22:09Part of Talysh's steps taken in world organizations.
Part of Talysh's steps taken in world organizations.
As with many other minorities in Azerbaijan, Talyshi speakers are subject to aggressive attempts at assimilation – there is no formal education in Talyshi and reading and speaking the language is discouraged by the authorities. Instead, Talysh are encouraged to use Azerbaijani or Persian in formal situations. As such, the number of young people being educated in Talyshi is declining, as the language is now classified as “vulnerable” by UNESCO. This represents a serious threat to the cultural integrity of the Talysh, and as such one of the key aims of NTM is greater linguistic freedom.
Talyshi press and literature enjoyed free distribution until the 1930s, but Stalin-era policies resulted in Talysh nationalists being sent to gulags and the abolition of local media. The Talysh were encouraged to align themselves culturally with the Turkic traditions of the Azerbaijani SSR, a pressure which continues today under the Aliyev regime.
In June 1993, during major political unrest across the Caucasus, Alikram Hummatov declared the formation of the Talysh-Mugansk Autonomous Republic, also known as Talyshstan, as a response to the turmoil. However, the self-proclaimed state was short-lived, lasting only until August 1993. With the accession of the Aliyev family to power in Baku, the Azerbaijani central government reclaimed power in the region and Hummatov was sentenced to death for his activities, a penalty which was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. Hummatov was released in 2004 due to pressure from the Council of Europe, who had classified him as a political prisoner. However, he was stripped of his Azerbaijani citizenship and now lives in the Netherlands. He subsequently took the state of Azerbaijan to the European Court of Human Rights and won. More recently, the “National Council of Democratic Forces” ran against the Aliyev government in the 2013 presidential elections as a democratic alternative to the ruling regime, giving the Talysh hope of political and social reforms which would afford them greater autonomy. However, as expected, Aliyev won the election and the awaited reforms have failed to materialise.
UNPO MEMBER PERSPECTIVE
The National Talysh Movement (NTM) was officially established in 2007 in the Netherlands where part of the Talysh leadership lives in exile. Many of its members were previously involved in the formation of the Talysh-Mugansk Autonomous Republic in 1993, including board member Alikram Hummatov. Specifically, NTM advocates for a Talysh province with regional co-governance within the borders of Azerbaijan. This requires a decentralization of power so as to promote fairer representation of minority groups, as well as to ensure cultural and linguistic freedoms. Moreover, a uniform provincial federative decentralization would pave the way for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. NTM re-established their UNPO membership in 2014.
UNPO Conference At European Parliament: Inclusive Dialogue Way Forward For South Caucasus
With the aim of initiating an open and constructive dialogue that could serve to explore ways forward for peaceful coexistence in the South Caucasus, Csaba Sógor MEP, in cooperation with The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the National Talysh Movement, organised a conference entitled ‘Minority Rights, Reconciliation and Bottom-up Peacebuilding in the South Caucasus’. The conference took place at the European Parliament on 19 February 2014, and attracted an audience of European policy makers, diplomatic delegations, journalists and minority representatives.
Following the opening remarks of Csaba Sógor MEP and UNPO General Secretary, Marino Busdachin, the floor was given to Michel Ivor, Director at The Caucasus Interface. In his introduction to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, Mr. Ivor stressed that the conflict is not merely about Nagorno-Karabakh, but also about seven occupied Azerbaijani territories. He suggested that as Nagorno-Karabakh is not involved in the current peace talks, a change in mind-set from the current ‘no peace is possible as long as Nagorno-Karabakh is not involved’ to an approach emphasising that ‘peace is possible with the involvement of Nagorno-Karabakh’, could be effective. The next panellist, Taline Papazian, Associate Researcher at the Centre for International Security and Defense Studies in Lyon, presented an assessment of the same conflict from a diplomatic point of view, touching upon recent developments in the peace process dictated by the OSCE Minsk Group. Dr. Papazian pointed out that finding a compromise on this conflict has always been difficult, but that three main principles serve as a basic agreement: peaceful settlement of the dispute, self-determination and territorial integrity, whereby the two latter depend on the former. Moreover, she noted that the importance given to Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenian foreign policy – as opposed to relations with the EU – has given Russia the opportunity to consolidate its influence in the South Caucasus region. Fargiya Kerimova, an international lawyer from a Talysh background, then gave an overview of the current situation facing the Talysh as citizens of Azerbaijan, stressing the imbalance between their dual role as duty bearers and right holders – the latter being nearly non-existent.
The second panel started off with an interesting comparison between Nagorno-Karabakh and the case of Flanders in Belgium by Dirk Rochtus, Professor at the Catholic University of Leuven. Dr. Rochtus suggested that Nagorno-Karabakh could draw lessons from the Flemish nation’s search for the most suitable kind of statehood for saving its identity; he presented the option of more autonomy (not meaning separatism), a solution similar to the Brussels model, as well the as the benefits that could be derived from a regional cooperative framework such as the Benelux. Up next was Alikram Hummatov, President of the National Talysh Movement, who outlined how the Talysh people feel and have been affected by the tensions in the South Caucasus. Stating that the conflicts plaguing the region are not about people but about politics, Mr. Hummatov asked the rhetorical question “why is the war necessary?” Last to take the floor was Nicolas Tavitian, independent consultant and EU affairs expert. Mr. Tavitian criticised the current inaction by the EU with regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stressing that the EU should make better use of its soft power leverage, for instance by denouncing breaches of the ceasefire. He also noted that genuine confidence building projects have been far too timid, adding that minority rights could serve as a starting point.
The overall conclusion to be drawn from this conference is that denying the existence of problems, including violations of minority rights, will not contribute to overcoming the differences currently limiting the political, economic and societal potential of the South Caucasus. In this context, open and inclusive dialogue becomes a prerequisite for finding a peaceful solution to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and related tensions in the region. UNPO believes this conference was a step in the right direction, and looks forward to more constructive dialogue in the future.
In Defence of Minorities Rights in Azerbaijan: European Parliament Conference Discusses Double Standards and Ways Forward
On 5 May 2015, in light of the continuous disregard of the Azerbaijani government towards its minority ethnic groups, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the National Talysh Movement (NTM) organised a conference entitled “Azerbaijan: Double Standards and Crackdown of Minority Rights”. Held at the European Parliament and co-hosted by MEPs Laurențiu Rebega (S&D), Jaromír Štětina (EPP) and Bogdan Wenta (EPP), the event gathered a diverse audience of academics, journalists, activists and politicians, including Csaba Sogor MEP (EPP), Damian Drăghici MEP (S&D) and Frank Schwalba-Hoth, former MEP.
Mr Bogdan Brunon Wenta MEP opened the conference highlighting the importance of raising awareness of the situation of minorities in Azerbaijan and welcomed the opportunity to organise an event to discuss this issue. He also underlined that the EU promotes freedom and rights of minorities and that it should expect the same from its partners.
Mr Jaromír Štětina MEP, sharing with the audience the reason for his interest in the topic, explained that minorities in Azerbaijan as well as his own home country, Czech Republic, were for a long time absorbed within the Soviet bloc, and that he therefore nurtures a sense of solidarity to all people who experience national identity oppression.
Photo Copyright Virginie Nguyen Hoang
Ms Johanna Green, UNPO Programme Manager, contextualized the timeliness of the conference in light of the upcoming 4th Eastern Partnership Summit and the first ever European Games, to be held in Baku in June. With high economic interests at stake, Ms Green reinforced this moment as an opportunity for the EU to live up to its core values and to pressure for an improvement of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.
The first panel, entitled Minority Rights in a Challenging Environment, sought to address the difficulties of defending human rights in the current Azerbaijani political context. Ms Shorena Kobaidze, Programme Coordinator of Minority Rights Group’s (MRG) Eastern Partnership Minorities Network, started by giving an overview of the South Caucasus’ diversity and offering an insightful comparison between Azerbaijan and its neighbours. Despite a common trace of lack of political participation among all countries in the region, according to Ms Kobaidze, the possibility of discussing minority issues finds different grounds with each of the governments. While in Georgia there is a more open environment, in Azerbaijan the climate is very negative and fear discourages people from discussing minority rights, while the government limits the freedom of movement of human rights activists.
Ms Julie Reniers, a freelance journalist who took part in UNPO’s 2013 fact-finding mission to Dagestan and Azerbaijan, shared with the audience some insights from her own experience, focusing on how difficult it was to find Lezghins to interview due to fear on part of the latter of repercussions against their families. She further explained that at a certain point of the mission, the delegates were advised to pretend to be tourists, as they were being followed by people believed to be affiliated with the Azerbaijani secret service. Ms Reniers also emphasized that since her visit to Azerbaijan, there has been an increasing crackdown on activists and journalists, and closed her speech reminding that currently the country has more than a hundred political prisoners.
Photo Copyright Virginie Nguyen Hoang
The first panel was closed by Mr Jeroen Zandberg, UNPO Treasurer, who also took part in the aforementioned fact-finding mission. Mr Zandberg gave an insight into the case of the Lezghins, stressing that their plight is the protection and development of their language as well as educational and cultural interests - objectives that are severely prevented by the Azerbaijani Government’s assimilation policies.
The second panel, entitled Ways Forward: Civil Society Initiatives, Economic Development and International Strategiessought to debate theoretical and practical alternatives to protect the rights of minorities in Azerbaijan. The panel was opened by Mr Alikram Hummatov, President of the National Talysh Movement, who addressed the problems arising from the Aliyev Government’s extreme political centralization. Although in theory a democracy, he said, the country does not have a real separation of powers and its current political system leaves no room for dissent or alternative opinions. In his opinion, a possible solution lies in political reforms and decentralization, which would give each of the regions in the country an opportunity to rearrange their social, cultural and economic lives according to their needs and identity.
Photo Copyright Virginie Nguyen Hoang
The following speaker. Mr Robert van Engelenburg, suggested that social changes in the country could be triggered through Regional Economic Development. In light of Azerbaijan’s economic growth in the last decade, mainly based on natural resources, Mr van Engeleburg proposed the Triple Helix, a model of interaction and exchange that happens between the sectors of government, industry and research/academia. Also called “the Golden Triangle”, this framework could potentially transform the ten regions in Azerbaijan into economic catalysts, he argued.
Photo Copyright Virginie Nguyen Hoang
Last, Mr Nicolas Tavitian, Director of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) highlighted how the EU could contribute more to the democratization process of its neighbouring countries. He emphasized that above all, the EU’s relationship with Azerbaijan revolves around oil policies and warned about the possibility of a crisis in the country in the near future, unless the situation improves. He also drew important parallels between the situation of minorities in Turkey and Azerbaijan, both of which are important partners to the EU.
Mr Laurențiu Rebega MEP delivered closing remarks, praising the initiative to bring together at the European Parliament such a variety of participants, willing to learn more about the topic and to compare differing views. Mr Rebega reminded the audience that the Lezghin and Talysh communities, like many other minorities in Europe and beyond, are simply asking for their right to exist to be respected, in accordance with their identity and cultural and linguistic distinctiveness.
An enriching round of heated questions and answers followed between audience and speakers. The overall conclusion of the conference was the urge to bring to the EU foreign policy agenda the commitment to formulate with the Azerbaijani Government, and other stakeholders, concrete policies to protect the rights of the country’s ethnic minorities. It became clear that a strong political, as well as economic, EU-Azerbaijan relationship presents an opportunity to engage in the enforcement of the country’s constitution and ratification of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on National Minorities (FCNM). UNPO and the National Talysh Movement (NTM) sought, in cooperation with the MEPs who co-hosted the conference, to reinforce the commitment to raise awareness to the issue and hope to engage in future peaceful dialogue with all concerned parties.
Membership of the Talysh National Movement, to one of the world renowned Amnesty International organizations.
Official registration and office of the Talysh National Movement.
National Talish Movement - Company in Voorburg. Located in Voorburg. National Talish Movement is registered with the Chamber of Commerce under Chamber of Commerce number 27298334.
THE TALISH NATIONAL MOVEMENT HISTORICAL MEETING WHICH TOOK PLACES 5TH OF OCTOBER 2018. 1ST PROTOCOL:
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