The Iranian regime has increased its decades-old pressure on the south Azerbaijani Turkish population after Turkey adopted an unequivocally critical stance on President Bashar al-Assad’s deadly offensive in Syria, a member of the newly founded International South Azerbaijani Turks’ National council has said.
The Assad regime in Syria has significant military and intelligence support from Iran to continue to its offensive against opponents.
Azerbaijani-speaking Turks in Iran, who define themselves as South Azerbaijani Turks, highlighted the fact that Iran is continuing its decades-old oppression on Turks with full force, depriving them of important cultural rights, during a press meeting at the Azerbaijani Cultural Association in Ankara on Friday.
Cemal mehmethanoğlu, spokesperson for the council gave details about the council’s planned activities over the coming three-month period during the conference, which includes forums and seminars on the situation of South Azerbaijani Turks to be held in Sweden and Russia, in August and September, respectively. Furthermore, on Sept. 22, the council will hold a public rally in Taksim Square in İstanbul, under the title “Solidarity with South Azerbaijani Turks.” A similar rally is also planned for Baku on Sept. 27.
Having no right to press and education in their mother tongue, the Azerbaijani speaking population have taught their children Turkish in their houses and at some Turkish associations. “But recently, Iran has started to run a campaign against Turkish teachers, arresting them. This is inextricably linked to an increasing anti-Turkish stance in Iran due to Turkey’s very clear negative stance regarding the Syrian administration,” Hosrov Emiri, a member of the council has said.
There are a total of 35 million Azeri Turks living in Iran, which has a population of 79 million, said Hadi Musevi, but this fact is covered up by the Iranian administration and Azeri Turks have always been suppressed in the Islamic Republic of Iran. “Some 200,000 Armenians enjoys comprehensive cultural rights in Iran as opposed to Turks. Iran has proved that it is not a disingenuous Islamic republic, conducting a clear fascist policy,” Musevi added.
Members of the council also requested more support from Turkey. “The existence of South Azerbaijanis is not very well-known in Turkey. However, 35 million is a significant number and could have a lot of potential. Turkey should realize that potential, which is right next-door,” said Zaur Bayramlı, another council member noted.
Addressing the speculations that have appeared in Iran-linked media claiming that the movement organized by South Azerbaijani Turks is a joint US and Turkish plot to divide Iran, Mehmethanoğlu highlighted that their movement is purely civil oriented and free of links with any state. “Our council is a national, modern, democratic one, established on a civil society based movement. Our first principle is to increase the recognition of the South Azerbaijani population around the world in public opinion and to draw attention to the exposure of this population to clear human rights violations at the hands of the Iranian authorities,” Mehmethanoğlu said.
Claiming that they are closer to Ankara and Baku than they are to Tehran, Mehmethanoğlu maintained that the Turkish population aspires for independence in the long term, reviving the Azerbaijan People’s Government which was formed in 1945 and ended in 1946 under the leadership of Sayyed Jafar Pishevari, taking Tabriz as its capital.