Author: Natig NAZIMOGHLU
The 5th Congress of the World Azerbaijanis was held in Shusha, the cultural capital of Azerbaijan liberated from Armenian occupation. This truly landmark event is yet another symbol of the Great Victory of the Azerbaijani people and state in the 44-day Patriotic War and has rightfully received its key and essential characteristic. Congress of Victory! The congress attended by almost 400 representatives of the Azerbaijani diaspora from 65 countries defined the directions of future activities, as well as the problems to be solved in the new realities created in the region by Azerbaijan, the realities of the post-conflict period.
Diaspora as inseparable part of unity
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev set the main tone of discussions at the congress in his speech at the opening ceremony. “This congress is called the Congress of Victory. This is quite natural, as this is the first time the Azerbaijanis from all over the world are gathering after the victory to hold a congress. In general, the word "victory" suits our people very well. From now on the people of Azerbaijan will always live as a victorious people, our state will always live as a victorious state.”
Meanwhile, the road to the Congress of Victory was a long and thorny one. The history of the modern Azerbaijani diaspora movement began on December 31, 1989 when the first World Congress of Azerbaijanis opened in Istanbul. Two months after the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchyvan led by Heydar Aliyev declared December 31st the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis. From that day on, this date has been celebrated nationwide annually, while the idea of national unity of Azerbaijanis has been formulated politically and legally.
As Azerbaijan established itself as a strong and self-sufficient state, the idea of Azerbaijanism has been strengthened and become a key element in the minds of Azerbaijanis around the world. As an ideological symbol of the unity of the Azerbaijani people, state and the emerging diaspora organisations in foreign countries.
The need to establish this unity and consolidate all compatriots around the state of Azerbaijan led to the establishment of a unique phenomenon - the Congress of World Azerbaijanis. The first congress was held in Baku on November 9-10, 2001 on the initiative and under the leadership of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev. Subsequent congresses were held in 2006, 2011 and 2016 under the incumbent president, Ilham Aliyev, who has rightfully called himself 'the president of the world's Azerbaijanis'.
The significance of these forums was underlined primarily by the struggle against Armenian military aggression, which led to the occupation of one fifth of the internationally recognised territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the displacement of almost one million Azerbaijanis due to ethnic cleansing by Armenian invaders. Therefore, the main objective of diaspora activities was to convey the truth about the essence of the Garabagh conflict to the international community and to expose the false Armenian propaganda aimed at providing international support for the aggression against Azerbaijan.
The development of Azerbaijani communities in practically all the countries where Azerbaijanis live has contributed to the successful implementation of this task. Remarkably, not only ethnic Azerbaijanis, but also representatives of other nationalities born and raised in Azerbaijan - Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, etc. - has played an instrumental role in various Azerbaijani diaspora organisations.
Real triumph of the consolidated efforts of the world's Azerbaijanis took place in 2020. During the July hostilities, when Azerbaijan had to liberate its lands militarily, Azerbaijanis in various countries mobilised to defend the interests of their historic homeland. Their activities at different levels, including mass actions, took the much more structured and influential Armenian diaspora by surprise and found no argument other than attempts to resort to provocations and use physical force against the Azerbaijani protesters. However, these attempts were generally repelled by the Azerbaijani diaspora and only reinforced the intention of the Azerbaijani people to defeat the invaders.
Without exaggeration, the demonstration at international level of the unwavering unity of the Azerbaijanis of the world was one of the fundamental factors that contributed to the victory in the 44-day war in autumn 2020. By and large, it was possible thanks to the unparalleled unity and solidarity of the entire Azerbaijani people. Our diaspora rallied together for this victory in what has become a holy war for all the Azerbaijanis. Numerous actions in support of Azerbaijan's just cause were carried out in different countries, almost everywhere where Azerbaijanis and all those who are not indifferent to the fate of Azerbaijan reside. The aspiration and struggle for victory united all Azerbaijani patriots, regardless of their country of residence, nationality and religion.
It is appropriate to quote the following statement from President Ilham Aliyev's speech at the opening of the 5th Congress of World Azerbaijanis: “In my previous speeches, including at our conventions held after the first congress, I have repeatedly said that we would never reconcile with occupation, we would free our ancestral lands from occupation by all means. I thought that in Armenia they would finally understand that it is impossible to keep under occupation a large part of the territory of a neighbouring country in the 21st century. But, unfortunately, the leadership of Armenia, as well as the international community and international organisations were of a different opinion. It turned out that the only goal of negotiations, which lasted for about 30 years, was simply to make the occupation perpetual, camouflaging the aggressive policy of Armenia and making us come to terms with this bitter situation. Of course, we could never have agreed to this, and the will, determination we displayed in the Patriotic War, the heroism of our soldiers and officers on the battlefield demonstrated this once again. It was not only Armenia and Armenians of the world that we were fighting against. We fought against Armenia's patrons and we won that war. Therefore, the historic significance of this victory is even greater. We proved that we were ready to die, that we would die, but not retreat.”
Under the sign of Garabagh
With the restoration of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity after the 44-day war, the Azerbaijani diaspora entered a new phase of development. The first reason was the change in the priorities after the liberation of Garabagh. This fact was also acknowledged during the 5th Congress of World Azerbaijanis. In fact, holding of the congress in Shusha predetermined the leitmotif of discussions oat the convention, which took place under the sign of liberated Garabagh.
The evolution of Azerbaijani diaspora under the influence of changed regional realities also means the change of priorities – from those before the 44-day war, when the diaspora had to tell the world the truth about the occupation of Azerbaijani territories, to our days, which urge us to inform the international community about the current situation in liberated Garabagh. Including the situation in the liberated Azerbaijani districts, towns, cities and villages after 30 years of Armenian occupation. The current situation is evidence of unprecedented Armenian vandalism, which has purposefully destroyed the material and spiritual heritage of the Azerbaijani people.
Assistance in attracting international investment to revive the liberated territories will also be of great importance in the forthcoming activities of Azerbaijani diaspora organisations. Azerbaijan is carrying out unprecedented reconstruction activities on these lands. These works go hand in hand with demining of the territories, without which it is impossible for hundreds of thousands of displaced people to return to native lands. One of the missions of the Azerbaijani diaspora is to draw the attention of the interested world circles to the solution of these problems. As well as preventing and reflecting the ongoing anti-Azerbaijani propaganda of global Armenians and pro-Armenian circles in various countries.
In the current post-conflict environment, diaspora support for Azerbaijan's proposed peace agenda in the region will also be extremely important. The objective of five basic principles formulated by Baku, which include above all mutual recognition by Azerbaijan and Armenia of each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, is to normalise bilateral relations and ensure stable peace in the region. Although Armenia, as Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated at the Brussels meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian mediated by EU Council President Charles Michel, has agreed to accept these five principles as the basis for a settlement of relations, its territorial claims still persist. This is confirmed by Armenia's failure to implement a number of fundamentally important provisions of the November 2020 trilateral statement of the leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia. So far, a year and a half after the end of the war, Armenia has not ensured the full withdrawal of its armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan temporarily under the responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent.
In addition, Armenia has made commitments in trilateral statements mediated by Russia and the EU to unblock transport links in the region, as well as to delimit the Azerbaijani-Armenian interstate border. However, there has been no real progress in fulfilling these commitments so far. Neither has there been a breakthrough towards the signing of a peace treaty. The reason for this destructive approach demonstrated by Armenia is still the same - territorial claims against Azerbaijan.
Despite the position of the Armenian side, President Ilham Aliyev expressed his confidence in Shusha that "as a result of actions we took in the post-conflict period we will eliminate the territorial claims of Armenia and world Armenians against Azerbaijan as well".
"Ministers, foreign ministries of the two countries are currently establishing working groups. I believe that it is necessary to start specific negotiations soon. There is no need to delay them too much, because a peace treaty will be signed precisely on the basis of the five principles agreed earlier. Therefore, the text of the treaty may soon be prepared and signed, so that we can establish relations with Armenia, including diplomatic relations. With this proposal, we demonstrate our goodwill and foresight. Recurrent revanchist forces in Armenia must know that this is the only way out, maybe the last chance for Armenia. If they refuse to do so, then we too will not recognise Armenia's territorial integrity and will officially declare our position. Given the outcome of the Second Garabagh War, the Armenian side should be well aware of the consequences of this step,” said President Aliyev.
In general, the solution of the whole set of problems faced by Azerbaijani diaspora organisations requires strengthening coordination between them, increasing their political, economic and informational influence in respective countries and intensifying lobbying activities. This will be facilitated by their being in constant contact with Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani state.
President Ilham Aliyev said: "Certainly, I am very pleased that our diaspora organisations abroad are in constant contact with Azerbaijan and the State Committee. Coordination between diaspora organisations operating in different countries is also improving. This is also very important. All of us, Azerbaijanis living in Azerbaijan, want the Azerbaijanis living abroad to be closely connected with their historical homeland. It would be very good if every Azerbaijani came to Azerbaijan at least once a year with his family, especially to visit liberated lands. Today we are holding this congress in Shusha. But the liberated territories cover more than 10,000 square kilometres, with new routes being opened and new airports being built. So it will be very convenient to travel as well."
In other words, the agenda is to further strengthen the unity of the Azerbaijani state and the Azerbaijani diaspora, and the unity of the world's Azerbaijanis. This is key to the success of the whole set of measures outlined at the congress in the liberated sacred city of Azerbaijan, Shusha.