Azeris Modern Identity

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Anatomy of Iranian Racism

The Anatomy of Iranian Racism: Reflections on the Root Causes of South Azerbaijan’s Resistance Movement

Dr Alireza Asgharzadeh

In recent days many Azeri towns and cities in Iran have, once again, become the revolutionary scene of anti-racist and anti-colonial struggle against Iran’s racist and colonial order. The current movement of South Azerbaijan must be situated right at the heart of issues of racial/ethnic oppression and internal colonialism in an Iranian context. By avoiding any mention of the terms ‘racism’ and ‘internal colonialism,’ the dominant Persian discourse has provided a completely upside-down picture of social and ethnic inequality in the country, masterfully managing to deceive the international media and progressive anti-racist forces throughout the world. The fact of the matter is that without taking note of ‘racism’ and ‘colonialism’ as important social facts that do exist in Iranian society, it would be impossible to provide a comprehensive analysis regarding the current Azeri movement, along with other similar movements in Kurdistan, Khuzistan, Baluchistan, Turkman-Sahra, and other regions of the country.

Ethnic pluralism, difference and diversity have always been a defining characteristic of what is today called ‘Iran.’ Peoples of various ethnic origins, such as the ancestors of contemporary Azeri-Turks, Kurds, Baluchs, Turkomans, Arabs, Lurs, Gilaks, Mazandaranis and others have lived in Iran for centuries. The history of civilization in what is known today as Iran goes back over six-thousand years. The available archaeological/linguistic record indicates that from the very beginning the region was characterized with extreme ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity. No single ethnic group has ever constituted a definite numerical majority in the country, although the Azeri-Turks now have a relatively slight majority with a population of over 30 million.

Up until 1925, the country had been run in accordance with what one may call a traditional confederative system within which all ethnic groups enjoyed the freedom to use and develop their languages, customs, cultures, and identities. With the beginning of the Pahlavi regime in 1925, the natural trend of ethnic and linguistic plurality was abruptly stopped, and a process of monoculturalism and monolingualism started, which continues to date. The aim of this chauvinistic process has been to present the language, history, culture, and identity of the Persian minority as the only authentic language, history, culture, and identity of all Iranians.

For over 80 years, the role of the central government in Iran has been one of denying and dismissing ethnic and linguistic diversity in the country. Just as the Pahlavi regime focused on annihilation of cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences in the country, so too the current Islamic Republic has continued with the politics of assimilation, exclusion, and racism. Under the current establishment, gender-based and religion-based oppressions have also been added to a host of exclusionary and racist practices left over from the previous regime. The racist politics of the governing apparatuses have always been accompanied by ideological and discursive support of the majority of Persian writers, intellectuals and thinkers who, due to their belonging to the dominant group, have enjoyed the privileges of monolingualism, monoculturalism, and racism in the country. To this group must be added the assimilated segment of non-Persian writers and intellectuals whose passionate support for Persian racism has even surprised the Persians themselves. In fact, such individuals of Turkic origin as Mahmood Afshar, Iraj Afshar, Ahmad Kasravi and others have been among the founding fathers of this ugly racist system.

The governing apparatuses, the dominant elite, and the farstoxicated intelligentsia have come together and sustained the structural bases of one of the most racist systems in the contemporary world. This naked racism which feeds on outdated and discredited Arayanist paradigms and racist theories of the 18-20th centuries Europe has outlived the Jim Crow segregationist system in America; it has survived Nazism, European fascism, and the Apartheid regime in South Africa. In effect, compared to its kind in Germany, Europe, the US, and South Africa, the Persian racism in Iran represents an amazing success story in terms of its durability, normalcy, and assimilatory capacity. Below are some salient characteristics of this dominant racist discourse and praxis:

1. The Belief in the Superiority of ‘Aryan’ Race

Persian racism in Iran advocates a racist and racialized view of the world where the so-called ‘Aryan’ race is seen as a superior race. Using the racist ideas of 18-20th centuries Europe as its theoretical/ideological bases, the dominant group exploits the country’s resources to promote lavishly funded research and exploration regarding the history and existence of this ‘superior Aryan race’ in Iran. On the other hand, serious works challenging the supremacy of Aryanist historiography not only do not receive any assistance but are not even allowed publication in Iran. A glaring case in point is the historian Naser Poorpirar whose recent work on the history of Sasanid dynasty was not permitted to be published in Iran. According to his personal website (, the author self-published the book in Singapore and shipped it back to Iran for distribution. Ordinarily one would expect that a study critically examining the Orientalist construction of pre-Islamic history of Iran would not encounter any kind of government censorship in the Islamic Republic. Not so. Works like Poorpirar’s are not allowed publication simply because they interrogate the Aryan/Fars-centric history of Iran, powerfully exposing its fictional, disingenuous, and dishonest character.

2. The Belief that Iran Is the Land of Aryans

Persian racism openly defines Iran as the land of these so-called Aryans who are in turn identified with the dominant Persian group, its language, culture, and identity. Through this racist process, Farsi becomes the only national/official language and the Persian culture gets identified as the national culture of all Iranians; just as Iran’s history gets appropriated to the advantage of this so-called ‘Aryan’ race by excluding, distorting, and erasing the histories, stories, and narratives of other ethnic groups. This exclusion takes place in government-sponsored research projects, schoolbooks, university texts, curriculum, allocation of research funding, etc. In short, under the racist order in Iran, to be Iranian becomes equated with being Persian. This kind of racist identification serves to foreignize and otherize those communities who are not Persian and who do not speak Farsi as their natural mother tongue.

3. The Belief in the Purification of Aryan Race of Iran through Language

Drawing on discredited European racist views, the dominant discourse in Iran equates language with race and tries to fabricate Indo-European language ties for non-Farsi speaking peoples such as the Azeri-Turks in an attempt to show that over a thousand years ago they spoke an Indo-European language and are therefore Aryan. As such, they should cleanse themselves of their inferior linguistic/ethnic/cultural identity and become one with ‘the superior Aryan race’ by speaking the language of this race: Farsi. This kind of racist reconstruction of prehistoric (imaginary) languages essentializes race-based and language-based identities and prioritizes them based on a fabricated history of origins, arrivals, etc., giving rise to the absurd idea about who has come earlier than whom, who has come first, who has come second, who has come last, whose language was spoken earlier than the others; and who, as a result, should have mastery over others. These kinds of non-sensical absurdities serve to create unnecessary competitions among various ethnic/national groups which lead to animosity, mistrust and lack of cooperation among them, while leaving them vulnerable to be colonized and assimilated by the dominant racist order.

The Iranian racist order openly proscribes non-Farsi languages in the country, banning them from becoming languages of education, instruction, learning, correspondence, and governance. By banning non-Farsi languages, the dominant group violates minoritized communities’ identities; subjugates their minds, and brutalizes their spirits. It supplants the indigenous names of geographical landmarks, cities, towns, villages, and streets; appropriates ancient heroes, historical figures, literary figures, scientists, movie stars, popular singers, dancers, and artists belonging to the marginalized communities. It prevents non-Farsi speaking communities from naming their children as they wish, using their own indigenous languages, cultures, names, words, signs, and symbols, forcing them instead to use names and symbols approved by the dominant discourse and praxis.

4. The Practice of Anachronism in Interpreting Works of History, Religion, and Literature

Using an anachronistic method of analysis, the hegemonic discourse in Iran offers purely racist and racialized interpretations of history, historical events, and classical texts such as the Avesta and the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. It interprets these ancient texts in accordance with modern racist theories and notions which were not in existence at the time these texts were written. The anachronistic reading of these texts becomes central to the maintenance of racist order in Iran in that such a reading legitimates the ownership of the country by a single race, just as it privileges a single language, history, culture, and identity. Anachronism gives a historical justification for contemporary oppressions, exclusions, and annihilations in Iran.

5. The Belief in Essentialism and an Essentialist notion of Iranian-ness

The dominant order in Iran promotes an essentialist notion of identity based on race and language. Instead of viewing identities as shifting, non-fixed and fluid categories, the Iranian racist order assigns fixed identities to individuals and communities based on their degree of ‘Iranian-ness’ (Iraniyyat). Under this essentialist and essentializing mentality, those speaking an Indo-European language are considered to be in possession of authentic Iranic identity and hence ‘more Iranian’ than those speaking a Semite or Turkic language.

The dominant order plays the race card to create hostilities among marginalized communities, seeking to prevent the formation of any semblance of solidarity among them. By identifying some of them as ‘true Iranians,’ ‘real Aryans,’ and ‘the authentic owners of Iran,’ it engenders a policy of divide and conquer, while sowing the seeds of mistrust and animosity among different ethnic groups. At the same time, it prevents a sensible census from taking place based on ethnicity and language, fearing that an ethnic-based and language-based census would reveal the true size and number of both Persian and non-Persian communities in the country. Just as such racist notions as ‘the true owners of Iran,’ ‘the real Aryans,’ and similar mumbo-jumbo are emphasized to an inflated and inflammatory degree; so too the real issues and concerns such as the need for ‘conducting of an ethnicity/language based national census,’ ‘opening of ethnic studies departments in the universities,’ and ‘researching ethnic groups and ethnic relations in the country’ are de-emphasized, degraded, and dismissed.

6. The Belief in the Systematic Practice of Racism

The Iranian racist order uses the coercive force of governing organs to marginalize, criminalize, and punish the activists advocating the cause of minoritized communities, labeling them as traitors, secessionists, agents of foreign governments, etc. During the cold war period, it was customary to label anti-racist activists as communists and KGB agents. Nowadays such activists are labeled as agents of CIA, Israel, Zionism, Turkey, and even the Republic of Azerbaijan. Through such practices, the dominant order refuses the legitimate demands of minoritized communities for equal treatment, justice, and fairness. It brutally suppresses any ethnic-based and language-based activity, forcefully denying and condemning the right for self-determination of various nationalities. On the economic front, the government channels the country’s resources to building infrastructure, factories, and development projects in Persian populated cities such as Isfahan, Shirza, Yazd, and Kerman, while the non-Persian regions of Kurdistan, Baluchistan, Azerbaijan, and other areas more and more plunge in poverty and deprivation.

Resistance to the Racist Order

Thus, it is in this anti-racist, anti-colonial context that the current South Azerbaijani movement and the movement of other minoritized communities must be approached. It is under a racist and colonial condition that sites such as history, historiography, language, literature, and the education system have become main arenas where the battle for domination and subjugation of the marginalized Other is waged. The dominant group uses these privileged sites to maintain its oppressive power base; to legitimate its dominance and privileged status, and to justify its oppression.

Simultaneously, the marginalized uses these very sites to question, challenge, combat, and eventually subvert the oppressive dominant order. For instance, in the linguistic battleground, the dominant bans the minoritized languages and uses its language to supplant them. The marginalized, on the other hand, seeks to reclaim and revitalize her/his excluded indigenous language so that s/he is empowered to self-express, self-identify, and self-determine. Just as the dominant uses history to deny a historical legitimacy to the marginalized Other, so too the marginalized uses her/his own version of history to reject and repudiate the history which is constructed for her/him by the dominant. The dominant uses the education system to enforce its assimilatory and racist policies. The marginalized redefines the purpose of education and schooling to bring about inclusivity, equity, equality and fairness for all.

While the marginalized uses all in its power to fight racism and oppression, it is important to realize that her/his battle is an uphill struggle in which s/he has very little access to strategic sites such as history, literature, language, and the education system. These are the sites that have detrimental impacts on the outcome of the battle between the colonizer and the colonized. And these sites are controlled for the most part by the dominant. If the dominant is left to its devices, there is little chance that the marginalized will eventually eliminate the bases of colonialism, oppression, and racism. As such, it is imperative that progressive forces everywhere take note of these anti-colonial, antiracist struggles and support them in any way they can.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Who are Azeris?

Who are Azeris?
Important to emphasize the roots of Azerbaijan

By Aylinah Jurabchi
August 8, 2002
The Iranian

The difference between the accent of Azeris from Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan is equivlant to the difference of accent between people from New York and Boston, which makes it clear that the language of the Azeris north of the Aras and south of the Aras is basically the same.

The language spoken in the region of northwestern Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan signifies that the people are of the same ethnic origin and that they are in fact one people, divided between political boundaries and influenced throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries by different countries and political ideologies.

Many pan-Iranists claim that Azerbaijanis are of the same stock as the Persians (meaning Aryan and Indo-European) and that they have been "Turkified" linguistically and not ethnically. But if we observe the language, culture and roots of the people of Azerbaijan (both north and south) we come to the conclusion that they are in fact peoples seperate by race and language from the Persians, who currently make up 51% of the population of Iran.

Azerbaijanis are descendants of the Oghuz Turks who migrated to the region of the Caucus mountains and the modern region of northwestern Iran in the 11th century from Central Asia. Prior to their migration, the area of Azerbaijan was first inhabited by the Medes who had settled there as early as 2500 B.C. and Caucasian Albanians who settled north of the Aras river in the present day Republic of Azerbaijan and was invaded by the Greeks and Arabs in the later centuries.

Other groups, including Turkish peoples such as Huns and Khazars as well as non-Turks such as Assyrians, Armenians and others had also passed through the present-day region of south/north Azerbaijan prior to the mass migration of the Oghuz in the 11th century.

The Oghuz Turks, who were composed of 24 tribes, were part of the confederation of Seljuk Turks who ruled an empire in the Middle East from the 10th to 12th centuries. During their reign, many distinct areas of the Persian empire (which they had taken over) were influxed with heavy populations of Turks and many parts remained Persian.

For example, Esfahan, which is a Persian-speaking city in central Iran, was a Seljuk capital for many years but the people's language was never changed and the ethnic structure of the people of the city of Esfahan remained Persian. Other places such as Khorasan (northeastern Iran) as well as Azerbaijan, however, were places within the Persian empire which became home to a large number of Turks who changed the ethnic structure of the original inhabitants.

This rejects the claim of pan-Iranists who state that the eminent amount of Turkish migrants in the 11th-12th centuries only changed the linguistics of the original inhabitants of Iran. If this was the case, then how come many other parts of the ancient Persian empire as well as distinct parts of the Middle East that were ruled by Turks did not see linguistic change? Pan-Iranists also claim that the Turkish race is in fact a Mongoloid race which also includes some peoples of east and central Asia such as Mongols, Koreans, Japanese and others.

Such false statements which go against archeological and historical evidence are partially made because the Turkish language is part of the Ural-Altaic language family group which also includes Mongolian but which also includes European languages such as Finnish and Hungarian.

Archeological evidence proves that the original homeland of the Oghuz Turks was an area north of the Oxus river in present day Kazakstan (central Asia) and that they spread in an area between the Caspian sea and Aral lakes within a time frame prior to their migration west to the Middle East and Europe. Turkish languages have very slight similarity to languages such as Mongolian, Finnish and Hungarian and there is no way that a Mongol could understand an Azeri by merely listening to his/her speech. Such comparison is pretty much absurd.

False claims can be made about Persians because the Persian language is made up of various Arabic words and has been influenced heavily after the 7th century by Arabic so is it fair to say that Persians are in fact Arabs because of their language or that Persians and Arabs are of the same race? The answer would be no.

Peoples considered as eastern Turks (Kazaks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Uygurs) often have facial similarities to Mongoloid peoples but also have Caucasoid features and it is often common that families have children who are siblings but look like they are from opossite races. The reason is because eastern Turks who were orignally a Caucasoid peoples such as their western Turkish brothers (Azeris, Turks from Turkey and Turkmens) mixed with Mongols after the Mongols invaded much of Asia and parts of Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Close contact between eastern Turks and Mongoloid peoples was consistant throughout the centuries. Turkmens of Turkmenistan and Iran often have blonde hair and green eyes and often have faces which resemble peoples of Mongolia and the far east, this is also because of the mixing which occured with Mongols.

A logical explanation would seem to prove that Azeris are in fact ethnic Turks that do not share the same roots as Persians, whom in the first place never settled in northern Iran but in southern Iran. The Medes, however, can be linked to the history of Azerbaijan because they were the peoples who played a role in the formation of the name "Azerbaijan" which is believed to be derived from the name of a Median satrap (governer) during the invasion of the Greeks whose name was Atropat.

The region of Azerbaijan was in ancient times described as Atropatene (the land of Atropat) and is said to be pronounced as Azerbaijan first by the Arabs in the 8th century and hence as been the name of the region. Azer/Azar in ancient Persian meant fire and the name of Atropat meant "guardian of fire" so therefore "Azerbaijan" means the land of fire.

So it is therefore important to emphasize the roots of Azerbaijan and to also maintain a strong Azerbaijani identity in Iran which would include the rights to learn Azerbaijani in schools and perhaps even an autonomous movement which would allow the region of South Azerbaijan to have greater prosperity and mobility.

There are approximately 20-30 million Azerbaijani Turks who live in Iran, primaraly in the northwestern provinces of East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, Ardebil and Zanjan. They also live in the vicinity of these areas in other provinces such as Hamedan, Gilan, Kurdistan, Qazvin and Markazi.

Azerbaijani Turks also make up more than 30% of the popluation of Iran's capital city, Tehran, which is home to more than 12 million inhabitants of mostly diverse backgrounds. Tehran was in fact proclaimed the capital of Iran in the 17th century by the Qajar dynasty who were Azerbaijani Turks. Many national figures of Iran in the past and present in the categories of politics, sports, entertainment, science, philosphy and literature have been or are Azerbaijani Turks.

Their great role in the foundation of Iran and the prosperity of Iran during various times in history is what has made them equal Iranians in the eyes of the majority population, the Persians. However, the contributions of Azerbaijanis has almost always been for the cause of greater prosperity for the country of Iran as a whole rather than their own ethnic background.

The majority of Azerbaijanis in Iran have held great loyalty to their country of citizenship despite the fact that their cultural and linguistic rights as a minority has not always been respected by the majority of the people who are Persians.

With the independence of the Repbulic of Azerbaijan in 1991 from the Soviet Union, the level of Azeri nationalism in Iran has risen and the demand for greater cultural and linguistic rights has become a priority for most Azeris. While the independent Azerbaijan Republic is home to close to 8 million people, Iran which is home to more than 20 million Azerbaijanis has to compete with the small republic situated above the Aras river north of the region of South Azerbaijan so that it's northwestern ethnic provinces will not join the Republic of Azerbaijan some time in the future. The south Azerbaijanis are forced to live under an Islamic system in Iran while their brothers in the Republic of Azerbaijan live under the principles of democracy.

Added note, August 22, 2002:

My stance has changed greatly

Wow! I have gotten a lot of mail for some reason people are asking me if Im from Baku? actually no not at all Im a 26-year old Iranian female from Tabriz.

Thanks for printing my article although it is quite old [Who are Azeris?]. After a few trips to Baku my stance on the Azarbaijan Republic and its government has changed greatly (run by Heidar Aliyov; he is an absolute disgrace.)

Although I still strongly beleive that my people have a right to be taught how to read and write in Azari. It is sad that I can write 3-page poems in Farsi, however not able to write a 2 line bayt in Azari with the correct grammatics, because our parents were not taught it; it was illegal for them to even speak their language in the schools. They where fined heavily by the shah as students to even speak azari in the schools.

So I know a lot of people are angry... c'est la vie.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Was Babak Khoramdin an Azeri?

Azeris Claim that Babak Khoramdin was an Azeri. Here is a text from Wikepedia.

Wikepedia Text:

In recent years, there has been debate on ethnic origin of Babak, even so trying to fit an anciant figure to this or that nationality goes against any objectiveness. Some Turkish nationalists claim that Bâbak was an Azeri-Turk. On the other hand, Persian nationalists retain the established opinion that he was Persian and that at the time of Bâbak, the Turks had not yet migrated to Azerbaijan.

From the Turkish point of view, it is said that Babak's name can not be shown as a proof of his alleged Persian roots, because it was not his real name. Names of some of his lieutenat's such as Tarkhan who was a Turk and Azrak who was an Arab, show that the movement was a mixed ethnicity, broad regional freedom movement against the Caliphate rule. Existence of Muslims among Bâbak's supporters also reinforces this assertion.

According to the Persian point of view, however Babak's (more correctly Pâpag) name, is purely from Persian (Iranian) origins. Turkic peoples migrated to Azarbayjan several centuries later. Bâbak was a follower of Zoroastrian Persians and Abu Muslim of Khurassan. There are no proofs for a Turkish background. As mentioned in the main entry, the claim that he was Turk is recent and propagated mostly by Pan-Turkists. In early history books, there is no mention that he was Turk. He has always been known as a patriot Iranian and Zoroastrian. Even the name of the province, Azarbayjan is Arabicized form of persian word Azarpadgan meaning the Place of Guardians of Holy Fire (Azar=fire, pad=guard, gan=prefix of place). Ancient Arab historian Ibn Hazm in the book "Religion and People" and ancient Armenian historian Vardan in his "World History" clearly and explicity mentioned Babak as being Persian. There is no sources that claim otherwise. The name of Babak's father was Mardas, his mother in sources has been called Mah-roo. Both names are Persian. The mentor of Babak was Javidanpoor Shahrak, which is another Persian name. Also the two most important commanders of Babak, Adhin and Rostam, were ethnic Persians. Finally the name Tarkhan is also mentioned as "Tarhan" (which is an Arabic word) in some sources. Besides this, the name also occurs in the Shahnameh and some sources mention that the Soghdian rulers of Samarghand went by this name. So this was a general military title. Finally it should be mentioned that there is no trace of Turkish in Azarbaijan before the Ilkhanid era on paper, rock, leather, inscription, etc and all sources at that time mention that Azarbaijan spoke Azar-Pahlavi (the local dialect of middle Persian) as it continues today in Talyshi, Kurdish, Tati and other NW Iranian languages. Due to the invasion of Oghuz tribes, Seljuqs, Mongols, Ilkhanid, Teymurid, Black Sheep Turkomens and finally the Turcophone Safavid dynasty who imported Turkomens from Anatolia, this region became predominately Turkic speaking. But all this was after the time of Babak.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Azeri Modern Identity

"Modern identities: We are the Azerbaijanis, We are the Turks of Azerbaijan......We are the Azerbaijani Turks

Part 1

by: Gelecek Bizim Dir

(Jibrael Savalan)

After reading the paper written by Dr. Alireza Asgharzadeh entitled "Current Azerbaijani Situation and the Problematic of Diaspora: Methods and Strategies for Building Alliances" ( I thought I would analyze and express my own opinion, an opinion shared by many of my fellow Azerbaijanis who identify themseleves according to the beliefs that I hold.

First of all, I should mention that I am a great admirer of Dr. Alireza Asgharzadeh and his different works. To me, people such as Dr. Asgharzadeh represent one of the few great writers of our generation that are members of the Azerbaijani diaspora. People with artistic talents, a high level of education and tremendous passion and love for their homeland. Not many Azerbaijanis who live outside of the Republic of Azerbaijan and South Azerbaijan (mostly in North America) who write about different subjects relating to the land of Azerbaijan write in the elaborate and exquisite style which is used by Dr. Asgharzadeh- a man I have tremendous respect for and a man I have learned from while reading his work.

However, I believe that in the "Problematic of Diaspora" paper, Dr. Asgharzadeh makes some points that should be analyzed and elaborated on by different Azerbaijanis who feel a need to fix the gap between their "divided" identity and their international identity as the people of Azerbaijan. The purpose of this article is not to attack Dr. Asgharzadeh or his views, but to make points which I think many Azerbaijanis, as well as Dr. Asgharzadeh himself might agree with.

The identity of Azerbaijanis is an issue that must be resolved in the Republic of Azerbaijan, south Azerbaijan, and abroad. It takes different opinions from different Azerbaijanis who must step up and define themseleves and their ethnic/linguistic/national character and officialize/mobilize what it stands for and legitimize it's significance both internationally and domestically. I believe that the opinions expressed in this paper are that of a great proportion of Azerbaijanis worldwide.

Azeri, Turk, Azerbaijani, or Azerbaijani Turk?

So what should the world call the people of Azerbaijan? What should we call ourselves domestically and abroad? There are different terms and designations, all of which I will analyze and comment on. Like Dr. Asgharzadeh mentions, the people of Azerbaijan are a people that have been colonized, brainwashed, subjugated and more than a few have been entirely assimilated in Iran. However, despite all the conditions that have been beset on Azerbaijanis, our identity has not been taken away from the majority of our people and our pride is still alive. The problem with the present situation of Azerbaijanis is the penetration of our identity in today's world.


With respect to Dr. Asgharzadeh, I believe that the word "Azeri" does not serve our needs, and though it doesn't do us any "serious" harm, it does not give us any benefits either.

The usage of the word "Azeri" is an issue that must be discussed carefully. It is a word we often read and a word that is often used by others and by the Azerbaijanis themseleves in official transcripts, books, magazines, on the internet and other sectors of communication in the Republic of Azerbaijan, south Azerbaijan & across Iran, and in the Republic of Turkey, yet not often used in the western televised media when mentioning the Azerbaijanis. However, some westerners have picked up the word and seldom use it, yet the principal and seemingly official designation of the Azerbaijanis in the west is, well, Azerbaijani. It seems that Azerbaijani is also the official designation of our nation in the east.

Some neighbours of Azerbaijan, such as Russians, never use the term Azeri and reffer to the Azerbaijanis as "Azerbaizhanski." Arabs, although they gave birth to the word "Azeri" in the 13th century (they took out the "baijan" which is also part of our national name) and used the word in some of their historical records as a nickname for the Azerbaijanis, nowadays reffer to the Azerbaijanis as "Al-Azerbaijani." Persians usually reffer to the Azerbaijanis as "Turk" and some use the term Azerbaijani, but a great portion of the Persian population and "Iran-lovers" use the term Azeri for manipulation and "divide and conquer purposes" which Azerbaijanis in south Azerbaijan are aware of. Armenians also don't mind manipulating this term, and often misuse it. Kurds most of the time use the term Azeri when they want to reffer to us Azerbaijanis.

As mentioned by Dr. Asgharzadeh, the term "Azeri" comes from the "Azer" or "Az-Erler" Turks who lived in Azerbaijan in ancient times (Agasioglu, 2003). Assyrians reffered to these Turks as "Az-Er" or the Turkish term "Azerler" which is the root of the present day nickname of the Azerbaijani Turks which is in English pronounced as "Azeri." In Sumerian (ancient Turkish/Ural-Altaic language) the word "Az-Er" meant "Peerless man." The word "AzEr" in Turkish also means "high" or "elevated" and combined with "Baijan" it means "high/elevated & a place for the wealthy and exalted."

The Arabs used the term "Al-AzEriye" (deriving the word from it's full version) which was written in Ottoman and Persian (Fars) history books as "Azeri" (of Az-Er) after the 13th century, and the Azerbaijanis also use the term "AzEr Xalgi" or the "AzEr nation" (the nation of the high/elevated) often, as is used by professor Agasioglu.

The clear fact that the word Azeri and it's Turkish ethnic/linguistic affiliation and it's true symbolic and historical meaning was used up until the 1920's (in south Azerbaijan and across Iran) signifies that this nickname for the people of Azerbaijan, which is a nickname given to us by the Arabs & Assyrians which is derived from AzEr Turks, is a part of our history in both north and south Azerbaijan and is similar to other historical/cultural words in Azerbaijani identity such as "Oghuz" and "Xezer" which are words that are part of our ancient heritage. However, the word "Azer" is only technically half of the word "Azerbaijan" which makes up the full name of our nation and the term "Azeri" overshadows the name "Azerbaijani" and complicates (divides) our national name and does not represent our full modern identity as Azerbaijanis (the people of the land of Azerbaijan).

The word "Aussie" is often used as a nickname for the Australians, which is part of their culture and a term which is not harmful yet cannot be considered official. If some people want to reffer to us Azerbaijanis (as the Arabs did) as "Azeri" and do not wish to manipulate and use the word with malicious intents, then so be it. In that context, I, an Azerbaijani, would be an "Azeri" just like an Australian is an "Aussie." But in reality, these words do not represent the modern and official designations of Azerbaijanis and Australians. Those who use the word Azeri in the Republic of Azerbaijan signify it's existance with the ancient Turkish identity and have not been exposed to the "divide and conquer" tactic used by the Persian chauvinists on Azerbaijanis in Iran which occured during the reign of the Pahlavi fascists. Those who wish to use the word "Azeri" should know it's historical roots and it's designation of a Turkish peoples in ancient Azerbaijan and not an imaginary "Aryan" peoples who were digged up from Persian chauvinist fantasies and from the history books of Pahlavi fascists. Their pan-Iranist and "Aryan" version of history destroyed this word and brainwashed many into thinking that their statement is correct. It is very interesting since the word "Azeri" was used in books to describe a Turkish nation of Az/Azer in the land of AZERbaijan hundreds and hundreds of years before there was even Aryans in present-day Iran.

In the United Nations report on south Azerbaijan written in 2002 by Professor Copithorne, it is written:

"It is asserted that the Azeris have lived on the Iranian plateau for thousands of years and that they predate the entry of Persian tribes to the area"

As Dr. Asgharzadeh explains, the person who came up with the "Aryan-Azeri" theory, Ahmad Kasravi (a man deported from south Azerbaijan during the reign of Sheykh Muhammad Khiabani), forgot to mention that before expressing his political/ideological theories regarding the the Turkish term "Azeri," he himself states in the journal Al-Irfan in 1922 that:

"The Turkish speakers among the "Iranian" population who were spread through every region of Iran were not Persians (in his mind meaning Aryan) who were forced to abandon their original language and forgot it and learned Turkish. No one spoke Turkish as a result of being vanquished by the Turkish conquerors over their lands, as was the opinion spread throughout Iran."

(Kasravi 1922, al'irfan, pp. 121-123)

We should keep in mind that the words America and India have the terms "Amerie" and "Indie" which are often used in books, but like the term "Azeri" do not make up the full designation of Americans and Indians. If an American was to reffer to himself/herself as an "Amerie" or if an Indian was to reffer to himself/herself as an "Indie" that would not be accurate (although a partial root of the words America and India do come from Amerie and Indie) and would not be a positive thing for the American and Indian people. An American is an American, an Indian is an Indian, an Azerbaijani is an Azerbaijani. Amerie/Indie/Azer(i) are just cultural/historic aspects of these names that have evolved.

Many in the Republic of Azerbaijan use the word Azeri. Many in South Azerbaijan and across Iran also use this word, however the poision which was injected by the Persian chauvinists (and their servants) over the usage and meaning of this word creates a barrier between Azerbaijanis and produces misconceptions. In this day and age, when the word "Azerbaijan" has evolved into the full name of our land, and especially since we know the damage this word has done in respects to the formation of our collective identity as Azerbaijanis and as ethnic Turks in South Azerbaijan and across Iran, it is not a word that we should use to designate our nation.

Dr. Asgharzadeh states that: "To this group (Turkish extremists), the term ‘Azeri’ has become a negative ‘dirty’ word, unworthy of being used by a “real Turk”! This camp is eager to get rid of ‘Azeri’ in the hopes that it may be replaced with Turkish". I believe that this analyzation is wrong, and that the word "Azeri" is a cultural word, it is a historical word and up to a certain extent a nickname. It was also a term that was publicized by the Arabs, and not by the Azerbaijanis themseleves. The term should be used when historical information about Azerbaijan's past is mentioned and not considered "dirty" or "unworthy of being used bye a real Turk" but rather considered as an ancient root word and cultural word instead of a modern designation of us Azerbaijanis. It, as well as many other words and terms, is instilled in our heritage, yet it should not be the official name of our nation and our language.


Azerbaijan's Turkishness, the "Turkish World," and it's historic/modern affiliation with the land and nation

The Turks, under different names (in ancient times: Elamites, Sumerians, Turukus, Gutis, Lulubis, Azerlers, and in the pre-Christian and post-Islamic period: Oghuz, Barsil, Saragur, Hun, Khazar, Salars, Sabirs, Kurtugurs, Gokturks, Massagets, Scythians, Alans, to cite a few) have lived in Azerbaijan since antiquity. The language, culture, history, and essence of Azerbaijan comes from the Turks, and the Azerbaijanis (both in north & south Azerbaijan) domestically reffer to themseleves as "Turk" and their language as "Turki" or "Turkish. Professor Mohammad Tagi Zehtabi’s bok "The Ancient History of Turks" was published in two volumes in Tabriz between 1998 and 2000. Professor Zehtabi, an elderly man from south Azerbaijan was murdered in his home in the year 2000 by Persian chauvinist nationalists of Iran after he had given a speech in Europe about the Turks and their presence in Azerbaijan and across Iran in ancient times.

As Dr. Asgharzadeh mentions, during the Soviet and Pahlavi eras, the system of the Soviet Union and the system of Iran tried to efface the Turkish identity of Azerbaijanis by using different tactics. These tactics are still being used by Persian chauvinist and "Iran-lovers" who even after the "Islamic" revolution in Iran in 1979 have kept their Persian chauvinist policies of lying and distorting the true identity of the Azerbaijanis by digging up false information from "Iran's pre-Islamic" period and are still holding on to their fantasy "2,500 year history" (a 2,500 year history which is composed mainly of Turkish and Arab history and Turkish and Arab kings and peoples who ruled over the Persians) which is their tool for erasing the identity of Azerbaijanis inside Iran and brainwashing them against their identity and against their existance as Turks.

Some historians believe that Azerbaijan and the region south of Azerbaijan and the Zagrus mountains in present-day "Iran" is where the Turks originate from. Others say that since antiquity, Turks originated in central Asia and have throughout history been the natives/majority population of Azerbaijan (Caucaus region and south Azerbaijan) as well as areas in the vicinity of the Azerbaijan/Central Asia region. Sumerians, considered the most ancient of Turks and Ural-Altaic speakers, have been mentioned as natives of the west Asian region, while some have linked their original position east of the Caspian Sea, and have said that in ancient times, the Sumerians moved to west Asia and state that the Sumerians and their later offsprings such as the Azeris (Azerler), Gutis, Lulubis, Kasis and Elamites were the natives of western "Iran" and the land of Azerbaijan thousands of years ago. The Ural-Altaic peoples such as the Azerbaijanis and their ethnic/linguistic composition in the present-day region of west Asia predates the emergence of non Ural-Altaics, such as the Indo-Europeans. The Turks have in ancient, pre-Christian and post-Islamic period been natives of west/central Asia.

Presently, there are an estimated 250 million Turks that live in the world. The modern Turkish peoples of Asia & Europe are divided into different branches (mainly Oghuz, Kipchak, Karluk, Sibirya, Guvash and Saha) and there are different sub-branches, tribes and nations that have emerged from those 5 principal branches and have formed the identities of Turkish peoples such as the Azerbaijanis.

Ancient Turks/Ural-Altaic speakers such as Sumerians and Elamites and their offsprings who in ancient times included Guttis, Lulubis and Kasis who lived in the region of Azerbaijan and parts of present-day "Iran" thousands of years ago are considered by many historians to be the root of the present day Turks (the main branches and all the sub-branches, tribes and nations that have evolved from the greater Turkish family tree).

The Oghuz Turk (western branch) which the Azerbaijanis belong to spans over parts of Europe and west Asia and also includes: Turks of Turkey, Qashqayis, Turkmens, Khalaj Turks, Balkan Turks, Khamse, and Gauguz Christian Turks in Moldova. Out of these different Turkish groups various tribes have emerged (for example the Azerbaijanis/Qashqayis/Turkmens who are Oghuz Turks that live in north and south Azerbaijan, across Iran, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, have different tribes such as Ilsevan, Afshar, Qaraqozlu, Qarapapaq, Tiymurtash, Khorasani Turks, Qarays, Baharlu, Qizilbash, Inanlu, Pichaqchis and Nafars, to cite a few).

Turkish civilizations and dynasties/confederations throughout the history of the world such as Huns, Khazars, Ottomans, Safavis, Qajars, Afshars, Seljuks, Uygurs, Massagets, Gokturks, Qaznevi, Avar, Alan, Karakhan, Khwarizmshahs and Ilkhanids have played a key role in the ethnic/linguistic/national identity of the millions of various Turks (including the Azerbaijanis) in Asia and Europe.

There are currently 6 independent Turkish (Turkic) republics in the world: the Republic of Azerbaijan (north Azerbaijan) the Republic of Turkey (Turkiye) the Republic of Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Republic of Kazakstan and the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. There are also various Turkish republics within the federal units of countries such as Russia, China, Moldova and of course in Cyprus.

There are also millions of other Turks (under different national/tribal names) who are remnants of the various Turkish empires or migrants of later centuries that are scattered across other parts of Europe and Asia who compose both tribal and settled populations. In central and eastern Europe, millions of Oghuz and non-Oghuz Turks live in the Balkans (Yugoslavia & Bosnia) Greece, Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Romania and other regions.

Compared to the Arabs who live in various parts of the world stretching from the Arabian Gulf until the Atlantic Ocean, the Turks do not have the same unity and have not been able to showcase their Turkish identity worldwide. It seems that only Turks from Turkey have took the official designation as Turks, although the majority of Turks live outside the borders of Turkey. Turks do not have a "Turkish league" like the Arabs who have the "Arab league," they do not have a common lingua-franca (the Arabs have a standard dialect that they reffer to as fuzha) and Turks don't have official names like "the Turkish republic of Uzbekistan" or "Azerbaijan Turkish republic" like the Arabs who have the "Syrian Arab republic" or the "Arab republic of Yemen."

There seems to be some cultural groups that promote cultural unity amongst Turks, however their activities are limited.

Should we reffer to ourseleves only as "Turks?"


In both north & south Azerbaijan, we call ourseleves Turks and our language "Turki" or "Turkish." Domestically, the term "Turk" is synanomous with the term "Azerbaijani" both in terms of ethnicity and language. Inside Azerbaijan (both north & south Azerbaijan) seldom do we reffer to ourseleves only as "Azerbaijani" yet view ourseleves as distinct from other Turks in terms of specific national identity and national conciousness. We do not view ourseleves as Uzbeks or Turks of Turkey in terms of specific national identity, for the Turks of Uzbekistan and Turks of Turkey have built nations called Turkiye and Uzbekistan, and we have built a nation called Azerbaijan. Yet we are related to them by blood and language, which makes us a seperate branch yet part of the same banner (same tree, different branch).

Much like Arabs who might have a distinct identity such as Lebanese, Syrian, Yemeni or Saudi, we have an identity as Azerbaijanis, and at the same time we are Turks. The common heritage between Azerbaijanis and other Turks is evident in language, literature, history, garnments and clothing, musical instruments and an overal sense of kinship which is shared by all Turks and is common in Turkish countries and regions. There is nothing about Azerbaijan that is not Turkish in root or in essence.

Our identity inside Azerbaijan is "Azerbaijani Turk" meaning a Turk that originates and is indegenous to Azerbaijan, speaks Turkish with the Azerbaijani accent, takes pride in the Azerbaijan's heroes and national figures, wears Turkish garnments (Azerbaijan's national garnments) plays musical instruments that are Turkish, plays/listens to music that is Turkish, reads from Turkish epics and literature, and is Turk by blood, in spirit, pride and heritage and an Azerbaijani by distinctive national consciousness. Inside Azerbaijan, when we call ourseleves Turks, we mean a Turk from Azerbaijan, with a specific Azerbaijani identity which is regional and national, and when we use the term Azerbaijani, we mean "someone from the land of Azerbaijan" which is a land that is ethnically, linguistically and culturally Turkish. So at home, when we call ourseleves Turks, we mean Azerbaijanis, and when we call ourseleves Azerbaijanis, we mean Turks.

There is no such thing as an "ethnic Syrian" or an "ethnic Azerbaijani" for the Syrians are ethnically Arabs and Azerbaijanis are ethnically Turks. However, there exists a seperate Syrian regional/national identity, and there exists a seperate Azerbaijani regional/national identity which seperates Syrians from other Arabs and seperates Azerbaijanis from other Turks.

An Azerbaijani is a Turk by blood, language and culture and is an Azerbaijani by distinct nationality. This formula works perfectly at home, but not outside Azerbaijan.


Internationally, we can't reffer to ourseleves simply as "Turk." This would damage our identity more than improving it. For by simply calling ourseleves "Turks" we are not emphasizing on our point of origin and our land: Azerbaijan.

The term "Turk" by itself can be confusing, for if a Turk from Azerbaijan was to only reffer to himself/herself as a "Turk" in the international scene, that would not express geograhpical and national origin. Turks, like Arabs, Hispanics, Germans, Frenchmen and others belonging to an ethnic/linguistic identity which is spread over different countries (Germans in Germany-Austria-Switzerland, Frenchmen in France-Belgium-Switzerland-Canada, "Latino(a)s" or Hispanics in Mexico-Panama-Ecuador..., Arabs in Saudi Arabia-Lebanon-Syria...) can be from Azerbaijan, Turkey, Central Asia, eastern Europe or elsewhere, but the specific geographical identity of the Azerbaijanis is different than that of other Turks.

Those who are educated worldwide know that the Turkish (Turkic) peoples live not just in Turkey and that Arabs don't live just in Saudi Arabia or the "Arabian peninsula" and that Frenchmen don't live only in France but in several countries and that different nations and countries in the world are ethnically/linguistically/culturally Arab, Turkish and French. However, since the pattern of "Turkism" emerged with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, anyone outside of of Turkish countries who reffers to himself/herself only as "Turk" or "Turkish" would seem to be reffering to his/her point of origin as Turkey.

This would not be the case in Russia or Iran or other countries/empires that have a significant amount of Turkish inhabitants. In "Iran" when someone reffers to himself as a Turk, a non-Turk would automatically calculate the meaning of such a statement and would equate the term "Turk" with Azerbaijan or indegenous Turkish-dominated territories within Iran (such as Qashqayi land or Turkmen Sahra) and would not equate the term "Turk" with the Republic of Turkey. Same thing in Russia where a Tatar could call himself a Turk and a Russian would know that he is reffering to a certain Turkish Republic within Russia's system (such as Tatristan or Bashkortostan) or a certain Turkish-inhabited region of Russia and not the Republic of Turkey. In Russia and Iran, the terms "Turk" and "Turkish" (ethnicity and language) are locally understood.

However, an Azerbaijani or a Tatar or Qashqayi in North America (and up to a certain degree in Europe where the words "Turk" and "Turkish" are also equated with the Republic of Turkey by some) could not simply reffer to himself/herself as a Turk, for that would be an inacurate description of nationality and overal identity.


The term "Azerbaijani" is used commonly by the Turks of Azerbaijan, for it is a designation of their identity and the indication of our nationality. It is used most often in the east and the west, and is an appropriate designation of our identity.

However, the terms "Azerbaijani" or "Saudi" do not indicate the full identity of the Turks and Arabs who originate and make up the "Azerbaijani" or "Saudi" identities. A "Saudi Arab" or a "Syrian Arab" can either reffer to himself/herself as a Saudi (nationality and country) or be more specific and more accurate about his/her identity by using the word "Arab" to be precise about ethnicity and language. In the same context, the Azerbaijani Turk, who calls himself a Turk and his nation Azerbaijan, can do the same thing.

For official purposes, the term Azerbaijani is used and will continue to be used to identify the people of Azerbaijan. It does not, however, identify our ethnicity, language and overal identity.


Out of the different words mentioned to identify the people of Azerbaijan, or someone who is a descendant of one originating from Azerbaijan, "Azerbaijani Turk" is perhaps the most appropriate.

The term "Azerbaijani Turk" explains both the geographical origin and nationality (Azerbaijani) and the ethnic/linguistic background of the people of Azerbaijan, which is Turkish. In her 2002 book "Borders and Brethren" American author Brenda Shaffer states that the term "Azerbaijani Turk" is an expression of identity by "highly educated and very politically conscious Azerbaijanis."

Dr. Asgharzadeh mentions that it would sound too weird to say "I'm an Azerbaijani-Turkish-Canadian" which is understandable. However, if an Arab from Lebanon who is living in America wants to describe his/her nationality, he or she would say "I'm Lebanese-American" or I'm an "Arab-American" because both the Lebanese/Arab components of his identity are dear to him. In the same way, an Azerbaijani living in America can call himself an "Azerbaijani-American" or "Turkish-American." For Turks outside of Turkey and outside of their countries who want to reffer to themseleves only as Turks, there must be greater involvement of the Turkish world in penetrating Turkish identity so that people outside of Turkish countries and especially in the west know about the greater Turkish identity, and not just recognize the Turks of Turkey as "Turks." For now, for the Azerbaijanis living in the United States or Canada, the terms "Azerbaijani-American" or "Azerbaijani-Canadian" seems right.


There is not a Lebanese, Belgian, Austrian, Mexican, Egyptian, Anatolian or Azerbaijani language, however there are different dialects of Arabic that are spoken in Lebanon and Egypt, and different dialects of Turkish spoken in Anatolia and Azerbaijan, different dialects of Spanish and French spoken in Belgium and Mexico and a different German dialect spoken in Austria.

We often see the terms "Brazillian Portugese" or "Portugese (Brazil)" or "Egyptian Arabic" or "Arabic (Egypt)" or "Irish Gaelic" and "Scottish Gaelic" to designate both language and the geography of it's specific dialect. I think that the terms "Azerbaijani Turkish" or "Turkish (Azerbaijan)" can also be used as a designation of our language. During President Elchibey's time in north Azerbaijan (early 1990's) the language of Azerbaijan was officially reffered to as "Turk dili" or "Turkish language." The term "Turkish" is used by the native speakers in Azerbaijan.

Dr. Asgharzadeh states that we should call our language Azeri, I must ask him, when was the last time he saw 2 Azerbaijanis from Tabriz or Baku in areas outside of their hometown who met each other and said "San Azeri bilirsen?" or "San Azerbaycanca bilirsen?" instead of "San Turki bilirsen?" (do you speak Turkish?)


In conclusion, we must carefully take these points into consideration:

1) The outside world should reffer to the people of Azerbaijan as Azerbaijanis, and often as Azerbaijani Turks to be specific about our overal identity

2) The name of our nation should be Azerbaijani Turks/Azerbaijani Turkish

3) The name of our language should be Azerbaijani Turkish or in a different way: Turkish (Azerbaijan) or Turkish (Azerbaijani)

We are the Azerbaijanis, we are the Turks of Azerbaijan, we are the Azerbaijani Turks. We speak Turkish with the Azerbaijani dialect, we speak Azerbaijani Turkish. The terms Azerbaijani & Azerbaijani Turk will be useful for us in the outside world and emphasize our roots, our language, our dialect, our culture, our nationality, our ethnicity and showcases our true identity.

More to come............