Spero News contributor Peter Tase, a widely traveled lecturer on geopolitical topics, delivered a keynote lecture at the International University of Travnik (IUT) in Bosnia and Herzegovina that focused on what he asserts are the values of multiculturalism promoted by Azerbaijan that were assailed by Armenia during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Since his presentation in October, Tase told Spero News, “Since the early Middle Ages, the dominant current of Islam among Azerbaijani religious scholars has been Tasawwuf -- the traditional Islamic teaching of self-improvement and spirituality— which in the West is better known as Sufism. Sufism promotes love, brotherhood, and harmony with people, regardless of their ethnic and religious identity, and has played a major role throughout the Islamic world in spreading tolerance towards other religions, cultures, and races.”

Tase recently returned from a trip to western Azerbaijan where he visited the Tartar region that borders on the region controlled by Armenia.

During his presentation at IUT, Tase gave examples of tolerance shown from an early time in Azerbaijan. “Jews first settled in the hospitable land of Azerbaijan in the 5th century BC.  In the 17th century of the Christian era, Fatali Khan of Guba granted land to the Jewish people to establish a major settlement near the main city of the Guba chiefdom in northeastern Azerbaijan. It was named “the Red Village” because of the color of the roofs on the city’s houses. The Red Village is considered the biggest and densest settlement of  mountain-dwelling Jews living in the diaspora. Throughout its history, Azerbaijan has been more than just a safe place for Jews. According to several international reports, today this hospitable land has gained unique prominence as a “country with zero anti-Semitism.” There are seven functioning synagogues in Azerbaijan at present.”

In his October 20 keynote lecture, Tase paid special attention to the still-influential innovations of the great architect Ajami Nakhchivani, and the globally recognized archaeological sites found in the Nakhchivan region of Azerbaijan, including the Momine Khatun Mausoleum, Ashabi-Kahf Cave, Gulustan Mausoleum, the City of Julfa, the Alinjagala tower, the inner city of Baku, and other cultural, religious monuments of Azerbaijan.

In the second part of his lecture, Tase focused on the destruction of the natural environment, as well as what he said has been the total obliteration of Azeri cultural and religious monuments in the areas occupied for more than 25 years by Armenia since the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which began in 1987 and pitted the formerly Soviet-controlled Armenia and Azerbaijan against each other. He deplored the killing of innocent Azerbaijani civilians by Armenian armed forces during the course of the war, in which Armenia seized control of Azerbaijani territory and saw the creation of the Armenian controlled separatist regime "Republic of Artsakh" that is still not recognized by the international community. No peace treaty has been signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan, and hostilities remain to this day.

“The present-day armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan began at the end of 1987 with the Armenian attacks on the Azerbaijani territory of Khankandi: a genocidal act that resulted in major floods of Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons,” said Tase. “At the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992, the conflict escalated into a fully-fledged war. Taking advantage of the political instability in Azerbaijan as a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and outside pressures, Armenia’s armed forces received foreign military assistance and launched their invasion of what is now known as the     Armenian controlled separatist regime 'Republic of Artsakh' and its seven surrounding districts.”

Peter Tase delivers a lecture in Baku

Later on, Tase emphasized: “All of these territories went through ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Armenia.  Thus, although the Armenian community of the     Armenian controlled separatist regime "Republic of Artsakh" is trying to present this process as self-determination, it is a fact that over one million Azerbaijanis were forced to leave their homes and become internally displaced refugees in their own land.  Currently, more than 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory is under occupation of the Armenian armed forces. The Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan has been under an economic blockade for over two decades.  As a result of the occupation, about 900 settlements, 22 museums and 4 art galleries, 40,000 museum exhibits of unique historical significance, 44 temples, nine buildings of historical significance, and nine mosques were destroyed, looted and burned. In addition, the Armenians destroyed 4.6 million books and valuable historical manuscripts that were kept in 927 libraries.”

In the third and last part of the lecture, Tase delivered remarks on the close bilateral relations that exist between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Azerbaijan, making a reference to the March 17 summit meeting of President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Mladen Ivanić, who is one of three Chairmen of the Presidency of Bosnia Herzegovina who serve collectively as head of state of the Balkan country. In September, President Aliyev held a bilateral meeting with Bakir Izetbegovic, who is another Chairman of the Bosnia Herzegovina presidency.

Taking questions after his lecture, Tase praised the faculty at the Azerbaijan University of Languages, as well as the Baku American Center and the Chinese Cultural Center, where opportunities for language research are available. He spoke specifically about the research and workshops organized by Prof. Kamal Abdullayev, who serves as Chancellor of Azerbaijan University of Languages and the Baku International Multiculturalism Centre. In a subsequent radio interview, Tase discussed the challenges posed by the unresolved conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, while praising the multi-cultural environment he has witnessed in Azerbaijan.




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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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