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08/22/12

PAAIA Voices Concern About Azeri Separatist Recommendation

Source: Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)

August 21, 2012, Washington, D.C. - Today, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) responded to a letter sent by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) to U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary R. Clinton, recommending that the United States support the joining of Iranian Azerbaijanis with the Republic of Azerbaijan. Rohrabacher’s letter was prompted by recent news stories concerning military cooperation between Israel and the Azerbaijan Republic.


Map of Iran's East and West Azerbaijan Provinces (View Larger Map)

“It would be wise for the United States to encourage such cooperation, as the aggressive dictatorship in Tehran is our enemy as well as theirs,” said Rohrabacher. “The people of Azerbaijan are geographically divided and many are calling for the reunification of their homeland after nearly two centuries of foreign rule.”

In its letter, PAAIA expressed its concern regarding this recommendation, noting that such a suggestion would not only be detrimental to the interests of the U.S., but it would also not be supported by Americans of Iranian descent or the Azeri population living in Iran.

Click here to read PAAIA's letter to Congressman Rohrabacher.

East Azerbaijan is one of the 30 provinces of Iran. It is in the northwest of the country, bordering Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the provinces of Ardabil, West Azarbaijan, and Zanjan. Its capital is Tabriz. The province has a population of about 4 million.

Tabriz, the capital city of East Azarbaijan province, was the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s and one of its former capitals and residence of the crown prince under the Qajar dynasty. The city has proven extremely influential in the country's recent history. Tabriz is now Iran's 4th largest city.


PAAIA noted in its letter that, although our 2011 survey of Iranian Americans show that two-thirds of Iranian Americans believe that Iran should be a secular democracy, only two percent believe the Islamic Republic works best in Iran. We believe that only a small minority of the community will consider this an acceptable proposition. “Any policy recommendations promoting the break-up of Iran would have almost no support amongst the Iranian American population,” explained PAAIA’s Executive Director, Saghi Modjtabai.

PAAIA also noted that, at a time when the U.S. is reaching out to seek a direct dialogue with the people of Iran and hear their views and understand their aspirations, a policy advocating the break-up of the country will only alienate the Iranian people and diminish any headway that the U.S. has made in reaching them.

West Azerbaijan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the northwest of the country, bordering Turkey, Iraq and Nakhchivan, and the provinces of East Azerbaijan, Zanjan and Kurdistan. In 2006 the province had a population of about 3 million.

Urmia is the capital city and largest city of the province. Urmia is Iran's 10th largest city.

Iran’s Azeri population is closely associated with the creation of modern Iran, dating back to 1501 A.D. Several Iranian dynasties, rulers, and revered national figures have been Azeris who have represented and united Iran. According to Richard Frye, Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Harvard University, the dominant influence of the “Persian language and culture has created solidarity of great strength. This was revealed in the Iran-Iraq War when Arabs of Khuzestan did not join the invaders, and earlier when Azeris did not rally to their northern cousins after World War II, when Soviet forces occupied Azerbaijan.”

The letter, which was also sent to Secretary Clinton, asked Congressman Rohrabacher to reconsider his recommendation and offered to provide him with any additional information to assist him in better understanding the political ramifications of such an action for the United States and the region.

PAAIA will continue to follow up on this issue and will provide updates as appropriate.

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