Protesters demanded the release from prison of activists fighting for the rights of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran
The Organization of Nationalist Youth held a protest in front of the Iranian embassy in Baku yesterday on July 11. Participants spoke out against the oppression faced by activists in Iran demanding more rights for ethnic Azerbaijanis in the country.
Azerbaijanis in Iran
The majority of ethnic Azerbaijanis live in Iran, with a population of no less than 15 million people (the population of Azerbaijan itself is 10 million). This is the largest national minority in Iran, and makes up at least 16% of the population. Other figures put the population of Azerbaijanis in Iran as high as 20 and even 30 million.
In the 19th century, the Russian Empire and Iran concluded two peace treaties dividing the territory on which Azerbaijanis lived.
Since that time, the idea of the reunification of Azerbaijanis has surfaced in various forms.
The participants of the protest rally read out a resolution, which stated that recently the Iranian government has increased pressure on activists for the national-cultural rights of ethnic Azerbaijanis.
In particular, they spoke about Abbas Lisani, Kazim Safabakhshi and other activists sentenced to various prison terms for their activities.
The demonstration took place without incident. Although the police were present, they did not disperse the protesters, which is unusual for Azerbaijan.
Employees of the embassy did not respond to the demonstration.
This is not the first such action organized by the Nationalist Youth. The last time they met in front of the embassy was in March 2019.
The protesters also reproached Iran for cooperation with Armenia, with which Azerbaijan has an unresolved conflict over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Official Azerbaijan-Iran relations
Azerbaijan and Iran officially call their relations friendly, however there are several bones of contention between the two states.
Azerbaijani authorities are unhappy about Iran’s close cooperation with Armenia, while Iran disapproves of Azerbaijan’s close relations with Israel.
Moreover, Azerbaijan is a secular state, where the authorities harshly suppress any hints of radical Islam, while Iran is a ‘theocratic republic.’