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Azerbaijan: Islamic Party Trial Brings Fresh Scrutiny to Religious Hamlet

A woman in a chador walks from the Rehime Khanim Pir past Islamic and pro-burqa slogans. (Photo: Vladic Ravich)

The trial of senior members of the banned Islamic Party of Azerbaijan on charges of terrorism and plotting a government coup again has centered attention on the hyper-conservative Baku suburb of Nardaran, where the party got its start.

A largely agricultural town of around 8,000 people, Nardaran is located only 20 miles northwest of Baku, but is seen by natives and outsiders alike as a different world. Billboards of the late President Heydar Aliyev, ubiquitous elsewhere in Azerbaijan, are not to be seen here. Instead, pride of place goes to murals citing the sayings of Imam Hussein, the first imam of Shi’a Islam.

No national police are allowed into Nardaran and no pork or alcohol is sold in its vicinity. The majority of women are fully covered in black chadors and religious graffiti written in Azeri, Russian and Arabic adorns its streets.

“Nardaran is a separate republic,” commented a local policeman.

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Vladic Ravich is a freelance reporter and photographer formerly based in Baku.

Azerbaijan: Islamic Party Trial Brings Fresh Scrutiny to Religious Hamlet

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