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 Iran.
The hearing, "Assessing the Human Rights Situation of Iran's Ethnic and Religious Groups," was held by the Congressional Iran Working Group on March 13. During their testimony, representatives of Iran's Azeri, 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 Baluchi issues.
Azeris, 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 Canada-based Association for Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners. She said that while there is state media broadcasting in the Azerbaijani language, it uses 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
Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.