Suleymanov estimates the number of Azeri Kurds as high as 1 million, but official numbers indicate that today only 13,000 Kurds remain in the country. Photo: Rudaw
By SALIH KAVIRPIRI
BAKU, Azerbaijan – Tahir Suleymanov, an ethnic Kurd running in next month’s presidential election in Azerbaijan, wants to energize not only the small Kurdish community in his own country, but also around the world.
Suleymanov, 59, who was born and raised in Azerbaijan and is the only Kurdish candidate among 21 hopefuls, said that most of the estimated Azeri Kurds no longer consider themselves Kurdish.
“My primary goal is to energize the Kurdish community in Azerbaijan as well as around the world through my candidacy,” he said.
Suleymanov called on the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq to pledge its support to Kurdish Azeris by building a relationship with the Azerbaijan government. “Having KRG take such a step wouldn’t only benefit the Kurdish community in Azerbaijan, but the Kurds as a whole in the world,” he added.
Suleymanov estimates the number of Azeri Kurds as high as 1 million, but official numbers indicate that today only 13,000 Kurds remain in the country.
Suleymanov, who has been a teacher and a journalist for a government-affiliated magazine, added that the current Azeri president, Ilham Aliev, has Kurdish roots from Diyarbakir.
Many Kurds ended up in the Caucasus region after the Ottoman-Safavid war of the 15 and 16th centuries. They were also greatly affected by the waves of deportation by Stalin shortly after the Second World War.
The expelled Kurds were resettled in the central Asian republicans such as Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. It is believed that many died of disease and starvation.
Suleymanov said that his family ended up in Armenia where they faced another forceful migration.
“During the Azerbaijan-Armenia war in 1988, the Kurds in Armenia were considered Azeri due to cultural similarities. So the Armenians forced them to leave their country,” Suleymanov said.
“Most fled to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, where they reunited with some of their families that had been expelled to these regions back in 1937.” He added that, a year later, the Kurds were allowed to return to Azerbaijan.
Suleymanov said, “The Kurdish Caucasus had endured unbelievable hardships in the past due to forceful migrations.”
In 2003, Suleymanov started a weekly Kurdish magazine “Diplomata Kurd.” Since then, the magazine has been serving the Kurdish cause in Azeri, Russian and Turkish.
Suleymanov believes that he has the potential to win the election. “I am very well-known to the Azeri Kurdish community and they fully support my candidacy,” he said.