US: Stirring Up Minority Discontent in Iran

There are indications that the US is attempting to stir up discontent among minority groups in Iran.

Representatives of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities told US elected officials that their people face various forms of discrimination, in what participants said was the first Congressional hearing focusing on internal minority issues in

The hearing, “Assessing the Human Rights Situation of Iran’s Ethnic and Religious Groups,” was held by the Congressional Iran Working Group on 13 March. During their testimony, representatives of Iran’s, Baluchi, Kurdish, Arab and Baha’i populations generally agreed that the problems faced by their respective groups were similar, including lack of self-determination and lack of minority language use in schools.

“This policy toward the Baluch is in no way distinct or different from that pursued toward other non-Persian national groups including Arabs, Kurds, Turks and Turkmens. The differences, if any, are merely in degree not in kind,” said M Hosseinbor, a lawyer in Washington who testified on, who comprise the largest non-Persian population in Iran, are forbidden from giving their children traditional Azeri names or celebrating Azeri national heroes, said Fakhteh Zamani, the director of the Association for Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners.

She said that while there was state media broadcasting in the Azerbaijani language, it used what she termed “Fazeri,” a form of Azerbaijani that uses Farsi words. “This tactic has accelerated the cultural and linguistic assimilation of Azerbaijanis and, according to the masterminds behind this, will eventually make Azerbaijani less relevant and lose a status of a language, being relegated into a ‘dialect’ of Persian,” she testified.

Two members of Congress participated in the hearing, and both said they supported the rights of Iran’s minorities.

“Every government can be judged by its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities. And in a classroom, Iran would receive a failing grade,” said Sheila Jackson-Lee, a Democrat from Texas. “You have many friends in the US Congress who are listening here. … We are not going to stop until not only the light of the world is on these issues but the ethnic and religious minorities can stand and be free in a democratic Iran.”