Azerbaijani Consul General Suleymanov Visits Pitzer

By Vritti Goel ‘12Co-Editor-in-Chief

The Founder’s Room at Pitzer was filled with students, faculty and staff of the 5C’s, along with members of the outside community, on Nov. 3, to hear from the Consul General of Azerbaijan, Elin Suleymanov, about his relatively unknown country Suleymanov’s first experience with America came during an exchange program in the early 1990s, when he attended the University of Toledo. It was here, he said, “that I got to know America. I found it fascinating, the goodness of people in the Midwest, the openness.”

After working with data analysts researching his home region with the Open Media Research Institute in Prague, Suleymanov worked with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Azerbaijan for a year in Karabakh, the region at the center of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict (a cease-fire signed into effect in 1994, after the twoyear war, has yet to be lifted). His experience in the region, he asserted, “was the most dramatic. I spent a year with the refugee communities. Let me tell you, it is a human tragedy of epic proportions and makes you begin to appreciate your conditions. I cannot forget how strong and amazing these people are, how much spirit they have even though they have lost almost everything. It made me proud of my country. I joined the diplomatic services because these were the people I wanted to represent.”

After his year-long work, Suleymanov attended the prestigious Fletcher School of Tufts University and became the first Azerbaijani to graduate from their graduate school of international affairs. He was a part of the Azerbaijani embassy to the United States when he moved to Los Angeles in 2005 as the first ever Consul General of Azerbaijan.

“Much of what the consulate does is the usual—visas, legal documents, etc,” said Suleymanov. What is more important, according to him, is the political outreach, as well as “raising the flag of Azerbaijan and telling people about this country that exists [because] most people do not know that it exists.” The Azerbaijani consulate works with people and companies across the 13-state district that encompass their jurisdiction and brings the culture of Azerbaijan into Azerbaijani languages classes at UCLA, for example. The consulate also reaches out to American universities and visits campuses to discuss the politics and culture of Azerbaijan, like he did at the 5C’s.

Suleymanov’s talk included an introduction of Azerbaijan as a political and social force in the world—its distinctions include being the first parliamentary republic with a predominantly Muslim population, and being one of the first countries to initiate universal suffrage (Azerbaijan granted everyone the right to vote in 1918, two years before the United States). He spoke mostly, however, about Azerbaijan’s role as a source for energy and its central role in Eurasia. The United States government was also a major topic of discussion for Mr. Suleymanov—he was openly critical of the need for the United States to have an international presence, to commit fully and comprehensively to helping the region become stable, safe, and integrated.

“The more polarized the world is,” Mr. Suleymanov stated, “the more difficult it is to solve problems.” He alluded to this when he stated that those with access to education should encourage the rest of the community to learn more about countries like Azerbaijan and encourage the United States to stay very much present in the international scene, especially as it is a major world leader.

He reminded the audience that, “there is no excuse to not know anymore. You [students in America] have an added advantage because most of the world speaks English, so there is no language barrier to deal with.”

In addition to stressing the importance of Azerbaijan’s role in the world and the need for the United States to focus a little more on the Eurasian region, Mr. Suleymanov also answered questions about Turkey- Azerbaijan relations and the state of problems in Azerbaijan, along with comments on the European Union.

He was brought to Scripps by the European Union Center, the first such center in California and the only one of its kind in Southern California. The European Union regularly hosts international and diplomatic speakers who discuss topics relating to European issues. Students can find opportunities to conduct research about the Union and other European issues through the Center.

On Wednesday, Nov. 10, the Belgian Consul General to the United States will speak at Scripps in the Hampton Room to deliver the State of the European Union Address on behalf of the President of the European Union. For more information, visit www.eucenter.scrippscollege.edu.

Azerbaijani Facts

Language: Azerbaijani, Russian, Armenian

Currency: Azerbaijani manat

Primary Religions: Muslim, Russian Orthodox, Armenian Orthdox, Judaism

Border Countries: Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran

Population: 8,388,000