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Azeri-Iranian Rights Activists Imprisoned

Human rights monitors are concerned over the detention of two Azeri-Iranian rights activists by Iranian authorities.

Saleh Kamrani, a noted human rights lawyer, was reportedly arrested in Karaj on August 18th. Mr. Kamrani’s wife, Mina, told Azerbaijan’s Azeri Press Agency that Iranian authorities refused to disclose the reason for his detention. The human rights monitoring group Amnesty International says that Mr. Kamrani “is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely in connection with his legitimate activities as a lawyer and for the peaceful exercise of his internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and association in support of greater rights for the Iranian-Azerbaijani community.”

Amnesty International says another Azeri-Iranian detained is journalist Sa’id Metinpour. According to Amnesty International, Mr. Metinpour “has reportedly been tortured, apparently to try to force him to make a videotaped ‘confession.’” Mr. Metinpour was arrested in May and has not been allowed to meet with family members or his lawyer.

Fakhteh Zamani, Director of the Association for Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners, says the arrests of Saleh Kamrani and Sa’id Metinpour are part of a continuing campaign of repression by Iranian authorities:

“There is a demand for cultural and linguistic rights among Iranian-Azerbaijanis, including rights to education in their mother tongue. But unfortunately, those who seek to promote Iranian-Azerbaijani cultural identity are viewed with suspicion by Iranian authorities and are arrested, tortured, and sentenced to prison terms.”

In its latest human rights report, the U.S. State Department said Azeri-Iranians report “ethnic and linguistic discrimination, including the banning of the Azeri language in schools, harassing Azeri activists or organizers, and changing Azeri geographic names.” In a written statement, U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack called on the Iranian government "to improve its human rights situation before more Iranians suffer for attempting to exercise their universal rights and freedoms."