More than 300 Islamites from Azerbaijan fight in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, a well-known specialist in the sphere of conflictology Arif Unus told the Azerbaijan’s portal “Factheber”.

Talking about the fighting Salafis from Azerbajian in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan he stressed: “There is no doubt that this tendency is very dangerous. Up to now, we rarely met with the representatives of Salafi movement in the country. The results of our research showed that in about 200-250 young Azerbaijanis joined the terrorist groups of Afghanistan and Pakistan”. And 3 of them were women. Furthermore, in Syria 100 Azerbaijanis fight on the side of the terrorists. 40 of them have their own special gang and fight in the same cities. They even have their own website that is updated daily.”

Arif Unus mentioned that every year in Azerbajan Muslim believers are arrested. For instance, as of May 1st, 256 believers, of which 70% were salafits, were in jail. From those salafits jailed about 33% were involved in war activities abroad. The Azerbaijan’s law, treats this as severe crime, the expert said.

 “After the soviet atheism a kind of vacuum was created in the faith of people. The life of a man is impossible without faith. After the collapse of communism, both Christians and Muslims started to soar towards their religions. In that period in Azerbaijan real islamization started. Despite the interest towards Islam of Soviet people from the USSR they did not know about the nature of this religion. And now most of the interested in Islam are Muslims. If we look at the mosques, we will see that the larger part of people attending it are young,” mentioned Unus. 

According to the expert, the islamization of the Azerbaijani society will only get more rapid. “On this background of islamization, atheism will become weaker. If in the 90-s 1.2% of the population were believers, currently they make up about 20%. According to official data, 96% of the population is Muslim. However, about 20% out of this 96% follow the rules of Islam, the rest are Muslims by birth. Slowly though they are replaced by believing Muslims though it is a long process.

Furthermore, the conflictologist said that he does not agree with the term “radical” addressed to Islamists by the Azerbaijani authorities. “With my research I wanted to show that there is an awkward policy towards the Islamists both inside the country and outside of it. It is not right to look into this issue through only one blade.” Unus said.

He noted that Azerbaijani society receives information about Islamists directly from the official people or Ministry of National Security of the republic. “For example, it is claimed that a terrorist attack has been prevented and the organizers were arrested. At the same time, the court proceedings were being held behind the closed doors. The society has only that information. In reality, the true reasons of their detention were not revealed. The detainees are presented to the society as agents of Iran or Al-Qaeda. Nobody is in fact interested to know that the person talking in front of the MNS cameras could have been tortured to give such statements. 
In the end, A. Unus stated that from the 20% Muslims only 2% are radicals. In his words, the survey results revealed that 48% of Azerbaijan’s population is for adopting sharia law in the country.

Recently the Media informed about a series of deaths of Azerbaijani terrorists in Syria. In early April Turkish sites informed that about 30 terrorists from Azerbaijan had already died in Syria.

Overall, the ties between international terrorist groups and Azerbaijan have their roots since early 1990s. Then the Azerbaijani army, being defeated in the aggression against Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) was retreating suffering significant losses. Trying to save the situation, the Azerbaijani authorities, headed by Heydar Aliev, attracted in the war against the Nagorno Karabakh Armenians international terrorists and members of radical groups from Afghanistan (Hulbendin Hekmatiara groups), Turkey (Grey wolves, etc..), Chechnya (groups of Basaev, Raduev and others) and several other regions. 

Regardless the existence of thousands of foreign mercenaries and terrorists in the Azerbaijani army, Azerbaijan’s aggression against Nagorno Kharabakh Republic failed and the Baku authorities were forced to sign a peace agreement with the representatives of NKR and Armenia. However, the international terrorists had already acquired the ties they needed in Azerbaijan and used them later too. Recruitment was on-going amongst the Azerbaijanis, who were later sent to Afghanistan and North Caucasus, where they were involved in the fights against international coalition forces and Russian structures.

In recent years, citizens of Azerbaijan are actively involved in terrorist and extremist activities in Russia, Afghanistan and Syria. In Azerbaijan, the citizens of this Republic are put on trial for being involved in forming “illegal paramilitary grouping” in Afghanistan, are convicted only for limited terms.

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