OpinionMiddle East

Raisi’s inferno

The phrase “Land of Fire” is often used to describe the Azerbaijani region and holds profound historical weight.

Illustrative image of a fiery mountain. Source: DeepAI.
Illustrative image of a fiery mountain. Source: DeepAI.
Turkan Bozkurt
Turkan Bozkurt is a dedicated paralegal and human rights activist based in Montreal. She earned her master's degree from the University of Toronto, where she focused on minority groups in the Middle East, particularly in Iran and Azerbaijan.

While fireworks lit up the skies in many cities in Iran upon the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, the experiences of Iran’s diverse communities, especially the Azerbaijani people, remained hidden. Persian-centric Iranian media, both at home and abroad, often ignores or misrepresents the voices of minorities, leaving their stories untold.

Azerbaijanis interpreted Raisi’s death as a form of cosmic justice, as payback, since Raisi perished on the very land upon which he had wrought havoc.

The location of Raisi’s helicopter crash in the East Azerbaijan province holds particular significance for the Azerbaijani people and activists.

The phrase “Land of Fire” is often used to describe the Azerbaijani region and holds profound historical weight. This region was split during the reign of the Turkic Qajar empire. The northern half fell under the dominion of the Russian Empire and eventually gained independence during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Even though the Azerbaijanis in the south also declared a national government in 1945 led by President Ja’far Pishevari, it only lasted a fruitful year. The region was reoccupied by the Iranian Pahlavi regime and thousands were massacred.

The process of internal colonization and assimilation in Iran has been ongoing since the Pahlavi regime, perpetuating the systemic suppression of ethnic minority languages, religions and cultures in favor of Persian hegemony.

Prohibition of formal education in mother tongues, alteration of names from their origins to Persian equivalents and the creation of socioeconomic disparities with less access to high-ranking government positions and educational opportunities are some of the ways the Azerbaijani region in Iran is discriminated against.

Furthermore, derogatory stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes towards Azerbaijanis persist in Iranian media and everyday interactions, fostering a toxic environment. These practices collectively contribute to the systemic racial discrimination faced by Azerbaijanis in Iran.

Peaceful protests against these injustices have consistently been met with violence and brutality, with demonstrators facing arbitrary detention, torture and death. Moreover, Raisi’s presidency came with a stricter stance towards publications in minority languages and cultural activities.

This relentless cycle of subjugation has resulted in a historical and cultural erasure that has left many Azerbaijanis feeling marginalized and disempowered in their own homeland.

The Azerbaijani people have been facing environmental inequality as their resources are stolen without compensation and their lands are left polluted and desecrated. Examples such as Ardabil, where chemical factories encroach upon agricultural land and the drought of their beloved Urmia Lake serve as painful reminders of the environmental degradation wrought by neglect and exploitation.

Many see Raisi’s death as a symbolic act of retribution, a fitting end for a man who actively perpetrated oppression and cruelty. The poignant verses of the renowned Azerbaijani ashiq Hojjet, immortalized in an epic, resonate deeply with many. His verses capture the essence of Raisi’s crimes against humanity, painting a vivid picture of suffering and resistance, and have been used to create many videos shared across social media.

Bir xalqın belin bükən

He who bends the back of a people,

Nahaq yerə qanın tökən

Who spills blood with no justice,

Bir bədəni iki bölən

Who cleaves a body in twain,

Quduz tək sinələr sökən

Who rabidly tears open chests,

Azadlığa həsrət qoyan

Who kindles the yearning for freedom,

Sazı boğazlarda boğan

Who stifles the song in its throat,

Anaları ağlar qoyan

Who leaves mothers weeping,

igidləri darda boğan

Who silences the brave with the rope,

özü ağlar qalacaq

He himself will be left weeping,

özü darda qalacaq

He himself will face dire danger,

Azərbaycan yurdunun alovunda yanacaq

And will burn in the fire of Azerbaijani land.

The accompanying videos serve as a powerful testament to the truth of the epic’s narrative. They commence with haunting images of those who fell victim to Raisi’s regime and were murdered during protests or silenced through capital punishment, juxtaposed with vibrant scenes of their lives—dancing, singing, living.

The narrative is immediately contrasted with real videos of grieving mothers crying and hugging the graves of their children during the line “who leaves mothers weeping.”

During the last three verses of the crescendo, the imagery in the videos shifts to the wreckage of Raisi’s helicopter crash, echoing the veracity of the words, “And will burn in the fire of Azerbaijani land.”

It is important to remember that, even though Raisi’s downfall came amidst flames as he crashed in the Land of Fire, it only marked his end, not the end of tyranny in Iran. The struggle for justice and freedom for all oppressed communities, including the Azerbaijani people, will continue.

The celebrations of this uneducated tyrant’s death are not just about the fall of one individual, but a collective reaffirmation of the resilience and determination of those who continue to suffer under the Iranian regime.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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