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Iranian Turmoil Moves to Turkish Azeri Regions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Hundreds of Iranian ethnic Azeris protest a children’s program that contained an ethnic slur

London-Turmoil in Iran moved to provinces with an Azeri Turkish majority in the northwest of the country, to join the series of other regions where tension rose lately between residents and the regime on the basis of sectarian and ethnic differences and socio-economic marginalization.

An article mocking the Azeri ethnic group was recently published by the Iranian state-run Tarhe-No newspaper, leading to a wave of anger in Eastern and Western Azerbaijan provinces and in Ardabil and Zanjan in the northeast of Iran.

In retaliation to the publication of the article in which Turks were described as a “bad ethnic group,” thousands of Azeri Turks took to the streets on Thursday for the third consecutive day to express their rejection of racism

Cities with a majority of Azeri population had witnessed tension last week following the publication of the article.

And, while local news websites had described a security presence in the downtowns of Tabriz and Orumieh cities, they also mentioned that the situation was still “tense” in Ardabil, the third largest Azeri city in Iran.

On Thursday, Asharq Al-Awsat obtained a copy of a statement issued by organizations from the civil society in the Azeri provinces, in which they called on Turks to participate in the largest protest against ethnic abuse.

Also, a large number of activists in the cultural and media sector expressed their rejection to what has been published by the Tarhe-No newspaper.

According to the local “OyanNews” website, at least 1,500 residents participated in the demonstrations in the region of Tabriz, and that Iranian forces have fired rubber bullets at the protesters, a number of whom were arrested.

Local websites also published footage taken in the cities of Tabriz, showing security forces beating demonstrators.

Tarhe-No’s board director Mohammad Reza Rabbani apologized for insulting the Azeri Turks and said he would stop the publication of the newspaper.

Meanwhile, IRNA news agency said that the newspaper would be tried according to the section 4 of Article 6 of the Publication Law, which includes a text banning the publication of articles that create ethnic disputes in the country.

In Iran, no newspaper has ever been taken to trial under this law despite the repeated ethnic insults registered in the country in the past couple of years.

According to U.N. and international human rights organizations, several other ethnic groups are discriminated in Iran.

This is the second time this year that angry protests were staged in Azeri cities against discrimination.

Last November, hundreds of Iranian ethnic Azeris protested a children’s program on state TV that contained a performance regarded as an ethnic slur toward the Azeri language.

Azeris in Iran constitute the third of Tehran’s population and are considered the second largest ethnic group in the country following Persians.

According to official statistics, Azeri Turks are estimated between 16 and 25 percent of Iran’s total population, which equals to 12 to 16 million.

However, Azeri Turks say that their number in Iran is now over 26 million.