Current situation on protection of rights of persons belonging to national minorities in the Republic of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is a multiethnic and multi-religious country where the national policy is planned and carried out in the spirit of traditional tolerance and harmonic coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups. The equality of all citizens without any ethnic, national, religious or linguistic definition is guaranteed by the Law.
Over many centuries persons belonging to various minorities have lived in the Republic of Azerbaijan in peace and harmony with the Azerbaijani people. This multicultural, multiethnic heritage has been preserved in Azerbaijan even today due to the fact that Azerbaijan historically is a unique multiethnic society.
Despite the difficulties being experienced by Azerbaijan, due to the 12 years old armed conflict with neighboring Armenia, which occupies 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory and the presence of about one million refugees and forcibly displaced persons - victims of ethnic cleansing organized by the Armenian armed forces and terrorist groups, among whom in addition to Azerbaijanis there are persons belonging to various minorities (Kurds, Russians, Jews and others), as well as problems connected with transitional period, the Government of Azerbaijan continues to pursue a consistent policy towards protection of minorities rights.
Full-effect is given to the right of minorities to establish their own national cultural centers, associations and other organisations.
There are dozens of national-cultural centers functioning in Azerbaijan at present. They include "Commonwealth" society, Russian community, Slavic cultural center, Azerbaijani-Israeli community, Ukrainian community, Kurdish cultural center "Ronai", Lezgin national center "Samur", Azerbaijani-Slavic culture center, Tat cultural center, Azerbaijani-Tatar community, Tatar culture society "Tugan-tel", Tatar cultural center "Yashlyg", Crimean Tatars society "Crimea", Georgian community, humanitarian society of Azerbaijani Georgians, Ingiloyan community, Chechen cultural center, "Vatan" society of Akhyska-Turks, "Sona" society of the women of Akhyska-Turks, Talysh cultural center, Avar society, mountain Jews community, European Jews (Ashkenazi) community, Georgian Jews community, Jewish women humanitarian association, German cultural society "Karelhaus", Udin cultural center, Polish cultural center "Polonia", "Mada" International Talysh Association, "Avesta" Talysh Association, Udin "Orain" Cultural Center, "Budug" Cultural Center, Tsakhur Cultural Center. In areas with compact minority populations there are club-based amateur societies, national and state theatres, amateur associations and interest-focused clubs. For example the Lezgin State theatre operates in the Gusar region of Azerbaijan, the Georgian national theatre in the Gakh region, Talysh folkloric groups in the Astara and Lenkoran regions.
The State within its ability provides material and financial assistance to these organizations from the budget of country and Presidential foundation and assists in strengthening of mutual understanding, tolerance and respect between all persons living in its territory regardless of their ethnic, cultural, language or religious identity. Active participation of all national minorities in the life of society on equal basis, including participation in the joint events on a countrywide level, is an evidence of environment of mutual respect existing in Azerbaijan. Organization named "Three Brothers", which unifies Islamic, Orthodox and Judaic confessions, has been already registered and currently functions in our country. The Resource Center of national minorities under the aegis of the "Links" organization (UK) also functions in Azerbaijan.
Dozens of newspapers and magazines are published in language of minorities. Radio and television programs in their languages are daily broadcasting.
The Republic Radio Station regularly organizes broadcasts in the Kurdish, Lezgin, Talysh, Georgian, Russian and Armenian languages, which are financed from the State budget. The local radio station in the Belokan region organizes broadcasts in the Avar language, while in the Khachmaz region they broadcast in the Lezgin and Tat languages. In the Gusar and Khachmaz regions local television broadcasts in the Lezgin language. In Baky newspapers are published in Russian, Kurdish, Lezgin and Talysh languages. In particular, the newspapers "Samur" and ""Dengi Kurd" are published in the Lezgin and Kurdish languages respectively, while the Jewish Society "Sokhnut" publishes the newspaper "Aziz".
In state structures of Azerbaijan different national minorities are widely represented. In areas of compact living of national minorities' representatives of local population hold leading positions in local authorities, institutions of local government and other structures. Persons belonging to national minorities work in Executive Office of the President of Azerbaijan, in Parliament, in Cabinet of Ministers, in Constitutional court, Central Election Commission, law-enforcement bodies and other state bodies. Representatives of national minorities are chairmen or deputies of chairmen of some Standing Commissions of the Milli Majlis (Parliament).
Here is a structural composition of population, languages and places of compact living of persons belonging to national minorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan:
Lezgins - 178 thousand, compactly live in the Northern regions of Azerbaijan. Language of communication is Lezgins, relating to the Daghestan branch of the Caucasian languages, as well as Azerbaijani and Russian languages.
Russians - 141,7 thousand, compactly live in the industrial cities, as well as a number of rural regions. Language of communication is Russian relating to the Eastern-Slavonic group.
Armenians - 120,7 thousand, compactly live mainly in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Reportedly, about 30 thousand live outside of Nagorno-Karabakh region, including Baky city, in spite of armed conflict with Armenia and continued occupation by the latter of the part of Azerbaijan. Language of communication is Armenian, relating to Indo-European linguistic family.
Talyshes - 76,8 thousand, compactly live in the Southern regions of Azerbaijan. Language of communication is Talysh, relating to Iranian group of Indo-European linguistic family, as well as Azerbaijani.
Avars- 50,9 thousand, compactly live in the northern regions. Language of communication is Avar, relating to the Daghestan branch of the Caucasian languages. Easily speak Azerbaijani language as well.
Turks-meskhetians - 43,4 thousand, compactly live in the Northern and lower regions of the country. Language of communication is Azerbaijani.
Tatars - 30 thousand, compactly live in the cities of Azerbaijan. Language of communication is Tatar, relating to Turkic linguistic family, as well as Russian.
Ukrainians - 29 thousand, live mainly in Baky city. Language of communication is Ukrainian, relating to the Eastern-Slavonic linguistic family, as well as Russian.
Tsakhurs - 15,9 thousand, compactly live in Zakataly region of Azerbaijan. Language of communication is Tsakhur, relating to the South-Eastern group of the Caucasian languages' Daghestan branch. Easily speak Azerbaijani language as well.
Georgians - 14,9 thousand, compactly live in Gakh region of Azerbaijan. Language of communication is Georgian, relating to Kartvelian group of the Caucasian languages.
Kurds- 13,1 thousand, until the beginning of the armed conflict with Armenian compactly inhabited Lachin, Kalbadjar, Gubadly and Zangelan regions of Azerbaijan. As a result of occupation of the mentioned regions by the Armenian armed forces, were forcibly displaced to other regions of Azerbaijan. Language of communication is Kurdish, relating to the Iranian linguistic group, as well as Azerbaijani.
Tats - 10,9 thousand, compactly live in the northern regions. Language of communication is Tat, relating to Iranian linguistic group, as well as Azerbaijani.
Jews - 8,9 thousand, are divided into European (Ashkenazi), mountain and Georgian Jews. Compactly live in Guba region and Baky city. Language of communication is Jewish, relating to Semitic group of Semite linguistic family. Also speak Russian and Georgian Jews Georgian. Language of education is Russian.
Udins - 4,1 thousand, compactly live in the northern regions. Language of communication is Udin relating to Daghestan branch of the Caucasian linguistic family. Easily speak Azerbaijani as well.
The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan adopted in 1995, guarantees respect for human rights and freedoms regardless of ethnic origin, race, religion, languages or other distinctions. In the Constitutional Act on state sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan fixed that all citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan have equal rights before the Law.
According to Article 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the State guarantees equality and respect of rights and freedoms for all persons regardless race, nationality, religion, language, ethnic origin, conviction or other distinctions. Restriction of rights and freedoms of citizens based on racial, religious, ethnic discrimination or of ethnic, political and social origin is strongly prohibited.
In accordance with Article 44 of the Constitution "everyone possesses the right to maintain his or her national identity. No one can be forced to change his or her national identity".
Article 11 of the Law "On culture" mentions assistance for development and preservation of a national culture. The state guarantees development and preservation of national culture of the people of Azerbaijan, including cultural originality of all national minorities living in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
According to the Article 6 of the Law "About Education", adopted on 7 October of 1992 and Article 3 of the Law "About official language" education may be carried out in different languages of national minorities.
The Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 16 September 1992 "On protection rights and freedoms, state support of development of language and culture of national minorities and ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan" aimed at further perfection of relations between minorities and increasing of level of their involving in building of legal state.
Along with these legal provisions of domestic legislation, the provisions of international documents, such as the UN Convention on elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, the UN Convention on prevention of apartheid and its punishment and the UN Convention on prevention of genocide and its punishment, which Azerbaijan joined on 31 May 1996, are also being applied.
In June 2000, long before its accession to the Council of Europe Azerbaijan joined the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Pursuant to the Article 25 of this Convention Azerbaijan has already submitted its national report on situation of protection of rights of persons belonging to national minorities on 4 June 2002. In the course of the examination of the submitted report, the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has established the special working group, which with the purpose of examination of the State report visited Azerbaijan in 29 March - 4 April 2003. These steps clearly demonstrated the adherence of Azerbaijan to the international standards in the sphere of policy towards national minorities.
Azerbaijan carries out its cooperation with other international organizations like OSCE, on the issues related to national minorities. The political advisor of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities more than once visited Azerbaijan with purpose to closely monitor the situation concerning the rights of national minorities.