After the Azerbaijan’s air space was violated on 22 February 2007 by the Iranian helicopters, the tension between the two countries has been going on. The Head of the Azerbaijani Border Guard Service Elçin Guliyev stated that the incident was verified and the government protested Iran. Meanwhile, the duel of words between the officials of both countries is going on. The Iranian Administration accuses Azerbaijan of “keeping the US Base on its territory” and Azerbaijan accuses Iran of “carrying out intelligence activities within its territory and inciting the ethnic discrimination.” The Chief Advisor of the Civilian Solidarity Party of Azerbaijan Samir Esedli in a statement he made to the newspaper “Events” said that recently the Iranian agents have been carrying out propaganda to create sectarian discrimination in the vicinity of Baku and the southern regions of the country. Within this framework, it has been noted that Iran has turned to the ethnic groups of Shiite sect and has intensified its work around the villages of Baku, the southern provinces, the city of Gence and its vicinity. Iran reportedly has chosen the ethnic groups which are “close to the culture of Shiite and Persian” and has had close interest to the Talishs living in the southern areas of Azerbaijan (Masallı, Lenkeren, Lerik) and in the Astara province on the Iranian border. According to the official data of the Azerbaijan State, there are 85 thousand Azerbaijan citizens of Talish origin. Talıshes reportedly speaking a dialect close to the Persian language are a community on whom Iran can make an influence easily due to the fact that they are Shiite – Muslim in religion. Meanwhile, Iran is stated to have carried out activities directed at the ethnic group of Tat living in the villages in the vicinity of Baku as well as Talishes. The group which is of Persian origin and whose number is close to the Talishes may also constitute an element of threat for Azerbaijan. Assessing the developments Samir Esedli stated that “Iran which violates human rights and does not grant the constitutional rights of its citizens on its own territories has no right to make ethnic and religious discrimination on the territory of another country.” Due to the increased planned activities by Iran against Azerbaijan, the various measures are also taken by the Azerbaijani officials. Many people in Baku and Gence reportedly have been arrested on the ground that they work for the Iranian intelligence and they have been tried for the offence of “betrayal to the country”. As of February 2007, it is stated that the editor of the newspaper called “Talışe Sedo” Novruzeli Memmedov is among those who have been arrested by the Azerbiajni security forces on the ground that they work for Iran. It is stated that Branch Director of the Languages Department of the Azerbaijani Sciences Academy Memmedov will be tried for the offence of betrayal to the country.
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