Mahmudali Chehregani (Azerbaijani: Mahmudəli Babaxan oğlu Çöhrəqanlı, Persian: محمود علی چهرگانی) (also known as Mahmudali Chohraganli) is an Azerbaijani separatist leader, born in Shabestar, East Azarbaijan Province, Iran, in 1958. After the expulsion of SANLM (CAMAH) by Piruz Dilenchi, he founded (1995) the Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement (SANAM or GAMOH), a separatist political group that claims to represent the interests of Iran's estimated 12 to 23.5 million Azerbaijani minority (approximately 16-25 percent of Iran's all population). Chehregani was a professor of linguistics at Tabriz University.
According to Professor William Beeman, "The Bush administration also flitered with supporting the Mujaheddin-Khalq (MEK) in their efforts to overthrow the Tehran government, and supporting Mahmud Ali Chehregani, leader of an Azerbaijani separatist movement calling for a federated Iran."
Chehregani's father was arrested and tortured on charges of treason and separatism during the era of the Shah. Chehregani himself entered politics after his course teaching Turkish linguistics was closed by Iranian authorities.[unreliable source?] Chehregani was arrested by agents of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence in December 1999, effectively preventing him registering as a candidate for the Majlis (Parliament) election within the specified time. He was tried by a revolutionary court on charges including smuggling shampoo, and sentenced on 18 February 2000 to six months' imprisonment. Amnesty International believed that "he has been imprisoned to suppress the non-violent expression of his conscientiously held beliefs, and as such was a prisoner of conscience".
Chehregani went on a hunger strike on May 19, in protest at his unfair trial. He was transferred to the prison hospital on July 23, suffering from internal bleeding, and subsequently released from Tabriz prison on July 27, 2000, after six months in detention, when his condition had stabilised. Iran lifted a travel ban on Chehregani in 2002, allowing him to meet with high-level government figures in Turkey and the United States. Since 2002 he lives in exile in the United States.
Language and culture
Chehregani's campaign focused on issues of separatism and anti-Iranianism. He argues Azerbaijanis are not of Iranian ethnicity, and has called for the teaching of the Azerbaijani language instead of Persian as the primary language in schools in Iran's Azeri areas, arguing that it is guaranteed under Article 15 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which permits the use of regional languages in the media and in schools when used in addition to Persian.
In his speech in Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, DC, Chehregani declared the goals of his movement as follows:
"We support the territorial integrity of Iran and do not seek unification with Republic of Azerbaijan or Turkey. We do not want to live under the Islamic regime; we want democracy in Iran. We envision Iran in a federalist form that respects the rights of Azerbaijani Turks."
However, Chehreganli has several times explained his objective was the absolute separation of Azerbaijan from Iran. Chehregani has previously affirmed many times that federalism is an excuse for separatism and that he is a separatist. He and his group have also set their aims on non-Azeri inhabited areas, specially areas inhabited by various ethnic groups including Kurds, Talysh and other Iranians. Chehregani also considers the predominantly non-Azerbaijani provinces as Hamadan and Qazvin as part of Azerbaijan. Chehregani, in an interview with GunAz TV, has claimed that he sees provinces which are not majority Azerbaijani, such as West Azarbaijan, Qazvin, Tehran, Arak and parts of Gilan and Kordestan as part of Azerbaijani territory.
He and a group of Azerbaijani nationalists wrote a letter to then president Khatami asking him to limit the birth of Kurds in Iran and has called Kurds in Western Azerbaijan as the guests of Azerbaijanis. He considers the Kurds, who predate Turkic speakers in the area, to be guests in Azerbaijan and has reduced the numbers of Kurds in his statistics and has recently claimed that "There are 500,000 Kurdish immigrants in Southern Azerbaijan. If they behave normally, there will be no problems, otherwise they will have to leave the same way as they came".
- http://southazerbaijan.info/cehreqani.php Expulsion
- "Iran: People" - CIA: The World Factbook (retrieved 7 June 2006).
- "Iran" - Amnesty International report on Iran and Azerbaijanis (retrieved 30 July 2006).
- Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity, 'The Azerbaijani Population' by Brenda Shaffer, pp. 221-225. The MIT Press (2003), ISBN 0-262-19477-5 (retrieved 10 June 2006)
- "Encyclopedia Orient Iran" - 'Encyclopedia Orient (retrieved 18 August 2006).
- Library of Congress, Library of Congress – Federal Research Division. "Ethnic Groups and Languages of Iran". http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Iran.pdf. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- Human Rights Watch. Iran. Religious And Ethnic Minorities: Discrimination in Law And Practice. 1997 report.
- William O. Beeman, "The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs",University of Chicago Press, 2008. pg 135: "The Bush administration also flitered with supporting the Mujaheddin-Khalq (MEK) in their efforts to overthrow the Tehran government, supporting Mahmud Ali Chehregani, leader of an Azerbaijani separatist movement calling for a federated Iran".
- WWW.GAMOH.ORG | South Azerbaijan
- Amnesty International. Iran: Health concern/Unfair trial - Dr Mahmudali Chehregani
- Amnesty International. Iran: Further Information on Health concern/unfair trial
- CSIS Caucasus Project Meeting Notes. Azerbaijani Turks of Iran: Will They Lead a Revolution Again? Mahmoudali Chehregani at the Wayback Machine (archived April 10, 2008). August 8, 2002
- Archived January 12, 2006 at the Wayback Machine. AZERI SEPARATIST MEETS POLICY MAKERS IN WASHINGTON By Reza Breakstone
-  Transcript of part of Chehregani 18-hour multi-part interview with Gunaz TV. Ali Amoui.
-  Map from Gamoh's website compare to reliable maps like the one from BBC 
-  Transcript of part of Chohraghanli 18-hour multi-part interview with Gunaz TV. Ali Amoui.
- Archived March 11, 2007 at the Wayback Machine Mazdak Bamdadan. 4th of December. 2003. religious intolerance, blind nationalism and the nightmare of Iranian disintegration
-  Mahmud Nozhatzadeh. The movement of Azerbaijan. Democratic or Separatist strategists. 28 November 2002.
-  letter of 64 Azerbaijani writers, students and intellectuals addressing Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. Letter was sent on the July 05 1998
- See Archived March 11, 2007 at the Wayback Machine Chehregani's own website
-  Hossein Tork Ellali, Gamoh Spoke Person. The Turkish Army should enter Iraq.
- The Turkish Army Should Enter Iraq at the Wayback Machine (archived October 24, 2005)