Forum starts in Ankara in support of Iranian Azeris
ANKARAIranian Azeris exiled to Europe and Turks of Azeri origin are scheduled to convene in Ankara May 12 to discuss stepping up a movement for broader rights and freedoms in “South Azerbaijan” – the Azeri-populated northwest of Iran – in a move that risks sparking diplomatic friction between Ankara and Tehran.
“Iran is closely following the gathering. It may try to exert pressure on Ankara, but we don’t think that the Turkish state will accept that. There is freedom of expression in Turkey. We will gather in Turkey just as the Syrian opposition is meeting here,” Cemal Mehmethanoğlu, a Turkish Azeri who is among the organizers, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
The two-day gathering, called the “First International Forum of South Azerbaijani Turks,” opens this weekend at an Ankara hotel with the participation of representatives of associations that Iranian Azeri exiles have established in European countries, Turkish Azeri activists and several lawmakers from Azerbaijan.
Pressure on Azerisin Iran
They will discuss the creation of an “Azerbaijani National Council” to raise awareness in the international community about oppression and rights breaches that ethnic Azeris are subjected to in Iran, Mehmethanoğlu said. The gathering is organized by the Azerbaijan Culture Center Association, a Turkish civic group chaired by Mehmethanoğlu.
“The Iranian regime is trying to suppress the national awakening of the Turks in South Azerbaijan through bloodshed, torture and imprisonment. Over the past year, the fast-paced developments, democracy demands and political movements in North Africa and the Middle East have reached Iran’s doorstep,” Mehmethanoğlu told a press conference earlier in the week.
“At the meeting [in Ankara], we will discuss the current situation of the Turks in South Azerbaijan and the position that they should take in light of possible developments that may abruptly take place in the region in the coming days,” he added. The activist stressed that the South Azerbaijan movement was completely free of violence and used only democratic means to advance its cause.