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Iran

IRAN PROTESTS SPREAD TO AZERI POPULATED TABRIZ AND ARDABIL

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Iran’s security forces arrested at least 40 people in the northwestern province of Ardabil during political unrest, Mehr News Agency reports.

The prosecutor of the province of Ardebil, Nasser Athabati, said that most of the detainees were released after questioning, but 15 people are still in custody.

Meanwhile, according to unconfirmed reports, about 90 people were arrested in the city of Tabriz. However, the deputy from Tabriz Shahabodin Bimekdar denied reports, saying that there were no protests in his city.

Over the past week, some groups of people have joined demonstrations in several cities, including the capital Tehran, Mashhad and Kermanshah, in protest against high prices. But the economic protests soon turned into anti-government demonstrations.

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijanis dance to support their kin in Iran

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Social media users in Azerbaijan are dancing on video to express solidarity with their ethnic kin in northern Iran.The campaign began among ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran, who make up around one-quarter of the country’s population, and took to social media to protest a variety of grievances, including the poor economic conditions in Iran, particularly in the northern part of Iran where Azerbaijanis are concentrated. The protest took the form of dancing to a song, “They Talk About You,” by Iranian Azerbaijani singer Alireza Sharifzade.

The action then spread north of the Iran-Azerbaijan border, where Instagram and Twitter users posted their own videos using the name of the song as it is rendered in the Latin alphabet used in Azerbaijan, #sənideyirlər.

The two populations of Azerbaijanis were separated in the 19th century when Russia took over what is sometimes referred to as “Northern Azerbaijan,” today’s independent Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijanis feel a sense of kinship with their brethren in Iran, though actions of solidarity like this are relatively rare. “First time ever Northern Azerbaijan social media gets dominated by Southern Azerbaijan trend,” wrote Azerbaijani social media personality Cavid Ağa. “Seems like music was the only thing lacking all these years.”

“Iran is a country where you can be punished for dancing, for promoting music of the largest minority – Azerbaijani Turks, for being without headscarves, for promoting LGBT rights,” wrote investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova on her Facebook page. “This [is] one of the biggest solidarity actions.”

The Azerbaijani dance protest follows another Iranian dancing social media controversy, when a young woman was arrested in July after posting a video on Instagram of herself dancing. Iranians and others then expressed their solidarity by posting their own dancing videos.

The song “Səni deyirlər” is dedicated to Lake Urmia, a salt lake that straddles the Iranian provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan, which is drying up. The lake’s dessication has become a key focus of Iranian Azerbaijani grievances against the government in Tehran, which has sought to suppress Azerbaijani culture and political expression in the country.

“How good Lake Urmia is for swimming, but they dried it up,” Sharifzade sings. The song concludes with the line, “Long live Azerbaijan.”

Others unwilling to publicize themselves dancing supported the campaign in other ways. Activist Samra Sadraddinli posted a photo of herself in Tabriz, the largest city in Iranian Azerbaijan, with the caption: “Support South Azerbaijanian youth’s Mother Language Movement and dance challenge. I don’t want you to see my Raj Kapoor style dance, that’s why I’m here with my photo from Tabriz.”

The campaign even hit Azerbaijani opposition politics. One Facebook user posted a video of opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov criticizing – without naming them – other opposition groups for holding rallies that were ineffective and only played into the government’s hands. The user captioned the video “They are talking about you.”

As for the government itself, it is keeping quiet. Tehran is extremely sensitive to any hint of Azerbaijani separatism, and official Baku gives Iranian Azerbaijani issues a very wide berth in an effort to not antagonize the Iranian government.

Lamiya Adilgizi is a freelance Azerbaijani journalist.

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Georgia

Iran accuses Georgia of violating the ‘decency of Muslim women in hijabs’ in Tbilisi airport

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The Embassy of Iran to Georgia has sent a letter of protest to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia (MFA) regarding an incident which took place at Tbilisi’s international airport.

According to the Iranian news agency IRNA, security service personnel at Tbilisi International Airport demanded several female passengers arriving from the Iranian city of Isfahan to remove their hijabs.

Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bahram Qassemi said that the Iranian ambassador spoke with several travellers who had been to Georgia to confirm the information, after which he sent a letter of protest to the MFA and to the airport’s security service.

Moreover, the consular department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran also sent a letter of protest to the Georgian Embassy in Iran and demanded an explanation from the ambassador.

“Iran also calls upon the Georgian authorities to prevent a repetition of such incidents, and for the airport security service to observe and respect the dignity of Muslim women in hijabs,” reports IRNA.

The MFA has already responded to the accusations. After receiving the information regarding the alleged violations, the MFA looked into the matter and concluded that the Georgian security staff at the airport were not in violation of any procedures.

“There were no illegal actions on the side of the Georgian security personnel, including actions which might ‘offend religious feelings’,” reads the ministry’s statement.

The MFA has informed the Iranian side regarding the investigation results. The issue will be discussed at the next meeting with the Iranian ambassador and the MFA.

  • According to Georgia’s Tourism Administration, one million people visited Georgia in July, of which 179 thousand were Iranians. Iran is in fifth place after Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and Armenia.

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Iran

Dozens of AZERBAIJANIS DETAINED IN IRAN

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Iranian security forces detained more than 50 Azerbaijani activists gathered in the area of the Babek Fortress in the Eastern Azerbaijan province, Araznews reports.

The reasons for the detention are not disclosed.

Ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran have been gathering for many years in July in the area of the Babek Fortress, which is considered a symbol of the Turkic identity. In recent years, these meetings have not been held because of the pressure of the Iranian security forces.

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