The Chairman of the State Committee on Work with Diaspora of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Fuad Muradov in an exclusive interview with the Azeri Observer Magazine talks about the main achievements gained in the process of consolidation of Azerbaijani diaspora all over the world, the cooperation with other organizations and projects aimed at the country’s promotion at the international arena. He provides information on the measures taken to help the compatriots abroad to retain their identity and culture, special media for the diaspora and the opportunities created for Azerbaijani youth living abroad.
AZERI OBSERVER EDITORIAL STAFF
Question: Mr. Fuad Muradov, you have been chairing the State Committee on Work with Diaspora of the Republic of Azerbaijan for nearly two years. A number of experts, as well as most of our compatriots abroad, argue that there has been a revival in the activities of the Azerbaijani diaspora. How do you assess this period and what events do you remember in the activities of the Azerbaijani diaspora in 2019?
Answer: First of all, I would like to note that the implementation of the diaspora policy of our country has been progressive, and much work has been done to assist our compatriots, conveying the realities of Azerbaijan to the international community and promoting our country. However, in line with the challenges of the modern world, there is a need for a new strategy in the diaspora policy – a strategy that meets modern requirements. Currently, the State Committee has several important tasks, the most important of which is the achievement of closer cooperation and coordination of our compatriots living abroad.
Within a short period of time, official visits have been made to the United States, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, Turkey, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria and Israel. During the official trips, we met with our compatriots, learned about their problems and called for the solidarity of our national moral values. Thus, at the initiative of our compatriots, 11 Coordination Councils, which covers 27 European countries, were established. The purpose of these councils is to increase the efficiency of Azerbaijani diaspora organizations, and to achieve greater success in coordinated activities. A working group has been established to set up boards in the United States and Turkey, and this work is being continued in accordance with the Strategic Roadmap. In general, 2019 is remembered for many positive moments regarding the Azerbaijani diaspora. The Medal “For service in diaspora activity” has been established, 10 Azerbaijani houses were created and put into operation by our compatriots, and Azerbaijani schools named “Karabakh” started functioning in four countries.
Q.: One of the main goals of the State Committee is to convey the realities of Azerbaijan to the world. Which steps have been taken in this area?
A.: Azerbaijani Diaspora Youth Summer Camp organized in cooperation with the Fund for Support to Azerbaijani Diaspora, and Azerbaijani Diaspora Youth Winter School in Brussels are examples of the work carried out in this area. Young people are given the opportunity to become familiarized with their historical homeland during the camp, as well as obtain information regarding Azerbaijan. Another important aspect of the organization of such camps is the formation of a network of Azerbaijani youth living around the world. The advantages of Azerbaijani schools named “Karabakh” opened in a number of countries on the initiative of Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, the First vice-president of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, are undeniable. The goal of these schools, that have already been launched in four countries (France, Switzerland, Sweden and Poland), is to teach Azerbaijani language, literature, history, and culture to Azerbaijani children growing up in foreign countries, and to help them retain their national identity in the future and to represent the interests of our people and our State.
Q.: One of the main activities of the State Committee in terms of a diaspora policy in Azerbaijan is to establish diaspora affairs.
A.: The humanitarian projects initiated by Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, as the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, have a tremendous impact on the creation of a positive image of our country in various international organizations and religious communities. Thanks to these projects it became possible to establish contacts and communication. The Azerbaijani diaspora organizations abroad have been motivated by this initiative, a positive attitude towards Azerbaijan enhanced, and facilitated conditions for diaspora affairs were created.
Q.: Apparently, a lot of work has been done to implement the diaspora policy. Which important steps would you specifically highlight?
A.: A Strategic Road Map of the State Committee on Work with Diaspora has been elaborated and consistently implemented; “Diaspora TV” and “Diaspora FM” were created. Twice a month, the program “Homeland Is Not Far Away” is broadcast on Public TV. The program covers the life and activities of our compatriots living abroad, events arranged by the Azerbaijani diaspora, and activities of the State Committee.
The Azerbaijani Diaspora Scientists Information System (http://www.elmidiaspora.az/) has been stablished and is constantly updated with information of over 500 Azerbaijani scientists.
An Internet address has been established at www.azerbaycan.li, where the biographies of Azerbaijanis living in different countries are constantly being collected.
For the first time, an infographic diaspora map (http://www.diasporamap.com) was created and put into use. Currently, the map contains information of around 531 organizations from 48 countries. 106 Diaspora organizations have been provided with an appropriate support for the development of their websites and e-mail services.
Representatives of Azerbaijani communities from Germany, France, Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia visited our country on December 16-21, 2019 with the support and organization of the State Committee on Work with Diaspora.
The visits of our young people who have achieved success abroad have been organized within the framework of the “Brain Gain” – another program run by the State Committee. Meetings of the two young participants have already been held in Baku with administration, staff and students of ADA University and that of the Azerbaijan Technical University.
The State Committee on Work with Diaspora has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with several local institutions: on January 29, 2019 with the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, on February 15, 2019 with the State Agency for Citizen Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and on July 1, 2019, the Memorandum of Understanding on Mutual Cooperation with the Center on Communication and Analysis of Economic Reforms was signed.
Work has been done to improve the legislative framework. A law project on the establishment of the Medal “For services in Diaspora activity” was developed and adopted. In this regard, by the relevant Decree of His Excellency President Ilham Aliyev, dated December 25, 2019, amendments were made to the Law on Establishment of Orders and Medals of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Q.: Mr. Muradov, what changes are expected in the activities of the State Committee in 2020? Would you share your thoughts on the future plans?
A.: First of all, I would like to say that in the globalized world, the issue of preserving the Azerbaijani language, national identity and culture is also relevant for the Azerbaijani Diaspora.
With the initiative and support of the State Committee on this matter, we have prepared a textbook for our compatriots abroad. The plan is to distribute the book in Azerbaijani language schools in different countries and to open “Karabakh” schools in several other countries. We plan to continue the process of creating Azerbaijani houses in different countries and cities. The establishment of such centers in eight more locations is envisaged for the next year. Azerbaijani Houses with a single logo will be an open space for each of our compatriots abroad, where they can host various events and discussions. Many cultural projects will be held in the United States and the Russian Federation. Implementation of these projects started in February 2020. We hope that this year, the law on compatriots, will be passed by the new parliament. Work on the formation of the “Rules for providing social assistance to low-income Azerbaijanis living abroad” is currently in process. We are working on a new unique platform for communication between our compatriots, and the work is now being completed. The platform will be ready for the use of our compatriots soon. One of our big projects is the establishment of the Azerbaijan-Turkey Cultural Foundation. All technical issues in this regard have been resolved and we plan to open it next year. It will be one of our largest funds to operate in Turkey. Proposals for the Summer Camp of Diaspora Youth from Turkic-speaking countries are being discussed, and concrete decisions will be made in the near future. We are also working on projects related to the networking of Azerbaijani scientists.
Q.: Speaking of care and attention to our compatriots abroad, an Azerbaijani House recently opened in Germany. In their speeches, our compatriots also appreciated this.
A.: 2019 was also remembered for Azerbaijani Houses. Generally, Azerbaijani Houses in Germany, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey have been created and put into operation by our compatriots, and work in this direction continues. In Germany, Azerbaijani Houses operate in both Berlin and Cologne. Azerbaijani Houses abroad are very important. The unity and cooperation of our compatriots are of particular importance in terms of their integration into the local community. In this sense, special attention should be paid to the activities of the Houses, open to anyone who loves the State and people of Azerbaijan, and who cherish our national interests. I hope that the Azerbaijani Houses will play a significant role in the organization and solidarity of our compatriots living abroad. Azerbaijani Houses are a focal point for meetings and discussions of Azerbaijanis.
Q.: In one of your speeches, you mentioned that networking of Azerbaijanis living abroad is underway. Your thoughts on this topic are interesting.
A.: As the State Committee – in accordance with the policy of the State and the instructions of the Head of State – we do everything possible to unite and strengthen Azerbaijanis around the world. Interviews of our compatriots, their lives and activities are presented to the public and a bibliographic database is being formed. The news about the Azerbaijani Diaspora is published regularly through the official website of the State Committee as well as on social media.
Q.: What is the role of young people in the Azerbaijani Diaspora? As it can be seen from the reforms carried out in our country, the young people are given privilege. How do you value the activity of our youth?
A.: Young people in the Azerbaijani diaspora are very active and love their country and their State. They are a leading power in the diaspora, as they are flexible, they have the language skills to interact, and they are constantly communicating with us. Summer Camps for Diaspora Youth are held. The first one dedicated to the “100th anniversary of the Republic” was hosted in Sheki and the 2nd Summer Camp “Nasimi-650” was held in Shamakhi. 700 youth from 54 countries have submitted their applications and 280 of them participated. The Winter Camp for Diaspora Youth has been organized in Brussels, the political center of Europe. The Azerbaijani Diaspora Volunteers Program is being implemented. 609 young people applied to be Diaspora volunteers. Given this massive appeal, we held a general meeting with them at the Nizami Cinema Center, where the volunteers engaged in group training.