Our Analytics 9 july — 12:57

Shots in Ganja: Liberal-Shiism fires at state (Our editorial)

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BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV

Immediately after the second Nardaran religious riot, merciless and senseless, we came to a disappointing conclusion about the final formation in Azerbaijan of a new political alternative: political Shi'ism. And the apotheosis of the birth of this political alternative was the transformation of Iranian-like political Islam into an ideologically-armed struggle to change the constitutional foundations of the traditionalist secular regime.

Riots in Nardaran, 2016

A lengthy, of many years analysis of the causes and patterns of degeneration and leveling of liberal ideas in Azerbaijan indicates the final decay and regression of the carriers of these ideas: the national-democrat camp and the centrist opposition. The ideology of modern Eurocentrism, which is based on liberal ideas, is in general alien to the Azerbaijani political consciousness, for even during the formation of the first Republic, political liberalism remained in the shadow of the more popular ittihadism (pan-Islamism) and Turkic federalism. In the few months before the February revolution in Russia, Musavat remained a pan-Islamist party.

Political consciousness is a natural component of the spiritual life of the people and their historical traditions. And Azerbaijan has been the cradle of Shi'ism for centuries. And not only because the green Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 was carried out by the hands of the 20 million Azerbaijani people. Although everyone is well aware that not Qom, Mashhad or Karbala, but namely South Azerbaijan is the mainstay of modern political Shi'ism. And not only today, but also historically. Remember who was the bulwark of Shi'ism under the Abbasids? Türkic warlords from Persia, who later declared Shi'ism official ideology of the caliphate. How not to recall the mass demonstrations of the first Shi'ism warriors, the Kharijites throughout Azerbaijan, from Ganja to Baylagan (which then was razed to the ground by the great Tamerlane)? And the Shia state of Shadaddids with its capital in Ganja? And the Qizilbash with their Turkic (Azerbaijani) emperor Shah Ismayil Khatai, who forever separated Iran from the entire Islamic world and spread Shi'ism to Iraq and Syria?

Not Persians and not Iran, but namely Azerbaijan, and first of all South Azerbaijan played a key role in shaping the almost universal ideology of political Shi'ism.

Religious Shi'ism is an indelible spiritual memory of Azerbaijanis, and it awakens every year on the eve of the sacred commemoration of martyrs and victims, which in the understanding of the Shiites is a semi-divine substance. An almost invisible thread separates the political and religious forms of Shi'ism. Because Shi'ism is the first political party in the history of Islam. Shi'ism is politics itself, the struggle for the restoration of a fair succession of power in the right Muslim caliphate.

Martyrdom, as the ideology of Shi'ism

It is an inconceivable task to impose European liberalism on the people, whose history has been spiritually and politically, and even organically intertwined with the extremely radical form of expression of fanatical religious feelings for the last five to ten centuries. After all, liberalism in its extreme fundamental manifestation is primarily a desire for freedom of the human spirit from the dogmas imposed by religious doctrinaire. And in Islam, and first of all in Shi'ite fundamentalism, even free reasoning about dogmas is blasphemous sacrilege. Neither the great Tsar Alexander, nor the great ruler Stalin, nor the great National Leader Heydar Aliyev, were able to eradicate the Shi'ite historical consciousness, the spiritual memory, which grew into a life sensation, a family relic and a folk tradition. When in the 1920s, the Bolsheviks saw with horror that crowds of people during the funeral procession of Ashura in Baku went against the bullets of the Red Guards, in the following years they decided to close their eyes on the pilgrimage of tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis to the mosques and the graves of saints. After all, none of those who went against the bullets of the Red Guards on the day of Ashura raised weapons in defense of the relics of the first Republic. Ittihadists, supporters of the Islamic party in the period of the first Republic, unlike the liberals, remained in Azerbaijan and began an underground struggle against the Bolsheviks.

Nariman Narimanov tries to persuade Azerbaijanis not to observe Ashura

Over 70 years of Soviet power, like the previous Orthodox Tsarist regime, with its powerful ideologies and repressive apparatus, could do nothing with the permanent Shi'ite fanaticism, which once a year seized the minds of even Soviet and party workers. And they had in their houses on these days sherbet, halva and hedik (a dish turned from pebbles into cereals). And communism was losing to Shi'ism. Lenin looked unconvincing in comparison with the paraplegic holy old man Mir-Movsum-aga...

In the early 1990s, political Islam in Azerbaijan, which raised its head in the person of the growing strength from year to year Islamic Party headed by Haji Alikram, could block European postmodern liberalism as a means of transcoding mentality and historical memory. Paradoxically, even liberals and nationalists, in the person of Arabist historian Abulfaz Elchibey, appealed to the hundreds of thousands of supporters in Azadlig Square with quotations from the martyr of Shi'ism Imam Hussein. Sending his supporters for the overthrow of the then-President Ayaz Mutalibov, Elchibey compared the bearded front-line soldiers to the valorous horsemen of the grandson of the prophet. Manuscripts do not burn, pick up transcripts of future president's speeches!

Not only the words, but also the deeds of Elchibey and his supporters opened the way for the prosperity of political Shi'ism. After the political failure, and then the double-dealing, the chronic inconsistency and degradation of the carriers of liberalism, the disappointed heirs of the lost cause of Elchibeyism, thousands of representatives of the protest platform rushed to the holy abode of Islam, Shi'ite mosques. Unlike Sunni mosques, Shi'ites have the relics of saints here...

Expanding the influence of geopolitical Islam, embracing not only the Middle East, but also Iran and Turkey, in which secular ideologies gave way to traditionalist revanchism: Sefevism and Neosmanism, significantly increased the danger of islamization of Azerbaijan. We have only one window, or rather, a ventlight to Europe: Russia, which, however, itself is bogged down in 'uvarovschina,' the revival of great-power Orthodoxy. Only a few decades threw our whole region back into the medieval darkness of alienation, religious fanaticism, great-power superiority...

Political Islam densely approached the southern borders of Azerbaijan. And direct geopolitical influence did not take long. An alarming expression of the upcoming political Islam was the spontaneous appearance on last year's Ashura of tens of thousands of frenzied fanatic people with unhealthy burning eyes. Exalted crowds in almost all cities turned to a procession with religious slogans. And these crowds met resistance not in Baku, but only in Ganja. The medieval historian Qazvini wrote that Ganja is a city of Islam. Centuries later, Ganja again began to resemble a city where the political Islam that opened wings is looking for victory. A crowd of fanatics was blocked by policemen who defended the secular Constitution.

Incident in Ganja in 2017

Liberalism came up with the constitution as a means of combating absolutist medieval obscurantism. Yes, the current power in Azerbaijan is not a bearer of political liberalism. The current government is also a supporter of political continuity as a guarantor of stable development and a social state. And here in the square in Ganja there was a clash of two ideologies: secular succession and political Shi'ism, built on the ideology of religious continuity...

Just a year later, a few weeks before Ashura, Mayor of Ganja Elmar Valiyev's blood was shed in the same square. The investigation claims: the perpetrator was an avenger-Islamist, who raised weapon in defense of religious fanaticism. The version of the investigation is also confirmed by the friends and relatives of terrorist Yunis Safarov: his wife and brother, who rejected even suspicions of the personal motive of an attempt on the life of Ganja mayor. And, finally, the most active Iranian bloggers rushed in defense of the terrorist, threatening other officials who would stand in the way of a new lament-march-struggle for the triumph of the religious continuity of Shi'ism. For the first time in 28 years in Azerbaijan, Islamists committed a terrorist attack against a high-ranking official. Yes, this is a new countdown of history, a new page and, more likely, a point of no return.

However, striking most of all was the general ecstasy of the quasiliberal get-together, which fell out of the liberal cage of the terrible 1990s, and which met with enthusiasm the terrorist attack in Ganja. The liberals began to model the terrorist Safarov as an image of the hero-martyr-avenger, urging fanatics to new acts of retribution. The Ganja syndrome revealed and confirmed once again the regularity of the political crisis of liberalism in Azerbaijan. This is the main result of the bloody event, as Azerbaijani liberals cultivate a terrorist struggle against the state. In history there were such examples, even the same Socialist Revolutionaries: Zasulich, Spiridonova and other heroic terrorists. But liberal terrorism is a completely new trend in socio-political doctrines. How can a liberal encourage terrorist acts and call for murders? Most likely, this is not even liberal-terrorism, but liberal-Shi'ism. When the remnants of the defeated liberal forces, who gather a handful of supporters at protest rallies in the central squares in Baku, join the steel ranks of the army of political Shi'ism.

Elmar Valiyev on the square in Ganja

The liberals did not have the will of the people, and they openly call for tactics of terror. But the supporters of the Popular Front Party and other liberals, hiding behind this supposedly popular will, call on people to go to the square on July 10 with a slogan in defense of terrorism. By the way, the first terrorists who opened fire on the tsarist officials, united in the "Narodnaya Volya".

Is this the funeral of liberalism? What are we talking about? The ashes of liberalism are at rest since the beginning of the 2000s. This is the formation of a new coalition: liberal-Shi'ism, coming against the secular power and the secular state, surrounded by the Templars and Crusaders of the twenty-first century.

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