Three stories of Migrants in Azerbaijan
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Travis Zamani moved to Azerbaijan because he was participated in political protests in his home country of Iran. Azerbaijan granted him refugee status.




Travis Zamani moved to Azerbaijan because he was participated in political protests in his home country of Iran. Azerbaijan granted him refugee status.

Travis, 25, was born in Tehran. From childhood he played multiple musical instruments: piano, guitar, santoor, and tar. In Tehran he was worked with the famous musician Farzad Farzin, but he had to run from the country because of his political views. In 2009 he helped organize oppositional protests in Iran. During the protests he was injured and had to be hospitalized. He left the court to avoid prosecution, and Azerbaijan was his best option. He moved there with no relatives, no friends, no acquaintances. At first he stayed in a hotel. Even though he was looking for a job, without a work permit nobody would hire him.

Life was difficult. For 2 months he was staying in a 10 sq.m. room that cost only 40 AZN per month.


“I don’t even remember my first impressions of Azerbaijan. Everyday I thought about how to survive that day. Here there is more freedom than in my country, but our people have similar mentalities -- that’s why I did not have any problems with integration, even though that I didn't know the language,” says Travis. 

After he was referred to the UN. "They didn't do anything except giving me a protection letter which I never used for anything, because its not valid for anything," he said. 

Today, he works as a web design freelancer, and plays music in pubs. He considers himself as a non Muslim, west supportive Iranian.

His parents still live in Iran, but he cannot go back to see them.

Murad Gattal


Murad was born in 1985 in Algeria. His mother is ethnically Russian and hails from Baku, and his father is Algerian. Murad’s father was stuying in Baku when the two met. They married, and moved to Algeria. Algeria was also affected by the collapse of the USSR. An Islamist party took power and a civil war broke. Parts of the non-muslim population were being killed, so Murad’s mother wanted to leave the country. His father, however, opposed the family fleeing. As a result, Murad’s parents divorced and his mother brought him and his brother back to Baku.

“I was too small to really communicate with my father. Of course, later when we had internet access I wrote him several times,” Murad says.


Murad’s mother wanted to send him to Arabic school, so he would not forget the language, even though they still had little hope for return. 

However, the Arabic schools were also focused on teaching Islam, and Murad’s family is Christian. Instead, he had to go to an ordinary school. Today he does not remember Arabic and still hasn’t learned Azeribaijani. 

Technically, I integrated: I got citizenship, finished school, got a free education... But I did not remain an Algerian, and did not become an Azerbaijani "

He says that all people are the same, and his new home is not much different than his birth country.

Yashar Esen

Yashar Esen born in 1980 in Tebriz and identifies as Iranian and Azerbaijani. From a young age, he enjoyed writing patriotic poetry and prose. He wanted to know the Azerbaijani language, but in Iran this was not supported.

“There were so many restrictions so there was not any  talks about creativity and art. In the universities, they do not draw natural figures. They do not know, have not seen, and do not understand how the human body looks. There is no department of sculpture. "

“There were time when I did not cut my hair, so because of it my father did not speak with me for 3 months. I was dating with girls, and we had to hide it, and because of it there were social pressures on me. I am against this system.” says Yashar.

In 2004 I came to my friend who suggested I enter the university here in Baku. I had funding for 2 years, and entered the Academy of Art. My parents were against.

He says that everything that he dreamt about is here in Baku: education, government, and language.

Today everything is as he wanted. He decided to go to Iran to visit his family, and attract like-minded students to study here.

He was friends with Rafiq Tagi, who published an article in the newspaper “Art” saying that Jesus was kinder than the Prophet Muhammed. As a result, legal charges were brought against him. And then Yashar proclaimed himself an atheist to support his friend. Now he doesn’t have citizenship, and even though his parents live in Iran, he cannot go visit. He lives in Baku with his wife, and works as a freelance architect.

Chai Khana
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