Iran’s Ethnolinguistic Minorities Continue to Face Forced Assimilation

Inclusive and quality education for all is one of the goals of UN Education 2030 Agenda, which cannot be achieved unless all learners are given the foundation they need to thrive.

UNESCO concentrates on the necessity of the mother tongue in the education and direct connection between education in mother tongue and sustainable development. However, for millions of ethnolinguistic minority communities in Iran education in their mother tongue and having a multilingual education system is a dream, Al-Arabiya reports.

Yesterday, concurrent with the National Student Day in Iran, two Ahwazi Arab girls were punished and humiliated by their teacher, “Mrs. Shohtari” for speaking Arabic together in the class. The teacher forced them to write “We refrain from speaking Arabic in the classroom” 100 times as punishment.

This is not the first incident of racist reactions toward minorities and forced assimilation in Iranian schools but thanks to social media these incidents are being reported with much speed. And the role and the power of civil movements in reflecting and reporting such cases is becoming more evident.

Speaking and learning the languages and even wearing traditional clothes by ethnolinguistic minorities are guaranteed according to the Iranian constitution, making the teacher’s reaction and her punishment of the students illegal by law.

The families of the two students complained to the city council and demanded the termination of the teacher from her position as this was not the first time this individual has punished the students for speaking Arabic in the class.

After the news went viral, however, the teacher apologized. But a simple apology will not solve this problem nor will it guarantee that this incident will not occur again by other educators in minority populated areas in Iran.

Haj Babaie, the former minister of education, stated that 70 percent of student in Iran are bilingual and Persian is not considered their mother tongue.

According to official statistics, the number of students who drop out of schools in minority areas is much higher than other areas and the reasons are mainly mistreatment, discrimination, and humiliations of students belonging to ethnolinguistics minorities due to the monolingual education system in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Azerbaijani Turks along with Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, Turkmens, Gilaks, Mazandaranis, Lors and other small minorities constitute this 70 percent of the population of Iran. None of those ethnic groups are allowed learning their languages.

Azerbaijani Turks and Persians are almost equal in population number but Iranian tyrannous system has banned such primary rights of non-Persian peoples and unfortunately, the attitude of opposition groups of Iranian government about this unfair education system is very undemocratic, as Islamic governments are.