Protests Erupt In Iran Backing Azerbaijan In Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
By RFE/RL's Radio Farda October 02, 2020
Protests have erupted in several Iranian cities, including the capital, Tehran, and and the northwestern city of Tabriz, in support of Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Videos posted online appear to show dozens demonstrating in the streets while chanting slogans in Azeri, including "Karabakh is ours. It will remain ours." Ethnic Azeris constitute a large minority of the Iranian population.
RFE/RL could not verify the authenticity of the videos.
Security forces were reported to have dispersed the protesters using tear gas. Clashes were also reported between the protesters and riot police.
The Human Rights Activists News Agency reported that at least 38 people had been detained in the protests.
More than 100 people, including many civilians, have been killed since heavy clashes erupted on September 27 along much of the Line of Contact that separates the ethnic Armenian forces who control Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan's troops.
The clashes are considered the worst bout of violence since a 1994 cease-fire ended a war over the disputed territory.
On October 1, four representatives of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in four of the country's provinces with a large ethnic Azeri population released a joint statement in support of Azerbaijan.
The statement by Khamenei's representatives in the provinces of West and East Azerbaijan, Ardebil, and Zanjan said that "there is no doubt" that the breakaway region belongs to Azerbaijan.
Iran, which shares a border with both Azerbaijan and Armenia, has called for an immediate end to hostilities between the two countries while urging a dialogue between the two sides.
Tehran has expressed its readiness to mediate the dispute.
Earlier this week, President Hassan Rohani's chief of staff told Azerbaijan that Tehran recognized its territorial integrity.
"The stance of the Islamic republic on Azerbaijan has always been clear and transparent as it has always recognized the neighboring country's territorial integrity and respected it," Mahmud Vaezi told Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev in a phone call on September 30.
Vaezi also denied reports that Tehran was assisting Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan as "baseless rumors" aimed at disrupting Tehran-Baku ties.
In a separate call, Rohani told Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian that his country had to work toward ending the conflict.
"It is important for us to stop these conflicts, and we expect the two countries to take a step in this direction with tact and restraint," Rohani said.
"Our region can no longer take instability and new wars," he added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter on September 27 that "Our region needs peace now."
With reporting by IRNA and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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