RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 3


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Subject: RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 3

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Original sender: Nadir Kamaldinov <rcnm@azeri.com>

RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 3


RCNM Newsletter
 
Minorities in Azerbaijan # 3
 
I want to some ideas about the main directions of state policy on
national minorities in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a polyethnic
republic. From ancient times ethnic diversity has been preserved in
Azerbaijan. Discrimination on an ethnic basis has no history in
Azerbaijan. However, over the past two centuries in the Russian and
Soviet empires there has been no consistent policy on nationality.
Imperial policies tried to foster both national enmity between peoples
and their assimilation. Various time-bombs were also prepared to
encourage national conflicts, Nagorno Karabakh being but one example.
The conflict there arose not because of true national enmity but
because of aggressive territorial claims by Armenia on Azerbaijan.
 
Many different nationalities live in Azerbaijan today. The equality of
Azerbaijan's various peoples, the protection of human rights and
national minorities was established in the constitution act of state
independence adopted on 18th October 1991, and subsequently confirmed
by the Constitution adopted on 12 November 1995. The 47 articles of
the third section of the Constitution provides for the protection of
freedom of expression, human and civil rights, including those of
national minorities, in particular provisions for the protection and
development of their cultures and languages. This is reflected further
in other legal acts, for instance the Law on Religious Freedom, the
Law on Citizenship and the Law on Mass-media.
 
In addition, Azerbaijan is a signatory of several international
conventions, for example the United Nations Declaration on Human
Rights, the Helsinki Act, the International Pact on Civil and National
Rights, the Moscow and Copenhagen documents of the OSCE on human
rights, the Krakow symposium on cultural heritage, the Charter for a
New Europe and the agreement of the countries of the CIS on the rights
of national minorities. Azerbaijan is not only party to this last
agreement but participated in the drafting of this very important
document. Although the protection of minority rights has lagged
behind, it must be said unequivocally that there are no infringements
on national rights or the development of minority cultures today in
Azerbaijan. If there is evidence to the contrary, then let it be
published and examined. If such infringements are in fact true we
shall thank those who can provide this information and work towards
the resolution of the problem. This is a priority for Azerbaijan,
despite the other problems which our country faces, including the
occupation of 20% of its territory, living in conditions of armed
hostility and the presence of one million refugees. I also want to
note that all of Azerbaijan's minorities have participated in the
defence of the republic's independence and territory. Amongst the
10,000 combatants killed in the hostilities with Armenia, there are
representatives of all of the republic's nationalities.

Media are published in all the republic's languages. Broadcasting
takes place in several languages, while in areas of compact ethnic
minority settlement tuition is offered in minority languages. Cultural
centres function for several nationalities, including state-sponsored
theatres. Azerbaijan is unique amongst the post-Soviet republics in
that since independence not one Russian school has been closed. All
the necessary conditions are provided for education in Russian in our
republic: Russian sectors operate in all primary and higher education
institutions. Within the last few years 17 new private education
institutions have been registered, which also offer Russian-language
faculties. These facts are sometimes unfortunately distorted,
especially in the Russian media. Of course we face problems, not least
the creation of over a million refugees as a result of Armenian
aggression, the general problems associated with transition and so on.
And we must also bear in mind when we speak of the state's obligation
to ensure the freedom of development of national and ethnic minorities
that minorities also carry duties and obligations before the state, in
some cases outside forces take advantage of internal state-minority
relations, and at a number of recent international conferences this
sort of action was rightly condemned. Measures taken in connection
with ethnic minorities should not separate them from the rest of
society but should be organized so as to foster harmonious relations
with the state and other groups.
 
This is particularly relevant in cases where a national or ethnic
minority in the country at large forms a local majority in a specific
region. This situation can result in discrimination by the minority
against representatives of the national majority at the local level.
The actions of compactly settled Armenians in Karabakh are a case in
point, creating the heart­rending problem of the conflict there. Thus
I would like to stress that the protection of and provisions for the
cultural preservation and development of national and ethnic
minorities should be tied to a sense of responsibility of those
minorities to the state, and not give way to separatism. This is
unfortunately what happened in Azerbaijan.
 
I would now like to list the priorities of state policy on nationality
issues:
 
1. Securing of the state sovereignty of Azerbaijan.
 
2. Preservation of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
 
3. The observance and protection of the rights of all ethnic
minorities living in Azerbaijan, and the allocation of state resources
to this end.
 
4. Establishment of a body of legislation in compliance with
constitutional and international norms in this field.
 
5. Establishment of a principle of common citizenship (Azerbaijanism)
and civic loyalty towards this common principle.
 
6. Securing of equality between citizens regardless of religious
affiliation.
 
7. Elimination of all forms of ethnic and religious discrimination and
intolerance.
 
These are the policy priorities of the Azerbaijani state. Thank you.
 
Question (Leila Yunusova, Institute for Peace and Democracy): I have
two questions for you, Mr. Orujov. I would like to ask firstly about
the state policy on national minorities:
 
what concrete acts and legislation is it based on? Are there any other
laws planned apart from the Law adopted by the President in 1992 and
the Constitution? Secondly I would like to ask about
Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. According to official Azerbaijani
sources more than 40,000 Armenians live in Azerbaijan, but there are
only about 8,000 Azerbaijanis living in Armenia. The fact that
Armenians can live in Azerbaijan, recognising the Constitution and
feeling secure in their life here, shows that Armenians can live as
equal members of society in this country.
 
Answer: The subject of you first question will be the subject of
specific debate tomorrow. The Azerbaijani state policy on minorities
is reflected in the Constitution and the Azerbaijani Act of
Independence as you mentioned, and also in many other documents, for
example the Law on Religious Freedom, the Law on Nationality, the Law
on Mass-Media and the Law on Foreign Persons.  But one positive aspect
of holding this conference is the possibility of discussing the
necessity for a separate law on national minorities. Experience from
other countries of the world shows that there are arguments both for
and against such a law. Your second question sounded more like a
statement. Yes, there are about 30,000 Armenians outside of Karabakh
living in Azerbaijan, many of them in Baku. If we consider the
belligerent nature of the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan,
this is indeed testament to the tolerance of Azerbaijani state policy
towards national minorities. These Armenians live and work freely in
Azerbaijan as full citizens, and they condemn the aggression of
Armenia. If they do experience some problems, then I would to stress
that these are common to all the citizens of this country and not to
the fact of their Armenian nationality.
 
Question: (Israphil Mamedov, Institute of Interethnic Relations,
Doctor of History): I would like to ask Ms Yunusova about her source
of information for a figure of 8,000 Azerbaijanis living in Armenia.
 
Answer (L. Yunusova): This is official statistical data published by
the Armenian Department of Statistics.

I. Mamedov: I was the last Azerbaijani to escape from Armenia, and I
can tell you that there are not even 8, let alone 80 or 8,000
Azerbaijanis living in Armenia now. Where did you get your information
precisely?
 
L. Yunusova: From the Noyan-Tapan news agency.
 
I. Mamedov: I would want that this figure be much larger, not 8,000
but 800,000! Thank you!
 
I. Orujov: I would to add that that during the Tbilisi conference held
on May 15-17th I mentioned in a statement the fact that so many
Armenians live in Azerbaijan and so few Azerbaijanis in Armenia.  An
advisor of the President of Armenia present at the conference did not
object to my statement and she also spoke about Armenia's mono-ethnic
population.
 
Question (U. Hakimov, Azerbaijan National Democracy Foundation): In
January 1999 Azerbaijan carried out the first census of the population
after 10 years of existence as an independent state. Representatives
of organizations in Azerbaijan and the world community at large have
expressed great interest in the data gathered, yet no information
about it has been made public. Here we still are dealing with
statistical data from 1989. Will information be released about the
census tomorrow?
 
Answer (H.Orujov): Yes, in January a census of the population was
carried out, but unfortunately much of the basic tabulation is not yet
ready, including the national composition of the population of
Azerbaijan. The head of the Statistical Department informed me that
this information would be ready by November, but due to various
difficulties this was not the case. Probably the results will be
announced in the near future.
 
Question (A. Hapiyev, Head of Kurdish Society "RONAHI"): I would to
reply to Ms Yunusova's information about the number of Azerbaijanis in
Armenia. As a Kurd who lived for many years in Armenia I know events
there very well, and I can swear by the Holy Koran that there are no
Azerbaijanis remaining in Armenia. As for the Kurdish population, they
were divided by the Armenians into two - Yezidi and Moslem Kurds and
the Moslem Kurds were expelled. I can also report the case of one Kurd
who had two wives. The Armenians burned them both to death. And this
is the reality of Armenia.
 

Mr. Hidayat Orujov, 
State Advisor of Azerbaijan on National Policy - 'State Policy in
Azerbaijan on National Minorities'.
 

----------------
Nadir Kamaldinov,
 
Director of Resource Center on National Minorities
Address: 90/2, B. Safaroglu St., Baku City, 370009,
Azerbaijan Republic
Tel/Fax: (994 12) 973 457; Mobile: (994 50) 328 83 26
E-mail: rcnm@azeri.com; nadir_kamaldinov@hotmail.com

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