Talysh question is an unanswered question

On December 10, a group of Talysh public activists and intellectuals promoted a PCTA (PCTA). A statement of PCTA founders says that the institution of the PCTA has been driven by historical necessity. At the accession to the Council of Europe the Government of Azerbaijan assumed a commitment on joining the European Charter on Languages of Regional and National Minorities; however, this commitment fails to abide by the Azerbaijani government.Also, no CE Framework Agreement on Protection of Rights of National Minorities is adhered to in regards of Talyshes. Remained unanswered PCTA’ appeals to the government on teaching the Talysh language, training of specialists and radio and TV-broadcasts in this language, financing mass media in Talysh at the expense of state budget. The statement says that «initiatives of Talysh intellectuals on promoting mother language and culture, establishment of social and political associations are blocked controversially and interestedly, and in many cases these initiatives are followed by persecutions and pressures». Asked about the scope and objectives of the PCTA, one of the founders of this organization, former political prisoner, human rights activists and editor of «Tolyshi sado» newspaper Hilal Mamedov answers ASTNA questions.


-Hilal bey, you have founded the PCTA, what are the scope and objectives of the PCTA?

Hİlal Məmmədov

-Main objective of the PCTA foundation is to form a civil society in the country, restore a legal democratic state, allowance for national and ethnic interests of national minorities at the state level, including within the framework of the Constitution of the Azerbaijani Republic and requirements as set forth in international documents with Azerbaijan as a party thereto; to effectuate and protect rights of Talyshes as an indigenous people of Azerbaijan and thus build up a civil, law-bound state.

– The statement noted that the PCTA foundation has been driven by the historical necessity, what’s the necessity? Why do you believe that this historical necessity has occurred right now?

-As is known, reforms in restoration, protection and progress of national, cultural, historical, educational and other rights of all nationalities and nations, including Talyshes in the period 1920 to 1938. However, the PCTA process restored in 1937-38 and the post-War years to arise after the 1950s.

Since 1989, the Center of Talysh Culture was set up in our country; national newspapers, magazines and books issued. After our country gained independence President Elchibey signed in 1992 a decree «On State Aid in the Protection of Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities and Small Peoples, Development of Their Languages and Cultures Residing in the Azerbaijani Republic».

It should be acknowledged that Article 4 of the decree demands from the Ministry of Justice to draw up and submit within a month an act of rights of national minorities, small peoples and ethnic groups residing in the Azerbaijani Republic. Other Articles suggested to open native language schools, chairs in educational institutions, organization of radio and TV-transmissions … However, the decree remained ink on paper. In 1995 President Heydar Aliyev instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to draw up a draft bill «On Enforcement of Rights of Persons Pertaining to National Minorities».

However, this instruction remained unfulfilled. When our country became a member of the Council of Europe in 2000, it assumed a commitment on accession to the European Charter on Languages of Regional and National Minorities.

However, Azerbaijan failed to join the European Charter. Besides, no standards as set forth in the ratified CE Framework Agreement «On Protection of Rights of National Minorities», including Talyshes, have so far been effectuated. Even worse, «The Law on National Minorities» adopted by former Soviet Republics failed to be considered by Milli Majlis. Hopefully, latest statements of the authorities on implementation of some reforms in the national-ethnic area are likely to prove reality of multicultural values in fact, not in word. So PCTA fair demands arise from the historical necessity standpoint within the framework of the above mentioned reforms, as well as revision of their commitments by the authorities and their positive solution.

-Are Talyshes and other national minorities of Azerbaijan running into any challenges? Is there any discrimination against «ethnic minority» and «ethnic majority»?

-As I noted above, a major issue are national-ethnic problems and their solution. As compared with «national majorities», our social, economic and other problems are practically identical. However, regretfully a plighted 4-hour Public TV-broadcast remains unsettled. It is no mere coincidence that no TV-programs in Talysh have ever been televised on Canub TV-channel.

It has to be kept in mind that since this year 2-hour lessons in Talysh at primary classes ran down to 1 hour. Even worse, the Talysh lessons have frequently been replaced by physical education, arts and crafts, music lessons or even called off. There are no schoolbooks, personnel, educational institutions. We’d be happy if Talysh language lessons went on at least, 10 minutes (even despite criticism of the Talysh Public Council).

-In your statement you point out that initiatives of Talysh intellectuals directed to promoting their mother tongue and culture, creating social and political associations, are faced with jealous and preconceived attitudes. In many cases these initiatives are accompanied by persecutions and pressures. Are there any cases of this sort? Can you refer to specific facts?

-I’d like to show you a photocopy of a letter by now-deceased professor Novruzali Mamedov addressed in 2003 to Hidayat Orujev, an advisor to country’s President for national issues. Novruzali Mamedov as a head of «Roman-German languages of the Institute of Linguistic Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan and an editor-in-chief of «Tolyshi sado» was unfoundedly arrested in 2007; in 2009 he died in dubious circumstances. I kindly ask you to attach this photocopy to our interview. The claim says that as far as in 1991 the Republican Talysh Cultural Center was officially registered.

However, after gaining of independence by Azerbaijan and transition to a new alphabet, the Ministry of Justice, under various pretexts, declined from registering the Republican Talysh Cultural Center up to now. However, all official international reports of our country submit false information which says that the Republican Talysh Cultural Center is allegedly patronized and even sponsored by the state.

The worst thing is that an accusation brought against Novruzali muallim is based on a letter sent to Hidayat Orujev (advisor to President) which is understood as «an instruction of special services of Iran». As if that weren’t enough, another «grave» crime of Novruzali muallim was the «propaganda of Talyshizm» in «Tolyshi sado» newspaper.

It’d be appropriate to look at a small fragment from his final statement at the Grave Crimes Court in June 2008: «… I repeat once again at the Court owing to circumstance beyond my control behind closed doors – I’m persecuted for national-ethnic affiliation; for my research into the Talysh language, journalist, scientific and public activity.

The point to be emphasized is that if spelling of a word «Talysh» in the beginning, middle or end of a sentence could be admitted as corpus delicti, then all Talyshes in Azerbaijan would be confessed criminals. However, study of language, literature, arts, scientific research cannot be confessed as crime

It should be noted that our great singer, late Rashid Behbutov performed on the world stage the Talysh folk song, propagated the Talysh culture. While at Lenkaran, composer Muslim Magomayev (grandfather of singer Muslim Magomayev) put regional songs and melodies into notes; created musical compositions as the gem of our musical history.

Added to this can be that well-known composer Nariman Mamedov in association with Ahmed Isazadeh, on the basis of Talysh region materials, wrote a book titled «Azerbaijani folk songs and dancing melodies». I was instrumental in creating the book. We bow our heads to great personalities; however, I ask you that investigatory bodies know nothing about it. Otherwise, investigators would start shadowing and mining activities of the deceased who at one time scrutinized Talysh literature, history and music (late Academician Igrar Aliyev and poet Ahad Muhtar are meant – Ed.)

I testified that I was an Azerbaijani by nationality and Talysh by national-ethnic affiliation. Charging me with «hostile activity», law enforcement bodies openly showed hatred to the Talysh people, its language and me personally as a representative of this people. As an editor-in-chief of «Tolyshi sado», I was charged with publishing materials, from newspaper issues # 1 to 108, on the culture, language, literature, history, ethnography of Talyshes aimed at propagating the Talyshizm. However, it transpires that if I propagate Talyshes, hence, I’m a high traitor.

First, it’s my duty as a public figure to propagate Talyshes and Talyshizm as set forth in a Presidential decree of September 16, 1992. Also, I worked as a deputy chairman of the Republican Talysh Cultural Center and editor-in-chief of «Tolyshi sado», a press organ of this public organization. When adjusted for the fact that the decree stipulates the propaganda of Talyshes as ancient inhabitants of this land, research into their language, history, etc., it’s quite natural there is nothing unlawful in the activities of this sort.

Second, it’s my duty as a researcher. Suffice it to say that I devoted all my life to the study of this language. Also, the state expended a lot of money to make me a scientist.

Third, the Talysh language is native for me, so I consider it my moral duty to protect it and pass down to the next generation!»

In the reviewed period I was heading a committee of protection of rights of Novruzali muallim. It’d be rather difficult to detail about all the aspects of challenges I faced with during analogical unfair actions against me. In turn, another co-founder of the PCTA Mehti bey Safarov could give a clue to numerous injustices he ran against when trying to create an association «Azeri-Talysh»; about results of complaints he filed to official bodies. There are abundant initiatives of Talysh intellectuals …

– Prior to this, have you had any contacts on the subject with state institutions or official persons? Was there any reaction from officials due to your statement?

– I remember cases due to contacts with late Novruzali-muallim and Mehtibey Safarov. There is an abundance of cases of this sort. Regretfully, ordinary contacts with functionaries on the national-ethnic subject are followed by thinly veiled threats.

The same is true of contacts with other functionaries. By the way, despite our repeated requests and appeals, access from the country is still closed to the site of «Tolyshi sado» – «talısh.org» while the newspaper is not issued for lack of financial support. Do you think that somebody may avail of the Talysh subject? There were persons that dreamt of independent Talysh state and the split of the Azerbaijani territory. Aren’t you afraid that your initiative may stigmatize Talysh as separatists violating our country’s sovereignty?

It is impossible to accomplish an objective through sealing off the issue! Nowadays, an ancient language has been assimilated throughout centuries, from year to year but no measures are taken by the state to halt the process. Hence, is it correct to seek the reason in forces from abroad? Why haven’t languages like Talysh, Lezghian, Tat and Kurdish the right to exist?

Suffice it to remember that an article written earlier last century by prominent scholar and thinker Hasan bey Zardabi titled “Dil davası” («Hayat» newspaper, №12, 13 January 1906) is topical up to the present day. In his article he expressed his concern that ancient Azerbaijani languages, including Talysh and Tat ones, were increasingly assimilated. He blames intellectuals of the said peoples (in his words, these «shepherds of nation») for slacking their work.

At present, the entire world is engaged in squawking emergency over disappearance of some animals – birds, fish or plants. In the meanwhile, we suspect an ill-will, separatism and other threats in the simplest initiatives. Suffice it to say that the currently dissolved Milli Majlis had repeatedly discussed issues of animal, trees, plants, sexual minorities, etc., enacted laws; however, no «Law on National Minorities» had been adopted. Note that most countries across the world have already this law while «just monthly debates were required for this to happen.

It should be understood that the СЕ and CIS after 1992 have not been discussed over 27 years. Who’s the true separatist? Citizens loving their nation and demanding to resolve challenges peacefully or those breeding impediments on this track? We are confident that most free-thinking representatives of «national majority» consent with our statements above and ready to support us.

The point to be emphasized is that it was representatives of «national majority» – Azerbaijan Turks who delighted first at news of the PCTA foundation. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who welcomed the landmark event!

Beyond any doubt, there’ll be people to criticize us but I’m sure that sooner or later they realize their mistake and support us. The point is that Azerbaijan is an indivisible motherland for each of us, indivisible fraternal home!

It should be borne in mind that the Talysh question, Talysh language have already been brought up against Azerbaijan. For instance, radio and TV-broadcasts in Talysh have been transmitted from territories of Armenia and Russia. Wouldn’t it more appropriate for you to fight against such a situation?

-I’ve already replied this question. But I’d add an ancient Talysh popular saying: If my dog were a dog, a jackal would not take away my hen).

-What dou you think, what policy should Azerbaijan pursue to address the national problem?

-The essential point to remember is that we are not minded to reinvent the wheel. There are world and our country-recognized civilian rules. Allowing for the fact that PCTA remains committed to international and domestic obligations, Milli Majlis should adopt a law on national minorities, including protection of their rights and freedoms. Whether or not, the law has to be adopted and appropriate amendments made into the current legal codes.


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