May 22 2010

Nabi Soyturk: `From national rights standpoint, the Green Movement
is a trend to replace the tyre of the cart of chauvinism'

By Arzu Abdulla [translated from Azeri]

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the 22 May uprising in southern
Azerbaijan [northern Iran]. This anniversary is now being marked at
high level worldwide. Our interviewee is Nabi Soyturk, official of
the Southern Azarbayjan Independence Party for ideological issues.

[Correspondent] Nabi bay [mode of address], today marks the anniversary
of our national uprising. How do you remember this uprising?

[Soyturk] When I heard about the 22 May 2006 events, I pondered on for
a long time and came to a conclusion that I was not a member of this
movement. Because an activist should always have a ready answer to "At
what point is the movement at present" question? However, I realized
that I did not have the answer to this question in May when the
uprising broke out. This is also admitted by many national activists.

I think this has two key reasons: First, we were gauging the future
development of the movement with our restricted activities under poor
conditions. And this turned out to be true. That is to say, the first
outcome (22 May) turned out to be bigger than our activities and work.

This proves that the roots of the movement are deep. Second, the issue
is also a factor that misled well-known politicians worldwide. In
the 1990s no-one could think that the political processes would alter
political agenda to that extent. The reason for is that the cold war
of many years reduced the level of political processes to minimum.

Naturally, this factor also hindered predictions of activists of the
national movement.

Now the whole world reckons with the southern Azarbayjan factor

[Correspondent] In general, what did the uprising of the 2006 give
to the national liberation movement in the south?

[Soyturk] A lot can be said to this end, however, the most important
aspect is a message southern Azarbayjan has sent to the Iranian regime
and the world. The 22 May uprising has proved the existence of the
south to the world. Beginning from the American Centre for Strategic
Researches to Russia, everyone began to read Iran differently. This
message was also noticed by Armenia and the PKK [the Kurdistan Workers
Party]. Immediately after the 22 May, [former Armenian president]
Levon Ter-Petrosyan said "there is a sleeping dragon there; the
Karabakh issue must be resolved before it wakes up".

The PKK understood it would not be easy at all for it to take
control of the Orumiyeh province. After the 22 May, the existence
of the southern Azerbaijan was heard from tribunes of influential
international organizations, like the UN, the USA and Europe.

Naturally, the Persian chauvinism well-versed in the history of Tabriz
has understood the main point of the message. With this, both Iran
and the regional countries, as well as far-sighted superpowers, have
realized that the southern Azarbayjan, which was kept far away from the
regional processes, will play a serious role in future developments.

[Correspondent] What has changed over the four years?

[Soyturk] As to laws, nothing. Though the lack of positive changes,
our compatriots anxious about Azarbayjan have come under growing
persecutions and pressure. As pressure has gone up, the enmity of
the Persian chauvinism surfaced openly. However, the signs of the
big positive changes are seen for idealists. Bearing in mind that
Iran has a non-democratic regime and Azarbayjan's past revolutionary
path, it may clear that the ongoing processes in the south may not
be visible now; however, it is possible to foresee the outcome.

As if a clerical current is washing Iran and southern Azarbayjan from
inside out to purify it. This current seems more effective after the
22 May events. Over the recent years, the harmony in the public and
political aspect within the Iranian borders has changed. In 1990s,
we - nationalists - were considered as forces upsetting pro-Iranian
way of thinking and Iran's harmony; now those who are against the
Azerbaijani national movement are considered as those violating the
overall harmony. This signals serious changes in the mechanism. The
May events are a proof of successful development of the cultural
phase in the national movement.

Although the 22 May 2006 uprising was the preliminary outcome of big
cultural changes, the 22 May also maybe considered as the key reason
for the politicization and the beginning of the national movement. Now
even when we pay attention to football games, listen to slogans chanted
by over 100,000 fans at stadiums, we come to the conclusions that the
changes in question are in place. [Passage omitted: The Diaspora of
ethnic Azerbaijanis abroad gets stronger]

"Existence of the Azerbaijani state is a guarantee for south's

[Correspondent] You highlighted the role of Azerbaijan's independence
in the revival of the national spirit. We wonder, what is the role
of this factor in the national movement of the southern Azarbayjan?

[Soyturk] The effect of this factor is simply unparalleled. It is not
by chance that after Azerbaijan gained its independence, southern
Azarbayjan has begun to mobilize itself. Azerbaijan's statehood
has neutralized the insidious policy of the Persian chauvinism on
southern Azarbayjanis for dozens of years. I want to mention several
important factors.

The first aspect is that following the propaganda of the Persian
chauvinism, some targets of strategic importance were described as
impossible for Azarbayjanis. For example, "In general, no education
is possible in Azarbayjani language, this language has defects,
Azarbayjan cannot build a state, and Azarbayjanis are Iranians and
are of Aryan descent and so on".

They managed to set up a similar system of beliefs. As soon as
Azerbaijan gained its independence, created its statehood and got
recognized internationally, not only Azerbaijanis as well as other
nations, including Persians, began to doubt about the system of
beliefs of the Persian chauvinism.

With this, the established standard beliefs began to collapse. Without
Azerbaijan's independence, we would not have managed all these. Now
nobody would appeal to Tehran's fictions in order to study Tabriz and
would turn to archives in Baku. More interestingly, Tehran itself
would not be able to distort and hide to this extend the history
of Tabriz. From this standpoint, our history, culture, national
identities have been rescued from the hand of distorters and will be
preserved in Azerbaijan. The exposure of Iran-written false history
to a certain degree after [Azerbaijan's] independence is a proof
of my words. [Passage omitted: ethnic Azerbaijanis in south realize
their potential]

"We should not attack the Green Movement, but we also cannot unite
with them"

[Correspondent] What is the role of the pro-Musavi camp and the Green
Movement, the party of those who describe themselves as reformers,
in the southern liberation movement?

[Soyturk] In my opinion, the Green Movement should be divided into
two parts and be read separately. The first are about the leaders of
the Green Movement. Their aim is to have more political and a little
bit of ideological changes. The second are those who took to streets
to protest under the Green Movement. In general, their aim is to be
free from political and ideological claws of the Iranian regime. The
factor uniting these two poles is not political or ideological targets
but forces which received blows from the same source. They are against
the same camp. If the phase of resistance is over, their unity will
be shattered when the issue reaches the ideological dimension. No-one
should doubt about it.

As for the attitude of the Green Movement to the national movement,
I should say that Iranian intelligentsia representatives from Western
countries, like Akbar Ganci, Abdolkarim Sorush and others issued
joint statements in support of the Green Movement. They spoke of
democratic rights tenderly. But they did not even mention a sentence
about the right of nations. As a domestic opposition inside Iran,
the Green Movement issue democratic slogans. Sometimes, as a slogan,
they also air the need for the execution of the constitutional items
with regard to the rights of non-Persian nations. However, we should
not forget that some of the bans were applied when the Green Movement
[members] were in power. At present those slogans are of show nature
and cannot absolutely satisfy the national movement. In short, from
ethnic rights standpoint, the Green Movement is a trend to replace
the tyre of the cart of the chauvinism.

[Correspondent] Do you want to say that the national movement should
in no way join the Green Movement?

[Soyturk] This is a very serious question. In my opinion, the presence
of the Green Movement in Iran and the developments are in favour of
us. However, it would not be to our advantage to muddy the national
movement with the Green Movement. The national movement is a strong
one, however, it is not matured to the same extend. If we muddy the
national movement with the Greens Movement, it would be impossible
to separate them later.

We should be careful that the hatred and feeling of protest against
the Iranian regime do not mix up with the Green Movement to distort
goals of the national movement.

If we share our energy, the future of the national movement may come
under risk. I think we should not protest against the existence of
the Green Movement in Iran. We should not fight against the Green
Movement but must keep distance from it. Some people say that the Green
Movement might be used as a means, and I agree with this. But not by
means of joining the Green Movement and not fighting against them. The
national movement has not entered an absolutely matured period. If
we face ourselves to serious tests, then as in history, the means
may overcome targets and the results of the past may repeat itself.

From: A. Papazian