FACTFILE - AZERBAIJAN: 125 Religious Groups Reregistered.

Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 9 April 2002

For the first time, Keston News Service has obtained from the State Committee for Relations with Religious Organisations a full list of religious organisations, by denomination, that have managed to gain re-registration. Zemfira Rzayeva, head of the legal and registration department, gave a detailed list to Keston by telephone from Baku on 8 April.

She said a total of 125 religious organisations have been re-registered so far. This compares with 406 religious organisations that had registration with the Ministry of Justice under the old system. Rafik Aliev, the State Committee chairman, estimated to Keston last December that there are about 2,000 religious communities in Azerbaijan (see KNS 12 December 2001).

Of the 125 re-registered communities, 107 are Muslim, 11 are Christian, 4 are Jewish and 3 are of other faiths. According to Rzayeva, the non-Muslim re-registered communities are:

Russian Orthodox diocese of Baku and the Caspian

Baptist church (Russian-speaking), Baku

Baptist church, Gyanja

Lutheran church, Baku

Nehemiah church, Baku

Star in the East church, Baku

Cathedral of Praise church, Baku

Catholic church, Baku

Molokan community, Baku

Molokan community, Sumgait

New Apostolic Church, Baku

European (Ashkenazi) Jewish community, Baku

Georgian Jewish community, Baku

Mountain Jewish community, Baku

Mountain Jewish community, Kuba

Baha'i community, Baku

Hare Krishna community, Baku

Jehovah's Witness community, Baku

Rzayeva also reported that 95 further applications are still being considered.

Among those whose applications for re-registration have been sent back for "corrections" are all six parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church (3 in Baku, 1 in Gyanja, 1 in Sumgait and 1 in Khachmaz), two Baptist churches (1 in Neftchala and 1 in Sumgait) and the Adventist church in Nakhichevan.

Not being considered are the applications from the Lutheran church in Baku led by Tamara Gumbatova or from the European (Ashkenazi) Jewish community in Baku led by Moshe Bekker. Rzayeva told Keston that Gumbatova's application had "no legal address" and contained "very many legal mistakes", while Bekker had been "removed from office" by an internal community meeting last year and was therefore unable to apply for re-registration for his community. Also not being considered is the application from the Love Baptist church (Azeri-speaking) in Baku, which the State Committee has had liquidated through the courts (see KNS 8 April 2002).

Given that 406 religious communities had Ministry of Justice registration, Rzayeva could not explain what had happened to the other 186 communities who have not been re-registered and whose applications are not still being considered.

Rzayeva told Keston that the re-registration process is ongoing and that there is no cut-off date. However, in a letter of 28 March to the Baku office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Rafik Aliev declared that the re-registration process would conclude by the end of May. (END)