The Story of Resilience and Resistance Among Azerbaijanis in Iran
Panel VIII-18, 2023 Annual Meeting
On Saturday, November 4 at 11:00 am
Azerbaijani Turk in Iran, as the largest minority group, has faced complex struggles of resistance and oppression that are influenced by their historical and sociopolitical context, which also is determined by their geographical location. This panel will examine how Azerbaijani Turks have attempted to reconcile their identity as a minority group in Iran with a focus on multiple aspects of their resistance and oppression. The panel's first section will explore Azerbaijani Turks' position as a minority within Iranian society, with a particular emphasis on the need for recognition, such as acknowledgment and validation of their distinct cultural practices and the equitable distribution of resources and opportunities. Then the analysis of the systemic racism in Iran that is controlled and enforced through the pillars of language, education, and media will be the second part of the discussion. From a young age, these interdisciplinary spheres begin not only an effective process of disassociation but also antagonization of minority children from their ethnic identities. Then we will explore the effects of heritage discourse on the oral tradition and how this valorizing discourse influences the image of the Ashiq in society and among themselves, leading to a transformation in their practices. The Ashiq, Turkish bards, as a traditional cultural product, are marginalized and find no refuge in cultural and intangible heritage categories, symbolizing the margination of Azerbaijani Turk culture in Iran. The last part will focus on conflict and memory in the literary texts produced based on the events of 1945 in northwestern Iran to reflect on how these texts can help the society make sense of the exiles and other post-conflict traumas in Azerbaijani providence of Iran after 1946 and its reflection on literature. This panel aims to perpetuate the experiences of Azerbaijani in Iran and their resilience and resistance to illuminate theoretical aspects of the struggles and challenges faced by the Azerbaijani Turk community in Iran, with a focus on how their identity is framed and enforced by the larger social structures and institutions within the society.
This paper focuses on conflict and memory in the literary texts produced based on the events of 1945 in northwestern Iran, also known as Iranian Azerbaijan. The purpose is to reflect on how the establishment of the local government and the conflicts followed are narrated in the literary texts and whether or not these texts can help the society make sense of the exiles and other post-conflict traumas in Azerbaijani providence of Iran after 1946.
The paper consists of two main components. The first part focuses on the historical background of the conflict between the central government of Iran and ethnic Azerbaijanis. The second part expands on the theory of memory and enforced strategies of remembering and forgetting from the official initiatives and personal motivation as represented in the text of the two novel novels Quşlar Daha Qorxmurlar (Birds are not Afraid Anymore) by Rughayyeh Kabiri and Ashk-i Sabalan (The Tears of Savalan) by Ibrahim Darabi. These two texts will be examined through the lens of the collective memory theory coined by Maurice Halbwachs, Mary Douglas, and David Berliner on the concept of identity and the question of truth. These scholars who have studied memory and the act of remembering after conflicts conclude that the act of remembering and forgetting can be complicated and that post-conflict cultures often tend to be characterized by a constant desire to remember the past and a continuous need to forget. In this respect, I will examine Kabiri and Darabi’s work to identify what is being recorded or erased and the political and psychological motivations behind remembering and forgetting in the context of the aftermath of the 1946 events in Iranian Azerbaijan.
The Ashiq, who are Turkish bards, constitute a significant aspect of Turkish identity in Iran, where Persian is the national language. In this context, where modern and Western cultural concepts are dominant, traditional cultural products that do not fit into recognized categories are marginalized and can only find refuge in the categories of cultural and intangible heritage.
Drawing on an ongoing field survey, this presentation aims to examine the concept of cultural heritage. Specifically, we aim to analyze the autobiographical narratives of 30 Iranian Ashiqs recorded between 2018 and 2022, in order to explore the effects of using heritage discourse on the oral tradition. We will demonstrate how the use of this discourse helps the Ashiqs and, most importantly, their fans to valorize the tradition in a society where the minority status of the Turkish language condemns all cultural products to be considered as "local" and "folkloric," as opposed to "national" and "official." We will examine how this valorizing discourse influences the image of the Ashiq in society and how it shapes a new perception of this practice simultaneously. Does not the enhancement of the Ashiq's imagery go hand in hand with a subtle transformation in their practices and tastes ? Are the Ashiqs adapting to this new perception by favoring certain practices over others? What are other decisive elements in this transformation ? These questions will be at the heart of our study."
Undoubtedly, the ongoing uprising in Iran is a women's revolution. This revolution started after the killing of Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a Kurdish woman in Tehran, by the so-called moral police and immediately spread to other regions and received support from many groups. The ongoing uprising in Iran can be understood as a manifestation of social movements and their ability to mobilize against social and political injustices. Nevertheless, this women's revolution has not completely divorced from the politics that shadows the national minority groups and the forms of oppression that marginalized groups have faced in Iran during the past hundred years. Drawing on Nancy Fraser's concept of "progressive recognition," it is crucial to examine the positionality of Azerbaijani Turks as a minority in Iran and how Turks have been treated in terms of recognition in this revolution. Fraser argues that recognition is vital in the context of struggles for justice, but it must be accompanied by efforts to address the underlying structural inequalities perpetuating marginalization. In this case, identity politics plays a critical role in the media representation of national groups. By examining cases such as Esra Pahani, Aylar Haqqi, and other Azerbaijanis killed during the revolution with a media representation lens, this analysis highlights the Persian mainstream media's differential treatment of national groups. This analysis illustrates how recognition operates in minority politics and is mediated through the media.
While systemic assimilation is a constant struggle for many minorities living in Iran, the discrimination is especially detrimental for Azerbaijani Turkic children. This paper examines how systemic racism in Iran is controlled and enforced through the pillars of language, education, and media by comparing and drawing resources from the colonial struggles of the BIPOC in the Western world. Discourses of oppression, intersectionality, race, and racism are substantially drawn from the frameworks developed by minority intellects of the West such as Merlyn Frye, Angela Davis, and Kimberly Crenshaw. The paralleled experiences of BIPOC children and the Azerbaijani Turkic children in Iran, depict a story of linguistic and cultural segregation. From a young age, interdisciplinary spheres of language, education, and media begin not only an effective process of disassociation, but also antagonization of minority children from their ethnic identities. By comparative analysis of normalized racial slurs, jokes, and stereotypes in the language, to a Persionized education system, accompanied by degraded and dehumanized depictions of Azerbijani Turks in state controlled media and publications, it can be seen that these children undergo a forced practice of assimilation. In relation to how BIPOC people are discriminated against in North Amerika when considering the glorification of the dominant culture and suppression of minority rights due to sociopolitical dynamics, minority children consequently alienate themselves from their ethnicity and absorb the dominant culture as their own. Furthermore, the strategies of deprivation and negligence are explored to understand how inaction itself can be a form of encroachment.