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Azerbaijani government accused Iran of trying to infiltrate the country’s mosques, resulting in removal of 118 clerics from their jobs

Iran was accused of attempting to influence Azerbaijan’s mosques; 118 clerics were removed from their jobs

On April 6, the Chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, Mubariz Gurbanli, announced that the Tehran regime had been attempting to establish Iranians in mosques in Azerbaijan.

Gurbanli added that his committee had been working patiently and purposefully to prevent this, as Iran was trying to spread its state-religion model to Azerbaijan and other surrounding countries. He also claimed that the Tehran regime had been conducting campaigns on social networks to carry out this propaganda in Azerbaijan.

Gurbanli further stated that after the authority to appoint people to mosques was transferred to the committee, about 120 people who received education and could express the state’s interests were appointed. At the same time, 118 clerics were removed from their jobs. He also mentioned the completion of repair work in the former Abu Bakir mosque and expected its opening soon.

Recently, around 400 Islamic-faith believers have been arrested in Azerbaijan, and social activists and human rights defenders have reported on this. Most of those arrested have been charged with drug possession, but their relatives and lawyers say these accusations are false. However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs claims that it is not aware of the arrest of 400 people.

On April 5, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Security Service, and the General Prosecutor’s Office released a statement claiming that a group was created for the purpose of establishing a “Karim” state governed by Sharia law in Azerbaijan. The information says that Iran’s special services have seized a group of people with material and religious propaganda, and crimes have been prepared in the direction of destabilizing Azerbaijan.

Furthermore, the initial traces of the terrorist act against MP Fazil Mustafa were linked to Iran, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan on March 31, 2023. The deputy was shot in front of his house on March 28, 2023, and the head of the security service of the embassy was killed in an armed attack on the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Iran on January 27, 2023. Employees of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Iran were subsequently evacuated to Baku.