Submitted by Center for Independent Media

A recent AP article states:  Azerbaijan arrests reporter behind Internet hit: BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — A journalist in Azerbaijan best known for creating a wildly popular Internet video that became a cult favorite in Russia has been arrested on drug possession charges [in the Republic of Azerbaijan], police said Friday. Mammadov’s lawyer, Anar Qasimli, said the charges against his client were without basis, and the reporter’s relatives insist he is the victim of a police set-up. Mammadov will be kept in custody for three months while the probe is ongoing, Qasimli said. If found guilty, Mammadov faces a prison sentence of up to 12 years. Mammadov is a member of Azerbaijan’s Talysh ethnic minority, which resides along the country’s border with Iran, and edits a local newspaper, ‘Talysh Voice.’ Mammadov has in the past criticized authorities for allegedly repressing minority populations in Azerbaijan.”

Hilal Mamedov Baku Talesh Voice of Talesh Astara

I have known Hilal Mamdedov for years.  Hilal is an ethnic Iranian, from the Talesh community (near the Caspian coast).  However, Hilal has never lived in the Iran of today, but lives in what is now called the “Republic of Azerbaijan.”

Roughly 150 years ago, what is today called “The Republic of Azerbaijan” was a part of Northern Iran and was seized by Russia.   Soon after, Russia became the USSR and Stalin quickly realized the value of oil resources there and (rightfully) feared the risk of the native people that wanted the province to repatriate with Iran – Many people were slaughtered; many books were burned to craft a new identity for the people taken as captives in a land newly controlled by Russia.  In what became a bizarre twist in history, Stalin and Turkish nationalists commenced a program to strip ethnic Iranians of their identity.  Ottoman-Turkey assisted in importing Turkish nationalism, mixed with brutally repressive tactics, and after a few generations the lower Caucuses still experiences today what many historians call “a severe identity crisis that is more a consequence of Stalin’s imagination, than historical fact.”  Although the USSR no longer exists, the blueprint that Joseph Stalin and the Ottoman-Turks left behind is still being exploited to siphon-off the oil from the Caspian for the benefit of everyone except the people that live there. The autocratic governement and bogus journalism emanating from the Republic of Azerbaijan is being supported and financed by major global oil companies who also hire ‘Blackwater’ type paramilitary forces to subdue the people.

Hilal Mamdedov is from the Talesh community (Mountain Iranians) – a group that did not bend to allow their identity to be taken from them.  The Talesh regional flag carries the tripartite Green, White and Red Iranian colors and the famous sun emblem (though the flag is explicitly outlawed in the Republic of Azerbaijan).  The news article suggests that Hilal has been arrested for “heroin” possession, which to anyone who knows him is an absurd lie on its face.  He is an exceptionally learned, talented and healthy man known world-wide for his gift for journalism and passion for nature.  Many years ago on a business trip to Baku, I hiked what used to be the Iranian mountains with Hilal (they are now a part of the Republic of Azerbaijan). Hilal is an outdoorsman and the kindest person one can hope to meet; he is the type of person who will go out of his way to give his time and hospitality to a complete stranger.  I invite you to browse his photos on Facebook which are sort of a glimpse into his character and maybe interesting for Iranians from a perspective of cultural anthropology.  I have seen on this site the term “Greater Iran” used.  This is a man that represents the Iran that was.  He is the ethnic cousin of Iranians, and comes from a group that would not allow their Iranian roots to be erased.  I encourage you to raise awareness about his plight and to share his story.  It also appears that several sites carrying his newspaper have vanished into thin air.

Below are three videos: Two are about the Talesh people; and the third is about the autocratic government that rules the Republic of Azerbaijan for the benefit of about 20-30 powerful families and the major oil companies that back them.

Who are the Talesh?

Corruption & Oil inAzerbaijan:

 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talysh_people    Baku District Court Azerbaijan
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