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AZERBAIJAN: Forced mosque liquidation, Baptists and Adventists told to liquidate themselves

ICC Note:

“The State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations has told the Baptist and Seventh-day Adventist Churches on 16 October that they would be re-registered, having applied in 2009 and then been rejected. But State Committee officials now insist that if the Adventists and Baptists do not liquidate themselves, form new communities and lodge new applications by the end of 2014, the State Committee will go to court to liquidate them.”

By Felix Corley

12/2/2014 Azerbaijan (Forum 18)-…State Committee Deputy Chair Heydarov summoned the leaders of the Baptist and Seventh-day Adventist Churches on 16 October, Baptist leader Pastor Ilya Zenchenko told Forum 18 from Baku on 28 November. Both churches had lodged re-registration applications in 2009 and been rejected (see Forum 18’s Azerbaijan religious freedom survey “He told us he wanted to help and said we would finally get registration in November 2014,” Pastor Zenchenko told Forum 18.

“But when we brought our documents again they said we would have to liquidate ourselves as an existing community, form a new community and apply anew,” Pastor Zenchenko stated. The Baptists and Adventists are unsure how serious the State Committee’s intentions are. “At first we were positive – we rejoiced, but now we’re uncertain,” Pastor Zenchenko added. He also noted that the State Committee have put none of their requests in writing. “We’re now looking for a compromise.”

One Adventist – who asked not to be identified – expressed concern about State Committee officials’ insistence that if the Adventists and Baptists fail to liquidate themselves, form new communities and lodge new applications by the end of 2014, the State Committee will go to court to liquidate them.

State Committee Deputy Chair Heydarov, who worked for the NSM secret police in the 1990s and was appointed to the State Committee in May 2014, refused to discuss the latest demands made on the Baptists and Adventists, or whether similar demands had been made of other communities earlier denied registration. “I’ve taken this responsibility on myself and I want very much to resolve the issue,” he claimed to Forum 18 on 1 December.

Heydarov refused to explain why re-registration applications made in 2009 by the Baptists, Adventists and many other communities cannot be considered in 2014. “I didn’t work here then,” he replied. He dismissed any other questions with the words “I don’t have to account to you” before putting the phone down.

Sabina Allahverdiyeva, a lawyer who worked in the State Committee’s Legal and Registration Department in 2009 and now heads it, totally refused to discuss why so many re-registration applications lodged by so many different religious communities have been ignored or rejected. “I have no right to give any information by telephone,” she told Forum 18 on 1 December and put the phone down.

The most recent named communities publicly claimed by the State Committee to be registered were two in May 2012, the then total being 576 registered religious communities. (About 2,000 communities were thought to operate in some form before the 2009 Religion Law.) In May 2012, 555 registered communities were Muslim (which must be controlled by the state-backed Caucasian Muslim Board) with 21 communities from other faiths. Officials have claimed that a number of other Muslim communities have been registered since then, but as the State Committee has not updated the list published on its website this is impossible to verify independently.

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