Azerbaijan’s Week of Culture was kicked off with the presence of Iranian and Azerbaijani officials, as well as more than sixty Azeri artists on July 4, 2017 in Tehran, Iran.
In the past week, an important event took place in the Iranian culture. Azerbaijan’s Week of Culture was held with the presence of Abulfas Garayev, Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan, and more than sixty Azeri artists in the Iranian cities of Tehran, Isfahan and Ardabil.
Four factors lie behind the success of programs for the Week of Culture. The first factor was the will of the governments which showed that relations between Tehran and Baku, after their ups and downs, have passed the confidence-building process, and that the resolve of the policy-makers of the two countries is based on the comprehensive strengthening of relations, including human relations. The second factor is the unique cultural commonalities of the two countries in the religious, historical, civilization and linguistic areas that have created the will of nations to continue their cultural interactions. The third factor was the cultural elites of the two countries, including writers, poets, artists and academics who have the ability to influence public opinion, and can play a positive role in the relations between the two countries at various times. And the fourth factor was the media and the role of news networks that paved the way for strengthening cultural interactions.
There is no doubt that human interactions, especially with neighboring cultures, can reduce the differences between countries by emphasizing on commonalities, and create unity and sympathy among nations. The relations between Iran and Azerbaijan, which is on a positive track in securing the interests of the two countries, have some enemies, and some of the regional and trans-regional countries and also other third parties are not interested in the friendship of Tehran and Baku being strengthened. In this path, the deeper cultural ties are between the two countries, the less the controversial competition is between them, and we can see the decrease in disputes by using common cultural capacities. People’s relations can reduce the differences, and strengthen the ties of the two nations by increasing cultural exchanges, strengthening people’s interactions through the development of the tourism industry, continuously holding Friendship Weeks, safeguarding the common cultural heritage and jointly registering them at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), reviving manuscripts as one of the richest works of civilization, interacting in the fields of movies, art, music, books, publication and developing relations between the elites of the two countries through cultural dialogues.
In the field of religious interactions, there is no doubt that Islam and the Shia religion in Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are believed by the majority of the people, and the Shiites have the highest cultural advantage in these two countries. Azerbaijan is known as the second largest Shia country among Muslim countries, and Islam and Shi’ism serve as the main factors in the human links between the peoples of Iran and Azerbaijan. The independence of Azerbaijan was seen as a good opportunity for the Muslims to come out of the Soviet anti-religious system, and to restore their own religion. Today, Azerbaijan is viewed in the world as a Muslim country, and Islamic countries support Baku’s positions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and Islam is considered as one of the factors for the national unity of this country. Of course, one should not assume that the level of awareness and adherence of the Shiites of the Republic of Azerbaijan to religious beliefs is the same as that of other Islamic countries, and this is the point where those with deviant thoughts like Wahhabism are hoping to influence the Azeri community. Today the Wahhabi ideology, guided by Saudi Arabia, is providing a fake and violent image of Islam, and promoting the Takfiri terrorism, and the Republic of Azerbaijan is also vulnerable to this ideology. In recent years, the Wahhabi extremist movement has been active in Azerbaijan, and radical groups with the financial and political support of some Arab countries have sent a number of Azeris to help the ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The government and people of Azerbaijan - Shia and Sunni - and even the non-religious factions, are opposed to the growth of extremism in their country, and do not welcome this negative phenomenon. The Azeri cultural and security officials also recognize the damage done by extremist groups, and consider Shiite teachings as an antidote for deviant Wahhabi teachings. At this point, Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan can expand their cultural-educational cooperation through taking inspiration from Islamic knowledge, and by educating people, especially religious young people, they can prevent them going to radical groups.
A new chapter in relations between the two countries has begun after holding Azerbaijan’s Week of Culture in Iran, and following up on the agreements made and planning for the start of the executive steps could help deepen the friendly relations between them, and secure national interests of the parties in the course of operationalizing the win-win diplomacy.
© Khabar Online
Mohsen Pakaeen, Former Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Republic of Azerbaijan, is the senior fellow at IRAS.
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