CHAPTER 24 THE FATE OF ISLAMIC ETHNIC MINORITIES IN AZERBAIJAN

“As a result of the activity of the Lezgian “false” intetllectuals and politicians the atmosphere in Azerbaijan has become tense. Supporting by the Armenian theorists they are striving to create a new hot-bed of inter-ethnic confrontation. These are those leaders who following the “Karabakh” scene, declare that the rights of the Lezgi inhabiting Northern Azerbaijan and other natives are being violated in every way. Furthermore, their mythological theories suggest that the lands, including the ancient Azerbaijani city Derbent, belong to the Lezgis and must be returned to them for the establishment of the so-called “Lezgian state”, which as they say, has existed in ancient times.

It’s disappointing that the hospitality of our people is being exploited in such an ungrateful way. We’ve never refused to help our neigbours, we are ready to give the last piece of bread to those living in privation and as a result we get only unlawful claims. There is not even one source mentioning a “Lezgian State”. The Lezgis have always been a branch of the rich Azerbaijani ethnis nation…. But today the leaders of that extremist movement with their far-reaching plans, claim to Northern Azerbaijan. During the whole period of history Daghestan has been an unseperable part of Azerbaijan…”17

On January 16, 1992 in the south of Daghestan, in the village Sovetskaya of the Magaramkend region the road Baku-Rostov was blocked up for 2 hours. This act was organized by the Lezgian National Council and the national movement “Sadval” and bore an anti-Azerbaijani character. There had been such rallies on the “Golden Bridge” on the river Samur quite frequently. The situation was especially tense in the Kassari region of Azerbaijan. The 96% of the population in this region was Lezgian. On March 24, 1992 thousands of young Lezgis had gathered in the Kussari regional centre to express their refusal to serve in the Azerbaijani army in the Karabakh front.They wondered why “a third nation must take part in an inter-ethnic conflict”. Another such rally was held in the settlement Yarsab of the same region.18 The demonstrations were led either by “Samur” or by “Sadval” with the aim of spreading the movement to the other areas inhabited by Lezgis.19

On June 13, 1992 another demonstration was organized in the southern Daghestani Magaramkend village, directed against the decision of Azerbaijan and Russian Federation to block the frontier. The border between Azerbaijan and Russian Federation passed through the Lezgian laud, separating the Lezgians into two parts.With the dissolution of the USSR and the emergence of two independent states of the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan, it was becoming more and more difficult to preserve close ties between the two parts of the nation. Being aware of this fact, the Lezgis had come from different places to take part in the rally, with the slogans; “The Lezgis are a united nation and their land is undivisable”,”Samur, don’t seperate us”. The participants decided to apply to the UNO, to Russian, Azerbaijani and Daghestani Supreme Councils to solve their problem, that is;

a)not to border the two areas

b)to recognize the Lezgis of Azerbaijan as Lezgis

c)cease the practice of settling the Turk-Maskhetians and the Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia and Karabakh in the Lezgian lands.

d)not to take the Lezgiz to serve in the Azerbaijani army in the Karabakh front, as the Lezgiz and Armenians had always been good neigbours and don’t want to fight against each other.

The wave of demonstrations soon flooded all the Lezgian settlements on both sides of the border.20

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