|Radiant Health Newsletters - Issue 71
Canadian Delegation to Azerbaijan
Report by: Tony Ruprecht, Ph.D.
Copy to Dr. Fuad Muradov, Chairman of the State Commission on Affairs with Diaspora
03 / 06 / 2022
The State Committee on Work with Diaspora of the Republic of Azerbaijan provided an opportunity to visit Azerbaijan. Our Canadian delegation took up the offer in order to learn more about 1) the aftermath of the 44 - day war with Armenia; 2) how the country is coping with its more than nine hundred thousand displaced persons and most importantly 3) how we can help the diaspora community living in Canada realize that staying connected with the State Committee is of benefit to them.
Our delegation consisted of Dr. Tony Ruprecht, former Minister of the Crown; Ingrid Cernei – Kelner, T.V. Journalist; Lalin Hasanova, President of Veten Azerbaijan Arts and Culture Centre; Ismail Vataner, President of the Turkic Community Foundation. Let me state at the outset that we were given complete freedom to ask any questions and complete freedom to meet any person of consequence in the country. I should also report that, without exception, the persons of authority in any of the Ministries we met were not only very polite, but hard working and to my surprise very capable, competent and positive. They seemed to be imbued with the idea that they structure the future of Azerbaijan and determine its destiny.
On our first day we met with members of the Mine Action Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Chairman, Vugar Suleymanov. This Agency is responsible for clearing mines and explosive devises in order for displaced persons to be able to return to their homeland. Since there have been a number of fatal accidents, the Agency’s goal includes an education program to increase awareness of the dangers of explosives. The agency works with the United Nations Development Program and is presently in need of funding for mine clearing machines and other technical support.
We then met Dr. Farid Shafiyev, Chairman of the Center of Analysis of International Relations. Their mission is aimed at raising the international community’s awareness of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, particularly the Armenia – Azerbaijan post conflict period and to support full regional economic integration as well as the reconstruction in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region.
In the afternoon we met Chairman Rovshan Rzayev and his team of the State Committee for Affairs of Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons. The State Committee is organized to solve issues of accommodation and life conditions of persons compelled to leave their former homes.
We had an opportunity to speak with some of these displaced persons and hear their terrible stories of forceful evictions and saw the squaller they had to endure in Fuzuli. Many of them were reasonably accommodated by government supported temporary housing. Since there are still large numbers of displaced persons in need the committee is looking for assistance from foreign and local sources.
Two hours later we met the honourable Member of Parliament Tural Ganjaliev who heads the Azerbaijan – Canada Working Group on Interparliamentary Relations. He provided a brief history of Azerbaijan- Canada Relations including Diplomatic Relations, Scholarly Exchanges and Agreements, Economic and Trade Cooperation, Legal Documents signed between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Canada, Visits by Dignitaries, Varieties of Cultural Activities, Interparliamentary Friendship Groups.
On the second day we visited Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city. It lies at least 100 kilometers from the war zone. We saw first hand, the indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilians resulting in 26 civilians killed and 142 others injured.
We visited the house-museum of Nuru Pasha in Ganja, got detailed information about the rescue mission of the Caucasian Islamic Army, the liberation of Baku from the enemy, the services of Nuru Pasha in carrying out this mission.
After visiting the open Ganja Art and Craft Exhibition Fair, Khan’s Garden and Mausoleum of Poet Nizami Ganjavi the greatest representative of the Eastern Renaissance born in 1141 in Ganja, we drove to the old and historic City of Shusha. On the way there we witnessed a devastated landscape and literally all housing reduced to ruin. Indeed a “scorched earth” reminder of WWII. And, in Shusha, purposeful destruction of cultural monuments. But, there were also positive signs for a renewed cycle of life to return. The construction of a brand- new road, a new airport and a beautiful new hotel with a treed garden. Before we left we danced near a large tree near the old massive castle wall.
The following day, back in Baku, we were given an opportunity to visit the Alley of Martyrs, lay flowers on their graves and pay respect at the monument of the founder of the nation Heyder Aliyev.
After our visit to Shusha, we were asked to appear on Baku T.V., for an interview which I think was due to an accidental historic dance performance. Apparently, we stepped into history in Shusha. On the advice of Ismail we danced on the same spot, near a large tree by the old castle wall, where the prime minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan had danced and victoriously declared “Shusha is Armenia.” Ismail shouted, “Pashinyan where are you now?” That is probably why we were given an interview and a friendly dance lesson on TV the next day. Our dance turned out to be a real hit in Baku since we were recognized as “the dancers from Canada” by some Azerbaijanis in a restaurant.
In the afternoon we met with Mr. Ravan Hasanov, Executive Director of the Baku International Multicultural Centre. He is fully cognizant of Canada’s long history of multiculturalism and its beginning as a sharing-of-power agreement between the English and French. I was personally surprised at the important role multiculturalism plays in Azerbaijan. Tolerance of cultural and religious diversity is not only tolerated in the Republic of Azerbaijan but embraced, supported and protected. It is quite possible that we can cooperate and develop a mechanism for multicultural propagation.
The meeting was held at the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It was noted that the occupying regime has ruthlessly exploited minerals, non-ferrous and ferrous metals in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, systematically destroyed its flora and fauna. In particular, the illegal exploitation of gold and other mines by foreign companies in both Zangilan and Kalbajar regions for many years has been brought to the attention of the guests.
The meeting in the afternoon was the highlight of our visit. We met with Dr. Fuad Muradov, Chairman of the State Commission on Affairs with Diaspora. He is charismatic, goal oriented and always ready to explain the strategic plan of his mission for diaspora inclusion in state policy. The main purpose of this policy, set out by national leader Heydar Aliyev is to develop relations with the Homeland of the world Azerbaijanis, to preserve the national identity of his compatriots, to benefit from the diaspora’s potential to safeguard our national interests, and to expand inter-diaspora relations and protect their cultural and political rights. Dr. Muradov has now dedicated his life to the purpose of strengthening the relations of his countrymen all over the world with the Republic of Azerbaijan and to provide unity of the world Azerbaijanis. In order to accomplish that, he has not only the support of Azerbaijanis, but also those citizens of the world who believe in Azerbaijan’s ascendance.
On the final day we had a chance to visit the very modern and architecturally significant Heyder Aliyev Center, a church and a synagogue. But, what was of real importance in terms of Azerbaijan-Canada relations was the meeting with the team of the Ministry of Economy. Deputy Minister, Sahib Mammadov gave us an update of how bilateral cooperation between our two countries, especially in business, is steadily improving. Azerbaijan is attracting ever increasing direct investment. After economic reforms were implemented in the area of minority investors’ rights, improving the licensing system, enforcing contracts and simplifying business creation procedures, economic activity boomed. Even the World Bank gave Azerbaijan an improved rating. Deputy Minister Mr, Mammadov finally urged Canadian companies not only to export, but to create joint ventures.
This visit to Azerbaijan was truly an educational experience for our delegation. Our two countries have the natural synergy and interests in developing mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation. I hope that we can play a small part in actively supporting and promoting this cooperation within the diaspora, especially since our countries enjoyed productive relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992.
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