Find truth, not propaganda, about Azerbaijan: NewsBlaze

NewsBlaze, a US-based portal, has published an article, entitled “Find truth, not propaganda, about Azerbaijan”.

News.Az republishes the article by President of the US-Azerbaijan Cultural Foundation Nurit Greenger.

In June 2022 I formally established the US-AZ Cultural Foundation (USAZCF). Its purpose is to serve as a contributor to increase relations between Azerbaijan and the United States, in particular, as well as the West, in general, via culture, educational dialogues and seminars, media, entertainment, film & documentary content.

We, at USAZCF believe that art, music, dance, film, television, and educational projects all feed the soul. Festivals and live performances draw people from across the country and promote tourism – stimulating the local economy and fostering pride in the community.

Since 1992 Azerbaijan has struggled to keep its sovereignty intact. Invading Armenian forces conquered a chunk of the country during 1st Karabakh War and illegally held 20% of Azerbaijan’s land integrity until 2020.

November 10, 2020-flags of Azerbaijan, Israel, Turkey on display in Baku while Azerbaijan celebrates victory in 2nd Karabakh War – Photo: Nurit Greenger

Wars and uncertainty are no national morale booster. One million Azerbaijani people, expelled from their ancestral land in Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 adjacent districts, merging inland with the rest of the nation’s population to become internally displaced, were no economic booster. Toxic hostility coming from Armenia lobbies around the world vilifying Azerbaijan’s existence are a national hindrance.

In April 2018, the author visited a community of Azerbaijani internally displaced refugees, in the city of Tarter, who were expelled from their ancestral land in 1992 during the 2st Karabakh War – Photo: Nurit Greenger

But Azerbaijan endured. In 2020, in a 44-day war with Armenia, it liberated and regained control over most of the Nagorno-Karabakh land that was illegally occupied by Armenia for 30 years.

And now is the best time to turn the tide; to turn the negativity about the country – Azerbaijan – that Armenia spread so well over the years. It is time to turn the image of Azerbaijan, a real friend of the West, into a much more positive one.

About Azerbaijan’s Diaspora

Among the approximately 50 million Azerbaijanis who, in total, make the Azerbaijani nation, an estimated number of 10-15 million Azerbaijanis live outside the borders of Azerbaijan. They constitute the term “the Azerbaijan diaspora.”

This number is powerful and can do magic to project Azerbaijan’s image positively.

Azerbaijan and NATO are Deepening Ties

Azerbaijan’s contributions to NATO efforts began in 2002 with 22 Azerbaijani peacekeepers and rose to 120 by the time the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan took place.

Jens Stoltenberg, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General referred to Azerbaijan as “a valued partner.” Supporting his assertion Stoltenberg referenced Azerbaijan’s strong military cooperation with NATO member Turkey, its natural gas supplies to several NATO member states in Europe, as well as the country’s contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

In August 2021, amid the withdrawal of US and NATO forces, ending the 2001-2021 war in Afghanistan, large-scale evacuations took place. During the evacuation of Kabul, Azerbaijan and Turkey helped secure Hamid Karzai Airport, and thus helped a safe evacuation of government personnel, foreign citizens and some vulnerable Afghan citizens, all were fleeing the Taliban return.

On August 15, 2021, the Taliban took control of Kabul and declared victory, and the NATO-backed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan collapsed. In addition to dependable ground support, by securing the transit routes for around 40 percent of the needed military cargo, Azerbaijani units had facilitated the Afghanistan-bound supply logistics for the allied forces.

In December 2021, during his visit to NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev stated that “Azerbaijan has proven to be a reliable partner of NATO.”

America is a member of NATO; Americans should therefore support Azerbaijan.

US Congress Should Get Behind Azerbaijan

It is time that US Congress members learn to live without the lobbying funds they receive from the Armenia lobby.

Instead of scolding Azerbaijan or simply disregarding it, Congress should be learning about Azerbaijan and its benefit to the West.

Congress should learn that representatives like “the squad” are toxic to America. Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib promote hate. In their case the hate of Israel and Jews. Such behavior helps the anti-Semites to make their case. Congress should take heed of Antisemitism-free Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is the antithesis to the anti-Semitic BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel) movement, so well-groomed on US campuses. While Muslim students at Azerbaijan’s universities participate in international student exchange programs in the Jewish State Israel, many US universities boycott Israel.

Azerbaijani Muslim students learn about Jewish history, the Jews’ ancient and modern culture in Israel, and the Jewish religion; they also dive to learn about the innovations Israel gifted the world in agriculture, medicine and science, innovation that incentivizes them to emulate rather than sink in to ancient hate the BDS Movement represents, which US high-learning institutes embrace.

A church destroyed in City of Shusha, Azerbaijan, being restored by Azerbaijan – Photo: December 2022, Nurit Greenger

Christians Should Support Azerbaijan

Though Azerbaijan is a predominantly Shia-Muslim state, though it is rather unlikely for the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to visit such a country, on October 2, 2016, Pope Francis was in Baku for a 10-hour visit.

Since 2012, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, run by Azerbaijan’s first lady, Mehriban Aliyeva, donated undisclosed sums to finance restoration work at the Vatican, including repairs to the Sistine Chapel; the Foundation also provided funds for other projects, including the restoration of two Vatican catacombs and the preservation and digitization of ancient manuscripts in the Apostolic Library.

The Pope’s visit could have been PR pay back, however, the Foundation, named in honor of President Ilham Aliyev’s father and predecessor, the late Heydar Aliyev, also holds an official interest in preserving European cultural heritage which extends beyond the Vatican.

The foundation provided funds to repair two stained-glass windows in France’s Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Strasbourg, and for the restoration of two medieval Norman churches.

No other Muslim country sets such an example for restoring Christian churches and museums throughout all of Europe. Azerbaijan’s funds also have gone to the Louvre Museum, Versailles Palace, Germany’s Berlin City Palace and Italy’s Capitoline Museum.

Baku and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation are acting according to the Azerbaijani people’s tolerance toward all other peoples and religions.

During Christmas 2022, I visited Azerbaijan. The Christmas-New Year atmosphere in the local mall was no different than in any mall in the United States. Christmas trees were on display everywhere. For the Azerbaijanis it is a celebration of the New Year, just as it is Christmas-New-Year celebration style in any Christian country.

The front of the Jewish-Chabad school building in Baku, Azerbaijan, where 160 Jewish students attend – Photo December 2022, Nurit Greenger

American Jews Should Support Azerbaijan

Though Azerbaijan is a majority Muslim country, it is secular, with a tolerance and coexistence dogma. Respecting the faith of the individual is a local cultural ethos.

Azerbaijan prides itself with zero Antisemitism. In the USA, Antisemitism is alarmingly on the rise.

It is reported that in the US, Antisemitism cases rose in 2022 and are showing little, if any, sign of abating worldwide.

The year 2021 set a new high for anti-Semitic incidents. The year 2022 did not mark a universal reversal of this hideous trend, and in some countries, most alarmingly the United States, it intensified.

Early morning, December 22, 2021, The Chabad-Lubavitch of Almaden Valley, in San Jose, California, was intentionally lit on fire that ripped through the distinct purple building. On January 27, 2022, in line with Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim country, longstanding population harmonious coexistence policy, Nasimi Aghayev, then Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles announced his government’s contribution of funds to the reconstruction of the Almaden Valley Chabad House.

Synagogues in Azerbaijan are open without the need for armed security to welcome worshippers, a scene long forgotten by US synagogue goers.

On April 5, 2011, the “Mountain Jews” community in Baku, Azerbaijan, opened an impressive new synagogue. The building was designed by architect Alexander Garber and the construction of the building was sponsored by the Azerbaijani government.

In Azerbaijan, there are three main Jewish communities – mountain Jews, Ashkenazi Jews and Georgian Jews communities. There are 6 operating synagogues in Azerbaijan: two in Baku, two in Guba and two in the city of Oguz. Jews living in Azerbaijan can safely and freely worship in their synagogue, celebrate their festivals and hold mourning ceremonies.

The writer (wearing the Star of David) background Baku, 2022 – Photo: Nurit Greenger

I have visited Azerbaijan enough times to recognize the peace of mind a Jew can experience while living there. My visible Star of David is of no consequence and does not need to be hidden.

In Azerbaijan, some 30,000 Jews live free from Antisemitism and are thriving.

Support from Israel 

Why Israel should help Azerbaijan in the face of the Iranian threat.

Azerbaijan and Israel have enjoyed diplomatic relations since 1992. On March 29, 2023 Azerbaijan opened its embassy in Tel Aviv, a significant step in the relationship between the world’s only Jewish state and the strategic Shi’ite Muslim-majority country that shares a land border with Iran.

Since the opening of Azerbaijan’s embassy, high-level diplomats from Israel have been on official visits to Azerbaijan. And high-level diplomats from Azerbaijan have been on official visits to Israel.

Some 30 million Azerbaijanis live on the other side of the Aras River* that separates the Republic of Azerbaijan from what is also called ‘South Azerbaijan’ which is Iran north; the separation was caused by the 19th and 20th war between Iran and Russia.

The writer by the Aras River, behind the river and the ancient bridge is Iran, April 2023 – Photo: Nurit Greenger

The Aras is a river in the Caucasus. It rises in eastern Turkey and flows along the borders between Turkey and Armenia, between Turkey and the Nakhchivan exclave of Azerbaijan, between Iran and both Azerbaijan and Armenia, and, finally, through Azerbaijan where it flows into the Kura river.

The Russian assault, In April 1912, on the Holy Shrine of Mashhad, April 1912 was Infidel Aggression.

The Caucasus geographic, in-between-ness as a land bridge between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region is reflected in its history as a crossroads between empires and East and West. The Caucasus has been incorporated into the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Ottoman, Russian, and Soviet empires at different points in its history, yet it has remained peripheral to these empires.

A long history of multiethnic, multi-religions, and multilingual existence has disposed the region both to peace and conflict, division and unity – seemingly paradoxical trends.

Especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as a center of both cultural reception and transmission, the Caucasus has been the playground and battleground of socialist and nationalist revolutionary ideas that have permeated both Iran and Ottoman Anatolia.

Early July 2023, an International Summit at the European Parliament which dealt with Iran’s conduct toward minority groups residing in the country, primarily towards the Azeri community, called for “Jews have an obligation to the Azeris in Iran.”

Rabbi Zamir Isayev, leading the Georgian Sephardic community in Azerbaijan mentioned “The Jews were persecuted for many years and we know well how it feels.” He specified the obligation world Jewry has toward the Azeri minority that suffers from ongoing oppression in Iran.

During the course of the summit, a film screened shared witness accounts of language and cultural discrimination experienced by Iran’s Azeris, as well as discrimination in business and economic activity, and forcing women to wear the Muslim garb hijab.

For decades Iran has denied Azeris, Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchi minorities their basic civil rights, subjected them to social, cultural, and economic discrimination.

Minority groups in Iran should have the right to learn their own language and celebrate their cultural heritage as they wish, which the Azerbaijanis living in northern Iran are denied.

Hopefully, this summit has given visibility to the Azeri minority in Iran. Standing strong on the principles of fairness may also bring positive outcomes.

Advocating For Azerbaijan

It has not been easy for me to advocate for Azerbaijan. One huge stumbling stone has been the conflict with Armenia and the strength of the Armenian propaganda on the international stage.

This obstacle can be slowly but diligently overcome with facts and outspokenness.

Armenians act as bullies. They will go to any length to propagate their hate for Azerbaijan. But this can be stopped step by step.

I have been advocating for Azerbaijan for years. As a journalist, I have written ample positive op-eds about Azerbaijan. My editor will not allow Azerbaijan haters to attack me. He simply blocked this avenue on our website.

In the modern era with fast global communication there is a price for being a voice for truth for Azerbaijan, a South Caucasus country. However, my advocacy for Azerbaijan will continue unabated because truth always ends up victorious. Azerbaijan will one day soon become known worldwide and more people will join me in telling the true Azerbaijan story.


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