BAKU: Azeri parliament debates renaming village

Yeni Musavat, Azerbaijan
23 Dec 2006

AZERI PARLIAMENT DEBATES RENAMING VILLAGE

A group of MPs has firmly protested at an initiative to change the
name of the village of Tatarli to Safikurd in Azerbaijan’s Goranboy
District. Addressing the parliamentary session, MP Agazada urged the
commission chairman to explain the reasons for the proposed change.
Another opposition MP Panah Huseyn said that "changing this Tatar
ethnic name to Safikurd would have surprising and unpleasant
consequences". Several other pro-government MPs as well as historian
Yaqub Mahmudov strongly opposed this change. Mahmudov said that
"systematic work is under way by the foreign intelligence agencies
and certain domestic forces to split Azerbaijan". The following is an
excerpt from Elsad Pasasoy report by Azerbaijani newspaper Yeni
Musavat on 23 December headlined "Turkish-Kurdish fight in
parliament" and subheaded "Authorities’ plan against Turkism has
failed"

Speaker Oqtay Asadov presided over another session of parliament
yesterday [22 December].

[Passage omitted: parliament debates on the law on medicines, on
congratulation of President Ilham Aliyev on his birthday]

The most controversial issue that was on the agenda yesterday
concerned several changes to the administrative border of Goranboy
District. During a speech Arif Rahimzada said that a group of locals
have asked for the village of Tatarli to be renamed Safikurd.
[Chairman of the Hope Party] Iqbal Agazada strongly opposed this:
"Why should place names be changed at somebody’s request? The
chairman of the commission should explain why it is necessary to
change the name."

A member of the Musavat Party faction, Panah Huseyn said that
proposing a new name is a completely different issue. "A number of
Turkic peoples, including Tatars, played a role in the history and
ethnogenesis of the Azerbaijani nation. The ethnic unit Tatar is of
great importance for studying our history. We fully protect the
rights of those of our citizens who are not ethnic Azerbaijanis and
who have taken part in the formation of the Azerbaijani nation.
Changing this Tatar ethnic name to Safikurd would have surprising and
unpleasant consequences. Recently, a very serious and controversial
atmosphere has been formed in the Azerbaijani public and in the mass
media over this issue. Therefore, I agree with Iqbal Agazada. Issues
and ethnic names related to Azerbaijan’s history should be treated
seriously. Prominent historians and experts, including Yaqub muallim
[mode of address] and Nasib muallim, are sitting here. I believe that
we should learn their views in this regard and treat this issues as
cautiously and responsibly as possible. As an ethnic Azerbaijani Turk
I strongly protest at removing the name Tatar from the list of our
settlements."

Qudrat Hasanquliyev [chairman of the United People’s Front of
Azerbaijan Party] said that a group of intellectuals and the
executive head of the village had petitioned him as well. He said he
had received a request from Nargiz Quliyeva and Muzaffar Huseynov,
intellectuals of the village. The MP added that the village was once
known as Saf and Safali and that no Kurds lived there ever. "All they
ask is to rename it Asagi va Yuxari Safikurd," Hasanquliyev said.

Professor Camil Hasanli suggested suspending the debate to resume it
after some research is done. "It is unacceptable to change historical
place names at the request of several people. Tatarli is at least
connected with the medieval history of Azerbaijan. It is unacceptable
to change the name of the village to Asagi va Yuxari Safikurd without
substantial historical research," he said.

Professor of history Yaqub Mahmudov took the floor and said that he
is a strident opponent of treating the issue lightly. There are other
motives behind the move, he added. Yaqub muallim displayed a very
strict and principled approach: "Systematic work is under way by the
foreign intelligence agencies and certain domestic forces to split
Azerbaijan. Books are published abroad to erase our Azerbaijani and
Turkic identity. These issues, as well as the problem with religion,
cause serious concern. They come to Azerbaijan and build churches for
other countries. I strongly oppose removing [names connected with]
our Turkic identity. Therefore, I suggest that we take the issue from
the agenda and let a commission comprised of historians to research
it. I will present more information next time."

Many MPs, including pro-government ones, applauded the firm stance of
the professor. Mahmudov said that Iqrar Aliyev used to chair the
parliamentary commission which dealt with similar issues. Several
historians were members of that group and Mahmudov added he could
name several historians who could join it.

MP from Goranboy Gultakin Haciyeva also displayed a firm stance. "Are
not we concerned that today our ethnic place names are being changed
in Georgia? Have not we voice our concern over Armenia’s decision to
change hundreds of place names? We informed the international
community of this. I cannot understand the logic why we should change
the Turkic name of Tatarli? There is a village called Safikurd in the
region. Why is there a need to create a ‘duplicate’ and rename this
village as Asagi va Yuxari Safikurd."

[Passage omitted: Historical findings confirm that Turkic people
lived in Goranboy from ancient times, Gultakin Haciyeva said]

"I have received a petition from 200 intellectuals of Goranboy
District and I can present it to you if need be. They protest at
changing place names at the request of two people," Gultakin Haciyeva
said.

A member of the [place names] commission, Fazail Ibrahimli, said that
the issue was included in the agenda after villagers asked the local
executive authorities, which in turn contacted the presidential
administration and then the presidential administration briefed the
parliamentary commission. The commission discussed the issue once,
but then put off the discussion for the lack of a report on what the
locals wanted. The MP suggested returning to the issue later after
the place names commission studies it.
From: Baghdasarian

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