Residents of Western Azerbaijan appeal for speedy return to their homeland

    SOCIETY  27 January 2023 - 18:05

    The Western Azerbaijan Community, an organisation defending the rights of Azerbaijanis expelled from the territory of present-day Armenia during the Soviet era, is trying to convey the truth about their experiences to the world community.

    Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani Turks previously lived within the borders of present-day Armenia. According to historical records, 200 years ago the Turkic-Muslim population in Armenia outnumbered the Armenians. The territory of present-day Armenia was under the rule of the Ottoman state for some time, and for a long time was the land of the Safavid state. Throughout history, the majority of the population in these lands has been Muslims and ethnic Turks.

    The demographic map of the region began to change in the 19th century after the transition of the Iravan Khanate (where the current capital of Armenia, Yerevan, is located) to Tsarist Russia.

    Tsarist Russia set out to resettle Armenians from other countries in the South Caucasus and put pressure on the Muslim majority. This policy continued under the Soviet Union.

    Local toponyms in the Turkic language were almost completely changed to Armenian.

    In addition, the religious and historical monuments of Azerbaijanis were deliberately destroyed.

    Back in the early 19th century, there were 12 mosques in Yerevan, but today only one survives. Armenians claim that this single mosque in Yerevan, called the "Blue Mosque", is historically Iranian. However, it is a historical fact that the Blue Mosque was built in the 18th century by Huseynali Khan, the ruler of the Iravan Khanate.

    Not only were cultural and historical monuments of Azerbaijanis destroyed during the Soviet era in Armenia. Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis living within the borders of present-day Armenia were expelled from their homes.

    According to documents, 144,600 Azerbaijanis were expelled from Armenia in 1948-1953 and around 300,000 in 1988-1991; most of them settled in Azerbaijan.

    In the late 1980s, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated into war, pushing the problems of the Azeris expelled from Armenia into the background.

    After the Second Karabakh War, which ended with Azerbaijan's victory in 2020, the issue of the rights of the residents of Western Azerbaijan was again raised. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has also repeatedly spoken of the need to ensure the rights of western Azerbaijanis.

    The Azerbaijani authorities state that the demands to ensure the rights of Western Azerbaijanis to return to their homeland do not imply territorial claims against Armenia.

    Aziz Alakbarli, head of the Western Azerbaijan Community, spoke to Anadolu Agency about the difficult days endured by the expelled Azerbaijanis.

    He said French-born Russian traveller Ivan Chopin visited the region in 1829-32 and wrote in his writings that there were 12 mosques in Yerevan at the time. "All this proves the fact that Yerevan and its surroundings were historically inhabited by Azerbaijani Muslims," Alakbarli stressed.

    The head of the community noted that the expulsion of Azerbaijanis from the region and its Armenianisation continued throughout the 19th century. "At the beginning of the last century, an open policy of genocide against Azerbaijanis began to be carried out in the region. Already in the 19th century, Turkic names began to be replaced by Armenian ones. The situation began to gain momentum in the 20th century, particularly during the Soviet period. Toponyms were also changed by the authorities in 1935. We have a map printed in 1903 under Tsarist Russia with Turkic names of villages, mountains, and reservoirs," said Alakbarli.

    According to him, 90 per cent of the toponyms shown on the map are in the Turkic language. "By Stalin's decision in 1948-1953, 144,600 Azerbaijanis were expelled from the region. A number of settlements belonging to Azerbaijanis were given to Armenians, while the rest were razed to the ground. The deportation process also had a specific purpose. The number of Azerbaijanis in Yerevan was significantly reduced. Around 300,000 Azerbaijanis were deported from Armenia in 1988-1991. And this is not even a deportation, but very real ethnic genocide," Alakbarli stressed.

    Alakbarli noted that the Community of Western Azerbaijan has prepared statistics of Azerbaijanis evicted from the territory of present-day Armenia over the past 200 years, and collected documents on the crimes committed against them. "Our goal is to bring this information to the world community. The world should know about the crimes committed by Armenians against Azerbaijanis over the last 200 years. The protection of the rights of the Azerbaijani people at an international level is also on the agenda of our community. Not only our people but also the cultural heritage created by it over centuries suffered. It was destroyed. The leadership and society of Armenia must bear responsibility for all these deeds. The Community of Western Azerbaijan will do everything possible to restore the historical rights of compatriots and to condemn the perpetrators," the head of the community assured.


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