UNPO Meeting with UNESCO addresses Minority Language Rights in Iran

On the occasion of the international “Mother Language Day” (21st February), UNPO organised a meeting with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and representatives from non-Persian nations in Iran to discuss minority language rights.
The delegation consisted of Ms. Ayda Karimli from Southern Azerbaijan, Mr. Nasser Boladai, president of the Balochistan Peoples Party and Mr. Amir Saedi, from the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization. They met with Ms. Serena Heckler, a Programme Specialist at the Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems Programme of UNESCO, and Ms. Irmgarda Kasinskaite-Buddeberg, a Programme Specialist at the Universal Access and Preservation Section of the Knowledge Societies Division of UNESCO.
Iran is a multinational state where Turks, Persians, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, Turkmen and Lors live with different national, linguistic, ethnic and cultural characteristics. This diversity, however, is not reflected in the political system ruling the country. While about 70% of the pupils entering primary school have a language other then Persian/Farsi as their mother tongue, state-schooling in these regions is conducted exclusively in Farsi, the only official language in Iran. The Ahwaz, Baloch, Kurds, Turks and Turkmen face difficulties in exercising their right to use their own languages in both private and public. Activists for broader linguistic and cultural rights for minorities are detained arbitrarily.
In contrary to official statements that the teaching in minority languages is permitted, Tehran does not permit teaching in Arabic, Balochi, Kurdish, Luri, Turkic or Turkmen languages. Both the Shah and the Islamic Republic have used the Persian language as one of the characteristics of Iranian national identity to assimilate non-Persians into the Persian state identity. These efforts have failed, however, since Persian is the mother tongue of less than half of the population.
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