BAKU: Is this a new wave of deporting Azerbaijanis from Georgia?

Is this a new wave of deporting Azerbaijanis from Georgia?

Zerkalo, Baku
22 Apr 04

The Azerbaijani daily Zerkalo has urged the government to get to grips
with the plight of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Georgia. The paper quoted a
letter from Georgia’s Azerbaijani intelligentsia who blamed the new
Georgian authorities for oppressing ethnic Azerbaijanis and muffling
the Azerbaijani-language press. They called on Azerbaijani President
Ilham Aliyev to do everything possible to stop the “genocide” being
conducted by the new Georgian authorities against the Azerbaijani
population. In turn, Zerkalo warned that if the situation is not dealt
with, this might lead to a new wave of refugees in the country, this
time from Georgia. The following is an excerpt from M. Yasaroglu
report by Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo on 22 April headlined “Is this
a new wave of deporting Azerbaijanis from Georgia?” and subheaded
“Georgian nationalists are trying to eliminate the leaders of the
Milli Qeyrat movement”. Subheadings have been inserted editorially:

The editorial office of Zerkalo newspaper received an appeal from a
group of representatives of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia in Georgia
yesterday. To be honest, the first lines of the letter caused alarming
feelings in us.

Do not remain indifferent to our problems

“We request that the Azerbaijani leadership help and protect the
progressively thinking Azerbaijanis, in the person of Niyaz Huseynov
(editor-in-chief of Yeni Dusunca newspaper), who are being arrested
and humiliated for no reason. We ask President Ilham Aliyev to
intervene in this situation and do everything possible to stop the
genocide against the Azerbaijanis conducted by representatives of the
new authorities! Azerbaijani villagers are being denied land, and
there are still no water and power supplies. At customs checkpoints on
the Georgian-Azerbaijani border, they beat up, humiliate, arrest and
extort money from Azerbaijanis.

“We would like to come to you and tell you about everything that is
being done against us, but we have no such opportunity. We can only
send you our representatives because since the arrest of photo
correspondent Qacar Huseynov and in connection with the persecution of
the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Niyaz Huseynov, individual
representatives of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia have been afraid to
leave Tbilisi and Borcali (Kvemo-Kartli), and have been afraid to go
out and speak aloud. They fear because they will be immediately
labelled as “separatists”. We hope that the Azerbaijani leadership
will not remain indifferent to what is happening.”

The appeal was signed by representatives of the Azerbaijani
intelligentsia: Maqsud Huseynzada, chairman of the NGO Georgian and
Azerbaijani journalists; Cingiz Mursaqulov, a coach of Tbilisi’s David
Kvajadze kickboxing club; Camil Novruzov, chairman of the council of
elders of the NGO Georgian and Azerbaijani journalists (Marneuli);
Arif Huseynov, representative of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia in the
village of Qacagan of Marneuli District; and Renat Bagirov,
representative of the NGO Georgian and Azerbaijani journalists in

Georgian Azeris should unite to protect themselves

Zerkalo has repeatedly raised the issue of the restriction of the
rights of our compatriots in Georgia – the country through which we
are building a pipeline to Europe and to which we ceded the
transportation tariff that was due to us.

The letter from the intelligentsia representatives is nothing other
than the confirmation of our previous statements that no
representative of the new Georgian authorities can accuse those people
of nationalism. Although the current situation testifies to the
opposite: maybe we should have taken an uncompromising nationalistic
position like the Armenians of Samtskhe-Javakheti [Armenian-populated
region of Georgia]? Incidentally, this would be more “effective” as we
outnumber the Armenians. To all appearances, we, the Azerbaijanis,
very often overestimate the idea of “friendship” with regard to
Georgia. And therefore, we paid for that.

“The rights of Azerbaijanis have been grossly trampled on and violated
in Georgia of late, and the staff of the Tbilisi-based
Georgian-Azerbaijani newspaper Yeni Dusunca are being persecuted. It
is planned to close down the Milli Qeyrat [National Dignity]
organization of the Azerbaijanis, which has been operating in Marneuli
since 1989, and to eliminate the leaders of this organization – former
[Georgian] MP Zumrud Qurbanli and the chairman of the organization,
Alibala Asgarov,” the statement said.

The representatives of the intelligentsia said that Qacar Huseynov, a
photo correspondent of the Azerbaijani-language newspaper Yeni
Dusunca, was arrested on 3 April by the decision of the
Mtatsminda-Krtsanisi district court in Tbilisi. The editor-in-chief of
the newspaper, Niyaz Huseynov, was initially charged for political
motives and then, under the article on “fraud”. Representatives of
the new Georgian government are simply trying to eliminate him.

Paper’s campaign for local Azerbaijanis irritates new authorities

The crux of the matter is that the photo correspondent of Yeni Dusunca
paper, Qacar Huseynov, gained a great number of votes for the Labour
Party in the Azeri-populated village of Soganli. He was the chairman
of a commission from the Labour Party.

Yeni Dusunca paper has repeatedly drawn attention to the problems of
Azerbaijanis living in Georgia. The paper published articles headlined
“A demolished mosque in old Tbilisi”, “The closure of the Azerbaijani
dramatic theatre in Tbilisi’s old district of Meydan in 1950”, “A
brutal assault on and beating of Azerbaijanis”, “Mass illegal arrests
of Azerbaijanis by the police in Georgia”, “On the gross violation of
the rights of Azerbaijanis in Kvemor Kartli”, “Azerbaijanis are
fourth-class citizens of Georgia”, “On the Red Bridge on the
Georgian-Azerbaijani border, members of the new Georgian government
are demanding a huge bribe from each Azerbaijani bus”, “Churches are
being pulled down today, mosques will be pulled down tomorrow”, “Did
Saakashvili receive a warm welcome in Baku?”, “Saakashvili blocks
Ajaria”, “A bribe has been paid for arresting the editor-in-chief”,
“SOS! Help, they want to close down the paper!”.

As a result, the office of the newspapers and the computer centre
where it is printed were searched without a lawyer by the decision of
the chairman of the Mtatsminda-Krtsanisi district court,

Editor-in-chief’s family persecuted

“After the so-called ‘velvet revolution’, on 21 January, at night, a
group of armed people attacked the members of the family of the
editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani-language newspaper, Niyaz
Huseynov. His mother and brother were physically insulted. It emerged
later that the attackers were members of the ruling National Movement
Party.” They demanded that the Huseynovs immediately leave
Georgia. They also spoke about several articles against
representatives of the incumbent authorities.

[Passage omitted: Niyaz Huseynov and Qacar Huseynov were arrested]

Many Azerbaijanis in Georgia have lately been living with a feeling of
alarm. Representatives of the new local district authorities are
literally oppressing them – members of the intelligentsia are being
sacked from their jobs, peasants are being simply oppressed. The
region has sunk into mayhem. And as a consequence, on 18 April, a
clash occurred between Azerbaijanis and the local authorities in the
village of Kolagir in Bolnisi District. They are trying to force
Azerbaijanis to adopt the Orthodox faith. Since the “velvet
revolution”, such clashes in the region have become more and more

[Passage omitted: Paper could not contact representatives of the
Azerbaijani organization]

We think that the Azerbaijani authorities should not revel in “sweet”
promises voiced from aside, including from the new Georgian
leadership, and come to grips with this completely neglected
issue. There is no time left. Some time later we might witness a new
wave of Azerbaijani refugees.

The Azerbaijani authorities should start by remembering the recent
past. They should look through several pages of the most recent
history and recall how the deportation of the Azerbaijanis from
Armenia started.