Vol. 5, No. 9 (April 01, 2012)

Baku counting on Azerbaijanis abroad to ‘neutralize’ Armenian lobby

Paul Goble
Publications Advisor
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy

Azerbaijan, which has often felt itself on the defensive abroad because of the activities of the Armenian diaspora, is counting on Azerbaijani communities abroad to “neutralize the Armenian lobby,” according to a senior advisor to President Ilham Aliyev.  On the one hand, this new reliance reflects the dramatic growth in the size and activity of the Azerbaijani groups in Europe and the United States.  And on the other, it reflects a growing recognition in Baku that the Armenian “lobby” is not as strong as it was and can be most effectively countered by the Azerbaijani diaspora.

In an April 29 speech to the fourth congress of the Congress of Azerbaijanis of Europe, a group that represents some 61 diaspora groups on the continent and is a partner of the Azerbaijani State Committee for Work with the Diaspora, Ali Hasanov, the head of the social-political department of the Presidential Administration, said that “great responsibility for neutralizing the anti-Azerbaijani activity of enemies of the Azerbaijani state now falls on diaspora organizations.”  He added that he and other senior Baku officials “carefully follow the activity” of the Congress, especially because the activity of the group has increased in recent months. [1] 

A major reason this has happened, Hasanov continued, is that “the growing power and international achievements of Azerbaijan have frightened the enemies of the Azerbaijani state and led them to increase their anti-Azerbaijani activity.” 

Bashar Kemur, the president of the Congress of Azerbaijanis of Europe, echoed Hasanov’s words.  He noted in a speech to the group that the group is now conducting “serious work in the neutralization of the anti-Azerbaijani activity of the Armenian lobby and has made significant steps toward bringing to the attention of the world community the truth about Karabakh.”  

Nazim Ibrahimov, chairman of the State Committee for Work with the Diaspora, added that the Congress of Azerbaijanis of Europe has already achieved a great deal and that his structure is pleased to be working closely with it.  Other speakers included Parviz Shahbazov, Azerbaijani ambassador to Berlin, Samira Pattser-Ismailova, head of the Coordination Center of Azerbaijanis in Germany, Fazil Hasanov, head of the Cultural Center of Azerbaijanis of Georgia, Sahil Gasymov, president of the Congress of Azerbaijanis of the Benelux Countries, and Bilal Dundar, president of the Federation of Turkish-Azerbaijani Societies.  This list in and of itself underscores the ways in which the Azerbaijani communities abroad have assumed a more clearly defined organizational role.

The Azerbaijani communities abroad vary from country to country.  The largest, of course, numbering more than 25 million, consists of the Azerbaijani population of Iran.  The next largest, number upwards of two million are the Azerbaijanis of the Russian Federation, with more than one million of them living in Moscow and another half million in St. Petersburg.  Elsewhere, the communities are smaller, but in many cases, they consist of businessmen and students, with the latter group particularly prepared to play a broader social and political role. 

Until a few years ago, most Azerbaijanis assumed that the Armenian diaspora was almost all-powerful, and even now Azerbaijanis are inclined to ascribe to its machinations decisions by foreign governments with which they do not agree.  But Hasanov’s comments in Berlin suggest that today there is a growing awareness among Azerbaijani leaders that the Armenian “lobby” can be countered, and countered successfully, if Azerbaijanis living abroad become more active. 


[1] See http://news.day.az/politics/329643.html (accessed 30 April 2012).