Iran Human RightsIran arrests 15 for encouraging Azeri protests

Iran arrests 15 for encouraging Azeri protests

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AFP: Iran has arrested more than 15 people for calling for a demonstration in the northwestern city of Tabriz to mark the anniversary of the publication of a cartoon offensive to the Azeri minority, the ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday. TEHRAN, May 22, 2007 (AFP) – Iran has arrested more than 15 people for calling for a demonstration in the northwestern city of Tabriz to mark the anniversary of the publication of a cartoon offensive to the Azeri minority, the ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

The news agency said that the individuals arrested in East Azarbaijan province were inspired by foreign agents bent on stirring trouble to mark the first year since the government Iran newspaper published the cartoon.

“In the past few days, a number of opportunists, who were guided from outside Iran, distributed pamphlets to call for a gathering in Tabriz for the first anniversary,” said Tabriz chief prosecutor Yusef Firouzi.

“In recent days, 15 have been arrested and we are currently interrogating them,” he said.

The Iran newspaper in May 2006 published a cartoon depicting an ethnic Azeri as a cockroach, sparking days of clashes between police and thousands of people which left four dead.

Azeris form a majority in East Azarbaijan, West Azarbaijan and Ardebil provinces. They are Shiites who speak a Turkic language and are well integrated into Iranian society.

Iran has repeatedly accused its foreign enemies of being behind sometimes deadly unrest in its sensitive border provinces such as Khuzestan in the southwest which has a large Arab population.

It has also alleged foreign tinkering in Sistan Baluchestan in southeast which is home to ethnic Sunnis Baluchis and Kordestan province in the west.

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