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Minorities Persecuted In Iran

Religious and ethnic minorities in Iran are often persecuted by the government. Azeris, who make up approximately one-quarter of Iran's population, are a case in point. They frequently face ethnic and linguistic discrimination, including banning the Azeri language in schools, harassing Azeri activists or organizers, and changing Azeri geographic names.

A number of Azeris have been imprisoned for advocating cultural and language rights for Iranian Azerbaijanis. Reza Abbasi is a case in point. He is a member of the Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners and the Alumni Association of Iran, an organization that promotes democracy and human rights.

Mr. Abbasi was detained on June 27th in the city of Zenjan in northwestern Iran for refusing to comply with a summons by the Iranian Intelligence Agency. Amnesty International reports that Mr. Abbasi is in danger of being tortured. Furthermore, his trial has apparently not complied with international standards. During at least one court appearance he was not allowed to have a defense attorney present.

In the meantime, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence has been harassing Mr. Abassi's family, including repeatedly summoning his elderly parents for interrogation. Family members of detained Iranian activists are often threatened, says Fakhteh Zamani, a member of the Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners:

"Most of these families, especially the female members, are threatened. They are harassed constantly and most of them are even afraid to leave their home without someone being present with them. Or they are even afraid to stay home alone because they are afraid of the [Iranian] secret police coming to their houses and arresting or maybe attacking them."

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack has condemned the Iranian government's severe repression of dissidents and those fighting for personal freedom in Iran. He has called on the government in Tehran "to respect the human rights of all Iranian citizens. . . .and to release those arrested and imprisoned as a consequence of defending universally accepted human rights and freedoms."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.