Separatism in the Atropatene Province of Iran

10 m.   |  2019-05-23

The issue of separatism in the Atropatene State of Iran is very important for Armenia, firstly because Armenia has good strategic relations with Iran and secondly, it is directly related to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, and Azerbaijan often speculates these issues and within the Turkic-speaking population of Iran there are some groups, which act under some dirrect and indirrect support of Turkey and Azerbaijan, whose actions are directed not only against Armenia or Artsakh, but also against state system of Iran.

Whether the separatism threatens the Atropatene Region of Iran, is that threat realistic or not? Numerous articles and propaganda materials are written, it is spoken both in Western sources, and in Azerbaijani Turking-speaking places. Does this threat really exist or not?

Of course,on the one hand, it would be wrong to say that the danger of separatism do not threaten to the Turkic-speaking states of Iran at all, but on the other hand the publications, which claim as if the majority of Turkic-speaking population of Iran wants to gain an independence and disconnect the Atropatene State from Iran, are not trustworthy and do not reflect the reality, as first of all related to the numbers of people and secondly in the Iranian society, moreover in the Turkic-speaking population of Iran there is no aspiration for separatism among majority.

The picture is of course different in the field of propaganda, when very small events get much bigger importance and it naturally has its problems .

There are a number of so called “Pan-Turkist” groups, which have been actively involved in activities for more than two decades and from time to time they raise the issue of speaking on their mother tongue as if Iran’s authorities deprived them from that opportunity, whereas it was quite the opposite.  Especially during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, which changed the policy towards the Turkic-speaking people, and now there is a Chair of Turkish language and literature. And it’s too surprising, that the 25 mil. which was mentioned as if exisiting in the territory of Iran and as if they are deprived of an opportunity of getting education on their mother tongue. Whereas studying the wishes of the applicants and the statistics of students applying for that department is sufficiently small, up to 100 to 200 aplicants

Therefore, this also proves, that the exaggeration of this issue is artificial.

On the other hand a number of steps are being taken by the Iran’s authorities, which do not cause countermeasures, but quite the opposite. One of them is the isuue of the language, the other one is having a Turkish Media and studying the common history. The Iranian authorities try to satisfy these issues so as not becoming a topic of speculations especially outside the country.  This, in general, about these issues of separatism. Of course, from time to time this raises a wave of protests among Turkic-speaking people. One of them took place several years ago, when an article was published in “Iran” daily newspaper offending their identity, also recently during a humorous programs on National Iranian Television. From time to time such kind of movements raise protest demonstrations among Turkic-speaking  people and they are justified:they directly offend their identity. But it wasn’t intentional in those TV programs and articles, they just came to that conclusion.

Another such kind of incident was recorded in November 2015, when during one of the programs broadcasted on National Iranian Television episodes were shown insulting the dignity of Atropatene people, which not only arouse anger among the Turkic-speaking population of Iran, but also among MPs from Iranian Maglis elected from Atropatene and led to thousands of demonstrations.

In all cases the Iranian authorities clarify that it wasn’t deliberate and there is no tendency to offend the identity of the Turkic-speaking population of Iran. Moreover, from time to time, both the Spiritual leader of Iran and the President emphasize the indisputable role of the Turkic-speaking population of Iran in the struggle for the Independence of Iran.

On the other hand, a process of consolidation is noticed among the Turkic-speaking people. Both for the Iranian authorities and for the security forces it is difficult to cope with this problem, because if they take abrupt measures and if some process is forbade, it will raise counter-reactions and will contradict provisions proclaimed by the Constitution of Iran.  However, by giving freedom and satisfying all their demands,Iran is having problems inside the country, which too often threatens the statehood. Here is an example which is related to the Armenians: Varazdat Haroyan, the defender of the Armenian national football team, was invited to play in the “Tractor” football club in Tabriz, which is one of the best football clubs in Iran (it is during such kind of football matches that the so-called “Pan-Turkist groups” raise protest rallies, bring posters  and present their claims of separatism. This is one of the best platforms to implement).

Referring to the incident related to Haroyan, it should be mentioned, that the president of the ““Tractor” football club was under the “Pan-Turkist groups” pressure of , why the Armenian came to play in their Turkic-speaking people’s club. Not ressisting that pressure, he canceled the contract with Varazdat Haroyan, stating that he came to Tabriz, Atropatene, to unite the Turkic-speaking population, whereas the presence of an Armenian sportsman in that club could distort the integrity of the Turkic-speaking people. This step was criticized by Iranian state oficcials and MPs, who qualified the step of the head of Tabriz football club as chauvinistic and it contradicts Iran’s Constitution.

This is one of the examples, which shows the difficult situation of Iranian authorities in such kind of issues. Such kind of incident happenned during the Four-day War in April, when some of the Turkic-speaking MPs, who had been elected from Turkic-speaking states, they had to make pro-Azeri and anti-Armenian announcements for meeting demands of Turking-speaking population, so as Azerbaijan won’t speculate the issue “Why Islamic, Shiite Iran does not support Azerbaijan, having the same religion with it”.  If not saying support to Armenia, but even the neutral position raises problems among these groups. We often deal with this problem, whereas fortunately in a real politics (it is different in rhetoric announcements) fortunately, the processes run in other direction.

We witnessed such an incident during the RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s visit to Iran, when in “Ararat” club a poster with a slogan “Artsakh is Armenia and that’s all” was  raised by the Armenian community. In response, protest rallies were held in Iranian Turkic-speaking states. About 30 people were arrested during those rallies by the IRI Security Forces. Several MPs of the IRI Majlis criticised the Armenian community’s attempt for calming them down.

As a conclusion, we can state, that unlike Iran, there is a threat of separatism in other Kurdish and  Arabic speaking states, compared with Atropatene…Being a dirrect border with Armenia, Atropatene is first of all in our focus of attention. Fortunately no armed clashes and terrorist attacks happen  in that territory. We can say, that it is mainly controlled by the Iranian authorities and Security Forces. If comparing the situation between the governing period of the former President Ahmadinejad and current President Hassan Rouhani, it is quite controlled in recent years.