Update Number 501/2019 

17 March 2019

Situation of Human Rights of the Azerbaijani Turks in the Islamic Republic of Iran


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 of West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan, Ardabil, and Zanjan. Many other Turkic populations also live in other regions and provinces of Iran. Deprived of their political, civil and cultural/linguistic rights, many Azerbaijani Turk activists ask for the recognition of their ethnic rights and respect to them by the Iranian Government who, in turn, rejects these demands, arrest and condemns them to heavy 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 covers situation of twelve Azerbaijani Turk prisoners as well as eighteen prisoners who are recently executed, belonging to the Azerbaijani people and/or in the Azerbaijani region of Iran: 

Arrest and imprisonment of the Azerbaijani activists: 

On 15.01.2019, 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 others, there is still no accurate news on the location of his detention and his current condition. His situation is becoming worse. Iranian officials have rejected Lesani`s family request for family visits. This issues 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 and so conformed court order for 10 months in prison on the accusation of “propaganda against the system and for the benefit of the opposition groups”. On the order from Ardabil City Revolutionary Court, Abbas Lesani was arrested on 05 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. 

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. 

On 10 February 2019, security officials in Ardabil city of the Azerbaijani region of Iran inspected homes and working place of some of the Azerbaijani Turk activists such as Mortaza Parvin, Mehdi Doostdar, Rahim Norouzi, Ali Vaseghi and Mazaher Maali. This was in connection with writing slogans on city walls in larger scales in support of Abbas Lesani, prominent Azerbaijani activist. These activists have several times experienced pressure and surveillance made by both security and judiciary agents. They were also arrested during Babak Castle annual gatherings in June 2018. 

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 Guardian 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 that resulted from torture. 

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 09 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.

On 02 February 2019, the appeal court of Eastern Azerbaijan Province confirmed 27 months in prison sentence for the Azerbaijani Turk activist, Mohammad Abdolmohammad-Zadehwho 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”. 

Death penalty (executed prisoners in the Azerbaijani region of Iran): 

The following 18 prisoners were sentenced to life imprisonment and executed, from and in the Azerbaijani Region of Iran:



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