Azeri paper accuses Khatami of "Persian chauvinism"

Ayna, Baku
10 Aug 04

The Azerbaijani newspaper Ayna has accused Iranian President Mohammad
Khatami of promoting Persian chauvinism under the guise of
democracy. Talking about his trip to Ganca while on a visit to
Azerbaijan, Ayna said the fact that Khatami described Azerbaijani poet
Nizami as being Persian shows that Iran's policy is to assimilate and
trample upon the rights of ethnic minorities residing in that country,
including Azeris. The following is the text of Sadraddin's report by
Azerbaijani newspaper Ayna on 10 August headlined "President Khatami
behaved as a Persian chauvinist" and subheaded "Thus, showing which
ideology he belongs to":

Iranian President Mohammed Khatami's visit to our country ended with a
trip to great Azerbaijani poet and philosopher Nizami Gancavi's
mausoleum in Ganca . It was there that he made the greatest mistake
not befitting a statesman during his three-day visit.

We have heard more than once representatives of the Tehran regime
paying lip service to the recognition of the territorial integrity of
our country, Karabakh's recognition as an integral part of Azerbaijan
and consent to the opening of Azerbaijan's consulate-general in
Tabriz. From this viewpoint, those who describe Khatami's visit to
Baku and Ganca as a new stage of relations between Iran and Azerbaijan
are in some way mistaken in their analyses. Nor do they need to
exaggerate the Iranian president's tour of our republic into a great
diplomatic success. Khatami simply paid the visit he should have paid
two years ago. The Tehran regime has never openly objected to the
opening of an Azerbaijani consulate in Tabriz. Both the Azerbaijani
envoy in Tehran and the Iranian ambassador to our country have been
promising the public of North the Azerbaijani Republic and South
Azerbaijan northern Iran for several years that this diplomatic
mission will be opened soon. But, the consulate won't open. This time,
the promise has been made at the level of the Iranian president,
Mohammad Khatami. Although we do not believe in a positive result, in
any case we hope that this issue which is sensitive for the ordinary
people of both Azerbaijans North and South will find its
resolution... ellipses as given

Now, let us have a brief look at Khatami's mistake. While on a trip to
Ganca, he wrote down his words and wishes in the visitors' book at the
world's renowned thinker Nizami Gancavi's mausoleum. There he called
Nizami a poet of "Persian literature".

We have always boasted our hospitality. This national value has always
been a feature distinguishing Azerbaijani Turks from others. Our ills
have often resulted from this feature. With his remarks Khatami proved
that he was a representative of the chauvinist Persian ideology masked
under the cover of democracy. Had he not called Nizami Gancavi a poet
of the Islamic world for eulogizing God and the Muslim prophet, he
would have shown his devotion to Islam which is his country's official

As is known, Persian chauvinists in Iran are trying to tout the great
Azerbaijani poet, Nizami Gancavi, as being Persian. In his wishes
Khatami was a little bit "ashamed" to call him in the same way as in
Iran. Shortly before that, the Iranian president said in an address in
Iran that the national unity factor is the Persian language and
culture. The bearer of this opinion could have never expressed a
different view on Nizami Gancavi. This is the nature of the reformism
Khatami represents. He is a Persian chauvinist pretending to be
wearing the robe of democracy. The supporters of this ideology do not
accept the existence of ethnicities other than Persians in Iran and
believe those who are not Persians are bits and pieces. In other words
they preach the idea that all other ethnic groups in Iran originated
from the Persians, thus attempting to assimilate other ethnic groups.

As we wrote in a previous issue of Ayna, Mohammad Khatami did not meet
the press. The media in his country are silenced because they are
feared. While in our country he hid for fear of confronting questions
on real problems. Because an attempt to seem candid to the local
public by reciting ethnic Azerbaijani poet of Iran Mahammadhuseyn
Sahriyar's poetry misfired. When in trouble they know how to find ways
to the hearts of our countrymen in South Azerbaijan by saying a couple
of words in Azerbaijani. He failed to rise in the eyes of Azerbaijani
Turks by reciting Sahriyar in Azerbaijani after calling Nizami Gancavi
"a poet of Persian literature".

Persian is a compulsory language in Iran. Thus, a policy of
Persianization is being pursued in the country. This remark by Khatami
illustrates that everybody, from the supreme spiritual leader of Iran
Ayatollah Khamene'i to ordinary citizens, serves the Persian language
and culture. This clearly shows that the rights of Turks, Kurds, Arabs
and other ethnic groups in the country are being trampled upon.

In recent years an Armenian journalist visited Baku. He made a
fearless statement in Baku that Karabakh belongs to the
Armenians. Khatami's remark is equal to this. We gave way to the
Persian language and secretaries at our palaces, as we did to
Armenians in our country. That is why part of our country is under
Armenian occupation, while in another part Persian chauvinism is
striving to destroy our ethnic identity.

But no official from Baku that visited Iran has ever said "this
belongs to Azerbaijani Turks", although they are in majority in the
neighbouring country. There is a Turkic signature under every
historical monument or manuscript in Iran.