MINELRES: Ethnic and Religious Discrimination in Azerbaijan

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Jan 11 09:51:01 2005

Original sender: Ucha Nanuashvili <hridc@internet.ge>

Human Rights in an Azeri Way

Human Rights Defense Mechanisms Guaranteed by International Law does not
Spread on Georgian Speaking Community of Azerbaijan – 83 Years of
Discrimination, Silence and Indifference

Ethnic and Religious Discrimination in Azerbaijan, namely of the
Georgians residing in districts of Zakatala (Zaqatala), Belakani and
Kakhi has been going on for many years already. The government of the
country is using detentions and other forms of pressure while forcing
the Georgians, being in ethnic minority, to change religion, to forget
their mother tongue, to refuse from Georgian surname and take Azeri 
ones; at the same time they are not allowed to give their children
Georgian names. In the opinion of the residents of Zakatala (Zaqatala),
Belakni and Kakhi Regions, the main reason of their restrictions by the
government of Azerbaijan is to retain the territory of Saingilo which
the Bolshevik Governmnet handed over to Azerbaijan in 1921 and they are
trying to do so through making the Georgian population change religion
and give up their national values as well as traditions. The set
objective has almost been reached as there are only 3 Georgian villages
left in Zakatala-Belakani. 11 villages with 140 000 Georgian residents
were turned into Muslim religion there in the first half of the 20th
century. Today the number of Georgians in this Region is not more than
12-13 thousand. The indifference and inaction of the Georgian government
to the discrimination of the Georgian population of Azerbaijani despite
the fact that the problem is well known to the Georgian side, is really

After giving the territory of Saingilo to Azrbaijan in 1921 it was in
the agenda of the Azerbaijan Government to turn the Georgians living in
Zakatala-Belakani and Kakhi Regions into Muslims as soon as possible. As
it is known the most of the pressure was exercised on the Georgian
population living in Zakatala –Belakani, which is the territory at the
Georgian-Azerbaijan border. The set objective has almost been achieved;
at present there are only 3 Georgian villages in Zakatala-Belakani. 

The Georgian government possesses the information about the situation in
which the Georgian families have had to live for years, but despite the
fact the Georgian government is indifferent to the illegal actions
implemented towards them and does not refer to any measures to defend
the rights of the Georgian people. Representatives of the Georgian
government have several times witnessed how Georgians are restricted in
the Regions on ethnic and religious basis, they are forced to refuse
from and forget their mother tongue, religion, to change Georgian
surnames. However, the Georgian government does not react to these

The Iashvilies’ family is one of the families which has been persecuted
by the Azerbaijan government. Giorgi Iashvili, born in Azerbaijan was
brought up in the family of Georgian traditions. Giorgi graduated from
the Faculty of Law of Tbilisi State University. When being in his third
year at University he got interested in the problem of discrimination of
Georgians in Azerbaijan and began to study the issue and that did not
remain unnoticed in Azerbaijan. Then the persecution and intimidation of
him and his family started. Later warning tone of law enforcers
increased into threats and raids were carried out on the Iashvilies’
family at nights. Law enforcers wanted to take Giorgi’s father as a
hostage. Namely, they offered the Iashvilies the deal according to which
they would detain the Head of the family and keep him in the police
station until his son returned and then they would change the “hostage”
and the son would go into prison instead of the father. The Iashvilies’
family could not endure more and Giorgi’s father concealingly left for
Moscow and Giorgi’s mother, sister and little brother stayed in
Azerbaijan. The pressure was still exercised on them but not as in the
case of the men. Giorgi arrived in Georgia. It has already been 3 years
that he has not seen his relatives. He is declared wanted in Azerbaijan.
The accusation why he is declared wanted is that he has not gone to
military service, though at the time when Giorgi went to Tbilisi Ivane
Djavakhishvili State Univeristy there was the Military Department in the
University and so Giorgi was freed from military service.

The term "Ingilo" was born at the end of 17th and beginning of 18th
century. This is the period when Georgians were made to adopt Muslim
religion and that’s where the term is coming from; in old Turkish the
term “Ingilo” meant a person who adopted a new religion. People lost
their religion but they always wanted to return to it. After the
collapse of the Soviet Union that Azerbaijan became independent, the
Geogrian who were made to adopt Muslim religion wanted to return to
Christianity. The only church, Church of Virgin Merry which was built in
the 16th century by King Levan, was exploded on August 3, 1971 by one of
the official’s order. There is not even one church in Zakatala-Belakani.

The Goergians who have had the courage to return to Christianity are
under constant persecution and pressure. They are freed from military
service and are very often the victims of aggression and terror by the
side of the police. Hundreds of people do not have the possibility to
gain back his/her surname or to give a Georgian name to a newly born
child. Any of this kind of attempt is finished with terror and new wave
of pressure on the Georgian population.

The Georgians living in Azerbaijan have the same constitutional rights
as the Azeri population, which is supported by international legal
norms. But the Azerbaijan government, in spite of being affiliated in
the Council of Europe neglects the international norms towards the
Georgian population. In the meantime the 84th year of silence,
indifference and discrimination has started. 

Nino Bestavashvili

Nana Naskidashvili

Best wishes,

Ucha Nanuashvili
Executive Director
The Human Rights Information and Documentation Centre (HRIDC)

89/24 Agmashenebeli Ave., 12th floor
Tbilisi, 0102 Georgia
Tel./Fax: (995 32) 95 10 03
Mobile: (995 99) 50 80 36
Email: hridc@hridc.org