Demonstrators Were Dispersed With Tear Gas in Orumieh and Tabriz
» Apologies by the State Television Did Not Stop Protests
Nothing new in this story: Insults waged against various minority groups by the state-run national radio and television network and other state affiliated media. This time, a TV program burst into the open a deep pain that even apologies by the head of the national television network could not calm down. On Monday, hundreds of people in Turkish residing areas of Iran came into the open and demonstrated against the racial policies of the state run television network. Eye witnesses told Rooz that the demonstration was initially peaceful in nature but when plain clothes agents began attacking the protestors, events turned violent and some protestors were arrested.
On Monday, after the airing of a program called Fitileh from channel 2 of the state run television network, a number of people in the towns of Tabriz, Orumieh, Zanjan and Ardebil began protesting by chanting slogans and carrying placards against the program.
In a children’s part of Fitileh, some individuals spoke in Turkish and Iranian Turks described some of the dialogs to be “insulting” and “racist.”
Video footage of the demonstrations I Orumieh indicate that some of the protestors changed such slogans as “I am a Turk” and “School, school,” while still others carried placards against racism and discrimination against Iranian Turks.
Meysam Azadi, was an eye witness in Orumieh and participated in the protests. He spoke with Rooz and said at 4pm, the demonstrators were in Engelab Circle on the way to Imam Avenue. At the same time, another group was moving from the center of the city and Atai Avenue to another part of the city, when, according to Azadi, “Members of a special security force and plain clothes agents began dispersing the demonstrations using tear gas so as to prevent the two groups from reaching each other. A violent clash followed between the security forces and the demonstrators. The security agents used police batons on the protestors. The main clash was in the center of Orumieh’s bazar and Atai Avenue. Security agents from the special unit attacked even side streets on motorbikes and beat up any person on their way.”
On the same day, another demonstration was also underway across Orumieh University. Students carried placards that read “Discrimination does not equal brotherhood” and chanted anti-racist slogans. Other eye witnesses said Javad Jahangirzadeh, the representative of Orumieh in parliament was also present at the scene and while condemning the television program and even called the show a deliberate act.
Speaking to Nedaye Orumieh, Jahangirzadeh said, “Without a doubt, representatives of the region will pursue this insult and there is no need for the province to become insecure because of it.”
On Monday evening, there were also reports that parts of Tabriz’s bazar were also shut and some people in different parts of the city, including Abresan Avenue, demonstrated in protest to the same TV program.
In the cities of Zanjan and Meshkin Shahr too there were similar demonstrations against the TV program.
On Wednesday, special Guard units and security agents had a strong presence in the protesting cities and some of the demonstrators were attached a number were arrested.
In the meantime following the airing of Fitileh and the ensuing protests, the state-run national radio and television issued a statement announcing the temporary suspension of the airing of the program and the dismissal of one official at channel 2 TV station. The statement also apologized to “Iranian Azeris.”
Mohammad Sarfaraz, the head of the state television network apologized in the statement which also read, “This media apologizes for the mistake and shall strive, in the course of implementing its responsibilities, to strengthen unity among national ethnic groups to bring national unity.”
At the same time, the representative of the city of Tabriz in parliament Mohammad Ismail Saeedi, also criticized the television program and said, “Insulting the people of Azerbaijan constitutes insulting all Iranian people.”
Alireza Aghai, the producer of Fitileh program also issued a statement in which he said the program was a fantasy based educational show “which did not constitute disrespect to a national group or their dialect.”
In recent years, a number of programs broadcast on national radio and television have resulted in protests by various ethnic groups in Iran.