Written by: Sattar Azizi
The policy of language assimilation, that is, adopting a strategy that all ethnic groups and linguistic groups in the country speak and write in only one language, is a manifestation of chauvinism: even though , this policy may be carried out with the motive of preserving national unity and solidarity.
During the Pahlavi era, Reza Khan, influenced by the thoughts of some so-called Western intellectuals, most of whom had studied in France, followed the policy of denying the right of ethnic languages, and Mohammad Reza Shah subsequently followed these policies. After the Islamic revolution, fortunately, some openings have been made in this connection, and many books were published in ethnic languages, and some magazines and publications were also published in non-Persian languages. And even according to article 15 of the Iranian Constitution, the teaching of literature in ethnic languages along with Persian was open as an idea to be developed in schools.
Unfortunately, some people have developed wrong interpretations about this article. Some dignitaries, who have even held the position of representative of the Islamic Council, declare that Article 15 does not mean teaching the mother tongue, but it means the freedom to learn the language of ethnicity at home! Honestly, I don’t know where to find a more strange interpretation than this. Principle 15 is as follows: “The official language and script of Iran, the lingua franca of its people, is Persian. Official documents, correspondence, and texts, as well as text-books, must be in this language and script. However, the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools, is allowed in addition to Persian.’’
Regardless of strange interpretations, another group also interprets the expression of the freedom to teach the literature of local and ethnic languages to mean that the government has no obligation regarding the teaching of ethnic languages, but that the ethnic groups are free to teach their mother tongue at their own expense. This interpretation is also not acceptable. Furthermore, in Article 15, there is reference to teaching ethnic minority literature in schools, not in private educational institutions. As a result, in any school where Persian language and literature are taught, the ethnic groups living in that area have the right to have their language taught. The government is also obliged to provide the necessary hardware and software facilities, including the training of teachers and the preparation of necessary textbooks.
Government policies in regard to the language and culture of ethnic groups can be counted in five areas, which are “Elimination”, “Assimilation”, “Tolerance”, “Protection” and ‘’Promotion’’. There is no doubt that the policy of eliminating and exterminating minority groups is unacceptable and the perpetrators of this policy will have individual criminal responsibility according to international law.
Implementation of assimilation policy is also not accepted in current international law. When writing the Article 27 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, most of the governments were in favor of developing an approach to tolerate the existence of minority and ethnic groups in their country.
In this regard, the committee even finds it necessary to try to promote and develop the identity of minorities and adds: “Although the rights protected under article 27 are individual rights, they depend in turn on the ability of the minority group to maintain its culture, language or religion. Accordingly, positive measures by States may also be necessary to protect the identity of a minority and the rights of its members to enjoy and develop their culture and language and to practice their religion, in community with the other members of the group’’.
In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights condemned one of the member states for not respecting the rights of minorities and stated: “The existence of minorities and different cultures in a country is a historical fact that every democratic society must tolerate, and even according to the principles of international law, they must support and protect.’’
source: End of Monolingualism