In his opening remarks, Rabbi Sanford Akselrad, Senior Rabbi of the Congregation expressed his satisfaction for hosting such an important event.
Addressing the event, Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev highlighted Azerbaijan’s history of independence and stated that in 1918, the people of Azerbaijan established the very first Republic in their history - the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. He noted that it was also the first ever secular democracy among all Muslim nations and the first majority-Muslim nation to grant women the right to vote.
The Consul General gave detailed information about Azerbaijan’s ancient traditions of multiculturalism, interfaith acceptance and harmony. Aghayev noted that Muslims, Jews, Christians and representatives of other faiths have been living together in peace, dignity and mutual respect for centuries in the majority-Muslim Azerbaijan. He mentioned that there has always been strong relationship between ethnic and religious communities in the country and ethnic, religious or racial discrimination has been non-existent. He also stressed that the protection and further development of these traditions, as well as the promotion of multicultural values are one of the main priorities of the government of Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev.
Consul General Aghayev spoke on the successful cooperation and partnership between Azerbaijan and Israel in various spheres and stated that reciprocal high-level visits between the two countries have further strengthened these relations.
The Consul General also spoke about the illegal military occupation and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region by neighboring Armenia. Highlighting the history of the conflict, Aghayev mentioned that as a result of this military occupation of around 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory, over 800,000 Azerbaijani civilians were expelled from their ancestral lands in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. He further stressed that the Jewish citizens of Azerbaijan also stood up in defense of their homeland against Armenia’s invasion. In this regard, Consul General mentioned Albert Agarunov, Azerbaijani-Jewish hero, who voluntarily enlisted in the Azerbaijani Army, defending his motherland’s territorial integrity. He was killed in 1992 on the battlefield near the Azerbaijani town of Shusha by an Armenian sniper. He was posthumously awarded the title of national hero of Azerbaijan.
Following his speech, Consul General Aghayev responded to questions from the audience.
The event also featured the screening of a documentary on interfaith harmony in Azerbaijan.