Right to Left: Akbar Azad, Alireza Farshi, Hamid Manafi and Behnam Sheikhi
On 21 of February 2017, the International Mother Language Day, Iran’s persecutery Islamic Tribunal sentenced 4 South Azerbaijani mother language advocates to sum of 45 years in prison simply for attempting to promote their mother language.
Mr. Akbar Azad, a well known poet and journalist has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2 years exile to the remote town of Dareshahr of Ilam province.
Another mother language advocate, Mr. Alireza Farshi has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and 2 years exile to Bagmalik town of Khuzestan Province.
Mr. Behnam Sheikhi has been sentenced to 10 years of incarceration and 2 years exile in Mascid Soleiman of Khuzestan Province and Mr. Hamid Manafi is another south Azerbaijani mother tongue advocate who is sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 2 years exile in town of Azna of Province of Loristan.
The Islamic Tribunal of Baharestan of Tehran released the sentences on the International Day of Mother Language. The Tribunal found the aforesaid human right activist “guilty of organizing a meeting to destabilize country’s national security”. The Tribunal indicated in its “Reasons for Decision” that the activist organized a peaceful gathering 3 years ago on the International Mother Language Day to “destabilize” the country.
Almost a half of Iran’s population are of Turkic origin who are mostly residing in the South Azerbaijan and their mother language is banned and advocates of minority rights are constantly persecuted.