Iran: Repression of Azerbaijani-Turkish community intensifies as presidential election approaches
As the June presidential election approaches, Iranian authorities intensify repression against Azerbaijani-Turkish civil rights and political activists, subjecting them to long-term arbitrary detentions and heavy prison sentences.
In May 2013, a revolutionary court in Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province charged five members of an organization named New Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement with “establishing an illegal organization to undermine the state's national security” and “engaging in propaganda against the regime,” and sentenced each of them to nine years in prison.
Latif Hasani, Mahmud Fezli, Ayat Mehr-Ali-Beyli (Yürüş), Behbud Quluzade and Shahram Radmehr have been arrested by Iranian security forces during past five months. They are currently being held in Tabriz Prison.
In April 2013, Azerbaijan-Turkish civil rights activists Abbas Valizade (Oxtay) and Mehdi Kukhiyan were sentenced to eight years and one year respectively by another revolutionary court in the city of Maragha, East Azerbaijan, Iran. They have been charged with “propaganda against the regime,” “collaboration with separatist and pan-Turkist groups,” “insulting Iranian Supreme Leader,” and “insulting the religious values."
Some other activists, such as Muhammed Khatibi, received shorter prison terms in recent weeks.
Iranian security forces have arrested Khalida Khalid, a literature researcher and a citizen of Repubilic of Azerbaijan, whilst she was visiting Tabriz in relation to her research on the works of the late Turkish poet Muhammed Hussein Shahriar. Security forces also arrested her driver, Shamkhal Huseynov, as well as her Iranian Azerbaijani hosts Okhtay Rashidi, Amir Hadiyan, writer Mr. Farhadi and folk singer and writer Ashiq Isa Qaraxanli, who were later temporarily released on bail.
On May 9th, Ilqar Muazzinzade, novelist, poet, and cultural activist was arrested in city of Meshgin Shahr/Xiyav and has been transferd to Ardabil intelligence office custody. After his arrest, security forces searched his home and confiscated his computer, books and other personal properties. His arrest, reportedly, is in connection with the detention of Ms. Khalida Khalid.
According to reports, Jahanbakhsh Sultanzade (Salur) and Behnam Baghiri, two Turkish civil rights activists, were arrested in the city of Maku in Iran’s West Azerbaijan Province on May 9th.
On May 13th, Abdulla Saduqi, an Azerbaijani activist and football journalist, was arrested at his home in Tabriz to reportedly serve a one-year jail term he has been sentenced to earlier.
The Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran, ADAPP, calls on the Iranian government to release all prisoners of conscience who have been unlawfully arrested for advocating for linguistic and cultural rights, and to allow uninterrupted peaceful assembly of Azerbaijani-Turks, demonstrating in favour of linguistic and cultural rights as guaranteed by Article 27 of the Iranian Constitution.