Why has Azerbaijan declined the offer of Turkey's nationalist party to build a school in Shusha?
The Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) which is a member of the ruling coalition in Turkey, was planning to build a school in the city of Shusha in Karabakh, which returned under the control of Azerbaijan’s after the second Karabakh war in the fall of 2020. However, the project was later canceled, despite being previously approved by the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
At the same time, the Azerbaijani government still intends to build a school in Shusha.
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MHP’s plans to build a school in Shusha
In January 2021, the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) announced its intention to build a school in the Azerbaijani city of Shusha, liberated from occupation as a result of the second Karabakh war.
The school will bear the name of the great Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli, and the foundation of the educational institution will be laid on January 30, said party leader Devlet Bahceli.
“An appropriate place will be chosen for the construction of a school in Shusha, our ancient cultural center, and after that, its foundation will be laid, I wish you good luck!” Bahcheli said during a speech at a meeting of the party faction.
Bahcheli added that the proposal to build a school named after Uzeyir Hajibeyli in Shusha was approved by the presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey.
“I thank the heads of state for their attention at such a sensitive time. Each stage of the project will be reported to the distinguished presidents”.
Meeting with Aliyev in Baku
At the end of January 2021, a delegation from the MHP arrived in Baku.
The delegation was led by the deputy chairman of the party Mevlut Karakaya and it also included the head of the Gray Wolves movement Ahmet Yiyit Yildirim, the former head of Isparta municipalities, and an architect Yusuf Ziya Gunaydin.
On February 2, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received Mevlut Karakaya and during the meeting, they discussed the planned construction of a school in Shusha.
Who was going to run the school?
Mevlut Karakaya, when asked by the journalists, explained how the school in Shusha would be managed:
He stated that the decision on the form of school management will be made by the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan:
“After completion of construction, we will hand over the school to the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan. They will decide how to run this school. Our business is to build and hand over a school, we will not interfere with other issues. We will try to hand over to Azerbaijan a school corresponding to the history, culture, and atmosphere of Shusha”.
Why did MHP abandon the project?
Later on, Mevlut Karakaya posted an unexpected announcement on his Twitter page, stating that MHP opts out of the project:
“On January 16, 2021, I announced on my social media that we are launching construction of the nine-grade school, with the support of the Culture and Education Fund of the Gray Wolves, in the city of Shusha which plays a significant role in the spiritual and cultural life of Azerbaijan.
For this purpose, we have released our complete project of the construction of the school, and we wanted to name it after the composer of the national anthem of Azerbaijan, the late Uzeyir Hajibeyli, who was born in Shusha. The plan was to lay the foundation for this school on January 30th.
But the Azerbaijani authorities considered our project inappropriate and prepared a new, excellent project. Of course, this is their natural right, and we can only treat this with respect.
The party of the nationalist movement abandoned the school project precisely because of this. Help and donations for the construction of the school that we have received from our brothers will be returned to them soon and in full”, Bahceli wrote.
Reaction of the Azerbaijani authorities
While receiving the Minister of Education of Turkey on May 27, President Ilham Aliyev said that within the framework of the expected visit to Shusha of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ceremony of laying the foundation of the school offered by the Turkish side as a gift was included in the program, said Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan Hikmet Hajiyev, commenting on Bahceli’s statement.
“It was proposed to hold working discussions at the level of specialists in order to bring the architectural design of the building of the school of arts in line with the original architectural style of the city of Shusha.
There can be no talk of giving up this kind initiative. It is possible that the lack of a full report has led to a misunderstanding. We are confident that architectural issues of a technical nature will be discussed at the working level in an atmosphere of mutual understanding, and soon the construction of the Shusha School of Arts named after Uzeyir Hajibeyli will begin”, Hajiyev said.
The project for the construction of a school in Shusha by MHP was not accepted by Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani political scientist Shahin Jafarli said.
“Bahceli might not have spoken about it publicly. I think this is due to the fact that he was dissatisfied with the behavior of the Azerbaijani government.
Did the Turkish government itself support the MHP project, or not? There is no information about this.
Another interesting fact is that since April 17, the transportation of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey has been suspended on the basis of a bilateral agreement. This agreement is not part of the TANAP project. Gas supplies under a bilateral agreement were to continue until next year. Currently, negotiations are underway on this issue”, Shahin Jafarli explains.