Azerbaijani Religious Liberty Advocate Addresses OSCE Conference

IRLA deputy secretary general, Dr. Gallagher, with Iman Ilgar Allahverdiyev.

Vienna, Austria… The representative of the Religious Liberty Association of Azerbaijan spoke out at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Freedom of Religion or Belief Conference, giving six recommendations for implementation by governments and international organizations.

Ilgar Allahverdiyev, speaking for the Association in Russian, said “there should be no pressure on any religion by the state, that religious education should not be obligatory, and that the state should encourage religious pluralism.” Going further, he recommended that schools and universities should work for a culture of peace, that there must be no interference in the beliefs and convictions of any peoples, and that religious freedom should only be limited by the values of a democratic society.

Allahverdiyev explained that the Azerbaijan RLA provided a forum for a wide range of faith communities, including Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics, Jews and Adventists. “As these different confessions get together and have dialogue, we are able to remove the obstacles to developing mutual respect,” he said, adding that a wide range of issues had already been addressed by the Association.

“We have tackled such problems as the refusal of the government to give passports to Muslim women who do not remove their headscarves for passport photos, the continuing government censorship of religious publications, and we call on the government to keep to its international obligations,” Allahverdiyev concluded.

Rafiq Aliyev, representative of government of Azerbaijan, commented that religious freedom was improving in his country, and that the registration of the Association which has so far not been approved by the State Committee for the Work of Religious Associations would be considered.

The Azerbaijan RLA operates as a separate but affiliated organization to the International Religious Liberty Association, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, along with some sixty similar national and regional religious liberty associations around the world. [Jonathan Gallagher]