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                                                                      Economic and Social Council    Distr. GENERAL  E/CN.4/2002/42 16 January 2002  Original:  ENGLISH



Fifty-eighth session

Item 9 of the provisional agenda




Report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran,

                 prepared by the Special Representative of the Commission on

                 Human Rights, Mr. Maurice Danby Copithorne, pursuant to

Commission resolution 2001/17


C.  Ethnic minorities


The Azeris


89.       The Azerbaijan Turkic-speaking people of Iran (the Azeris) are recognized as the largest ethnic minority and may indeed be the largest ethnic group in the country.  It appears to be accepted that about 12 million of them live in the north-west and that in the country as a whole there may be as many as 30 million.  It is asserted that the Azeris have lived on the Iranian plateau for thousands of years and that they predate the entry of Persian tribes to the area.


90.       The complaints brought to the Special Representative concern the use of the Azeri language and that the unwelcome prospect of Azeri cultural assimilation is accelerating (see annex III).  More particularly, Azeris are asking for the teaching of “proper” Azerbaijani Turkish along side Persian in schools in regions predominantly inhabited by Azeris, production in and the broadcasting of “proper” Azerbaijani Turkish on radio and television, the allocation of one television channel for Turkish language broadcasting, the creation of schools of Azerbaijan Turkish language and literature at universities throughout Iran (it is noted that while Azerbaijani Turkish is not taught at the University of Tabriz, seven other languages are taught) and the facilitation of the creation of Azerbaijani Turkish cultural centres.


91.       The representations reaching the Special Representative also refer to harassment and imprisonment of Azeri cultural activists, such as Dr. Mehmud Ali Chehregani, whose circumstances were described by the Special Representative in earlier reports and whose imprisonment was the subject of urgent representations by the Special Representative to the Government.  He has since been released.  The Special Representative has received copies of open letters to the President signed by various groups of Azeri personalities, such as members of the Majilis and writers and poets, demanding fair treatment for Azeri culture.  Their letters have taken the President to task for unimplemented campaign promises on cultural freedom; they complain of “cultural and ethnic insults and humiliation” from government media sources and they invoke article 15 and article 19 of the Constitution.




UN rapporteur points to serious rights abuses of Azeris in Iran - Azeri report
BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Apr 17, 2002

Geneva, 16 April: Maurice Copithorne, a special representative of the UN Commission on Human Rights, pointed to instances of serious human right abuses of Iran's Azerbaijani population in his speech at the 58th session of the commission. Mr Copithorne said the human rights situation in Iran had remained difficult for a long time and did not seem to be improving.

In present-day Iran, a struggle is under way between the "elected and unelected authorities", he said. According to him, Iran's ruling elite continues persecuting whoever it considers to be enemies of the state and religion. Numerous security services have made a point of abducting the discontented, casting them behind bars and subjecting them to torture. Particularly deplorable is the plight of students and journalists who advocate reform in Iranian society.

Reports are arriving on the execution of representatives of ethnic minorities. Besides, the authorities are banning the use of the Azeri language in newspapers in Azerbaijani-populated provinces.

The special report Mr Copithorne has forwarded to the session participants says that Azerbaijanis are Iran's "biggest ethnic group" and may number around 30m people. They have lived predominantly in the north of Iran and on the Iranian plateau for millennia and inhabited the place long before the appearance of Persian tribes, the report says.

There is evidence that the Azerbaijani language is ignored and attempts are made towards assimilation of Azerbaijani culture in Iran. The Azerbaijani population is asking the authorities to organize education not only in Persian but also in Azeri in the provinces largely populated by Azerbaijanis. At the same time, Azerbaijanis are raising the question of organizing television and radio broadcasts in the Azeri language and Azeri-language education at Tabriz University.

The most active advocates for the rights of Azerbaijanis are persecuted by the Iranian authorities. The most conspicuous example is the professor of Tabriz University, Mahmudali Cohraqani.

Today, representatives of Iran's Azerbaijani intelligentsia are accusing the central authorities of persecuting those struggling for cultural rights, changing Azeri geographical names, prohibiting the registration of children with Azeri names, propagandizing the fact that Azerbaijanis are ethnic Persians who have changed their language under pressure from Turkic nomads.

Source: Turan news agency, Baku, in Russian 1130 gmt 16 Apr 02

/BBC Monitoring/ © BBC.