“Azerbaijan has carried out great activities on multiculturalism. Azerbaijan demonstrates an example that multiculturalism exists. Whereas, some politicians say that multiculturalism has failed. Perhaps it has failed somewhere. Nevertheless, it exists in Azerbaijan and these tendencies, these ideas intensify, get more support from the public. We’ll follow this course”. This was said by President Ilham Aliyev in one of his speeches. Since the ancient periods Azerbaijan has been a state where different nationalities, faiths lived jointly under friendly conditions. In this connection, a lot has been done in our country. President Ilham Aliyev’s declaration of 2016 “the Year of Multiculturalism” in Azerbaijan was a bright example of it. Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism also has a great part in the presentation of Azerbaijani multiculturalism.

The present guest of Metbuat.az is the Acting Executive Director of Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism Ravan Hasan.

-Ravan muellim, Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism has been established by the State Leader’s Instruction. What necessitated the establishment of this Centre and what actions is it carrying out at present?

-As you know, Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism was established in May 2014 by the Instruction of the State Leader Mr. Ilham Aliyev. The main goal in the establishment of the Centre consisted of advocating Azerbaijan’s model of multiculturalism abroad, applying the co-existence model of foreign countries, conducting comparisons and presenting a more advanced form of society. And Mr. President reiterated in his speeches, “We don’t see any alternative to multiculturalism at present”. What is the reason for that? Azerbaijan is geographically and historically in such a position that it has always been a place where different nationalities, believers of different religions have co-existed and these people have had no alternative but co-existence. In general, today there are over 2000 nations and over 200 states in the world. This implies that these nations and cultures are obliged to co-exist. The aim of the policy of multiculturalism is to unite different cultures under one roof. This is a very humanistic policy protecting human rights and respecting human rights. This has no alternative, because, as it has also been emphasized by Mr. President, its alternative means Islamaphobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, discrimination. We also see what these cause in our world. They place nations against one another, result in the people’s murder of one another. Certainly, given that Azerbaijan finds it its obligation to pursue a tolerant and exemplary policy. And Mr. President’s policy is advocated as an exemplary policy in the world today. See, the facts that in his speech the UN Secretary General emphasized the humanitarian function taken by Azerbaijan as a commitment and that he mentioned the importance of Baku process show already that we have managed to advocate the Azerbaijani model of multiculturalism not only within the country but also in the international organizations and foreign countries. We think that in fact when saying multiculturalism has no alternative, this is not a mere expression, but the truth. And the truth has come to be realized more.

-As we know, President Ilham Aliyev declared 2016 “the Year of Multiculturalism”. During that year a lot was done. And which activities did the Centre of Multiculturalism carry out in the frames of that year?

– It is true, 2016 was declared “the Year of Multiculturalism” in Azerbaijan. While 2017, as we know, was “the Year of Islamic Solidarity”. In general, this is not an activity to be restricted to one year. When Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism was established in 2014, people could not even pronounce this phrase. It is true, our society has been the society always incorporating various cultures. However, this phrase was new for Azerbaijani society. See, in 2018 every second man already speaks of multiculturalism and its flourish. The year of 2016 was the year full of activities of multiculturalism. In accordance with Mr.President’s Instruction, a plan of actions was developed and the main coordinating centre of the action plan was Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism. Almost all the institutions in our country realized this value of Azerbaijan, the value of multiculturalism both within the country and beyond the country through different activities. The year of 2016 was realized in great success, and Mr. President appraised it in the end of the year. Both through the humanitarian forums, global forums and different activities held in the regions of the country we managed to deliver the essence and importance of Azerbaijan’s multiculturalism policy almost to all – from ordinary citizens to the leader of an international organization. Certainly, these did not come to an end in 2016, but continued in 2017 within the year of Islamic Solidarity and now has been going on in 2018 as well. As long as Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism functions and as long as Mr. President pursues this policy, the course of advocacy will continue everywhere from the United States to Indonesia.

-The Centre of Multiculturalism implements a project “Summer and Winter Schools” twice a year. What is the aim of this project and in which countries is the course “Azerbaijani Multiculturalism” taught?

-Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism advocates the model of Azerbaijani multiculturalism in academic circles as well. As you know, we have a project envisaging the teaching of the course “Azerbaijani Multiculturalism”. Both at the universities of Azerbaijan and abroad. Up to present the course “Azerbaijani Multiculturalism” has been taught in 19 foreign states. When we started this education project in 2015 we had some challenges in explaining its essence to foreign universities. However, in 2018 at 19 foreign universities this course is being taught and the number of these universities is increasing continuously. These are the American, European and Asian universities. Also, this course is taught at 38 Azerbaijani universities. It is received by a sufficiently large audience, and the youth are interested in it. The students, who attend the course in the lecture halls, get theoretical knowledge. They get information on both the ethnic-cultural geography of Azerbaijan and its history, literature as well as everyday lifestyle. And we made a decision to implement a project “Summer and Winter Schools” twice a year in order to practically consolidate those students’ theoretical knowledge. Already six of these projects have been carried out. The project “Summer and Winter Schools” has been met with a special approval by the Head of the country as well. Almost 30-40 young people from different countries come to Azerbaijan twice a year. It should be noted that this project is implemented in the regions and each time in a different region. Meetings of these young people with the youth and public of the region are arranged. They visit the religious monuments and meet the nationalities in Azerbaijan. Thus, the things they hear in the lecture halls begin to be consolidated in practice. So, actually, young Azerbaijani multiculturalists are being formed abroad. At the joint initiative of the youth from Greece and Lithuania, “The Club of the Young Friends of Azerbaijan” was founded. Further, the students attending the course “Azerbaijani Multiculturalism” began to join this platform. At present “the Club of the Young Friends of Azerbaijan” has over 300 members. They are involved in the advocacy of Azerbaijani multiculturalism, in general the policy of multiculturalism in the world together with us. This is how the chain ends. Coming to our country, the students, who attend that course, get practical knowledge on Azerbaijan. The students, who attend this course, maintain their ties with Azerbaijan this way or another further as well. You can see that among these youth there are already young people who have written sufficiently much about Azerbaijan, who think much of Azerbaijan and advocate knowledge on its education, business environment, politics in their own countries, who support the Embassies of Azerbaijan abroad. Even unintentionally, this actually began to turn into the activity of a diaspora. I think this activity will further increase and turn into a great wave.

-A while ago a branch of Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism was opened in the USA. What has been done in this connection?

-When Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism was established in 2014, it functioned only in Baku. However, certainly, as it is obvious from its name, this is an international centre. And the essence of its international nature implies that it must organize most of its activities abroad. At present Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism has 8 branches in the world. On 5 February the 8th branch was opened in the US city of Los Angeles jointly with the Consulate General. Most probably there will be the continuation of these branches. The branch in the USA is headed by Mrs.Joanna Scott. Joanna Scott is a professional who has participated in the global forums in Baku and was represented in the White House during Barak Obama’s Administration and has special knowledge in this field. The Chair of the Board of Trustees of Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism, Academician Kamal Abdulla has had a great part in this lady’s love of Azerbaijani multiculturalism. At present our 8th branch with Mr. Joanna Scott at its head is involved in the advocacy of the model of Azerbaijani multiculturalism. This is either through articles in foreign press or conferences or events, etc. The Centre in Baku carries out great activities in the organization of the coordination among the 8 branches and their joint reaction in a series at the events in Azerbaijan, their advocacy of Azerbaijani multiculturalism in their own circles. You know, it is one thing when we go and do something in the USA, it means some challenge. Since, the public there does not receive what the citizen of a foreign country says as the word of its own citizen. And it is quite another matter when the prestigious person well known in that community speaks about multiculturalism, especially about Azerbaijani multiculturalism, this is accepted faster. This implies not only the advocacy of Azerbaijan alone. It also implies the policy Azerbaijan is part of, and the activity of our Centre is to advocate this policy. Since, as you know, Azerbaijan is more vivid in the world lately, it has taken the responsibility of humanitarian function and tries so that the weight of this humanitarian function is felt in the entire world. It is this function that both our Centre and our branches carry out.

-The action plan for “the Year of Multiculturalism” also envisaged the publication of the journal “Multiculturalism”. We know that the journal “Multiculturalism” is released as the joint publication of Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism, the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan and the Creative Foundation. In general, did the journal meet the targets?

-Yes, the journal “Multiculturalism” has been functioning for a long time. The journal is published quarterly, four times a year. It publishes literary, artistic and scientific articles. The journal “Multiculturalism” publishes articles not only in Azerbaijani, but also in the languages of the contributing countries’ scholars or other persons, literary critics. One can even see the articles in the languages of national minorities. Also the journal regularly organizes the publication about the important political activities on multiculturalism carried out by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the government as well as of the related political documents. The journal has evoked a great interest in the public of the country. The journal already enjoys a great number of customers and readership both in our capital and our districts. Certainly, in course of time the number of both our activities and our publication products will increase and the quality will rise further. The interest in this field is increasing continuously. A big social team is being formed round Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism and has already thousands of members. And naturally, this is not only owing to our activities, which shows what great support this policy pursued by the Head of the country has. Actually, wherever we go, we encounter a productive environment. As, the policy pursued by the Head of the country facilitates our encounter with that productive environment. We already can explain our intention without any challenges. And our publications, both the journal “Multiculturalism” and our other publications have a special part in presenting our intentions to our friends.

-Since the ancient periods the tolerant ambiance and multicultural traditons have been continuing in Azerbaijan. However, unfortunately, our cultural monuments, our mosques in our occupied territories are being devastated. Even President Ilham Aliyev has mentioned it repeatedly in his speeches. What actions does the Centre of Multiculturalism take in this connection?

-In general, the actions taken in connection with our martyrs, the people we lost and our cultural monuments devastated in Nagorni Garabagh should be somewhat conceptual. This is not the activity to be carried out by a single organization. All the organizations in Azerbaijan make their contributions in this connection. It is very important to have some coordination. No doubt, we also try to emphasize it regularly in our international events and forums through our themes. For, you know that it is not only Azerbaijanis who became martyrs in Nagorni Garabagh or suffered Armenian terrorism. Representatives of different nationalities have been exposed to this terrorism. We try to express it vividly. On the other hand, in Nagorni Garabagh not only the mosques, but also the cultural, religious monuments belonging to other nationalities have been destroyed. We unceasingly try to focus the attention to these monuments, destructions through the pictures and videos in the events held at the international organiztions, parliaments, and political circles. I think that in near future a single social opinion of the world community will be formed in this connection, and they will express their attitude through their own calls towards Azerbaijan’s call for justice. Since, unfortunately, the double standards, the unjust attitude Azerbaijan has been exposed to, actually, lead to the delay of the solution to these issues. Nevertheless, Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism has aimed to try its utmost to present the just call of Azerbaijan everywhere, and I think it will. Once the Armenian church is preserved in the centre of Baku today, this is an indicator of the humanistic policy of Azerbaijan. In general, destroying a culture is vandalism. This means killing a person, and in general, it is a crime against people. And no nation, no power must allow this crime. This is the very idea, motto we intend to express which we are going to continue to do. I hope that its feedback will be in the nearest future.

-Finally, as we know, by the Order of President Ilham Aliyev 2018 has been declared “the Year of Republic”. What activities is the Centre of Multiculturalism going to carry out in this connection?

2018 is the year of special significance for the Azerbaijani people. It is the 100th anniversary of both the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan and the genocide committed against the Azerbaijanis in 1918. In addition, it is the 10th anniversary of Baku process. There are Presidential Instructions in connection with all three events. And Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism is one of the actors of these Instructions. In regards to “the Year of Republic”, I would like to say that the historical importance of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan has been the legacy of modern, democratic, secular, lawful Azerbaijan. Different pages of this year are being advocated by different organizations in Azerbaijan. As, the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan is still being studied. Although the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan existed for a short period of time, it brought innovations to our region, created the first democratic Parliament. At the beginning of the year a book “The Diplomatic Relations Between the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan and Iran in the Light of the Documents of the Caucasian Emergency Commission (1919-1920)” by the Leader of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan Academician Ramiz Mehdiyev was released. Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism has also held scientific discussions of that book. Our other publications, conferences related to the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan will be realized too. Especially, a great conference is expected in May. As you know, 15 September is the anniversary of the period when Baku was freed from the Armenians and Bolsheviks. Regular events are expected in that period too. In connection with March genocide committed against the Azerbaijanis I would like to say that Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism has recently hosted an international scientific conference where the scholars from Iran, France, Turkey, and Russia succeeded in a joint scientific discussion, conference with the Azerbaijani scholars. This conference was titled “Terrorism Against Multiculturalism”. Especially, an event on Armenian terrorism against Azerbaijani multiculturalism was devoted to the events of March 1918. Now the publication work of the materials of this conference is in progress. The branches of Baku International Centre of Multiculturalism abroad are implementing the plan of actions derived from those Instructions. Also, as it is known in the Instruction signed by Mr. President in connection with the 10th anniversary of Baku process, a Humanitarian Forum will be held this year. A section of that Forum in Azerbaijan will be organized by our Centre. The Centre of Multiculturalism will also participate in the arrangement of the Intercultural Dialogue Forum in 2019. In a word, we are going to try to carry out our commitments as an actor of each of these Instructions.