Elcin Hatami Southern Azerbaijan Human Rights Activist
The First Defeat for the Expansion of the Revolution to the Republic of Azerbaijan Following Disintegration of the Soviet Union Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the newly emerged Republic of Azerbaijan became the first target in security doctrine of the Islamic Republic. Iran has been vigorously contesting with major powers, especially with Turkey and western countries, to increase its presence in the Republic of Azerbaijan. Given that the Shia Muslims form the majority of Azerbaijan¹s population, the Islamic Republic made desperate efforts to encourage formation of an Islamic regime, which could have been to the best interest of Iran, but to no avail. The formation of a secular and nationalist government in the Republic of Azerbaijan dashed Iran¹s hope for the expansion of the Revolution it had envisioned since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The political power in Iran is traditionally and deeply rooted in a sort of coalition forged between, and sometimes contested by, the Revolutionary Guard and the clergies. From the early days of the revolution in 1979, theRevolutionary Guard has penetrated all the country¹s social, cultural, economic and military institutions to the extent that it can be now regarded both as the protector of the regime and commander-in-chief of all the regime¹s branches of power.
By the start of Ahmadinejad¹s presidency in 2005, members of the Revolutionary Guard backed by Ali Khamenei, Iran¹s Supreme Leader, have been able to gradually occupy almost all the major governmental posts and positions. Currently the President himself, thirteen of his cabinet ministers and some of his deputies have served the Revolutionary Guard.
According to Iran Briefing, a website addressing the Revolutionary Guard¹s violation of human rights in Iran, more than half of the Iranian lawmakers are in fact active members of the Revolutionary Guard, and the rest are the clergies or seemingly independent figures that indirectly collaborate with the Revolutionary Guard and security forces, defending their programs and policies.
Revolutionary Guard¹s Strategies for Causing Tension in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The Revolutionary Guard has spearheaded various plans and strategies, some of which are pointed out below, in the Republic of Azerbaijan in an attempt to weaken the central government in Baku.
– It has provoked and backed the oppositions to the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan, especially the Islamists, in a bid to foment social unrest and prop up an Islamic regime similar to that of Tehran. We have seen that in the issue of Islamic dress code.
– It has orchestrated various terrorist activities and has trained terrorist groups in Azerbaijan¹s territory. The terrorists are used to target the US and Israeli interests. Many of the Iranian agents have been recently arrested by Azerbaijani government.
-The Revolutionary Guard has been very active in trafficking narcotics and arms and distributing them among the Azerbaijani youths in order to socially destabilize the country. Many of the drug dealers have been released by the Iranian authorities soon after they were extradited to Iran. That contradicts the very reality of the Iranian regime which hands death sentences to drug traffickers, and the rulings are usually being carried out immediately.
-The Revolutionary Guard is committed to train seminary students and dictate the Iranian regime¹s ideologies on them. This move is part of wider strategy to financially support and brainwash the youths in the mosques and religious ceremonies in an attempt to deceive the religious and traditional classes of the society and use them for its own ends at the right time. The seminary students are used to permeate superstitious thoughts in Azerbaijani society and fuel religious strife.
-It has launched libraries and publishing houses in Baku, Azerbaijan¹s capital, in which religious publications are sold at lower price in a bid to erupt the public anger against the central government. Sahar TV channel, which broadcast programs in Azeri language, is an instrument for dissemination of the Iranian regime¹s ideologies, and it is indeed the mouthpiece of radical Islamists of Azerbaijan.
-Red Crescent centers, Martyr Foundation, Imam Khomeini Relief Committee and Cultural centers are primarily built up by the Revolutionary Guard in Azerbaijan in an attempt to attract lower class Azerbaijanis as well as gathering intelligence from Azerbaijani society.
-Azerbaijani citizens have been subject to extreme inspection and control by the Revolutionary Guard, and any sort of travel from Azerbaijan to Iran will be treated as espionage mission threatening the Islamic Republic¹s security. Two Azerbaijani poets, for instance, were recently arrested by Iranian authorities.
-The Revolutionary Guard has stepped up its cyber activities against websites dealing with Azeri issues. The website belonging to the TV channel run by Azerbaijani government known as AZ TV, and Azal, the Azerbaijan airline, have been seriously sabotaged by the Revolutionary Guard.
-The Revolutionary Guard is dispatching massive amounts of military and financial aid to Armenia, especially those situated in northern part. On the other side, the Revolutionary Guard places numerous barriers before the Republic of Azerbaijan in an attempt to prevent it from having military and economic ties with other countries, especially with Israel, which is being regarded by the Islamic Republic as its ideological enemy number one. Revolutionary Guard¹s Strategies for Sowing Discord between Azeri Community in Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan When it comes to Azerbaijani Turks living in Iran, the nature of programs and strategies undertaken by Revolutionary Guard is a little different. From its early days, the Revolutionary Guard has been playing a very destructive role against Azeri culture, music, history and language. During the early decade of the revolution, the Revolutionary Guard¹s members broke into the people¹s houses, similar to what they were doing in other parts of the country, and confiscated music cassettes and whatever related to Azeri culture and language including history books. The holders of the books and music cassettes would be then prosecuted either as counterrevolutionary or communists or anti-Islam. The Azeri culture was generally looked at as outlandish one which was at odds with Shite principles and values. Following the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan from Soviet Union dominance, Iranian Azeris¹ civil struggle against cultural assimilation, alienation and the regime¹s oppression, which is being exerted on all ethnic communities in Iran, took new turn, and people have become more motivated to decide on and determine their own future. That has also led the government to draw up new strategies and plans to curb the ever-increasing national movement by Azerbaijanis.
The Revolutionary Guard and the media run by it have been trying directly and indirectly to portray the Azerbaijani national movement as a pan-Turkish, fascistic movement and its activists as agents of Israel, the US, Azerbaijan and Turkey, who are detrimental to national security. Such false accusations are largely made by the Revolutionary Guard and security forces as a pretext for further suppression of activists of the Azerbaijani national movement.
The Revolutionary Guard held an operation in Ghal-e-Babak festival during Fatemieh Massacre of oppositions to Fars Newspaper, which published cartoons mocking Azerbaijanis, by plain-clothe militias in 2006, suppression of dissenters who were protesting against the government laxness over drying up of Oroumieh lake are just few examples of the
Revolutionary Guard¹s attempt to suppress the Azerbaijani national movement. Iran¹s economy is totally run by the regime, and the Revolutionary Guard controls a major part of the economy and economic resources. The common people, on the other hand, are totally dependent on this regime-owned economy. Those joining either the Revolutionary Guard or security forces are demagogically seeking certain privileges. By pretending to be loyal to the regime and taking part in meetings held by the Basij militia, they are able to get concessions and trophies from the authority. In different parts of Azerbaijan province, the Revolutionary Guard forcefully brings together thousands of people for whom massive political propaganda are then made against the Azerbaijani national movement and the Republic of Azerbaijan.
For instance, the Republic of Azerbaijan is being portrayed as a poor and corrupt country which the Iranian Turks would die of hunger, should the Azerbaijan province of Iran secede from Iran and join the Republic of Azerbaijan. Government offices, cultural centers run by the Revolutionary Guard, mosques and educational institutions are holding annual meetings in which the threat posed by pan-Turkism is being discussed, and the culture, history, language and geography of Azerbaijan is being interpreted in a very unscientific manner. The aim, however, is to detach the people from their culture. For example, the Republic of Azerbaijan is dubbed as ³Aran,² but those parts under the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic are called Azerbaijan. Turkish language is deliberately called Azeri which is different than Turkish. Persian culture and language is promoted and gratified at the expense national heroes of Azerbaijan.
Every week, Friday prayer leaders and representatives of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, in cities such as Ardebil, Oroumieh and Tabriz are targeting the Republic of Azerbaijan by accusing it of being the lackey of Israel and the USA, and, at the same time, they warn the people of the danger posed by pan-Turkism and ask the people and the security forces to stand against such purported danger. Of course, there are dignified people in the government offices and in the Revolutionary Guard who honor their Turkish language and culture and are ready to train their gun against the regime¹s agents, should the regime be tending to display disgraceful behavior against the national heroes and figures of Azerbaijan.
The Revolutionary Guard and its affiliated news agencies, like Fars news agency, are even making territorial claims on the Republic of Azerbaijan, spreading the false belief that the Republic of Azerbaijan seceded from Iran as a result of the Turkmenchai and Golestan Treaties. A magazine called ³Northern Iran² is being published with the support of the Revolutionary Guard in Ardebil and is being widely distributed in Azerbaijan province of Iran.
The Revolutionary Guard brought his agents onto the streets of Tabriz and other cities ordering them to hold ideologically-tainted rallies against the Republic of Azerbaijan after the bilateral relation between Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan deteriorated over a number of contested issues. Head of Tabriz Basij militia, a semi-military unit operating under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, even threatened to storm Azerbaijan¹s consulate in Tabriz in retaliation for Azerbaijan-Israel relation and Eurovision competition which was held in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Revolutionary Guard¹s Cyber Attacks on Websites Dealing with Azerbaijan National Movement
The Revolutionary Guard has intensified its cyber activities against websites which deal with Azerbaijani national movement. Many websites such as ³Tribon² and ³Sana News² have been hacked by the Revolutionary Guard and have gone out of operation since early 2012.
The Revolutionary Guard is the enemy number one of the internet and press, not only in Azerbaijan but across the globe, and it tends to disrupt the activities of Azerbaijan national movement in cyber space by hacking their emails and websites.
The Revolutionary Guard¹s strategies in regard with the Republic of Azerbaijan have nothing to do with its relation with the west, the US and Israel, but its hostile position has somewhat ethnic roots. For example, the countries like Tajikistan and Armenia are being supported by the Islamic Republic, although they have close ties with the US and Israel. As far as common religion is concerned, the Islamic Republic has either remained silent against massacre of Muslims in Chechnya, China and Karabach, or it has even taken side with the perpetrators. The Revolutionary Guard sees the progress made by the Republic of Azerbaijan, which can be seen as an impetus for Iranian Turks to ask to for their civil and cultural rights, as a threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Islamic Republic. That is exactly why it is desperately trying to suppress civil activists and instigate damage to the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The Revolutionary Guard¹s future plan is to install missile shields in north-western Iran from which it can easily attack Azerbaijan¹s oil fields and economic centers should the Islamic Republic be attacked by either the west or Israel.
The ever-increasing power of the Revolutionary Guard is not only a threat to the Republic of Azerbaijan, but also it is a threat to global peace and security. Nobody is to survive the massacre which is likely to take place, should the Revolutionary Guard be able to acquire an atomic bomb, and for that the international community must be held accountable for its failure to curb the Revolutionary Guard.
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