Northwest Iran: demonstrators demand that Azeri be taught in schools

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon May 29 13:28:07 UTC 2006

>>From the NYTimes, May 29, 2006

Ethnic Tensions Over Cartoon Set Off Riots in Northwest Iran

TEHRAN, May 28 Four people were killed and 70 were injured in riots last
week in the Azeri region northwest of here, according to local news
reports, as tensions spread after the publication of a cartoon that has
outraged Iran's Azeri population. The deadly protests occurred last
Thursday in the city of Naghadeh, and followed other demonstrations in
Ardabil. On Sunday, about 2,000 Azeris demonstrated in Tehran outside
Parliament and were dispersed by the police, the reports said. In a show
of defiance that appears to have unnerved the government, demonstrators
chanted in Turkish Azeri, as the language is known here for its close
relation to Turkish, and demanded that it be taught in schools.

Among the group's other demands, listed on Iranian news Web sites, were
the release of jailed protesters and the right to start independent
television channels that would broadcast in Turkish Azeri. Unrest has
mounted since the publication of a cartoon in an official newspaper on May
19 that depicted a cockroach speaking Turkish Azeri. The newspaper was
subsequently closed and the cartoonist and editor jailed, but the tensions
have increased. Azeris are Iran's largest minority, making up more than a
quarter of the population.

In remarks in a meeting with some members of Parliament on Sunday, Iran's
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the West for the ethnic
tensions, as he and other government officials have done in the case of
other ethnic conflicts. He noted the Azeri people's involvement in the
Islamic Revolution of 1979. "Our enemies do not know Azerbaijan because
the Azeris have always bravely defended the Islamic revolution and the
sovereignty of this country," he said, referring to Iranian provinces of
East and West Azerbaijan, where the riots have taken place. "People in
Azerbaijan are awake and will give a proper response to the enemy," he

Iran's Azeri region borders the country of Azerbaijan, as well as Turkey
and Armenia. The tensions are occurring as Iran's government faces
international criticism for its nuclear program.

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list