Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2023, 12:44 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2013 - Azerbaijan

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 24 September 2013
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2013 - Azerbaijan, 24 September 2013, available at: [accessed 23 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Minority groups in Azerbaijan face long-standing discrimination and harassment and lack of consultation within decision-making processes. The country's main minority groups include Lezgins (2.2 per cent), Russians (1.8 per cent), Armenians (1.5 per cent although this figure is contested) and Talysh (1.0 per cent).

The Farsi-speaking Talysh community in Azerbaijan has come under scrutiny from the government as it has cracked down on civil society in the aftermath of the Eurovision Song Contest that the country hosted in 2012. Most of the Talysh live in southern Azerbaijan, mainly in rural areas near Iran. Four Azerbaijani human rights organizations, the Human Rights Club, the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety, the Institute for Peace and Democracy and the Alliance for Defense of Political Freedoms, used the occasion of the song contest to raise awareness about forced evictions and arrests and police brutality against journalists in the country. The awareness campaign, known as 'Sing for Democracy', was joined by 30 local NGOs and 15 international human rights watchdogs. President Ilham Aliyev accused civil society leaders, human rights activists and journalists of trying to ruin the country's reputation.

The arrest of a prominent Talysh advocate on separatism charges was condemned by human rights defenders as politically motivated. Hilal Mammadov, a mathematician and newspaper editor, was arrested on charges of treason and espionage for Iran in June. His predecessor on the Talysh-language Tolyshi sado paper, Novruzali Mammadov, was arrested in 2007 after he published an article on the history of the Talysh; he died in prison in 2009, while serving his 15-year sentence. In July human rights activists and Talysh representatives organized a press conference in Moscow in order to demand the release of Hilal Mamedov, who was arrested in June on bogus drug possession charges. Pre-trial hearings commenced in January 2013, and the trial continued in March and April 2013. Mammadov's request that the trial be public was rejected by the judge.

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