Interview by Mr. Valeh Hajiyev, First Deputy Chairman of the State Committee on Work with Diaspora

  



In recent years, it has been observed that diaspora activities have expanded even more. We are aware of the successful activity of the Diaspora Committee, and therefore we want to congratulate you. How many countries around the globe where Azerbaijanis live are involved in diaspora activities?


-Thank you. In recent years, it has been observed that the interest of Azerbaijanis living abroad in diaspora work has increased significantly and the tendency towards unity has strengthened. Of course, there are reasons for this. The increase of the prestige of the Azerbaijani government on the international scale, the liberation of the occupied territories by self-state power, and the effectiveness of many other implemented projects have given a serious impetus to the activation of our diaspora. Although the period of the 44-day Patriotic War may not seem like a big historical period in terms of numbers, it is essentially an immeasurable period that led to the concept of unity, the enlargement of the rows of the Azerbaijani diaspora, and the increase in the quality indicators of its activity. Regardless of where they lived, our compatriots were eager to contribute to these historical processes and to play a certain role in conveying the true voice of Azerbaijan to the world community. Since that time, a new era of the diaspora movement was formed and principles of unity of our diaspora appeared.

Diaspora work is work when one acts on free will, where it is necessary to act without pursuing material interests, without expecting compensation, and putting the interests of the state above all else. Within  these criteria, the quality indicators of our diaspora work are already at a satisfactory level.

Currently, our compatriots living in 50 countries of the world are united in more than 500 diaspora organizations. Coordinating Councils were established to centralize the work of these organizations, to move from individual activity to collective activity, and to achieve unity of power, and this had a serious impact on the efficiency of the work.

The Committee on Work with Diaspora has a special role in increasing members’ engagement in our communities abroad. The committee supports the multi-directional diaspora activity of Azerbaijanis living abroad and contributes to the systematization and centralization of their work.

This year, the 5th Congress of World Azerbaijanis held in Shusha, our cultural capital, should be considered the pinnacle of the diaspora movement. This great event was not only important for strengthening the ties of our diaspora with the motherland, and defining goals in this field but also was an important tool for measuring the scale and quality of diaspora activity. The historical speech of the President of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, at that congress, his recommendations to our communities abroad clearly defined the future directions of our diaspora, and unity mechanisms, and encouraged the expansion of the scope of diaspora work. The ideas and recommendations of the head of state regarding the knowledge of the native language of our compatriots living abroad and their attachment to their motherland have led to further activation and unification of the diaspora.

Special attention is paid to the activities of organizing weekend Azerbaijani schools called “Karabakh”, which is targeted to open in foreign countries with the initiative and support of Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Vice-President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Teaching the mother tongue in these schools plays an invaluable role in terms of protecting our national identity and strengthening the unity factor. 

How was the management strategy of the Azerbaijani diaspora determined and by which concrete examples can this question be answered?

As a result of the long-term vision of Heydar Aliyev, the common national leader of the Azerbaijani people, the establishment of the State Committee on Work with Diaspora laid the foundation for a new stage in the history of the diaspora and played an invaluable role in uniting the potential of our compatriots living abroad for the protection of the common interests of our country. From that time until today, our diaspora has closely united around the ideology of Azerbaijan, which is our national ideology, has gone a certain way to demonstrate solidarity in national issues, and specified the directions of action, priorities, and goals.

Mr. President Ilham Aliyev, in his speeches regarding the victories achieved in the 44-day Patriotic War highly, evaluates the activities of the Azerbaijani diaspora, our compatriots living abroad. This is the trust demonstrated at the highest level and value given to our present diaspora.

It is worth noting that the main goal of the prepared Strategic Roadmap a few years ago was to achieve unity, prioritize common interests and organize systematic work of the Azerbaijani diaspora. Based on those basic principles, we have worked hard for the development of cooperation between the state and diaspora for the sake of common ideas and interests. Those types of work were applied systematically during the pandemic as well as during the Patriotic War. Generally, the highest stage of activation and organization of the Diaspora was observed during our great victory in Karabakh.

When we talk about activity plans, it is necessary to return to the topic of Coordination Councils. As we mentioned above, one of the most effective things for the unification and organization of our compatriots living abroad and becoming a great force capable of protecting the interests of our state was the creation of Coordination Councils and Azerbaijan Houses around the globe. The goal of those Councils is to strengthen local and regional activities, and over time to acquire observer status within international organizations. Coordination Councils involve Diaspora organizations, diaspora activists, and famous Azerbaijanis living abroad. The decision-making mechanism within the Councils is fully transparent. Currently, Azerbaijani Houses play the role of a socio-cultural space promoting our national and moral values ​​abroad, however, in the future it is planned to transform them into brain centers.

Many projects implemented in the last years such as “Diaspora Youth Summer Camps”, “Leadership Development”, “1+1”, “BrainGain” programs, “Azerbaijani Diaspora Women’s Network”, “Even though we are different, we are strong together”, “E-Academy” and others are part of strategic unification policy of our compatriots.

Today’s world order requires every nation and its diaspora to identify and benefit from its resources correctly. We have already identified the possibilities of diaspora organizations abroad. It is clear to us what the power of the existing diaspora organization abroad is, what it is capable of, and in which direction they can be more useful. Undoubtedly, the initiative of the diaspora is increasing today, and this has a fundamental nature in the matter of getting organized.

We have projected new plans to deepen of our activities towards making our diaspora more unified and unbreakable to adapt to the requirements of the modern world, and I consider we have much more plans for the future.

What are Azerbaijani communities abroad doing to increase their influence in the world?

-Sometimes experts try to compare and draw parallels with the possibilities of influence of the Azerbaijani diaspora in the international framework. And I would like to mention some points without making comparisons and parallels.

Today, Azerbaijani diaspora itself has the opportunity to make decisions and set priorities, therefore they must determine for themselves what the priorities are in the new world order.

They know better what they can do within the framework of the environment and society they live in.

Here, it is worth listing the steps that can be taken to increase the influence of our diaspora globally. The idea behind the Committee on this issue is that, first, our diaspora should be strengthened materially and morally to expand its influence worldwide, and should exhibit a new perspective on the concept of unity.

Secondly, we should try to increase their representation in various scientific and socio-political areas, and help them to be accepted in the society they live in. A good example of representation in political circles can be mentioned by our compatriots living in Sweden. Therefore, successful steps are already being taken in this area.

Thirdly, in any possible way, we should encourage Azerbaijanis living abroad, especially the new generation, to study in prestigious universities, and in this case, we need to support them. Azerbaijani diaspora organizations within the legislation of the relevant country support diaspora individuals to achieve high positions and play an active role in the social, political, and economic life of the countries where they live.

The fourth important point is the integration of our compatriots into the societies where they reside. In a certain sense, assimilation means “losing” our compatriots as diaspora individuals. It is necessary not to confuse the integration and assimilation of Azerbaijanis living abroad. We are not supporters of assimilation but support true integration. Considering all this, we implement special programs targeting Azerbaijani children born abroad, we implement projects to increase the potential of the new generation for the sake of strengthening our diaspora.

The fifth and one of the most important issues is to ensure the joint activity of the Azerbaijani and Turkish Diasporas. It is worth mentioning that the famous Shusha Declaration signed by Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of the Republic of Türkiye, in the city of Shusha on June 15, 2021, put a serious basis for our activities. The declaration states: “The parties will combine their efforts to develop closer cooperation between the Azerbaijani and Turkish diasporas, take joint steps in the face of the common issues and manifest consistent solidarity in different countries, where they live.”

The parties will show mutual support in the presentation of their countries, promote the coordination of diaspora activity and raise awareness about the historical truths when it comes to the protection of their national interests.

I think that the sixth important point is further strengthening of the work in the direction of lobbying and achieving concrete results. We have serious research and projects in this direction. We will see the positive outcomes of all our activities over time.

Is the Azerbaijani diaspora capable of becoming a soft power today? If this potential exists, what are the steps that the Committee takes to strengthen it?

This is the most important question and at the same time the most complicated process. The State Committee on Work with Diaspora and the Azerbaijani diaspora are conducting serious research in this direction and are working towards the establishment of new coordination councils. Azerbaijan is one of the rare countries in the world that conducts purposeful activities for the organization of the diaspora around the world. 

In general, today, the issue of soft power is a long-discussed and always focused matter around the world. Giving detail, today states are paying special attention to the integration of their citizens abroad, and long-term plans and special strategies are being developed for this purpose.

The Diaspora Committee also has a systematic and consistent activity plan in this direction. During the Karabakh war, our diaspora played an indispensable role in raising awareness of the international community and this attempt proved to be a soft power. As a result of our diaspora activity on the path of soft power in recent years, “Azerbaijani Days” have been declared in several states of the USA.

Giving detail, by the invitation and organization of the Azerbaijani diaspora, influential scientists, historians, and journalists of the world visited Karabakh to observe the material and moral damage inflicted on Azerbaijan during the 30-year occupation. Additionally, our Diaspora directly participates in spreading the realities of Azerbaijan at the international level.

How does the Committee help Azerbaijanis worldwide? 


Diaspora building is one of the priority directions of Azerbaijan’s state policy. In this regard, many activities are being held in support of the diaspora. The law on State Policy Regarding Azerbaijanis Living Abroad defines the basis of our activity. The Rule on providing social assistance to low-income Azerbaijanis living abroad was confirmed. Soon, with the new draft law, the status of the concept of compatriot will be determined along with a number of issues. All this is the legal basis for supporting our diaspora and expands the possibilities of increasing the efficiency of the activities of our compatriots and solving their problems.

In many ways, the Committee assists communities abroad. I would like to give some examples. The Committee provides all kinds of financial support to the Azerbaijani diaspora in terms of organization, implementation of events, the establishment of systematic relations with Azerbaijan, study of our history culture, and language. Abroad, children and young people have an opportunity to study at the founded weekend schools. With the support of the Committee “The Azerbaijani language” textbook was published for our compatriots.

In general, regardless of where Azerbaijani Diaspora live and regardless of their social status, all the appeals of our compatriots are timely considered and measures are taken to solve their problems at the earliest possible time. In case of emergencies, direct financial and legal assistance is provided, and steps are taken to solve their organizational and technical problems.

The Committee supports our compatriots in successful cooperation with Turkish diaspora as well as diasporas of other nations friendly to Azerbaijan. The possibilities of emergency preparedness of diaspora organizations were revealed both during the pandemic and when Azerbaijanis left Ukraine as a result of the war and sought refuge in Azerbaijan Houses in various European countries. One of the answers to your question may be the fact that the Committee had been continuously implementing flexible and quick measures for diaspora assistance during those times, and the Coordination Councils and Azerbaijan Houses had been working in strengthened terms.

Another noteworthy fact is that the Fund for Support to Azerbaijan Diaspora was established under the Committee with the purpose of financing multi-directional projects of diaspora organizations.

The continuous financial and moral support of the Committee will be provided to the Azerbaijani diaspora organizations.

What are your major activity plans for the near future?

– Analyzing, evaluating, and concluding the current situation, we are thinking of taking serious steps to encourage the transformation of our diaspora into soft power, strengthening this process, especially creating a new stage of lobbying, and creating a diversified action strategy. 2023 has been declared the year of Heydar Aliyev in our country. In this framework, many events will be organized around the globe.

The establishment of the “Network of Azerbaijanis Working in International Organizations” and “Platform of Foreigners Studying in Azerbaijan” seems useful for the development of this strategy. Furthermore, we wish to establish a permanent secretariat for the Coordination Council of the World Azerbaijanis, established on the initiative of our common national leader, and establish a Museum of the World Azerbaijanis based on the “Motherland Society”.

The world is thriving on science and education. The Organizational Committee of Azerbaijani Scientists from 14 different countries was established. Taking into consideration that the close participation of Azerbaijani scientists in diaspora-building process, the unification of the power of scientists, and the sharing of knowledge and experience will greatly contribute to the national interests of our state. Additionally, it is planned to hold a forum for Azerbaijani scientists living abroad next year.

As you know, the city of Shusha has been declared the capital of the Turkic world. In this regard, it is planned to organize an international conference, and the contribution of diaspora organizations to this field is expected.

We have created a serious database and analysis system. We are working towards the formation of brain centers by analyzing and combining the potential of the diaspora.

In general, we are systematically working with the diaspora in all directions that are important for Azerbaijan, and we stimulate the work of our communities abroad.

Thank you for answering the questions thoroughly, I wish you success in your work. 





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