Demonstrations in northwestern Iran in support of Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region have been dispersed by police, the Fars news agency reported. Police broke up on Thursday a rally in Tabriz, the capital of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, where a large Azeri minority lives, wrote Fars.
In Tabriz, “around 500 people gathered and chanted slogans in support of the end of the occupation of Karabakh”, an Armenian separatist enclave within Azerbaijan, according to Fars. “Some tried to disrupt the atmosphere with ethnic slogans (but) the police intervened to stop the rally,” the agency added.
Fars published two videos showing dozens of people gathered in streets chanting “Karabakh” and “Long live Azerbaijan” in the Azeri language. In one video, there appeared to be a deployment of police.
In Zanjan and Ardabil, capitals of Iranian provinces of the same names, police intervened to stop demonstrators from gathering. “Some people” were arrested by “security forces” in Zanjan for having chanted “ethnocentric slogans”, Fars added, without providing further details.
The Islamic republic is home to a large Azeri community, living primarily in the northwest of the country. According to some estimates, there are around 10 million Azeris out of Iran’s population of 80 million, which also includes an Armenian community of just under 100,000.
At the decision of the Government, martial law and general mobilization is being declared in the Republic of #Armenia. I call on the personnel attached to the troops to present themselves to their district commissariats.
For the fatherland, for victory.
— Nikol Pashinyan (@NikolPashinyan) September 27, 2020
Clashes have raged between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces since Sunday over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian province that broke away from Baku in a bitterly fought war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives.
The clashes, the worst since 2016, have raised fears of a new war between the two countries. Peace talks have been largely stalled since a 1994 ceasefire agreement, with the last big push for a peace deal collapsing in 2010.
Iran, which maintains good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, called on Sunday for an end to the fighting and said it was ready to facilitate talks and a ceasefire between its two neighbours.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk