Ethnic and religious tolerance has been advocated at the state level and the government of Azerbaijan provides equal opportunities and equal rights as well as peaceful and comfortable living for religious and ethnic minorities, Chair of the Council on the State Support to the Non-Governmental Organizations under the Auspices of the President of Azerbaijan, MP Azay Guliyev said at the fifth session of the General Assembly of the European Jewish Parliament.
The ethnic minorities enjoy the same rights as the dominating ethnic Azerbaijanis, including the right of education in native language, Guliyev said.
There are more than 40 minorities and ethnic groups who co-exist in Azerbaijan such as Tallishes, Avars, Lezgis, Sakhurs, Armenians, Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Poles and others, according to Guliyev.
Azerbaijan, situated at the crossroad of East and West, is a multicultural society dominated by the Muslim Azerbaijanis, according to the MP.
“For centuries, Azerbaijanis have lived in peace and harmony with peoples of various religious and ethnic backgrounds. Marking International Day of Tolerance (Nov.16), Azerbaijan has been listed one of the top five most tolerant countries in the world. This obvious fact has been recognized by many scholars, politicians, journalists and public figures. Many believe that Azerbaijan can serve as good example of ethnic and religious tolerance for the world full of intolerance. All three monotheistic faiths – Islam, Christianity and Judaism have peacefully coexisted in our country for many centuries,” Guliyev said.
Jews have lived in peace and harmony with Azerbaijanis for centuries. There are two big Jewish communities in the country. One of them is in the capital city, Baku which is the home of three synagogues and of approximately fifteen Jewish organizations. Other Jewish communities live in the village of Krasnaya Sloboda situated in Guba region of Azerbaijan, the MP said.
“In the late 19th century, Karasnaya Sloboda was the only village beyond Israel completely inhabitated by a Jewish community. This village was also known as little Jerusalem. There were eleven synagogues in Sloboda and seven of them have been renovated and returned to service in the Jewish community during the presidency of Haydar Aliyev, National Leader of Azerbaijan. Moreover, I can proudly say that Anti-Semitism has never been an issue in Azerbaijan. Actually, Azerbaijanis are among those few people in the world for whom even the meaning of Anti-Semitism has always been unknown,” Guliyev said.
The MP stressed in his speech that today, the Jewish community plays a specific role in socio-political and cultural life of the country.
“Members of this community actively participate in the process of legal and secular state-building in Azerbaijan. They have representatives in the Parliament, municipalities, and in other state and government bodies. The Jewish community has established many NGOs which are quite active in Azerbaijan’s socio-political life. As our cooperation with the Jewish community gains momentum, I believe it will contribute to further strengthening of democratic Azerbaijan,” Guliyev said.
While speaking at the event, Deputy Chairman of the European Jewish Parliament Tomer Orni called for using all means in the fight against anti-Semitism.
“Having paid a visit to Azerbaijan and shot the film there, I saw that the two peoples have mutual respect,” Orni said. “The representatives of all religions, living in Azerbaijan, celebrate each other’s holidays. The intercommunity relations in Azerbaijan are at a high level. I came to the conclusion that one can learn a lot from Azerbaijan.”
Then the participants watched the film entitled “Life of Jews in Azerbaijan”. The religious tolerance in Azerbaijan was demonstrated in the film through the relations of Azerbaijanis and Jews. It was stressed that religion, cultural monuments and culture of Jews are protected and the exemplary relations between nations can be a model for the relations among Islam and other religions. The free activity of synagogues in Baku, the Jews’ living in the Islamic country in conditions of freedom and peace were demonstrated in the film.
Then co-chairman of the European Jewish Parliament Joel Rubinfeld stressed that Azerbaijan is a tolerant country. He stressed that the last Jewish settlement in Europe and Russia – Krasnaya Sloboda is in Azerbaijan.
Member of the European Jewish Parliament Alexander Zanzer stressed that the trends toward anti-Semitism are unacceptable and regretted that there are such tendencies in Europe. He urged the participants to strengthen the fight against this.