The systematic violation of human rights of Azerbaijanis within Iran continued through February 2010. Azerbaijani activists were arbitrarily detained and given harsh sentences. On International Mother Tongue Day, security forces prevented people from freely organizing ceremonies. The death of an Azerbaijani poet this month worried activists of starting a new era of suspicious deaths in the Azerbaijani region, especially in the city of Tabriz. Security and judiciary authorities denied giving permission to Said Matinpur, a journalist and prisoner of conscience who is suffering from various illnesses, to seek medical attention. A popular Azerbaijani language website was filtered in Iran.
Said Matinpur in serious physical condition in prison
Said Matinpur, an Azerbaijani journalist and human rights activist, is in grave health yet does not have access to proper medical care. Matinpur has suffered chest pains since late January 2010. Prison authorities accepted his requests to visit a prison doctor only days after the pain started.
Matinpur suffered another serious bout of chest pains in September 2009. Many believe that the continuous, long-term heartaches have caused serious health problems, however the prison lacks enough medical equipment to properly care for him. He must thus be transferred to a hospital in city to access proper medical care.
The repeated requests of Matinpur’s lawyer and family from judiciary authorities on his transfer to a hospital outside of the prison have not been granted. Judiciary authorities claim that The Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) has vetoed any permission for his transfer to anywhere outside of prison.
In May 2007, Said Matinpour was arrested in Zanjan. He was released after 278 days of detention in solitary confinement on a bail of 5 billion Rials ($500,000). As a result of both harsh treatment and unsanitary cell conditions, Matinpour suffered from serious back problems and digestive difficulties after his release from prison. False confessions were extracted from him, during his interrogations in detention by means of physical and psychological torture.
Matinpur was charged with “connections to foreigners” and with “propaganda against the regime” based on his cultural and linguistic rights work. The charges against him were justified by his false confessions, obtained through torture. He was sentenced to eight years in the notorious Evin Prison. The appeals trial issued the same verdict.
Reporters without Borders (RSF) issued a report on September 24 disputing the claim of some Iranian authorities that Iran is the world’s most free country. Their dispute took into account Matinpur’s denied access to health care. RSF also expressed their concern that journalists in Iran are deprived of their fundamental rights.
Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders, Front Line and The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have released urgent action reprots on Matinpur’s behalf. They have described Matinpur as a prisoner of conscience and have called for his unconditional release.
Suspicious death of Azerbaijani poet
The unaccounted deaths of Azerbaijani cultural and political activists increased throughout the last few years. Majid Amiri, an Azerbaijani poet and a clerk in the Supreme Audit Court of Iran, was found dead in his housed on January 27, 2010. Authorities prevented his family from seeing his body. The official report by police claims the cause of death from poison gas released by his car, although there is evidence that his body was bloody and also showed signs of blunt trauma when the body was found.
Intelligence officers threatened Amiri’s family against investigating the matter of his death. The body was buried without any medical investigation. Amiri was active in raising awareness against corruption in East Azerbaijan province, and had criticized the local government in several letters to government authorities. According to people close to Amiri, he was called into an intelligence office in Tabriz and threatened to death about his investigation on the corruption of the province’s top authorities.
Azerbaijani activists detained
Tractor Football Club (Tractor FC) matches have become a forum for Azerbaijanis to demand linguistic and ethnic rights. Security forces, however, actively prevent people from expressing their demands during and after football matches.
Mohammad Alimoradi, an Azerbaijani cultural activist and an ardent Tractor FC fan, was detained on February 2, 2010 and was released on bail for 200 million rial ($20,000) after 13 days of detention in Tabriz prison. He was detained after publishing and distributing Tractor FC posters in Azerbaijani-Turkic. The posters were published with official permission granted by the proper authorities.
Neghar and Afiyat, two press and Azerbaijan electronic goods shops were closed down for publishing Tractor FC posters in Azerbaijani Turkish and distributing them. Some of workers in Afiyat press also were detained by security forces and were later released on bail.
Rahim Hosseinzadeh and Ruhollah Heydari, who participated in international wrestling matches in Qom, were detained and released on bail after some days of detention. Security beat and arrested them during the match after they gathered to chant slogans demanding ethnic rights and in favor of Turkish wrestlers. There were charged with spreading pan-Turkism by supporting Turkish wrestlers in an international tournament.
Last year during another international tournament, Azerbaijani cultural activists Jalal Zolfaghari, and Mohammad Soleymani, were detained and released after some hours after FILA’s objection on their arrests.
Azerbaijani cultural activists Mehdi Ajdari, Babek Miyami, Hasan Karimi, and Shahruz Takhti, were arrested on February 23, 2010 by MOIS agents and were released after 4 days on bail of 300 million rial ($30,000). They were detained after distributing articles in Ardabil and Gilan Provinces celebrating International Mother Language Day.
Intelligence agents searched Ajdari’s house and took his personal computer, books, and other personal properties.
Azerbaijani activists held in prison without trial
Abdollah Sadughi, an Azerbaijani journalist who was arrested in January 18, 2010 is still in prison (as of the date of this report). He has protested his arrest by going on a hunger strike. The journalist has protested his reason of detention, which was publishing and distributing posters of Tractor FC, and his indefinite arbitrary detention without any judiciary verdict. According to his family, he has lost around 20 kilograms because of the hunger strike, and shows signs of gastric bleeding.
The prison authorities transferred Sadughi to the ward reserved for dangerous criminals after his hunger strike, and provoked prisoners against him.
International Mother Language Day
Azerbaijani cities and towns were filled with security forces and Azerbaijanis were witnesses for a so-called “extraordinary situation.”
Following distributing articles and bulletins inviting people to a gathering on International Mother Language Day on February 21 in Tabriz, city police were under high alert as the city was designated an “extraordinary situation.” A wide presence of people in some well-known streets of the city and also security forces were observed. Security forces prevented people from assembling in a particular area.
Various other cities in Azerbaijani provinces were placed under the same condition as Tabriz. Azerbaijani activists distributed pens imprinted with “schooling in the mother tongue”, as well as articles and posters about ethnic and national rights of Azerbaijanis, demanding an end to linguistic and ethnic discrimination in Iran.
Although Iran is a member of United Nations and must adhere to UN principles of protecting it’s various languages, the government prevents people from celebrating the International Mother Language Day in non-Persian parts of Iran. Iran’s constitution also issues that ethnic groups have the right to learn their mother tongues in schools. The demands, however, from the non-persian speaking population of Iran for language instruction have not been met.
Heavy sentences for Azerbaijani activists
Security and judiciary systems issue false accusations against Azerbaijani activists and aim to discredit the Azerbaijani civil and cultural rights struggle.
Mortaza Moradapur, Fardin Moradpur, Rasul Badali, Ali Badali, Aminpasha Gharabaghi, and Arash Eshghi Molan, who are all Azerbaijani activists in the city of Tabriz, were given prison sentences ranging from six months to six years by an appellate court.
Fardin Moradpur, 18 years old teenager was sentenced to six years of imprisonment, Mortaza Moradpur, and Rasul Badali were sentenced to three and two years of imprisonment, respectively. They are charged with gathering to commit crime against national security and propaganda against the regime by preparing exploring materials.
The same court sentenced Ali Badali, Aminpasha Gharabaghi, and Arash Eshghi Molan to six months of imprisonment. They were charged with propaganda against the regime.
The activists were arrested during a rally on May 22, 2009 when chanting slogans demanding Azerbaijanis ethnic and linguistic rights and were released after six months of detention on bail to be tired later. Security forces attacked people participating in the rally throwing gas bombs and spreading tear gas on participants in rally.
Security authorities accused Moradpur’s brothers of preparing exploring materials based on materials found in Moradpur’s house which is used to make fireworks.
Iran trials accuse Azerbaijani activists who travel to Azerbaijan or Turkey republics with spying and based on confessions taken under torture charge them with heavy sentences.
Naghi Ahmadi Azer, Azerbaijani writer and journalist, is sentenced to five years of imprisonment and ten years of deprivation of travel to Azerbaijan Republic. The writer was detained after his travels to Azerbaijani Republic to attend literature conferences and was charged with spying for Azerbaijan Republic against Armenia.
Ahmadi Azer was detained on April 4, 2009, and was released on bail of 1,500 million rial ($15,000) after suffering 146 days of temporary detention. He was tried later and charged with spying. The trial was not public and he was not allowed to access a lawyer. Azer’s Family believes that he had no access to any secret information to spying to any other country.
Through past years Said Matinpur also was accused of spying after his trip to Turkey to attend a conference on human rights. Ali Abassi also was sentenced to eight, and five years of imprisonments after his trip to Azerbaijan Republic.
Ebrahim Farajzadeh, Hossein Nasiri, and Nurollah Hosseiniyan were sentenced to six months of imprisonment; Javad Salamani and Abolfazl Nasiri were sentenced to fine charge of 5 million rial ($500,000). They were charged with membership in groups in order to violate national security, and also propaganda against the regime by inviting people to participate in demonstration of racist cartoon published in state-run Iran newspaper which most of Azerbaijanis found it offensive.
The activists were detained following distributing articles and bulletins inviting people in anniversary of cartoon demonstration on April 26, 2007. They were released after suffering 81 days of temporary detention on bails of 300, and 100 million rial ($ 30,000, and 10,000).
The trial of activists was not public, also they were not allowed to access a lawyer when they were detained.
Following publish of video on internet in which Mohammad Khatami the former President of Iran was telling a joke insulting Azerbaijanis, people protested Khatemi. The protests took place in Mir Hossein Musavi’s presidential campaign that was supported by Khatemi. Some of peoples were detained during these protests.
Ali and Mehdi Imani, Azerbaijani student activists, Jahanbakhsh and Nader Bakhtavar are Azerbaijani activists were sentenced to imprisonment from three months to six months and also 30 lashes of whip.
They were arrested after Musavi’s speech in Tabriz stadium on May 25, 2009 following chanting slogans in support of Azerbaijanis ethnic demands and also condemning Khatemi’s racist action. They were charged with violating of public order during Musavi’s speech in stadium. They were not allowed no access a lawyer when were detained and their trail was not public. Reportedly they were subjected to ill-treatments during the detention.
Azerbaijani activists tried
Hasan Ark, Azerbaijani journalist was tired on February 1, 2010. He was detained on September 21, 2009 and was released after 39 days of detention on bail of 500 million rial ($50,000) to be tied later. He was charged with slandering supreme leader and security system and also movement to commit crime against national security by interview with “GunAz TV”. The trial was not public.
Azerbaijani activists released from prison
Jamshid Zarei Azerbaijani prominent activists were released after serving his six months jail term. He was charged with propaganda against the regime and preparing and distributing articles inviting people to participate in demonstrations of cartoon in 2008.
Zarei was detained on May 10, 2008 with some other activists and was released on bail after three months to be tired later.
Hadi Mortaza Selab, Editor in chief of “Dan Ulduz” student journal and Ali Tahamtan Musician Were released on bails of 200, and 300 million rial ($20,000, and 30,000) respectively after suffering 52 days of temporary detention from Tabriz prison. They will be charged with movement against national security and propaganda against the regime via membership in groups struggling for ethnic demands.
The activists were arrested on December 29, 2009 following their participation in funeral ceremony of Changiz Bakhtavar Azerbaijani prominent activist whose death was suspicious. Security forces attacked the participants after the ceremony spreading tear gas beating peoples and detaining large number of people.
Sattar Khan Remembrance Day ceremony was prevented
Pressure on student activists has increased in past years and university authorities prevent students from organizing cultural activities in university. The authorities deny requests of students in taking cultural ceremonies such literature gathering, music concerts in behalf of national union.
Zanjan University authorities prevented organizing of the Remembrance Day ceremony of Sattar Khan (Azerbaijanis here and the national hero of constitutional revolution). The ceremony was banned just hours before start of the ceremony on February 2, 2010. The ceremony was composed of some parts such literature, seminars and photo galleries.
Prior Zanjan University students by establishing an association in 2001 tried to organize different cultural and social activities and also publishing journals about ethnic rights in Iran. The university authorities closed down the association in 2006 following organizing a ceremony celebrating Mother Tongue Day. The director of association, Davud KhodaKarami was dismissed from university.
Filtering of websites
Bizim News Tabriz a website active on giving news about Azerbaijani events in Iran was filtered on February 8, 2010 by Iran tele-communication center. Through past years many websites have been filtered and peopled are not allowed to access those websites. Some of them are ADAPP official website and its news website including savalansesi, Azerbaijani student movement website “oyrenci”, Milli Hereket, Gunaskam, and tens of other websites.