World, Asia - Pacific

'Azerbaijan will never allow occupation of its culture'

Azerbaijan sees itself as integral part of Turkic civilization, says country's culture minister

Jeyhun Aliyev   | 09.02.2020
'Azerbaijan will never allow occupation of its culture' Azerbaijan will never allow the "occupation" of its culture, country’s Minister of Culture Abulfaz Garayev told reporters representing the Turkish news agencies in the capital city of Baku, referring to the destruction of cultural heritage in occupied territories of Azerbaijan on February 7, 2020. ( Resul Rehimov - Anadolu Agency )

BAKU, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan will never allow the "occupation" of its culture, said the country’s culture minister, decrying the destruction of cultural heritage in the country’s territories occupied by Armenia.

"We must always stop and never allow the steps of occupation taken against our culture," Abulfaz Garayev told reporters representing Turkish news agencies in the Azerbaijani capital Baku covering the country’s snap election held on Sunday.

Speaking on Armenia’s efforts to erase the signs of Azerbaijan's heritage in Upper Karabakh – also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory occupied by its neighbor – Garayev said his country has always stressed the importance of preserving its historical monuments and heritage.

Underlining that Azerbaijan is “very sensitive” to the issue, Garayev decried efforts to create a “false history” about historic Azerbaijani buildings in Azerbaijani lands currently occupied by Armenia.

“We will never allow those who try through various means to adopt Azerbaijani culture and paint its traditions as its own, and we’re not alone in this mission. There is also the strength of other Turkic states around us, and we’re ready to prevent this.”

Garayev underlined that Azerbaijan has three nominations for UNESCO’s list of Tangible Cultural Heritage, and another 13 for the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

"The Azerbaijani people have such a rich history that they have never tried to copy the culture of others," he added.

Cultural ties between Azerbaijan, Turkey

Garayev said the two "brotherly" countries Azerbaijan and Turkey should further develop cultural ties with each other.

"We should not be confined to our cultural values that we have on the heritage list. We have to go further. We have to present even more of the heritage," he said.

Garayev highlighted that the two countries have joint commissions working on their common heritage values, exploring their shared values.

He also hailed the legacy left by Turkish architects in many countries across the globe.

"We see ourselves as an integral part of the Turkic civilization."

He also noted that Baku was named to the UNESCO Creative Cities list last October 2019 by Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s head, calling this an "honor" for Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan should benefit from Turkey's "innovative potential," and needs to ensure the wider introduction of the Turkish cultural heritage in the country, and also that Azerbaijan's culture is more widely presented in Turkey.

"We are so close to each other that we forget to introduce our cultures to each other," he said.

Garayev said he would like to see more Azerbaijani plays, artists, and painters presented in Turkey, adding that Turkey should also introduce more of its work in Azerbaijan.

Saying that many Turkish people work in Azerbaijan’s "creative industry," and many Azerbaijanis are active in Turkish culture, Garayev said: "This once again proves the unity of our roots."

"In the international arena, this nation has two voices," he added.

2 countries hand in hand

Garayev reiterated that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev always refers to Turkey as a "close, brotherly and friendly" country.

During the UNESCO congress held in Azerbaijan in 2013, Azerbaijan "overcame resistance" to get the culture of making and drinking Turkish coffee added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

"This contribution of Turkey to world heritage was accepted in Baku," he said.

Garayev also stressed the importance of many common international projects that the two countries share on a global scale.

"Azerbaijan and Turkey are carrying out the leading transportation projects in the region today," he said, such as the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway, which passes through Georgia to connect the two countries.

He said decisions that "unite the political moves" of Turkic countries are being taken in institutions such as the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking Countries and Turkic Council, which further strengthens the "friendship and brotherhood" between the states.

Garayev added that Turkic states have political, economic and cultural unity.

The International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) unites the "entire" Turkic civilization, represented not only in Turkic countries, but also in some regions in Russia, Bulgaria, and Balkan countries.

"We must protect this legacy and prove to the world how rich and great this culture is," he concluded.

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