Yahya Babanli, Ph.D. in history and expert on diaspora issues, describes the diaspora as a single organism of a nation. With a right approach in ideology and strategy towards this body, it can easily become the mediating bridge between two countries. It will be a participating actor in their respective countries, building ties with their homeland and representing it.
The expert classified the diaspora as classic and modern in his interview to AzVision.az. The classic branches, which started with the Jews, include the Irish, the Greeks and the Armenians. They have long since evolved into lobbying, another form of diaspora.
The classic branches, which started with the Jews, include the Irish, the Greeks and the Armenians. They have long since evolved into lobbying, another form of diaspora.
‘The modern diasporas are still newly formed and are more engaged in cultural and social areas. We must also see the Azerbaijani diaspora as a modern one. Although the history of Azerbaijani communities goes back to the Middle Ages, the foundation of future diaspora-growing was laid by the National Leader Heydar Aliyev as he summoned the first Congress of World Azerbaijanis in 2001. The Azerbaijani communities did not act as an organized body gathered around a single ideology. We have done a great deal since then. Unfortunately, the Azerbaijani diaspora has still not been worked with enough in terms of economic efficiency.
If we remember that the modern Chinese, Polish, and even our brotherly nations Kazakhs and Kyrgyz diasporas are also investors, we will see just how much ground we have lost. The Kyrgyz government organized a huge exhibition-meeting with Kyrgyz businesspeople and their partners in Russia in 2009, thus encouraging investment into Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan’s state program for 2005 included the Ol-Orman project, which focused on returns and investments. The Azerbaijani diaspora has been growing, but we have yet to see economic efficiency.’
- Can diasporas influence foreign policy courses in the countries they live in to serve the interests of their historic homeland? What actions does it require?
They most certainly can. The impact of diasporas in modern-day international relations is on the agenda both theoretically and practically. Mr. President has repeatedly emphasized that France-Azerbaijan ties are greatly affected by the Armenian diaspora. The Armenian lobby is doing everything and then some to prevent the peace agreement and the ‘Peace House’ platform in the South Caucasus.
Even the global powers are tapping into diasporas. The United States has been organizing global diaspora forums recently. They set up a meeting with Syrian refugees in 2012 at the level of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They summoned not only the Syrian communities, but all diasporas in America at the time. They try to influence those countries using ‘soft power’, because diaspora is a concept that manifests itself in two bodies – the countries of origin and destination. This is, in fact, such a sensitive strategic area that it needs delicate handling, as it can also produce adverse effects.
Diaspora has become a worldwide trend, a new global phenomenon. And it will continue growing as the mobility of people increases against the background of cold or hot hybrid wars until the new world order is established. We must benefit from it at all costs to develop our national statehood, especially using our model of tolerance and multiculturalism.’
- Which diasporas have made bigger leaps in terms of economic and political influence in the last 50 years?
‘Let’s look at the examples of the Chinese diaspora, who delivers investments into their home country through large corporations, and the Japanese diaspora, who promotes the Japanese brands abroad. Poland is among the influential diasporas in Europe in terms of population and spreading. We can even talk about the modern Russian diaspora, who is active in spreading and preserving the Russian language. The Ukrainian diaspora has been hard at work to convey the true landscape of the Ukrainian-Russian war to the local communities. They have been organizing humanitarian aid marathons among other things and are able to direct substantial investments to the war-torn country.
The Indian diaspora has also been growing rapidly. They have at times benefited from the experience of the Armenian diaspora and signed joint projects with them. The Azerbaijani diaspora should also closely communicate with all the Turkic diasporas we share the same roots with, such as the Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Turkmen communities. We can direct their entrepreneurial potential into Azerbaijan. We must act from a common platform of solidary and do whatever it takes. The diasporas should overall expand their scope. They must not only cooperate with the countries they live in but must also reach out to international organizations and financial institutions operating there and encourage them to build ties with their historic homeland.’
- What are the steps required to enhance and strengthen the reputation and opportunities of the Azerbaijani diaspora globally?
‘We must intensify relations with Azerbaijani businesspeople abroad through specific programs and projects. We could even introduce a state program for Azerbaijanis abroad and apply concessions for them. This will allow them to come to Azerbaijan and operate comfortably as investors. We must also benefit from their partners.
We must offer projects to Azerbaijani businesspeople abroad to rebuild Karabakh. We must absolutely build an association of Azerbaijani businesspeople soon and even put together the founding meeting in Karabakh. We must put forward specific projects for the diaspora, such as building diaspora neighborhoods. We could organize marathons. We have a diaspora potential of 10 million. We do not include our compatriots living in South Azerbaijan and aboriginal Azerbaijanis in Georgia and Russia. If we raise 10 manat from those 10 million each at a marathon, this will grow into a crucial amount. We are not talking about meeting some financial needs. This is a demonstration of our spiritual unity and solidarity. This will also mean that we are conscious about our diaspora activities.
AzVision.az Analytic Group