posters in relation to international mother language day. It is alleged that they are being subjected to torture and unusual treatment as it is regularly used against political activists in Iran. Kiyanush Aslani is studying at Civil Engineering at Tehran’s Islemshahr Azad University and Tohid Amir Amini works in Tehran, but they are both from the Azerbaijani region of Iran. Tohid Amir Amini was previously detained for attending in some protests and gatherings in support of cultural and linguistic rights for the Azerbaijani Turks in Iran.

Mr. Sahand Maali

Sahand Maali

After his arrest at gathering of Azerbaijani activists on July 6th 2019, the appeals court of East Azerbaijan Province has confirmed the 10 months imprisonment sentence for Mr. Sahand Maali. Initially, the Revolutionary Court of Sarab had convicted Mr. Maali with the accusation of “propaganda against the regime through the promotion of ethnic groups with the aim of inviting people to the Babak Fort gathering”. He was later released on bail.

Although, according to the Iranian laws, defendants sentenced in absentia have the right to bypass appeals court by objecting to trial court rulings, this right has been denied for Mr. Maali. Babak Castle is a monument built during the pre-Islamic Sasanian period. In recent years, it has become a place of symbolic gathering for the Azerbaijani activists, especially during the annual commemorations in the first week of July.

Mr. Maali is an Azerbaijani Turkic minority civil rights activist who has been arrested and triled several times. On July 2nd, 2012, security forces raided his residence and arrested him following inspections of his father’s home. In July 2013, he was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime”.

Mrs. Hakimeh Ahmadi

Hakimeh Ahmadi

Mrs. Hakimeh Ahmadi, Azerbaijani Turk activist has been in custody since 18 October 2018. She is still under interrogation by the Intelligence Service of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Marand City in Eastern Azerbaijan Province. She is accused of “acting against national security” and “forming an illegal group”. On 03 November 2018, she underwent hospital treatment for rib cage and finger injuries that occurred under severe physical and psychological tortures and interrogation sessions and at harsh detention conditions. The Iranian authorities had refused to disclose where she had been admitted, did not allow her husband to visit her, and asked her husband to cover her medical treatments costs that resulted from torture. [9]

Ms. Nasim Sadeqi

Nasim Sadeqi

Nasim Sadeqi,an Azerbaijani civil rights activist from Tabriz, who had been under detention by security guards since 21st October 2018, after submiting a bail of 1500 million Iranian Rials, was temporarily released on Wednesday 31st October 2018 from Tabriz central prison and currently she is waiting for the completion of the investigation and her trial in the court session. Her accusations are “Propaganda against the regime”, ” disseminating false news about the regime on the internet ” and ” membership in an opposition group against the regime “, from which due to lack of evidences she got free of charge for the first two accusations, but the latter allegation is still under investigation.

This civil rights activist is temporarily free until her next trial court to investigate the allegation of “propaganda against the regime”.

Mr. Rahim Gholami

Rahim Gholami

Mr. Rahim Gholami,a poet, writer, and Azerbaijani scholar, has been released from the central prison of Ardabil with the bail payment of 500 million Iranian Rials. Mr. Rahim Gholami, an Azerbaijani poet and activist, had been temporarily released after almost 2 months of detention, paying 500 million Iranian rials as a bail. The security officials kept this Azerbaijani civil rights activist in detention for almost 2 months by obstructing the bailout order of the second branch of Ardabil’s revolutionary court. 

Mr. Gholami was preparing to publish an Azerbaijani Turkish Dictionary before his most recent arrest. All of his writings and notes on the above-mentioned dictionary and other literature work pieces have been confiscated by the Ettelaat agents upon his arrest. It is alleged that the writer is being subjected to severe tortures. Rahim Gholami is the author of the books “A Leaf from Our Folklore”, “Ancestor’s Word” and “Folklore Tales” published by “Yaylik” publishing house.

Olduz Ghasemi, Javad Ahmadi Yekanli and Amir Sattari Raouf

Olduz Ghasemi, Javad Ahmadi Yekanli and Amir Sattari Raouf

A court was held for three Azerbaijani Turk activists from Naghadeh City, West Azerbaijan Province. On 16 January 2019, the Court branch 103 in Naghadeh City held a session to review accusations made against three Azerbaijani activists, Olduz Ghasemi, Javad Ahmadi Yekanlias well as Amir Sattari Raouf. Their accusations are “propaganda against the system through attendance in unlawful assembly”. At this session, Amir Sattari could not attend because he was in Tabriz Prison to spend his sentence in prison for 7 months. This court was held in connection to celebrating the 12thanniversary of the Azerbaijanis popular mass protests against racism that was held in June 2006 in the Azerbaijani region of Iran, during which some Azerbaijani protesters were killed by security forces. These three activists were then released from Ministry of Intelligence place of detention on bail. Olduz Ghasemi have been previously detained several times. On 10 November 2018, she was sentenced to a year in prison. She is accused of “propaganda against the system through lecturing over grave of Farzad Asad Pour who was killed by the security forces during popular mass protest of the Azerbaijani Turkic people against racism in June 2006. 

Mohammad Dorosti

On 14 January 2019, Mohammad Dorosti, Azerbaijani Turk activist, was sentenced to six months imprisonment by the first branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Court in the City of Khoy, West Azerbaijan Province. He was accused of “propaganda against the state”. On 9 December 2019, he was arrested while he was distributing a leaflet about anniversary of the establishment of the Iranian Azerbaijan National Government. On 12 January 1945, Azerbaijan Democratic Party of Iran announced Azerbaijan National Government establishment in Tabriz that short-lived unrecognized secessionist state in the north-west Iran until December 1946. During that time, Azerbaijani people in Iran could exercise most of their political and cultural rights.

Mohammad Abdolmohammad-Zadeh

On 2 February 2019, the appeal court of Eastern Azerbaijan Province confirmed 27 months in prison sentence for the Azerbaijani Turk activist, Mohammad Abdolmohammad-Zadeh who was arrested on 10 October 2018. He is sentenced to 15 months imprisonment on the accusation of “insulting the Supreme Leader” and 12 months for “propaganda against the state”. 

Younes Qolizadeh

Younes Qolizadeh

Younes Qolizadeh, an Azerbaijani civil rights activist was arrested in Tabriz and bailed out after one day.On Sunday 21 April 2019, an influx of security guards entered his work place in Tabriz to arrest Mr. Younes Qolizadeh and transfer him to Tabriz Cyber police’s detention center. After one day of detention, this Azerbaijani civil rights activist has been released temporarily after paying a bail of 500 million Iranian Rials.

 The reason for the detention of this civil rights activist has been declared as “activities against national security”.

Kazem Safabakhsh

Kazem Safabakhsh

A trial session has been held in Tehran for Mr. Kazem Safabakhsh, an Azerbaijani civil right activist and the leader of Tractorsazi soccer team’s fans in Tehran. He was arrested on Sunday 25 November 2018 to an unknown location. Later it became known to be Evin priso

Tractorsazi FC fans

Tractorsazi FC fans, Saeed Sarahi from Julfa, Mahdi Habibollahi from Qazvin, Ali Doostnia from Sulduz, and Adnan Azizi from Maku, who were arrested after Tractorsazi -Peykan match, have been transferred to the Tabriz central Prison. These fans were in stadium to watch the match between Tractorsazi of Tabriz and Peykan of Tehran on Friday April 19th, 2019 and while they were exiting the stadium after the game, they were arrested by the security agents.

Their families has frequently attempted and asked from the prosecutor’s office on the grounds for the illegal arrest, but they still did not receive any convincing reply from the judicial authorities.

Among the dozens of the arrested Tractorsazi fans after that match only the name of the seven has been identified so far: Saeed Sarahifrom Julfa, Mahdi Habibollahifrom Qazvin, Ali Doostniaand Ali Pakzad from Sulduz, Adnan Azizfrom Maku and Jafar Maleki, and Ali Qolizadeh.

In 2018, the security forces of the Islamic Republic attacked at least two ethnic-cultural gatherings, held by Azerbaijani Turk activists. The confrontation resulted in the detention of a large number of Azerbaijani activists and gathering participants who had peacefully come together in celebration of their culture and identity.[10]

Hundreds of Azerbaijani Turks, including minority rights activists were also violently arrested in connection with peaceful cultural gatherings throughout the year, including in July and August, when at least 120 people were arrested. Some activists were sentenced to prison terms and flogging. Minority rights activist Milad Akbari was flogged in the city of Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, after he was convicted of “disrupting public order” through “taking part in illegal gatherings and singing eccentric songs” at a cultural gathering.[11],[12]

Education in Mother Tongue

The right to receive education in mother tongue is a civil human right that is stressed in thenumber of international human rights documents and conventions, such as Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, Convention on the Rights of the Child and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. After the Islamic Revolution of Iran, due to the fact that ethnic minorities had played a significant role in the realisation of the revolution, and also because the new regime had not established itself as a forceful authority, the Islamic state gave in to the pressure of the communities, and reluctantly alluded to the rights of Iranian minorities in Article 15 of the Constitution. According to Article 15 of the Constitution, “the official language and script of Iran, the lingua franca of its people, is Persian. Official documents, correspondence, and texts, as well as textbooks, must be in this language and script.

  • Five Azerbaijani political prisoners announced a joint 5– day – long hunger strike on the International Mother Language Day. Dr. Latif (Araz) Hasani, Abbas Lesani, Ibrahim Nuri, Amir Sattari, Siamak Mirzaei declared that they would begin the hunger strike in their prison cells in order to draw awareness to the issue of Azerbaijani Turkic, spoken by over 35 million Turks and forbidden by the Iranian regime. The prisoners who are being held in distinct prisoners in Tehran, Ardabil and Tabriz began their hunger strike on 21st February 2019 and ceased it 5 days later. Meanwhile, it is reported that Abbas Lesani was finally allowed to get a visit from his family on February 15th, which took place in Ardabil Prison. The activist’s family convinced Mr. Lisani to cease his hunger strike due to deterioration of his health.

  • The Azerbaijani activist Tohid Amir Amini and Kiyanush Aslani, who were detained in Tehran on February 21, are still held in an uncertain state as no official charges have been laid against them. 

  • On 16 June 2016, the court session of 8 civil rights activists in the city of Baharestan was held by the judge Mr. Hasani, Head of the judiciary office in the city.
    Akbar Azad, Alireza Farshi, Behnam Shaikhi, Hamid Manafi Nazarloo, Rostam Kazampoor, Mansour Fathi, Aziz Farshi and Mahmoud Ojaghlou are the Iranian Turk activists who had participated in the court session. They had been arrested in Feburary 2014, in connection with the ceremony of the International Mother Tongue Day in the City of Nasim Shar near Tehran. They all had been transferred to the prison of Evin where they spent imprisonment for several months. The accusation against the activists has been “participation in illegal gatherings against national security”.[13]

  • Alireza Farshi, an Azerbaijani Turk activist who founded an online campaign in support of International Mother Language Day, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 2017 on national security-related charges.[14]

  • The Iranian authorities have also repressed minority language publications and cultural associations for many years. For example, it is difficult to obtain a license for books written in the Azerbaijani Turkish language and that private publications and institutions devoted to this language face pressure by the security agents.[15]

Child Marriage in Azerbaijani Provinces 

Azerbaijani provinces have seen an increase in child marriages in the last few years with Zanjan province having the highest number of child marriages in 2018. According to the Director of Social and Cultural Affairs of Zanjan Governorate Messiullah Soltani: “In 2018, 1,400 children under the age of 15 were married in this province. Due to centralist economic system of Iran, most of the Azerbaijani states are getting poorer and poorer and the people of these states are living under poverty which prevents many women from getting education and finding jobs to support themselves and their families. The intersections of such factors push families to force their girls to early marriages to have fewer responsibilities and also to have less mouths to feed.[16]

Death penalty, executed prisoners in the Azerbaijani region of Iran: 

Iran is known by its position as the second country in the world with most death sentences and as the biggest per capita executioner in the world. The death penalty is issued against vaguely worded crimes, such as “apostasy from Islam” or for offences that are not considered as among the most serious crimes under international law, as are drug-related crimes. There is also a continuous increase in executions with the death penalty often imposed in cases where the accused are denied their due-process rights. The new Islamic Penal Code, referenced by the government on various occasions as proof of the efforts to comply with international human rights standards, far from abolishing the death penalty, has even expanded its scope in some cases.

The following 18 prisoners were recently sentenced to life imprisonment and executed, in the Azerbaijani region of Iran:[17]

Karim Mohebbei, accused of murder, was executed in Tabriz Central Prison on 19 January 2019. Amir Nosrat Khah, 38 years old accused of murder, was executed in Zanjan Prison on 23 January 2019. Five prisoners, names of whom are not published by the Iranian authorities, who were accused of being active in drugs distribution network, were executed in Khoy City, West Azerbaijan Province, based on an official news released on 2 January 2019. Zaman Rezayie, 62 years old from Miandoab City, West Azerbaijan Province, accused of murder, was executed in Urmia Central Prison on 31 December 2018. Yunes Azizi from Naghadeh City, West Azerbaijan Province, accused in connection to drugs, was executed in Urmia Prison on 10 December 2018. Another person, name of whom is not published, accused of sexual assault or unlawful sexual contact and robbery, was executed in Qazvin City, based on an official news released on 9 December 2019.  Soran Rashid Zahedi, a 33 years old Iraqi citizen accused of murder, was executed in Zanjan Central Prison on 6 Nov. 2018. He had lived 28 years in Iran Meisam Saber, a 28 years old man accused of murder was executed in Ardabil Prison on 21 October 2018.  Aslan Shirani, a 33 years old man from Miyan-do-ab (Qoshachay) City, West Azerbaijan Province accused of murder, was executed in the Prison of Maragheh, Eastern Azerbaijan Province, on 14 October 2018.  Ramin Majidifar, a man accused of kidnapping and rape was executed in the Prison of Hamadan, on 9 October 2018.  Hamed Valizadeh, a 38 years old man from the City of Abhar, East Azerbaijan Province accused of murder, was executed in the Central Prison of Qazvin, on 2 October 2018.  Mr. Salman Khan-AliluMr. Hasan Hajilouas well as Mrs. Zaynab Sokanvand (accused of murdering her husband when she was 17 years old), were all executed on 10 October 2018 in the Prison of Urmia, West Azerbaijan Province.[18]

From October 2015 to October 2017, totally 588 people were sentenced to death in Iran, from which 504 people were hanged and executed in this country. During this period, 187 people were hanged in the mostly Azerbaijani Turkish populated provinces such as West Azerbaijan (comprising 10% of the executed in this period), East Azerbaijan (8%), Ardabil (7%), Zanjan (4%), Qazvin (6%), and Hamadan (2%). 57% of the executed were accused of crimes related to drugs, 26% in relation to murder because of adultery, 7% related to political and security reasons, and 4 % other cases. 39% of the executions in this period were reported by the Iranian domestic and official media and 61% were reported by non-governmental and independent media and institutions.

From January-March 2017, 34 people were hanged in the Azerbaijani populated cities in Iran such as Tabriz, Urmia, Ardabil, Zanjan, Qazvin, Maraghe and Maku, who were accused of the crimes related to drugs and murder[19]

Recommendations and demands

Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ) urges the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to fully respect civil, political, cultural, and linguistic and minority rights of the Azerbaijani Turks who comprise the largest minority population living in Iran, alongside of other minority populations who are also deprived of the above-mentioned rights. 

  • AHRAZ urges the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran Implement to guarantee the protection of the civil and political rights of all minority groups who continue to face discrimination in law and practice in Iran. No efforts have been made to address these issues through a comprehensive legal framework. Ethnic minorities face restrictions in teaching their language and protecting their cultural heritages. Religious minorities are discriminated against in matters of education, employment and inheritance.

  • the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that it signed in 1967 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) signed in 1968 and ratified it in 1975 by Iran. 

  • AHRAZ urges the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect the United Nations Convention against Torture, Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as well as the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.

  • treat all detainees and prisoners humanely in the Iranian places of detention, prisons and refrain from subjecting them to any form of psychological harassments and physical tortures.

  • AHRAZ urges the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to put an immediate end to practicing death penalty and executing hundreds of people annually. That not only takes lives of many people, but also psychologically and economically affects many lives in Iran. 


[1]Rights Denied: Violations against Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Iran, Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, Minority Rights Group International, Centre for Supporters of Human Rights, 2018, p.14: <https://minorityrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Rights-Denied-Violations-against-ethnic-and-religious-minorities-in-Iran.pdf>

[2]The Legal Framework, Human Rights Watch (HRW), 1997: <https://www.hrw.org/reports/1997/iran/Iran-04.htm>

[3]The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 2: <https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx>

[4]The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, The Rights of the People (Chapter III):< http://www.iranchamber.com/government/laws/constitution.php>

[6]The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, (Chapter II, Article 15 http://www.iranchamber.com/government/laws/constitution.php>

[7]Rights Denied: Violations against Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Iran, Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, Minority Rights Group International, Centre for Supporters of Human Rights, 2018, pp.15-28: <https://minorityrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Rights-Denied-Violations-against-ethnic-and-religious-minorities-in-Iran.pdf>

[8]Situation of Human Rights of the Azerbaijani Turks in the Islamic Republic of Iran

[9]Situation of Human Rights of the Azerbaijani Turks in the Islamic Republic of Iran

[10]AHRAZ have coordinated with Amnesty International to document the incident. Amnesty International <https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE1388892018ENGLISH.PDF>

[11]http://www.ahraz.org/irans-year-of-shame-more-than-7000-arrested-in-chilling-crackdown-on-dissent-during-2018/

[12]Iran’s ‘year of shame’: More than 7,000 arrested in chilling crackdown on dissent during 2018 https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/01/irans-year-of-shame-more-than-7000-arrested-in-chilling-crackdown-on-dissent-during-2018/?fbclid=IwAR32CbbTMpl2vsA1T3ect5UFemUSonNgdajYJ3VYEjkgtLSJtU3lmgICzkk

[13]Report on the situation of Iranian Azerbaijanis regarding human rights Juni 2016

[14]Rights Denied: Violations against Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Iran, Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, Minority Rights Group International, Centre for Supporters of Human Rights, 2018, p.24:

[14]https://minorityrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Rights-Denied-Violations-against-ethnic-and-religious-minorities-in-Iran.pdf

[15]Radmehr, D. and Azari, A.,Deprivation fromLearning Mother Tongue and Its Effects onAzerbaijani Turk Children in Iran, Association forthe Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People inIran, 24 January 2015

[16]https://ir.voanews.com/a/iran-child-marriage/4878581.html

[17]Situation of Human Rights of the Azerbaijani Turks in the Islamic Republic of Iran 

[18]Situation of Human Rights of the Azerbaijani Turks in the Islamic Republic of Iran 

[19]Death penalty in Azerbaijan’s cities in Iran (2015-2016-2017)

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