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Spring 2001 Volume 1, Issue 2


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Spring 2001

Volume 1, Issue 2




Inside this Issue

1

Editorial

2

Azeri Diaspora Abroad. The Case of the UK

3

Novruz Celebrations

4

America is changing. What do we need to do?


5

Research

5

Statistics for Azeris in the US



















“Azeri Voice” is an independent grassroot newsletter for Azeri-American community. It is aimed at promoting unity and strengthening activities among Azeri community of the USA.



Azeri Voice

Community Newsletter for Azeri-Americans

The power of the Community


Editorial. Fariz Ismailzade

Last month, the members of the Yeni Dostlar email discussion list have received an unusual letter from one of its Baku members. In it, the author was asking to help one Azeri woman, who lives in Baku and studies at Baku State University.

The email went on to describe in detail the hardship of this woman’s life. She is married to a man, who has fought in Karabakh war, got wounded and thus is unable to work now. In addition to that, she has two children and tries to attend the university for master’s degree. At the end of his letter, the author was asking Azeris abroad to help this woman, since she was being expelled from the university for not being able to pay her tuition.

Yeni Dostlar List is mostly composed of Azeri students, who themselves have scarce financial resources. But despite that, as soon as this letter has appeared in the discussion list, the first response was “Let’s help her”.

Heated debates and discussions have followed. People have offered various ways to assist this woman. Within few days, assigned persons in the US, Europe and Baku started collecting donations.

Very soon, the necessary amount ($550) was collected and passed to the Azeri woman so that she can continue her education.

This act surprised not only us ourselves, but the Azeri woman and some of the foreign members of the Yeni Dostlar List. In the words of Gachay Mirzayev, the contact person in Baku, who passed the money to the woman, “She could not believe her eyes. She cried and promised us all to repay these money after she graduates”

I thought of writing about this case, because it shows not only the fact that Azeris highly value education, even at times of economic hardship, but also proves that if united, Azeris can achieve much more for their homeland and people.






Azeri Diaspora.

The Case of the

United Kingdom




By Murad Oguz-Gassanly

Azerbaijani Society Vatan was formed in 2000. It is a non-governmental, non-profit organization, based in the UK.

The principal objective of the Society is to promote greater public awareness and understanding of Azerbaijan, its culture, history and political and social issues facing the young republic. We seek to foster better relations between Britain and the Azerbaijan Republic and encourage cultural and social exchange between the two countries.

Azeri community in the UK is large but fragmented. Vatan works to unite and mobilize the Diaspora. As Azerbaijan takes the first steps on the path to integration into the global community and Europe in particular, it is essential that Azerbaijanis worldwide participate actively in the process. In Britain, there is a multitude of opportunities to facilitate development of Euro-Azeri relations and it is also crucial to promote British interests vis-à-vis Azerbaijan.

Another important dimension to the work of Vatan is the campaign for the liberation of Karabakh. Continued occupation of 20% of Azeri territory by Armenian armed forces and the misery for 1 million refugees expelled from their homes, are two major obstacles for successful transition. It is a duty of Azerbaijanis abroad to contribute towards a just resolution of the conflict and preservation of Azerbaijani territorial integrity.

Vatan is carrying out a number of projects to meet the above objectives. A recently held successful demonstration outside the Armenian embassy in London served as an opportunity to raise the issue of Karabakh in Britain and signaled a start of our “Karabakh” campaign.

The Society is currently engaged in nationwide distribution of “Azerbaijan” – a book edited by T. Dragadze of Kings College, London. This publication is an excellent source of information about Azerbaijan and it is important that it is as widely available as possible.

A number of lectures and seminars are planned for 2001. Various parties have expressed an interest or agreed to participate e.g. Prof. Neil MacFarlane, University of Oxford and M. Mamed-Kuliev, Azeri Ambassador to Britain. Public meetings and lectures will go a long way towards providing a clear and informative view on Azerbaijan, especially for those with specialist interests in the region.

On 2 of March Vatan held a demonstration outside the Armenian embassy in London. Nearly 100 people attended. Despite freezing weather the picket went on for 5 hours and a letter of protest has been delivered to the Armenian embassy.

A picket outside No 10 Downing Street will be held on 8 May (11 years since Shusha fell). A petition signed by over 1000 people, calling on British government to condemn Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and help Azeri refugees, will be delivered to Prime Minister during the picket. Taking place just weeks before the General Election, the event will be an opportunity for Azeri community to display its electoral power – there 15,000 Azeris in Britain.

Long – term plans have also been made. Vatan hopes to be able to compile a directory of Azeris living in the UK. This will help to unite the community as well as to make future events easier to organize. We also plan to hold more cultural events such as exhibitions and concerts. There is a great deal of untapped talent in Azerbaijan which needs to be showcased and promoted. Britain is an art-loving country and such events will go a long way to establishing strong cultural links between Azerbaijan and the UK.

We hope that this note provides a useful introduction to Vatan. If you require more information or would like to join our mailing list write to us on the address provided or email.

Our website www.vatan.org.uk is currently under construction and will be fully operational by the end of April 2001.

Murad is currently a student at London School of Economics. He can be reached at M.Oguz-Gassanly@lse.ac.uk



Elimize Novruz Gelib!!!

Novruz Celebration at Azerbaijan Society of America (ASA) in New Jersey.




By Tomris Azeri, ASA President



Dear readers,


At this issue I want to talk about our traditional Azerbaijan Society of America (ASA) Novruz Bayram celebrations. Our most important holiday was celebrated very successfully this year. We had well over two hundred guests including the Consul General of Turkey, Azerbaijan’s UN Ambassador, representatives of Washington embassy and the presidents of many Turkish, Uzbek and Azerbaijan Jewish community organizations. What I was happiest about the most at this year’s celebrations, though, was the incredible turnout amongst the young Azeris—these bright, active, energetic generation—were there to enjoy and appreciate the culture, heritage, and the history from which they come from and which they represent.

Novruz Bayram has a very significant meaning for all Azeris throughout the world. We all know as the winter ends and the spring begins, new grass, red poppies, and newly born lambs emerge, symbolized by the grass after their passage over fires. Novruz Bayram is associated with the color green, which is symbolized by the growing of the freshly sprouted wheat. The table of the celebration includes fresh flowers, candles, dried fruits, and dyed eggs—the eggs being the symbol of rebirth to emphasize the life-force present in nature. The dried fruits and nuts remind us that winter is over and soon blossoms will appear and turn into fresh fruits. In essence, Novruz is the first day of the new year. It is also the tie that binds us to each other and to Azerbaijan. It allows us to recall our history and our struggles, our loves and our fears like no other holiday can. As the winter leads to spring, let us all remember the miracle of newly sprouting grass, and the everlasting, continuous cycle of life we are all within.

This cycle of life brings me back again to the youth whom were present at the celebrations. I could not help myself from being proud of such an elite group of young nationals. These are students in various universities and the newly graduated students from prestigious programs all over the United States. This young generation of Azeris are actively involved in promoting their motherland in the United States. They form community groups, university clubs and organizations, and develop web sites about Azerbaijan where they provide valuable input into the Internet debates about Azerbaijan. They are the moderators of many news distribution lists. They are committed to disseminating truthful and important information about Azerbaijan.

In recognition of these wonderful students and in conjunction with the coming of spring represented here in our Novruz Bayram celebrations, we at the ASA wanted to do something different this year and honor these young hopefuls, and show them we appreciate what they are doing for themselves and for Azerbaijan. We have chosen four distinguished students to honor, and believe me, it was not easy at all trying to figure out whom to honor—they all deserve honor from their homeland and from us. But we want this to be a part of our tradition and we will honor different, active young Azeris every year.

This year the honorees were: Adil Baguirov, Javid Huseynov, Fariz Ismailzade, and Sanan Nasibli. They were each presented with a plaque in appreciation of their unselfish and honorable actions and deeds. Adil was with us—he flew eight hours to be with us! Fariz was with us—he traveled 24 hours by bus to be there! And Sanan also drove many hours to be with us. Javid could not make it personally, but his name was mentioned often and we appreciate everything he does for the organization. We all know he is the Webmaster of our site (www.azerbaijan-america.org). You were greatly missed Javid!

Adil is great; when you look at him, you cannot help yourself but to be proud—his knowledge, his patriotism—amazes you. Fariz is wonderful, sincere—active when you look into his eyes, you can tell that he is burning to make a difference, and Sanan, with one word: fantastic! This was Sanan’s second year celebrating Novruz with us and we all know and love him very much.

The young make me proud and should make all Azeris at home and abroad proud as well. This year’s celebrations were teeming with young, bright Azeris who want to make a difference—Humar, Yusif, Leyla, Gursel, and so many more. I know they are all capable of making a difference, and I am confident that they will.

Let’s all get together again and again for the bright future of our Azerbaijan. Let’s not forget our traditions and our obligations to our homeland from abroad.


Tomris can be reached at tomris@att.net

Celebration at the Indiana University



By Sabina Manafova

The celebration of Novruz was organized by Novruz Student Association, which was founded by the Yusif Veliev in 1999.Now he works in US embassy in Baku. Inner Asian & Uralic National Resource center of Indiana University also helped in the organization of it. Representatives of the cultures from Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan & Central Asia united to educate & entertain the Indiana University community in the celebration of Novruz. The association organized a gala that featured national songs, dances, food and exhibits from these countries. Part of celebration was the vast amount of national food. This Novruz celebration was an opportunity for the performers to exhibit their culture, to educate the audience, to bring several countries together, to make friends from different countries. Azeri poems, performed by Aybeniz Meybaliyeva, Azeri dances performed by Sabina Manafova & Halik Dadashev were included in the program. The active role was played by Naila, Aliyeva, Vafa Abbasova, Inara Gurbanova.

Sabina is a visiting professor at Indiana University from Western University in Baku. She can be reached at sabina@www.com

America is changing. What do we need to do?


Viewpoint by Yusif Babanly.



“What’s that?”… “Where is that at?” These questions were frequently asked every time when I told the people in the United States where I was coming from. My first visit to the United States took place back in 1995. I was chosen as a finalist to participate in the Freedom Exchange Youth Exchange Program funded by the USIA.


August 1995. Americans had hardly heard about Azerbaijan as of a country or a nation. In the United States at that time, Azerbaijan was not known as a rich “black gold owner” yet.

I lived in an American host family and went to a high school for one year. Since I was one of the only exchange students at my high school, I drew a lot of attention and the first question they asked was where I was from. It aggravated me so much when having hardly explained where I came from; they knew me as a Russian. I carried my Spanish-1 textbook with all of the time because it was the only “handbook” with the world map that I had, and I was able to show where my country was situated.

Even my host family knew me as a Russian till the end of my stay in the United States, although I told them a lot about Azerbaijan, its culture and problems and explained them that we were absolutely different ethnic group from Russians. They could hardly pronounce the word “Azerbaijan” and referred to it as “your country”.

As an Azeri, I was only successful to introduce Azerbaijan to the people attending “The International Youth Club”, who were, at least, interested in my country. Secondly, at that time there was a lack of books about Azerbaijan in English. The only books that I was lucky to find were 4 different books about Azeri National Cuisine, Azerbaijan Carpets, Culture that I gifted to the University of Jacksonville, FL, my high school, and my host family. You can’t imagine how useful those books happened to be. They were passed around and they familiarized some people with Azerbaijan.


January 2001. I came back to the US. Everything turned out to have dramatically changed. First of all, I am now known as an Azeri only. Even, my host family enjoys pronouncing the whole word “Azerbaijani” rather than saying it simply “Azeri”.

I really enjoy now telling the people where I come from because most of them now know where Azerbaijan is. Nowadays, there are more Azeris coming to study and migrating to the US. All of them tell about their country, culture and its problems.

Why is Azerbaijan still known less than Armenia? There is one answer to that question. Armenian lobby and their unity. There are thousands of Azeris that had been migrating to the US during decades. They have come here from all different parts of the world. Some of them forgot who they were; but some keep their identity and are proud of it.

And now it is up to us to revitalize our spirit, build up our Diaspora and help our country.

Especially, we, the Azeris who live abroad have to unite, gather our strength and struggle against our enemies. We must never give up, and we must go only forward.

Since our Diaspora in the United States is too small comparing to the Armenian one, we should unite around Azerbaijan Society of America. If we have a centralized power and act accordingly to the assigned tasks we will succeed. It will later yield to create other regional communities which will grow year by year and serve to the benefit of Azerbaijan and its people.




The “Azeri Voice” Newsletter is published by Azerbaijan Society of America. It expresses the views of Azeris around the world. The editorial staff of the newsletter bares no responsibility for the content of materials, submitted for the publication. For comments or contributions, please contact Fariz Ismailzade at fariz_1998@yahoo.com
We should not forget that it was the Shah Ismail’s ability to win, it was Babek’s patriotism and Javanshir’s sword that has driven us forward, and we still possess those qualities. Let’s not lose those qualities as our ancestors had not and passed them generation by generation.
Yusif is an undergraduate student at Lindenwood University in St. Louis, MO. He can be reached at yusif_babanly@yahoo.com

Research

Statistics

In January-February, 2001 St. Louis branch of Azerbaijan Society of America has conducted a survey of American students. The purpose of the survey was to identify the level of awareness of Azerbaijan among American students and to find out some of the recent trends in this process.

Total of 54 students were surveyed at the Washington University campus. The gender composition of the surveyed students were 23 males and 31 females.

Overall, 26 out of 54 students have answered “Yes” to the question “Have you ever heard of Azerbaijan?”

One of the interesting outcomes of this survey was that the majority of the students, who have heard of Azerbaijan, have done so in the past 3-4 years. The primary sources of their knowledge of Azerbaijan were classes (10 cases) and news (9 cases).

Another interesting and unexpected outcome of the survey was the fact that the majority of the students have identified Azerbaijan with the Middle East. 16 students have responded that Azerbaijan is in Middle east, whereas only 9 have said that it is in former USSR and 8 said that it is in Asia. Other 6 students have thought of Azerbaijan as being part of Eastern Europe.

Some of the frequently mentioned events and things related to Azerbaijan were oil (3 cases), conflicts (2 cases) and Muslim religion.

For more information about the survey project, please contact Fariz Ismailzade at fariz_1998@yahoo.com or Tomris Azeri at tomris@att.net


US Census Bureau has just come up with the demographic statistics for the year of 2000. This is the first US census, when Azeris are categorized as a separate ethnic group and some interesting numbers are available to look at.

According to the census, during the years from 1992 to 1996, 12,300 people from Azerbaijan have emigrated to the USA. In 1997, this number was 1,500 persons and in 1998, it was 500 persons. So the trend is definitely in decline. For comparison purposes, these numbers for Armenia and Belarus are 20,800; 2,100; 1,100 and 21,400; 3,100; 1,000 respectively.



At the same time, the number of immigrants from Azerbaijan, admitted as permanent residents under refugee acts are 10,049 (1992-1996); 1,000 (1997) and 196 (1998).



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