Article 15 of Iranian constitution on ethnic and regional languages

[One of the sessions of the Experts Council in the beginning of the revolution. They are discussing the official language, as well as use of other languages, in Iran.]

[22nd session of the Experts Council for legislating Iran’s Constitution; ratification of Article 15; 19 September 1979]

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI reads from the text: The common language and script of people of Iran is Persia. Full stop. Official documents and correspondences and texts, as well as textbooks, must be in this language and script. However, use of… which one, sir? Where, sir?

–…documents, correspondences, and texts…

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI discusses the question of punctuation in the text: We have discussed this point that whether it should be with a comma or not. Let’s choose a method later…. Because right now methods are different. Persian writers have two methods now. Some put “and” and say this is our method, and do not accept the method that is common in European languages. And some accept it. At the end, we will choose a consistent method.

BEHESHTI continues reading the text: OK. “However, use of regional and ethnic languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching their literatures in schools is allowed beside the Persian.” Are there any questions? Mr. Besharati.

BESHARATI asks: “Beside Persian language” … is it for all or only for schools? For example, the press and mass media or, for example, mass media will have programs both in Persian and …?

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI explains: No, sir. “Beside” is related to teaching. “teaching their literatures in schools is allowed beside the Persian.”

BESHARATI warns: Then it is possible they produce all their mass media programs in their own languages. Then let it [“beside”] be mentioned here. He says “beside” is for teaching.

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI misunderstands the question: Well, his question is that whether “beside” includes the mass media or not. For example, he says if they write [publish] a magazine in Azeri language, should that magazine publish it [the same material] in Persian in the front page?

BESHARATI corrects him: Not magazines. The mass media.

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI says: Well, we have the press here.

BESHARATI says: Mass media…

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI asks: Well, mass media. What is wrong if mass media in Azerbaijan is in Azeri language, but mass media in Tehran broadcast everything in Persian? Is there anything wrong with that?

BESHARATI further explains: Isn’t there the risk that they might say something else there? Is there not that risk?

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI continues: Even with two languages, there will be that risk. Most of our friends think this phrase is enough. Mr. Makarem.

MAKAREM talks about language and unity in the country: Dear gentlemen, please pay attention. We need a connecting link in our country to preserve our national unity. If textbooks of each region are written in the language of that region, then distance will be created between us. Our national unity will be destabilized. Textbooks must be [in Persian].

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI allows the next person to talk: Mr. Kiavash…Mr. Kiavash. And then you.

KIAVASH calls for something to be added to the text: To stop any kind of abuse from the texts of these books, it must be added that “and teaching their literatures in schools must be in accordance with curriculum of Education Ministry beside Persian.”

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI rejects his recommendation: Sir, it is obvious. Its text will be in accordance with curriculum of Education Ministry. And not just that. Mr. Molavi Abdulaziz.

Molavi Abdulaziz asks for more explanation: Whoever wants to study Arabic, the government will take an Arabic teacher for him. Is that so?


Molavi Abdulaziz keeps asking: Whoever wants to study Baluchi language, the government has to take a Baluchi teacher for him.

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI responds: Yes, the government has to. When we say it is free, it means it has to.

Molavi Abdulaziz says: Meaning that it [the government] has to?

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI explains: Yes. It means that when they have the right to teach this language, then, accordingly, the government is obliged to provide what is their right for them.

Molavi Abdulaziz says: Meaning it will provide books and teacher for them…

AYATOLLAH BEHESHTI moves to another topic: Yes, everything. Well, if there are no other questions, let’s…