This poster designed by a native of South Azerbaijan (North West of Iran) for the sake of language justice. Iran is a multi-ethnic country, but has only one official language (Persian / Farsi). The government puts the non-Persian ethnics under the assimilation pressure.
The Azerbaijani people have been divided between Iran and the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan for more than 150 years, yet they have retained their ethnic identity.(1)
Assaults on the language of the Azeris, characterize a ‘Persianifcation’ drive that has seen the government proscribing traditional festivals, destroying historic monuments and seeking seemingly to erase the mental and physical landscape of those in the north. But Tehran has begun to reap the whirlwind. After years of endurance, a struggle over language has brought about the awakening of a people long associated with silent acquiescence, if they were indeed acknowledged at all.(2)
Iran’s ethnic Azerbaijani community is seldom in the news, but is gradually becoming an increasingly important factor in the domestic politics of Iran as well as in the regional politics of the so-called Northern Tier of the Middle East, where Iran meets the South Caucasus and Turkey. Both domestic political developments in the Islamic Republic and the larger environment surrounding the region are contributing to making the Azerbaijani community in Iran a potential hotspot.
The developments in Iranian Azerbaijan are regularly overshadowed by other, more acute, developments in the region. Yet the processes taking place there do not bode well for the future. The Iranian government is pursuing policies that exacerbate tensions between itself and the Azerbaijani community. Given the volatility of the wider region, the risk of conflict in Iranian Azerbaijan cannot be discounted, although it is by no means unavoidable. While there is time, it is important for the international community to seek to defuse tensions in Iranian Azerbaijan.
The possibility exists that the issue of Iranian Azerbaijan will one day be a much more prominent item in the news than it is today.(3)
1- Svante Cornell, Iranian Azerbaijan: A Brewing Hotspot Presentation to Symposium on “Human Rights and Ethnicity in Iran”, November 22, 2004, organized by the Moderate (conservative) party, Swedish Parliament, Stockholm.
2- Brenda Shaffer, Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, July 2002.