The Right to be Azerbaijani
"You cannot begin to know the pain I have suffered all my life for being branded a political prisoner and sent by Stalin to a labor camp in Siberia. Even after I was freed, the KGB spied on me for 35 years, up until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. My friends and I were accused of speaking Azeri and of wanting to separate Azerbaijan from the Soviet Union. They sentenced us to 25 years of hard labor. Nobody ever expected us to come back alive.
I'm old now but if I had the chance to live my life all over again, I would do the same thing despite the hardships, the cold, hunger and abuse that I have had to endure. Through it all, I never lost my pride or dignity as an Azerbaijani."
Ismikhan Rahimov, 73, reflecting upon the seven years he spent in Siberian labor camps, beginning in 1948 when he was 22, until shortly after Stalin's death when he was released. Rahimov, an English language professor is one of the most favorite, esteemed and sought-after instructors in Baku.
From Azerbaijan International (6.1) Spring 1998.
© Azerbaijan International 1998. All rights reserved.