Mr Raymond G. Gordon,

Editor, Ethnologue

c/o International Linguistics Center

7500 West Camp Wisdom Road

Dallas, Texas 75236 USA



Dear Mr Gordon:


As a group of Iranian and Azerbaijani scholars and human rights activists, we the undersigned would like to express our deepest gratitude to you and all the individuals involved in publishing and maintaining Ethnologue, the most objective and scholarly body of knowledge on world languages.


In recent months we have learned of some dubious attempts to pressure the editors of Ethnologue into reducing the number of Iran’s Azerbaijani-Turkic population (also known as Azeri, Azerbaijani, Turk, and Turkish) registered in Ethnologue’s current edition. Needless to say, we are deeply concerned and saddened by such attempts. In our capacity as scholars, academics, and human rights activists, we would like to assure you that Ethnologue’s current estimation (Web Edition, 2005) of Iran’s Azerbaijani and Turkic speaking populations is a most objective estimation that closely corresponds to the facts on the ground. We hope that the editors and researchers of Ethnologue will not cave in to various Persian ultranationalists’ propaganda, and will not allow Ethnologue’s scholarly reputation to be tarnished by ideologically motivated misinformation. To this end, we would like to bring the following to your attention:


1)         It is a well-known fact that in Iran’s entire history, no kind of census has taken place that would account for the country’s population makeup based on ethnicity, nationality, and more importantly, language. All existing figures and numbers in this area are estimations based on unsubstantiated sources and literature. As such, care must be taken that in estimating the number of each ethnic community, the views of local community leaders, scholars, and human rights activists are taken into full account. In particular, an objective researcher must be cognizant to the fact that, due to lack of respect for human rights and the rights of minorities in Iran, both ruling governments and many scholars of the dominant Farsi-speaking group have always presented a distorted view regarding the size and status of disenfranchised communities in the country. Unfortunately, they still continue to do so.   


2)         In current Iran, even though the significant portion of the Azeri-Turkic population is living in the provinces of Eastern Azerbaijan, Western Azerbaijan, Ardabil and Zanjan; the entire population is by no means limited to these four provinces. These provinces are recent creations based on dubious government measures and questionable administrative purposes. While constituting the core of Azerbaijan’s geography, they neither correspond to historical Azeri lands nor do they reflect the Azeri inhabited areas in current Iran. In any kind of research on Iran’s Azerbaijani population, it must be borne in mind that the Azeri-Turks reside all over the country, from the current Azerbaijani provinces in the north-west to eastern and central Iran to provinces of Tehran, Khorasan, Markazi, Hamadan, Qazvin, and so forth. Paying due attention to this important issue is not only a matter of objectivity in social research; it is also a matter of consideration for morality and ethics, particularly in dealing with marginalized communities.


We are confident that Ethnologue’s competent researchers will pay attention to the above-mentioned factors and, as always, will present a most objective estimation of Iran’s Azerbaijani and Turkic populations in the upcoming edition of Ethnologue. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information or any kind of assistance. We will be more than happy to provide your researchers with relevant historical and contemporary literature on the subject.




A group of Iranian and Azerbaijani scholars and human rights activists


Signatories are listed in alphabetical order, along with their academic background and current affiliation.



Dr Seyed Zia Sadr al Ashrafi

Sociologist; Azerbaijani member of Congress of Nationalities for Federal Iran


Sedigheh Adalati

Ph. D. Sociologist


Alireza Ardabili

Journalist and Publisher


Dr Alireza Asgharzadeh                       

Sociologist, York University                                                                             


Mehemmed Azadgar

Writer and human rights activist


Professor Reza Baraheni

Iranian novelist and poet, a former president of PEN Canada and retired professor of Comparative Literature, University of Toronto, Canada


Professor Younes P. Benab

Professor of Political Sciences at Strayer University, Washington, D.C.



Ahmad Geybi

President, Association of Azerbaijanis in Sydney, Australia



Dr Farhad Ghaboussi

Physician Un Konstanz



Dr Almas Shoar Ghaffari

Member of Societe Botanique Francais "citologiste"


Ali Gharajelou

Ph. D. Political Scientist


Seyfeddin Hatamlooy

Writer and publisher


Ismail Jamili

Poet and Artist


Lale Javanshir

Writer and Artist


Samad Purmusavi

Architect and Artist


Dr Shahriyar Rahnamayan

Postdoctoral Fellow, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada


Hedayet Soltanzadeh

Lawyer, writer, human rights activist


Hadi Sultan-Qurraie

Ph. D. Comparative Lit.


Shahrouz Torfakh



Fakhteh Zamani

Research Engineer; Director of Association for the Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP)