Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the first assembly of the Azerbaijani women - September 16, 1998

Dear women, mothers, sisters and daughters!

Distinguished participants of the assembly!

I welcome you, the participants of the first assembly of the Azerbaijan women and wish you the best!

My congratulatory letter to the assembly was conveyed yesterday. Unfortunately, I could not take part at your meeting yesterday. But it is not my fault. Your organizational committee told me when to come to the assembly. I am a disciplined person. If I had been told to come yesterday, I would have come. It is my pleasure to attend your assembly.

I am informed about the work of the assembly, the speeches and proposals made yesterday. I am very interested in your assembly. I am going to watch your meetings recorded.

Now men are very active here. They made speeches on your behalf. I even wanted to ask women to deliver speeches, too. But I was aware about your program. That`s why, as a disciplined person, I obeyed your rules and listened to the speeches made by men.

However, the speeches of our men are not the main part of this assembly. Of course, they gave important information to the participants of the assembly. But the atmosphere here, your solidarity and happiness made more impression on me.

I have participated almost at all the ceremonies and meetings held in Azerbaijan in the recent fifty years, especially since 1969 when I came to power in Azerbaijan. The first ceremony in this palace was organized in the December of 1972. A lot assemblies, international conferences, anniversaries have been held here since then. I have taken part in many of them. They all were organized on high levels.

But I see such a view here for the first time. Four assemblies of the Azerbaijani women were held during the Soviet time. They were of big importance, as they played an important role in the development of women. But none of them can be compared with the assembly held here today. It is the first assembly of the women of the independent Azerbaijan. For the first time most of the participants of the meeting here are woman. Since women are the most beautiful members of the society, we have so much beauty here.

There is a nice view and atmosphere here indeed.

I did not hear the comments on the speeches made yesterday. But the atmosphere and the documents adopted excited me here, today. I was very excited when a girl from Agdam recited a potem. I listened to her under such impressions. I have seen a lot of ceremonies. But I have never been excited like this. Today I feel your attitude towards me and mine towards you.

I think that this assembly is one of the historical events in the history. With this assembly the Azerbaijani women are establishing the women`s movement and activity in Azerbaijan. You are doing a great job. I congraulate you.

The Azerbaijani women are always known for their intelligence, wisdom, honor, diligence, courage, patriotism, loyalty and beauty. Our women have always worked a lot. Azerbaijan has and had prominent female figures. At the same time, the Azerbaijani women could not enjoy many rights for centuries.

The 20th century is the age of big achievements for the Azerbaijani women. The biggest achievement was the emancipation of the Azerbaijani women. We are used to the current situation of women.

But it was not like this in the past. Despite working hard, our women did not have many rights. During the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan the Azerbaijani women were granted suffrage for the first time. Since 1920 women have been free, enjoyed equal rights and held worthy positions in the society.

70 per cent of the people working in the sphere of medicine, 50-60 per cent in education, and 70 per cent in culture are women in Azerbaijan. However, it was not like this in the beginning of the 20th century. We know just some representatives of the literate women in Azerbaijan at the end of 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th century. There was no female doctor then. Now you see how big our development is. Women works in all the spheres now.

One of the achievements for our people in the 20th century was the elimination of illiteracy. Women played an important role in this. They became literate, then became teachers, sent their own children to schools and contributed to the literacy of our people. Now our level of literacy is much higher than that of many countries.

The woman hold worthy positions in Azerbaijan. Since yesterday you have raised some problems. For example, you propose that women must be represented in the governmental structures more. I agree with you. The council elected by you will implement into life necessary measures. At the same time, I understand that the outcomes of the assembly will create big problems for us. So please submit me the problems, which the government will solve. Now I think that in order to implement your proposals into life, it is necessary to issue a presidential decree and charge the relevant bodies for their solution.

There were congratulations from abroad, for example the First Lady of the USA Hillary Clinton, the First Lady of Georgia Nanuli Shevardnadze. The speeches made by the heads of the Georgian and Ukrainian delegations were sincere and nice. I thank our friendly countries for those speeches and congratulations on your behalf. The Georgian delegation showed my picture with the Georgian women. I remember that it was taken long ago. President Shevardnadze is also on the photo. The Georgian women are very beautiful. So are the Azerbaijani women.

In general, it symbolizes our old frienship. The Azerbaijani and Georgian peoples have a great friendship for centuries. The friendship between Azerbaijan and Georgia is a big factor in establishing peace in the Casucasus now.

I think that women must take a more active part in the development of Azerbaijan. We need it. After independence Azerbaijan took the right course. A legal, democratic and secular state is being established in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is pursuing democracy and market economy. For this we are conducting reforms in all the spheres. Our political reforms include adopting our first Constitution, adoption a number of laws and issuance of many decrees.

Our economic reforms aim at the establishment of the market economy in Azerbaijan. They include privatization, agrarian reforms, creation of conditions for free enterpreneurship, attraction of foreign investments and integration of Azerbaijan into the world economy. We are implementing these programs and achieving successes.

The social reforms are also being conducted. A commission for conduction of reforms in medicine has been established, the proposals have been submitted, and soon the spective decisions will be adopted. Proposals on education have also been prepared. The Ministry of Labour and Social Maintenance of Population is implementing programs into life. Many gret things are being done in other spheres. Our main goal is to develop democracy and market economy in Azerbaijan.

All our reforms yield positive results. You also witness positive changes in the economy of Azerbaijan. The congratulation of the International Operating Company was read here. AIOC invested USD 1,2 billion in our economy. A few days ago the drilling rig "Istiglal" was put into operation. The another consortium spent USD 20 million for the renovation of that drig. Additionally, a lot of people are employed in these companies. It demonstrates the economic development of Azerbaijan.

It is true that we still have economic difficulties. There are people living in poverty and people who have become refugees. Their situation is very hard. It is because of the transitional period. This period is not easy. I believe that our policy is improving our economy and the welfare of our people.

Some say that 90-95 percent of the population of Azerbaijan live in poverty. Our visitors see that the people live well here. Of course, there are also people living in poverty. We help them. Minister of Labour and Social Maintenance of Population Ali Nagiyev informed about the increase of pensions. There are over one million pensioners in Azerbaijan. Salaries are also being increased. Some say as if the men-of-art and culture receive the least salary. But we increase and shall increase their salaries.

However, we need to increase our revenues in order to implement all our reforms. At the same time, it is not good to claim that the welfare of the population of Azerbaijan is very bad.

Our biggest problems are the restoration of our territorial integrity and improvement of conditions of the refugees. I express my respect especially to the mothers of the martyrs and the women living in hard conditions as refugees. These are the problems I pay attention. I always strive to liberate our occupied territories and return the refugees home. We shall achieve it.

Before coming here I met the representatives of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of OSCE. As you are aware, OSCE established the so-called Minsk Group in 1992 in order to solve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict peacefully. The summits of OSCE were held in Budapest in 1994, in Lisbon in 1996. There we could achieve some useful documents on the solution of the problem. Currently the co-chairs of the Minsk Group are Russia, the USA and France. They try to achieve peaceful solution of the conflict.

Recently there was a break in their activity. Yesterday they visited Azerbaijan. Today I had a meeting with them, which lasted more than two hours. We support the peaceful solution of the conflict. That`s why we reached a ceasefire agreement in 1994. This ceasefire regime has been lasting for four years. Some critisize it. But I stopped the war. There is no more blood, no more losses. Some territories of Azerbaijan have been occupied, because of the people who criticize me, many people had to leave their homes.

Today in my meeting with the co-chairs of the Minsk Group I stated once more that this problem must be solved peacefully. It is necessary to establish peace. The war can not continue eternally. Each war has an end. Azerbaijan does not want the outbreak of war again.

However, there are some strict principles I support. They were adopted at the Lisbon summit in 1996: the occupied territories must be liberated, the Armenian armed forces must be withdrawn from them, the displaced persons must return home. The Nagorno-Karabakh may be granted a high self-administrative status within Azerbaijan. Long-lasting and reliable peace must be established between Azerbaijan and Armenia. We support the peaceful solution of the conflict on the conditions mentioned above. We shall never agree to grant the Nagorno-Karabakh independence. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan can not be violated. We shall not yield n inch of our territory to anybody.

We negotiate on these principles. I think that we can solve the conflict peacefully via negotiations. I watch TV programs. Two weeks ago I met the representatives of the displaced persons. They live in hard conditions, mostly in tents, but they can understand the situation and endure all the difficulties. I thank all our refugees for their patience.

But the opposition could never endure these difficulties. They live in luxury on the account of income from unknown sources. They do not meet refugees, but have big claims.

The liberation of the occupied territories and restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan are our primary tasks. We shall achieve them.

The democratization is being successfully implemented in Azerbaijan. The first democratic Constitution was adopted, the democratic parliamentary elections were held. Soon there will be presidential elections. Effective laws have been adopted or are being implemented in order to hold democratic elections. However, some oppositional and extremist forces try to break the stability and create chaos in Azerbaijan like in 1991-1993.

It is a pity. But I am not surprised. Because some oppositional forces do not need democracy, independence and stability. They need chaos and turmoils.

But it is no longer possible. The Azerbaijani people and I, as President, will never let chaos emerge again. Just remember the June of 1993. A civil war broke in Azerbaijan then. Some people in the power escaped then.

For five years we have been doing our best in order to stabilize the situation in Azerbaijan. We have had a stability for the recent three years. But those people are still hiding or making provocations. They want to create chaos, because the next elections will demonstrate that the democratization is under way in Azerbaijan.

They wanted to organize a meeting on August 15. We have nothing against it. The Constitution of Azerbaijan defines the right of people to assemble. But they have to obey the rules. The opposition organized a meeting in Motodrom on August 15. But their claims are not accepted by the society.

They want to violate the stability by organizing meetings. The city authorities declared that the suitable place for meetings is Motodrom. But the opposition wants to assemble in Azadliq Square. What there? Azerbaijan has its own laws. I shall never let anybody violate the laws of Azerbaijan and stability here.

But the opposition still wants to hold a meeting in Azadliq Square. It is declared that Azadliq Square is the place for the national event. Not everyone can organize a meeting there. There is a place for meetings, which is Motodrom. I shall organize our meeting there, too. The parties initiated my candidacy, want to organize my meeting with the people on September 19. I agreed. Since this hall is not so big for a bigger meeting, we are going to assemble in Motodrom.

I can go there. Can`t they? Violating the laws, opposing the policy are crimes. 78 policemen were injured. 30 of them are in critical conditions. The criminals must be punished. Nobody will be allowed to create turmoils and chaos in Azerbaijan.

I defend the right of the Azerbaijani population. I took an oath that I shall secure the right of our citizens. Because our people trust me. I also rely on our people. With the people`s help I can do hard jobs.

I was invited to take power in June 1993. I took the responsibility during the hardest period of Azerbaijan. I understood that the sitution was extremely hard. I have also a private life, a family. But I took the responsibility for the interests of the Azerbaijani people.

I have faced a lot of difficulties since 1993. Then Azerbaijan was almost torn apart. So-called Talysh-Mugan Republic was declared in Lankaran. Ganja was out of control. Some separatist movements were active in the northern part, too. People did not feel safe in Baku. We arranged everything in those years.

I remember the October events of 1994. Some people wanted to overthrow the government, even kill me. I addressed our people on TV late in the evening. I shall never forget that night. After my speech on TV, thousands of people assembled around the Presidential Palace. Most of them were women. That was a critical period. However, with the help of the Azerbaijani people, we could overcome those difficulties.

When I saw the women of different ages, I was surprised how much they love and trust me. I am excited when I remember those moments.

Similar events happened again in March 1995. The opposition parties together with OMON wanted to overthrow the government. They were supported from abroad. But everybody knows that Heydar Aliyev will never let Azerbaijan be divided.

I rely on the Azerbaijani people. I am an experienced person. But I don`t feel a hero. I am a hero thanks to your support. Relying on you, I am leading an independent policy of Azerbaijan. All the parties in Azerbaijan should know that they can function only within the laws of Azerbaijan. Illegal actions will not be allowed. As a guarantee of the Constitution and laws, I shall ensure the safety of our citizens.

Dear women! I have had a lot of meetings. But I have never met people like you. You had discussions earlier. Since half past two we have been here. Now it is 8 o`clock. You are so patient and disciplined. I admire you.

I have some advice. You are active participants in the public and political life. I want you to be much more active. I would like the men to learn discipline, patience and loyalty from you.

Women have a great influence in society. Even though the women are not represented in the governmental structures so much, you still have a great influence. That`s why, I want our men to learn from you.

I thank you also for your contributions to the establishement of the Azerbaijani army. Your sons serve in our army now. Yesterday I issued a decree on the enrollment of the young people at the age of 18 to the army. Since there is a stability and peace in our country, our youth just need to serve in the army for two years. At the same time, they learn how to defend their motherland there. Be sure that we have an army able to defend our independence and territorial integrity. I thank our women for their contributions. I hope that they will raise patriotic people for our country further.

Dear ladies! I am satisfied with my meeting with you. I am excited today. But I am surprised with your reactions to my speech.

I think that this assembly is successful. It will be a historical event in the women`s movement in Azerbaijan. I congratulate and wish you the best!

Long live the Azerbaijani women!

Long live Azerbaijan!

The newspaper "Azerbaycan", September 17, 1998