Aug 17, 2015

Southern Azerbaijan: July 2015 Report on Human Rights Situation


The Association for the Human Rights of Azerbaijani people in Iran (AHRAZ) has published a new report on the situation of several important human rights defenders in Southern Azerbaijan. Activists Shokrollah Gharamani, Naghi Ahmadi Azer, and Hassan Damirchi Hargoli continue to be persecuted by the Iranian authorities; Mr Gharamani and Mr Ahmadi are imprisoned, while Mr Damirchi has been banned from foreign travel and repeatedly harassed by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.


Below is the report in full:


Shokrollah Ghahramani

On 24 June 2015, Shokrollah Ghahramani, the Azerbaijani Turk civil rights activist, was arrested in his hometown, Khodafrin, and then transferred to Ahar city prison, where he is due to spend six months. He was allegedly transferred to Tabriz prison recently, but this has yet to be fully confirmed. Previously Mr Ghahramani was sentenced to six months imprisonment in Tabriz revolutionary court on charges of “propaganda against the regime”, and was banned from teaching for three months without pay or benefits. On 22 June 2010, Mr Ghahramani was arrested by security forces in Kaleybar City. He was then released, with a bail of IRR-220 billion, after 122 days detention both by the Tabriz intelligence services and in the main Tabriz prison. 

Mr Naghi Ahmadi Azer

On 23 June 2015, Mr Naghi Ahmadi, the Azerbaijani Turk civil rights activist, was sent to Tabriz prison for five years’ imprisonment. He is currently held in Tabriz Central Prison in section 12. Mr Naghi Ahmadi was a member of the editorial board of the cultural weekly journal “Shams”, which is banned by Iranian authorities. He is the author of several books regarding Azerbaijan history and culture. Mr Ahmadi was convicted by Tabriz revolutionary court on charges of "espionage for Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan against Iran and Armenia", "propaganda against the regime" and "arms trading." He was sentenced to five years in prison and a ten-year ban on travel to Azerbaijan. Previously he was arrested on 15 April 2009, and after spending 146 days in custody, he was released from Tabriz prison with a bail of IRR-150 billion.

Hassan Damirchi Hargoli 

Mr Hassan Damirchi, Hargalan Azerbaijani Turk cultural activist and founder of the Azerbaijani Music School, has, according to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, been banned from foreign travel until further notice. Currently, Mr Damirchi’s passport is in the hands of the security forces. According to reports, Mr Damirchi’s requests for the return of his passport to Tehran’s Justice Department and to the headquarters of the Ministry of intelligence have been met with refusal. In recent months, Mr Damirchi was repeatedly summoned unlawfully to the headquarters of the Ministry of Intelligence in Tabriz. 

Mr Hassan Damirchi’s background: 

Mr Damirchi has written about Azerbaijani Mugham music, and is the founder of the Azerbaijani Music School and Master of the Azerbaijani Tar. He has been imprisoned several times by the Iranian authorities due to his peaceful opposition activities. On 14 July 2013, he was sentenced to six months in prison by the third branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tabriz. The list of accusations put forward by the Revolutionary Court against Mr Damirchi demonstrate the government’s illogical and anti-democratic claims: he was convicted of participating in cultural events, within and beyond the country (regarded as political and ethnicity-specific meetings), illegally collecting humanitarian aid to help Azerbaijani victims of Qara Dagh earthquake, meeting with the family members of imprisoned Iranian Azerbaijani activists, and teaching Azerbaijani music without getting permission from the cultural authorities. In 1991, he founded of one of the first music schools in Tabriz. This was closed down by the Iranian authorities in May 2006. During his fruitful life, he has also been successful in the area of musical education. Many musicians and music tutors in Southern Azerbaijan are his direct pupils and many others consider him their mentor. He has promoted Azerbaijani music and culture within and beyond the borders of the country, through concerts, attending musical TV shows, song writing and writing about Azerbaijani music theory, and organising many cultural events. Mr Damirchi, who is already in his seventies, is an important figure and has played an effective role in organising people’s humanitarian help for the victims of the earthquake of the Qara Dagh and Varzeghan in 2012.



Photo credit: Matthias Caton @Flickr