In his recent article, Hank Stephenson correctly asserts that Azerbaijan is “a uniquely secular majority Muslim country.” He also is correct in stressing that Azerbaijan presents itself to the world as “a model for religious tolerance, cultural acceptance and women’s rights in the region.”
In these turbulent times of violence, hatred, extremism and radicalism in different parts of the world, it is of paramount importance to look to the success of countries like Azerbaijan, where religious harmony and interfaith acceptance are a part of daily life for all citizens, and where Muslims, Jews, Christians and others live and work peacefully together. This model of tolerance and inclusion has been part of my country’s history and identity for centuries and continues to be so today.
Also, as rightly highlighted by the author, Azerbaijan is “a strong ally of the U.S. in the war on terror.” Actually, a recent counter-terrorism report for 2014 from U.S. State Department corroborates this fact by stating that “Azerbaijan maintained its strong counterterrorism cooperation with the United States and actively opposed terrorist organizations seeking to move people, money, and material through the Caucasus.” Azerbaijan is also the largest trade partner of the U.S. in the South Caucasus region with a trade of $2.3 billion. Just the recent $1.1 billion contract Azerbaijan signed with Boeing has produced over 11,000 American jobs.
Therefore, it is quite praiseworthy and logical that Arizona lawmakers choose to educate themselves about Azerbaijan – a friendly tolerant, prosperous and modern nation located in a strategically important region.
The article also touched on the long-standing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and highlighted several legislative acts passed by the Arizona Legislature addressing this issue. Here, the Arizona lawmakers demonstrated once again true moral integrity and fortitude by denouncing the illegal military occupation of the 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory by Armenia, and condemning the war crimes that Armenia committed during this medieval style land-grab. The documented war crimes that occurred included, inter alia, the total ethnic cleansing of the occupied lands from their indigenous Azerbaijani population (over 800,000 citizens) and the 1992 Khojaly Massacre against hundreds of Azerbaijani civilians, including many children, women and elderly.
Arizona is not alone in condemning Armenia’s unlawful actions. Just last week the European Court of Human Rights, one of the key international courts, passed a ruling that holds Armenia responsible for the illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijan’s lands.
The people of Arizona should feel proud of their state legislators and should applaud them for supporting justice, tolerance, friendship and peace!
Thank you, Arizona!
– Nasimi Aghayev is Azerbaijan’s Consul General to the Western United States.