Rights Defender Calls On Iran to Immediately Release Azerbaijani Cultural Activists

Azerbaijani Cultural Activists

Responding to reports that at least 120 people have been arbitrarily detained in connection with two separate Azerbaijani Turkic cultural gatherings in July and August 2018, Amnesty International (AI) has called for their immediate and unconditional release.
The world’s leading human-rights organization also urged the authorities drop any charges against Ebrahim Nouri and anyone else targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, including through their advocacy promoting the rights of the
Azerbaijani Turkic minority in Iran.
A recent research conducted by AI reveals disturbing reports of torture and other ill-treatment committed by security forces during and after the arrests, articularly those which took place in July. The authorities must initiate a prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigation into these allegations, bringing those responsible to justice in trials that meet international fair trial standards.
Amnesty International’s research included conducting interviews with more than 10 individuals, as well as a close study of court verdicts, independent and state media reports, and posts on social media. The organization has withheld the names of individuals interviewed in order to protect their security.
According to Amnesty International, 40 people were arrested in connection with a peaceful Azerbaijani Turkic cultural gathering that took place overnight between 9 and 10 August 2018 near the city of Meshghin Shahr in Ardabil province. The 39 men and one woman were arrested by both uniformed police and plain-clothed security forces as they gathered at the base camp of Sabalan Mountain on the evening of 9 August 2018 during an annual gathering in which they sing and dance to Azerbaijani Turkic songs before they hike up the
mountain the next day. Among those arrested and detained were activists Mehdi Houshmand, Mostafa Parvin and Tohid Amir Amini, who had also been arbitrarily arrested and detained in July and released the same month.
According to reports, eyewitnesses present at the scene have said that those arrested were subjected to beatings by the security forces during arrest. All the detainees were taken to a detention centre in the city of Lahroud in Ardabil province and released on the evening of 10 August. Amnesty International has no information on whether they face any charges.