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South Azerbaijan is not Iran

Umud Duzgun

 

History made by South Azeris in an international club match between Tractor of Tabriz and Aljazeera of Dubai. A political chant gained voice and momentum.

 

On February 26, an Asian Champions League match took place between the soccer teams of Tractor (Tabriz) and Aljazeera (Dubai). " Yasasin Azerbaycan! " or Long Live Azerbaijan! was the cry from the impressive crowed of 85000 FC Tractor faithful. Persian minority regime of Iran, which occupies South Azerbaijan since 1946 prohibits Azeri soccer fans from carrying any cultural and political symbols and banners. Despite all these prohibitions, the Azeri fans managed to sneak in a huge 50 feet long banner writing in English for the first time "South Azerbaijan is not Iran" resembling the Catalan slogan "Catalonia is not Spain". It caught the eyes of millions of viewers around the nation and beyond.  

The soccer team "Tiraxtur" (Tractor) is one of the most favorite Azeri soccer clubs which turned into a symbol of national pride and the independence movement of over 30 million Azeri Turks in South Azerbaijan, which is part of Iran at the moment.

 

 

The banner " South Azerbaijan is not Iran" held up and cheered by the crowd brought ultimate joy for millions of Azeri viewers in and outside the stadium.

In an interview after winning 3-1 Tractor’s Portuguese head coach Tony Oliveira said " this was more than a football I have seen big crowds in Portugal but in my 45 years of sport career I have never experienced this much enthusiasm and It was a beautiful emotion to see this happy atmosphere".

Obviously, this was a historic day " in fact, for our people Tractor is more than a club because of the values its red flags represent." added the team captain Murteza Asadi from Ardabil the third largest city in S. Azerbaijan.

Most of the stand offs occur when Azeri clubs playing against Persian clubs in domestic games. However, this time happened to be at an international AFC match between Tractor of Tabriz and Aljazeera of Dubai which played at Sahand Stadium in Tabriz the historic capital of South Azerbaijan.

 

The Persian government in Tehran tried hard to present Tractor club as an Iranian club and turn the crowds against the United Arab Emirate which Persian nationalists and officials regards as their regional enemy. In Persian cities they often mobilize a hustle atmosphere for guest Clubs from Arab nations. However, in this none Persian city of Tabriz, they were not able to turn Azeri Turks against their Arab guests. For their surprise Azeris chanted a warm welcome and friendly words "Marhaba, Ahlan va Sahlan" hello and welcome in Arabic . 

 

Similar to the FC Barcelona for the Catalan independent movement in Spain FC Tractor is the symbol of South Azerbaijan independent movement in Iran. Unlike Catalan people in free country of Spain where democratic institution exist, the South Azeri people suffer under the totalitarian regime in Iran which lacks similar democratic institutions. Under such conditions, Tractor’s matches allow the Azeri people to express their national sentiments at a limited time and space provided by the soccer match.

 

There is a hidden war going on between Persian nationalists  and none Persian nationalists for decades. The Iranian regime which represent the Persian ethnic minority are following the ideology based on Persian ultra-nationalism and carries on a racist policy towards other ethnic minorities. Azeri Turks are the largest ethnic minority in Iran. They are facing harsh treatment in all aspects of the life including sports.

 

In Iran sports are not separate from politics. All clubs owned by government and most runs by appointed militia generals. They try to sideline South Azeri athletes from participating in international completions such as Olympics and World Cups. They are not allowed to show their Azeri Turkic identity at international arena. In domestic soccer games in Persian populated cities the Persian fans are shouting hate words, insulting Azeri people freely and officials allow the hate slogans to air live on Persian national TV. In January 2010 at Tehran Azadi Stadium, Persian fans attacked a red painted pigeon, the peace symbol of Tractor fans which released during the match and flied from Tractor fans side and landed in Esteghlal fans side. Sadly, in the hand of one cruel Persian fan the innocent pigeon beheaded and killed in front of 100 thousand people because it was painted red by a fan of Tractor team.* This was not simply a coincident, the hate culture goes back to a long history of Persian ultra national's theory and racism against none Persians which became the state ideology of Persian minority regime for decades.

 

Previously, Azeri people expressed their voice of protest on various issues where the interests of the local Azeri people were affected. The protests to save the lake Urmia is a perfect example. At the time of the protests there were widespread sentiments among the local Azeri population that the Iranian government did nothing to stop the drying of the lake Urmia because it was part of the government’s deliberate policy to displace the local Azeri people from the area around the lake. The local Azeris also protested to commemorate the victims of the Khojali genocide in 1992. When earthquake hit the Ahar-Varzeqan region, the local Azeris were quick to organize a campaign to help the victims of the earthquake. In recent years the Azeri people have been demanding education in their own native language and initiated a petition for referendum to secede from Iran.

 

The theme of slogans in the past were to show the distinct national identity such as "haray-haray men Turkem" which means hey- hey we are Azeri Turks and "Afqanistan sizindir, Azerbaycan bizimdir" which means "Afghanistan for Persians Azerbaijan for Azeri Turks."  

 

However, this time at the presence of international media the message was crystal clear "South Azerbaijan is not Iran" The Azeri people not only have different identity from Persians but they have their own historic homeland South Azerbaijan. This manifestation provoked angry reaction from Persian nationalist and shocked the mullah regime in Tehran. They arrested several Azeri fans and threatened Azeri public with harsh words. But on the ground they were not able to confront with the people’s power. This incident resulted to further weakening of the Persian minority regime in holding together the country so called "i r a n" by force. In fact, Iran the enemy, the oppressors, felt a shudder. Never before has a football team been the backbone of a political ideology to this extent.

   

From late 1990s, the Iranian regime tried to sideline all South Azerbaijani soccer clubs (with conspiracy behind it) by pushing them to play in lower division league. Under the supervision of FIFA, after seven years Tractor finally managed to come back to the premier league and last year it achieved the second place in the premier league. 

 

And now Tractor is treated almost like a security threat to the Iranian government. The authorities don’t allow any match to be played in the Bagsimal Stadium at the city center. The place allocated for Tractor's games -Sahand Stadium- is heavily guarded. And stadium itself is located well beyond the city of Tabriz. Azeri fans are not allowed to bring in their historic national flag or any signs written in Azeri Latin alphabet, which is the one used in the Republic of Azerbaijan, an independent part of greater Azerbaijan. Tractor fans face jail term threat for promoting slogans with cultural and political messages. Waving the flag of United Azerbaijan is also prohibited. 

 

Despite all these restrictions, the Azeri fans fill the stadium to its full capacity in most of the matches. Waving red flags and raising their hands in wolf head’s shape as a symbol of resistance, singing national songs, dancing and shouting the most radical slogans. Politics became integral parts of Tractor’s existence. A fan from Hamadan, the sixth largest city in South Azerbaijan, wrote a comment on his Facebook page : "It is only when you see the struggle of the South Azerbaijan people that you can start to understand the importance of Tractor in this independence movement."

 

 

And now with upcoming referendum on Catalonian independence approaching the similar demand requested by nine political parties of South Azerbaijan for independence under the supervision of United Nation and free world. In real sense, South Azerbaijan is not Iran. Like FC Barcelona for Catalan, FC Tractor will carry on its symbolic role in strengthen the Azeri independent movement. A distinguish Azeri writer Professor Zehtabi said: "when the right time comes, the people will clear the dark cloud from the skies of the Azerbaijan more quickly than one could predict."

 

Umud Duzgun

 

ayiqeller@yahoo.com

 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QH2YzUq2Jbo 

Uploaded on Jan 19, 2010

Animal Cruelty in Iran! Very sad story! How somebody can kill an innocent bird because it was painted by the other soccer team?! ... In a soccer match in Tehran one pigeon where painted in red by a fan of Tractorsazi Team and it was released during the match but some cruel fans of the other team took the bird and killed it! Please raise your voice by distributing this video on the web to force the Iranian government to bring those criminal fans to justice

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CSjQb177dA

Uploaded on Jun 5, 2010

Backward Persians in Tehran insulting Azerbaijanis as Turk e khar-eshak or donkeys and police gurding persians and attecking Turks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRfQ52cz7TE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAMz7QQXD10

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN_uAxVWC3w&feature=endscreen&NR=1

The banner in Sahand Stadium in Tabriz held up and cheered by millions

 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e2jacGd7dE

Summary of Tractor's match with Al Jazira (3-1)