Middle East

Iran's Azeris protest over offensive TV show

A crowd in Tabriz protests against the Iranian state broadcaster's offensive portrayal of the country's Azeri ethnic minority (9 November 2015)
Image caption Iran's state broadcaster said managers and producers of the programme had been dismissed

Police in Iran have clashed with people protesting against what they say is the state broadcaster's offensive portrayal of the country's Azeri ethnic minority.

Officers fired tear gas to disperse crowds in several north-western cities and towns, and there were many arrests.

The protests were sparked by a children's television programme aired on Friday that ridiculed the accents of Azeris and included offensive jokes.

The state broadcaster has apologised for the "unforgivable mistake".

"The managers and individuals involved in this regrettable issue which offended our Azeri-speaking compatriots will be seriously confronted and this incident will be fully investigated," the head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Mohammad Sarafraz, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

"We will increase our efforts to strengthen ethnic unity and national cohesion."

There are approximately 13 million ethnic Azeris in Iran, or 16% of the population, according to the US state department.

Its 2014 human rights report on Iran says Azeris are well integrated into government and society, but that they have accused the government of discriminating against them by prohibiting the Azeri language in schools, harassing Azeri activists or organisers, and changing Azeri geographic names.

Azeri groups also say a number of Azeri political prisoners have been jailed for advocating cultural and language rights for Azeris. The government has charged several of them with "revolting against the Islamic state".

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