Gunay completely lost her eyesight in 2015. In the beginning, the "constant darkness was terrible,” she recalls. A few years later she decided to become an actress in a theater for actors with disabilities and found herself in another world. Gunay recalls the transition as moving "from darkness into a bright world.”
From darkness to the light
Early examples of Azerbaijani artists tackling gender issues can be found in the beginning of the 20th century, first on the pages of Molla Nasreddin, a satirical magazine used political cartoons to publicize the problems facing Azerbaijani women in the country’s patriarchal society, including lawlessness, illiteracy, and early marriage. It was a radical shift for artists in the country; prior to that, Azerbaijan art was dominated by decorative paintings and portraits based on the Tabriz miniature school.
The female identity in art
68-year-old Raisa Farzalizade is a reed weaver from Musakucha village in Masalli, a southern district of Azerbaijan.
In Masalli, women have kept the art of weaving with reeds alive--and the craft has provided them with a way to earn money outside of traditional farm work.
For the past 45 years, Raisa has been supporting her family by weaving mats. She continues to weave today to supplement her pension, despite the fact that the work is hard.
Published with the support of COBERM, a joint initiative of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the organization Chai Khana and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of either the EU or UNDP.
Women in Azerbaijan use ancient craft to feed families
Afgan Maharramov, 54, has been driving a taxi on the central streets of Baku for nearly 20 years. He is the only breadwinner in his family. But Afgan, like many other traditional taxi drivers, is struggling to compete against new taxi apps. Afgan says work for traditional taxis is gradually disappearing from the market, making it harder for drivers like him to earn a living. Nearly a thousand drivers working in Baku have been boycotting taxi apps since the summer of 2020. They also established the Public Union of Taxi Drivers in order to protect the rights of taxi drivers in the age of smartphones. Others, like young inventor Rahim Khoyski, believe rideshare apps are the future. Rahim, a former taxi driver, is developing his own app for cabbies and passengers. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Published with the support of COBERM, a joint initiative of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the organization Chai Khana and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of either the EU or UNDP. _______________________________________________________________________________________
Old taxi vs. New taxi
Editorial note: "Now we are the witnesses of a real boom of ‘90s fashion, a fashion style that we hated, did not want to wear, and tried to forget. We associated the fashion of ‘90s in Azerbaijan with the color of black, sheepskin and leather coats (made from artificial texture), blazers with bulky broad shoulders, sports costumes with classical shoes, T-Shirts with "Titanic" prints and platforms, volumized bangs, which caused the madness, and "Cobra" perfume. The war that was just over, the flow of IDPs from Nagorno-Karabakh, the economic crisis and the struggle for the Independence, everything mixed..... however, despite the fear and people's concerns, somewhere in the centre of Baku, youngsters started to be involved in art and fashion; they began to mix their art skills with clothing design, trying to urge youth to choose clothes with taste.....
Fashion in Azerbaijan In Post-War Times
The two sharp devaluations of the manat in Azerbaijan in 2015 had an impact on all aspects of the economy, especially the business sector. In the capital of Baku and also in all regions, entrepreneurial activity decreased significantly.
Devaluation Effect On Entrepreneurship
“The last time I saw my children in September 2015, it was only for 10 minutes. They hugged me and asked “Mother, please, come with us.” I could say nothing. I only said “Your grandma is ill, I have to look after her. I shall come back,” and had to leave them.”
A Single Mother Struggles Between Debt and Access to Her Children
The sun was approaching its zenith, the air was cut by a chilly late September breeze. Our old UAZ-469, better known as Vilis, was loaded, ready to take us to sharper winds, up on the mountains in central Azerbaijan.
On The Move With Azerbaijan’s Nomads
Rattling wagons are a daily sight in a train terminal and Baku’s Bilajary Depot is no difference. Dozens of carriages clatter through the vast maze of tracks and control booths carrying oil and gasoline, Azerbaijan’s wealth. The labyrinth is also home to 25 families who live in dilapidated houses, where civil engineering meets desperation in a mix of wood, metal, and concrete. Most of the residents are displaced from Zangilan and Djabrayil, which lie around the territory under the control of the army of the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh. Since the fragile ceasefire in 1994, which enshrined the end of the conflict between the Armenian and Azerbaijan forces, the temporary relocation of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Azerbaijanis have become permanent - and their fate has fallen into oblivion.
Life in the Train Depot
22.20 PM. As the loud speakers announces the arrival of the train, passengers slowly descend to the platform from the waiting hall. The wagons dock, discharging its passengers before welcoming a new lot heading outside Baku to Astara, Azerbaijan’s southern most city marking the border with Iran. People hustle to stock up on water, sunflower seeds, and sweets from kiosks and wandering sellers.
Last Stop Astara
The USSR was rightly called the country of new cities - in its rush to build the perfect socialist industrial future, purposely-built apartment blocks, factories, and houses of culture sprung up out of nowhere to form the new conglomerate. Azerbaijan was no exception. Some now large cities were developed from these already existing, though small, villages, like Ali-Bayramli and Mingachevir; others were created from scratch, like Sumqayit. All these urban spaces share the rigid Soviet architecture and expanses of factories which attracted thousands of workers from all over Azerbaijan - and beyond. They also house thousands of displaced from Nagorno Karabakh who fled the region at the end of the open conflict in the 1990s. They are cities with little history, and their residents do not feel they totally belong to them.
Azerbaijan: Cities Born in the USSR
45 km from the centre of Shamakha, up at 1,700 metres, sits Zarat Kheybari, a cluster of 15 houses, a small school, and a locked mosque. Nothing else.
Meet The Tats
In the South Caucasus marriages outside the dominant ethnicity or nationality are largely disapproved of and Azerbaijan is no exception. A survey carried out in 2010 by the CRRC-Caucasus showed that an average of 90 percent of Azerbaijan’s citizens disapprove marriages with a foreigner with the percentage dropping to 50 percent only in case the husband is a Turk. Inter-racial unions are even rarer and remain taboo - conservative religious and traditional values combined mean that marrying a person from a different race is rare, when not unique.
Mixed Marriages: On Breaking Stereotypes in Azerbaijan
A desk, two chairs, heavy and blue curtains are at the back. Two men and a woman slowly move across the stage, their voices sounding crisp in the simple theatre.
On Stage at the People’s Theatre in Azerbaijan
"Women are constantly under control. Young girls are not visible in the old neighborhoods; they are back at home, because the streets are controlled by boys."
It’s a Mountain Man’s World
In her short poetic film, Gular Abbasova explores Tbilisi’s human-built environment in an unusual way
A phantom city
To prevent the spread of tthalassemia the government has taken steps since 2015 to pre-screen couples before they marry.
In Azerbaijan, tests come before marriage vows
"Victims of violence often prefer to keep silent. They think ‘my husband can beat me, swear at me.’ Their children also become victims.”
Living with fear: Azerbaijan’s domestic abuse nightmare
Don’t talk! is a poetic portrait of a woman whose life is manipulated by fear.
"No one here cares about our health or our life. We're all worried about our family, and our family is worried about us"
Azerbaijani labor migrants, unprotected and adrift during pandemic
A growing number of young couples in Azerbaijan are rejecting traditional dowries.
Dowries: A changing tradition in Azerbaijan
In many places around the world, albino people often face discrimination their entire lives. They are stigmatized as "white-headed", "white man", and those around tr eat them as "others". In Azerbaijan, albino people prefer to hide and isolate themselves from society. They are rarely interested in socializing.
Unwanted by his mother from birth, Givi also faced difficulties due to his skin color. But he wanted to prove himself in society and show that he is not different from everyone else; he wanted to prove that he is a part of society, too. For Givi, that meant becoming a bridge for "others" and being a pioneer. He says life is worth living regardless of the color of your skin.
This video was prepared with support from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) South Caucasus Regional Office. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of FES or Chai Khana.