"CLERICAL MISRULE IN IRAN AND THE OMINOUS TUNES OF SEPARATISM -
"What I fear is not the enemy's strategy, but our own mistakes.
Thucydides-The Peloponnesian War
(This issue was posted to our Internet site in August of 1997)
Several times in the past, we discussed in Focus on Iran that the
irresponsible policies of the ruling clerics, is posing a grave
danger to the security ofIran and we pointed out that if meaningful
change does not take place, the unity of the country could be seriously
jeopardized. The deterioration of the economy, discrimination against
women and religious minorities, violation of basic and fundamental
rights of Iranians, support of international terrorism, the export
of Radical Islam and the country's isolation, will all have dire
internal and external consequences for Iran. From one side, internal
centrifugal forces are developing, on the other, some foreign powers
see an opportune time to use the dissatisfaction of the people to
their own benefit in fomenting the disintegration of Iran.
All of this is occurring when the ominous tunes of separatism
are spreading everywhere. The revolution in mass communications
technology, the rising notion of selfdetermination and covert/overt
support of some interested states could indeed help the implementation
precarious desires. Furthermore, the United Nation's Security
Council resolution no. 688 which was passed in 1991 after the
Desert Storm War, regarding the Kurds in Iraq, ironically created
an ideal ground for future separatist movements. The doctrine
of self-determination which is based on a liberal principle and
was originally introduced by President Woodrow Wilson at the end
of World War 1, has also been a pretext in the hands of separatist
cliques. This liberal principle has always resulted in intolerant
consequences, adding fuel to bloody wars and as thus, transforming
certain nations to a much weaker status. The genocidal civil wars
in Bosnia, and the horrific events that transpired between the
Hutu and the Tutsi tribes in Africa should open the eyes of those
who recklessly pursue their self serving ambitions. For the Iranian
nation, (in a sense comprised ofvariations of the Persian culture,
customs and social organizations) the debility of the central
power or the oppression and unfairness of the central government,
has historically caused the creation of centrifu gal forces sin
a grave challenge to the territorial integrity of the country.
Fortunately enough, Iran has always managed to preserve its unity,
with its most important strategic reserve, the Persian culture.
The Iranian nation (Mellat), because of its long history, traditions,
and multi-dimensional culture is indeed an organic and a spiritual
entity. It is akin to a marble and not a cake-like tissue which
could be cut to pieces. Despite the fact that it has managed to
stay united, we must point out that within the current framework,
namely the misbehavior and the incompetence of the ruling theocrats,
there is nonetheless, ground to be concerned.
Lately we hear and detect, through statements, writings, and
activities of some elements, in Turkey and specially the Republic
of Azarbaijan, and some even here in the United States, the promotion
of Pan-Turkism movement with a reference to the Azari-Turkish
speaking Iranians in the northwestern province ofthe country.
In this regard, a former CIA officer who has written several articles
under the alias ofEdward Shirley, in his recent book, which incidentally
has an amazing resemblance to the paltry remarks of James Morier
in his fictitious 19th century book, Haji Baba of Isfahan, boldly
"Nothing in the world .scared 7ehrans clerics, like the
shahs before them, more than an Iranian Azari divorce. So why
not feed their fears? ". Here we must briefly refer to history
to set the record straight.
The Caucasia and the Central Asian republics which became independent
after the disintegration ofthe Soviet Union, have an undeniable,
long-standing historical and cultural bond with IranThe areas
of Caucasia and Central Asia have been segments of a greater Persian
cultural and political orbit. The site of the greatest Zoroastrian
fire temple associated with the Iranian Kings, is located in Ganjak
(rooted in the Persian term Ganjineh meaning treasure), Caucasia.
As Roman Ghirshman, points out in his book, "Persian Art",
Persian culture, theme and decorative motifs and arts in Azarbaijan,
Georgia, Armenia and Central Asia have survived to such extents
that neither Christianity nor Islam could prevent the use ofZoroastrian-Sassanian
decorative arts and symbols. Caucasia and the northern part of
Iran, as corroborated by numerous history books, were called "Arran".
These parts, were separated from Iran after two imperialistic
incursions by Russia, and through the subsequent inauspicious
treaties of Golistan in 1813, and Turkemanchai in 1828. Iran's
borders with Caucasia and Central Asian republics extend to some
2000 miles. Historical, cultural and economic ties
between Iran and Caucasia are not only deep rooted and date back
to at least 500B.C., but great cities such as Ganjak, Samarkand,
Bukhara, Marv, Khiva and Balkh, in Central Asia were traditional
centers of Persian arts and literature. In addition to Tajikstan
where the language is Farsi, many of Uzbakistan's people are indeed
tied by linguistic heritage to their Persian neighbors and a high
proportion of the people of Bukhara and Samarkand, and Uzbakistan's
other main cities, though ethnically Turkic, speak Farsi. These
historical and cultural links are playing an important role in
the friendly relationships between Tehran and those important
countries in the region. These links could indeed contribute to
the expansion of economic relations amongst Iran, the Caucasian
and the Central Asian States, resulting in the security and prosperity
of the people, only and only when the helms of the Iranian ship
are trusted to the hands of a responsible far-sighted government.
It must be stressed that Iran is indeed a link between the Caspian
Sea and the Persian Gulf, the two important energy zones.
Regrettably, from one side, the irresponsible policies of the
Leadership in Iran, continues to undermine the moderate Islamic
states ofthe region, and its belligerence towards the secular
systems of Turkey and the Republic of Azarbaijan, still persists.
On the other side, irresponsible statements, such as "liberation
of the Southern Azarbaijan" or resuscitating new versions
of the long defunct ethnocentric Pan-Turkism by some leaders and
writers, in Turkey and especially in the Republic of Azarbaijan,
are exacerbating the problems between Iran and these neighbors.
Those statements, will provide an excuse to some separatist elements
to use some language similarities, for their misguided intentions.
The Azarbaijan that has freed itself, after 73 years, from Soviet
domination and communist ideology, ought to realize and should
know better that the revival of Pan-Turkism or Pan- Turanism,
is as harmful to their national interest as fundamentalism or
Pan-Islamism is to Iran. Pan-Turkists, are in essence, advocating
and injecting an artificial, imperialistic and inflammatory issue
to the region. Although this idea is in conflict with the ideals
of Turkish founding father, Kamal Ataturk, and does not enjoy
a serious following in Turkey and the Republic of Azarbaijan,
but raising the specter of racial and ethnic conflict could cause
serious troubles for the region.
It should be mentioned that, first and foremost, the name of
the Republic of Azarbaijan is not a historical one and its real
name was "Arran". This was changed to "Azerbaijan"
by the Nationalist party of "Mussavat" only in the early
20th century. Secondly, it was eagerly adopted later by the Soviet
leaders, in order to facilitate the annexation of northwestern
Iran to the Soviet orbit. This was also considered facile and
usefW for some Pan-Turanists who vied for the unity of"North
and South" with Turkey. An Iranian historian and theorist
of the former Tudeh (Communist ) Party, Mr. Ehsan Tabari, confirms
this historical fact that the Northern segment of the Aras river,
was never called Azarbaijan. Mr. Tabari in his book, "Kazhrahe
- Misguided Path", explains that historically, the Northern
part of the Aras river was always referred to as "Arran"
and, the primary motive behind the re-naming of that zone to "Azarbaijan"
by the Mussavatists, and the subsequent support of and its manipulation
by the Soviet Communists, was indeed for the annexation and the
taking control ofthe Iranian Azarbaijan.
In reference to the etymology ofthe term Azarbaijan, the late
scholar and iconoclast, Ahmad Kasravi Tabrizi, himself an Iranian
from Azarbaijan, has numerous enlightening articles, including
the following which appeared in the Shahin Newspaper nearly 66
Among the provinces of Iran, perhaps none are as renowned as Azarbaigan.
Specially after the beginning of the constitutional era, when
she achieved all those heroic victories in those revolutionary
movements, Azarbaigan gained more prominence both in Iranian &
This name, from 2000 years ago, has been one of the most famous
terms in Iran's geography, and in each century her name has been
synonymous with momentous historic events. However, if we search
for this name in history books we will find different variations
of it: All three, Azarbaijan, Azarbaigan, and Azarbadgan are listed
in Persian books. In Ferdowsi's Shahnameh we read;
Azarbaigan ,Azarbadgan ,,
Arabs refer to it as Azarbijan. In Armenian books both Azarbayaghan
and Azarbadaghan are recorded. In ancient Pahlavi books it is
listed as Atoorpatgan. We will attempt to answer three questions;
Which one ofthese terms are the more accurate one? When was the
name given to this land?
What is the meaning and reason behind this name?
Insofar as an explanation for the origin and appearance of the
name Azarbaigan, Strabo (63 B.C. - 24 A.D.), the famous Greek
geographer happens to be the most accurate. According to him,
at the end of the Achaemenid Empire, when Alexander the Macedonian
was prevailing in Iran, an Iranian commander by the name of Atoorpat,
kept this region (part of the "Median" territory referred
to as the Lesser Mede - maad e koochak) from falling into the
hands of the invaders. Thus, this land was named after him - Atoorpatkan.
People elected him as their sovereign and he protected their independence.
Strabo, in his book, which was written at the time of the Parthians
(Ashkaniyan) and close to the birth of Jesus, declares that:
"...still the successors of Atoorpat are reigning independently.
Occasionally they have married into the family c?f the Armenian,
Parthian, and Syrian rulers ".
Several notions are learned from Strabo's writings: one is that
the name Azarbaigan, which was originally Atoorpatkan, appeared
more than 22 centuries ago during the time of Alexander the Macedonian.
Prior to that period, being part of the region of maad (Mede)
it was naturally referred to as maad. Namely, Hamedan and those
regions were called "maad e bozorg" - the Greater Mede,
and Azarbaigan was called "maad e koochak" - the Lesser
Mede. Even today there are remnants of this name in Azarbaigan:
the plateau west of Tabriz extending to the eastern banks of the
Oroomiyeh Lake, so far as we know, up to the time of the Mongolian
incursion, was called "dashte maayaan" - referring to
the "dashte maadaan" (the plain of the Medes). At the
time of the Sassanians and during the advent of Islam, "maah"
was substituted for the term "maad" and in Azarbaigan
they called it "maay". At the far end of this plain,
there is still a village called "maayaan"...
W e also learn from Strabo, that the term Azarbaigan gets its
name from the Iranian Commander, Atoorpat, who ruled over that
territory. Unfortunately, the erroneous writings of some authors,
during the Mongolian era, such as Khaje Rashid Od-Din Fazlollah
e Hamedani has become a pretext for the Pan-Turkist advocates.
"... when Aghooz conquered that region, he became, fond of
the grasslands of Ow/an, which is a district in Azarbailan. He
ordered everyone to bring a bushel of the earths soil and dump
it there. He himself did so, along with all the people including
the soldiers. Naturally a large hill was created!! which he called
Azarbaigan. Since Azar, in Turkish means towering and elevated
and Baigan means distinguished ardfamous!! "
No one knows where the soil came from!!
Also erroneous is the meaning which some Iranian writers have
deduced for Azarbaigan, simply due to the existence of fire alters.
The third issue, which pertains history, is the fact that Azarbaigan
protected its independence from the Greek suzerainty. Some have
claimed that Atoorpat was a Greek commander in Alexander's army,
however, there's no doubt from Strabo's writings & the name
Atoorpat that he (Atoorpat) was an Iranian. Furthermore, this
region during the reign of Parthians, kept its independence, and
was separated from the other provinces of Iran.
It's a pity that other than Strabo's writings, we have no further
information regarding Atoorpat and his successors who reigned
in Azarbaigan for over 300 years. Archaeologist so far, have not
found any coins either. I picked Strabo as the most accurate reference
on the roots of the name Azarbaigan, due to the fact that he lived
during the Parthian era and was thus close to the time of Atoorpat.
In fact he stated that at the time of his writings Atoorpat's
dynasty still reigned independently in that region. This proximity
oftime along with his reputable name as an ancient I-TistoriaA
make him even more credible. Aside from the fact that scientific
laws, support Strabo's writings, it is quite clear that the name
Azarbad or Atoorpat, was common among Iranians and many were named
as such (i.e. Azarbad marespandan, the high Zoroastrian priest
ofthe Sassanid King, Shapour II-Zolaktal; who wrote a book in
counseling in the Pahlavi language).
Furthermore, attributing the name of cities to people by adding
the suffix "kan" or "gan" was quite common.
We have many examples in this regard, i.e. golpaigan, which originally
was vartpatkan, Vartpat being someone's name. It's obvious then
that Azarbaigan is a combination of three words:
1) Atoor or Azar 2) pat or pay
3) kan or gan
In order to understand the correct form of this term we must
talk about each one of these separately...
1) Atoor: this is a well known "Old Persian"/Pahlavi
term, meaning Atash (fire). The term Atoor has become Azar, and
is a popular word in Farsi today. Although all the words containing
the letter "zal" -z-, from the Sassanid era up to the
Mongolian times, were pronounced as such, and thereafter transformed
to "dal" -d-, it's quite interesting to see the "zal"
in Azarbaigan stay unchanged. Nonetheless it must be noted that
villagers pronounce it as Adarbijan.
2) pat: from the verbal noun of payidan, meaning guarding and
protecting. The Pahlavi form was patan. Thus "pat" being
a derivative ofthat would render the meaning of Atoorpat as "Atash
negahdar" or the protector office.... Vartpat as "gol
negahdar" or guardian of flower. I must admit that I'm not
certain yet about the derivation of "pat", and I only
suspect it to be from patan. Nonetheless, "pat" has
become "paz" and then "pad", and since in
the accent of Hamedan and Azarbaigan almost all the letters "dal"
-d- became "ya" -ythen "pad" became "pay".
Other examples are maadan becoming maayaan, and maadeh (female)
becoming maayeh in Azari language. But how did the letter "pe"
-p- change into "be" -b- ? I suspect that Azari people
(the ancient people of Azarbaigan) didn't pronounce the letter
"pe" quite the same as it was in other parts of Iran
(Armenians, incidentally follow this pattern too). For instance,
in Azarbaigan the word "pas" meaning (then, thus), is
pronounced "bas". So, it could be called Azarbaigan
3) kan: this word which later became "gan", is quite
common after the name ofcities and villages, such as: Ardakan,
Gorgan, Zangan, and Arzangan and many others. We could attribute
two meanings to this word. The first, signifying location and
land (refer to the book "namhaye shahr ha va dih haye Iran
- 2nd part). And the other is a suffix ofattribution such as "bazargan"
and "shaygan - shahgan".
Now, the meaning of Azarbaigan is clear to us:
*The land or city of Azarbad
Atoorpatkan = Azarpazgan > Azarpadgan Azarbaigan...
Each were correct in their own time, and since in the southern
part of Iran, the letter "gaf' -g- was changed into "jim"
j-, Azarbaijan is not incorrect. However, since the rule no longer
exists, and since "jim" is closer to the Arabic version
of the Army. The settlement ofthese Tatars in our nation, and
the impact of their language, is another element which must be
kept in mind. Nonetheless, those who refer to certain people in
Iran as Turk, either based on their ignorance or vile political
ambitions, do not know or do not wish to know that after the battle
of Chalderan (in 1514 A.D. ), and later during the Afghan incursion,
when the Ottomans ventured to invade the western parts of Iran,
the latter carried out their ruthless policies in such homicidal
manner where, in the eyes of the Iranians, the term "Turk"
found a derogatory connotation. Nonetheless, the new Republic
of Azarbaijan on the north, is now a political and historical
fact and Turkey on west, is a very important neighbor of Iran.
After over 250 years of armed conflicts (and almost 57 large and
small wars) between the Persian and the Ottoman empires, for the
last 250 years, namely since the battle of Kars in 1747, the two
countries have lived in peace. Indeed after WW l, wherein Turkey
took the place ofthe Ottomans, the two countries developed very
close political, economic and security relationship. This deep
rooted relationship lasted until the 1979 revolution and the establishment
oftheocracy in Iran. Nevertheless, it must be said that regardless
of the policies of the current leadership, the people of Iran
would like to continue their friendly relations with the nation
of Turkey and especially the Republic of Azarbaijan.
Iran and the Republic of Azarbaijan share common borders in land
and in Caspian Sea. They both have common interests in the security
of the region. While opposing the arbitrary rule and policies
ofthe Islamic fundamentalists and the latter's aim in Iran for
exporting its radical version of Islam, the people of Iran, at
the same time, and equally so, will take a stance against Pan-Turkism,
Pan-Turanism or for that matter, any form of secessionist movement
aimed to disintegrate their motherland. No matter where it comes
from, it would be considered as "psyop" - psychological
operations and warfare - against the national security of Iran,
against its territorial integrity and even more so against the
collective will of the peace-loving patriotic People of Iran.
The people of Iran are aware that the present precarious conditions
are caused by the internal and external policies of ruling clerics.
They are also simultaneously conscious about the vile activities
of certain elements in encouraging and fomenting secessionist
movements in Azarbaijan, Kurdistan, Baluchistan and Khuzistan
and will not permit such ominous tunes of discord to materialize.
In fact throughout history, these unswerving members of the Iranian
community, have been the shining
armor against the Ashur, Macedonian, Arab, Mongol, Afghan and
It must be emphatically pointed out to those who contemplate
the disintegration oflran, that there are no Turks in Azarbaijan,
neither are there any Arabs in Khuzistan. There are however, Iranian
Azarbaijanis who speak Azari and Iranian Khuzistanis who converse
Iranian nation has managed in the past to preserve its territorial
integrity against communist separatists who tried to disintegrate
the country with support of the former Soviet Union. They defended
Iran against the Iraqi incursion of 1980, and will do the same
against any kind of anti-Iranian movement. Iranians also indicated
in the last election that, the only remedy and path to salvation,
in preventing economic collapse and disintegration is the removal
of Mullahs from power.
We strongly believe that the answer to the problems is the termination
oftheocratic system of Velayat-e-Fagih, and the formation ofa
national democratic government. The answer, is the establishment
of a truly democratic and representative government that will
encourage the desire of all elements of the nation in shaping
the destiny ofthe country. A government that can guarantee equality
and justice for all and prepare the grounds for a meaningful participation
of all the people irrespective of their ethnic, social and religious
tendencies. A government that can win the " hearts and minds"
of all its people to remove the sources of discontent and distrust
in the country and restore peace, tranquillity, prosperity to
Iran and stability to the volatile region. One thing is indeed
certain that Azarbaijan, the land of Atoorpat and Zarathustra,
the motherland ofBabak Khorram
Din, the cradle of Sattar Khan, Ahmad Kasravi, Hoseyn Behjat,
Hassan Roshdiyeh, and Parvin E'tesami, shall always remain the
shining armor ofIran.
The following souces are also consulted:
1) Ahmad Kasravi - Azari ya zaban bastan Azarbaigan 2) Siyavash
Bashiri - Azar Azarbaigan
3) Hoseyn Ghoh Katebi - Zaban haye bastani Azarbaijan 4) Rahim
Rayees Niya - Azarbaijan dar seyre tarikh e Iran 5) Ehsan Tabari
6) Nosratollah Jahanshahloo Afshar - Partow Iran Newsletter 7)
Samad Sardariniya - Mashaheer Azarbaijan
8) Keith McLachlen - The boundaries of modern Iran 9) Jalal Matini
- Iran Shenasi Magazine
10) Enayatollah Reza - Azarbaijan az kohan tarin ayyam to emrooz