This year Canada and Azerbaijan will be celebrating 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in August 1992, following the fall of the Soviet Union and the re-establishment of Azerbaijani independence.
Azerbaijan opened it's embassy in Ottawa in 2004. Canada has accredited its Ambassador to Turkey to serve both Turkey and Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani community in Canada has been vocal about the need to establish dimplomatic presence in Azerbaijan by opening a Canadian embassy in Baku.
The Azerbaijani Canadian diaspora has been rapidly growing and since 2020, has united many of its organizations across the country into a Canada-wide, mutually-supportive network.
The Azerbaijani diaspora in Canada is mainly concentrated in the GTA, Calgary and Edmonton, with many Azerbaijani oil & gas professionals choosing Alberta as their home.
The diverse community has been very active in promoting and preserving Azerbaijani culture in Canada, as well as promoting the diversity that has traditionally existed amongst Azerbaijanis. Hosting traditional food and music festivals, participating in multicultural festivals across the country, opening Azerbaijani-language schools, and engaging in political advocacy.
Both Canada and Azerbaijan have established Parliamentary friendships Groups between the two countries. The Canada-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Friendship Group is chaired by Canadian MP Philip Lawrence, while the Azerbaijan-Canada Parliamentary Friendship Group is chaired by Azerbaijani MP Tural Ganjaliyev.
In the early 1990s, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Armenia's subsequent occupation of nearly 20% of Azerbaijan's sovereign territories led to the region's largest humanitarian crists since WWII.
The Human Rights Watch estimated that by 1992 upwards of 750,000 Azerbaijanis were ethnically cleansed from their homes in the Karabakh region by invading Armenian forces. Following the war, every 10th Azerbaijani became internally displaced in their own country.
Azerbaijan has one of the highest per capita concentrations of IDPs in the world. The majority of IDPs - approximately 90 % - originate from seven territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been occupied by Armenia since the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over fifteen years ago. - UNHCR
The UN Security Council released 4 resolutions demanding the Armenian forces' immediate and complete withdrawal out of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, to allow the 750,000 IDPs can return to their homes. Armenia would refuse to comply for three decades, until the Second Karabakh War in 2020, when the Azerbaijani forced would drive the occupying forces out of Azerbaijan's sovereign territory.
To date, few know about the plight of Azerbaijani IDPs and the atrocities, massacres and ethnic cleansing that marred their existence in the 1990s. With the lack of international awareness or support, ordinary families were forced to live in animal train cars and snake-infested tents across Azerbaijan. We will continut to honor their stories and give them a voice in the world, to ensure that their history is never forgotten.
Canada can play a decisive humanitarian role in landmine clearing assistance to Azerbaijan
Since November 2020 there have been a 177 landmine-related casualties in Azerbaijan's Karabakh region, including 35 civilians and 3 journalists who senselessly lost their lives to the landmines planted across the region. All of them left behind grieving families.
For three decades the picturesque mountains and towns of Karabakh have become associated with war, following Armenia’s UN-condemned occupation of the region since 1992. Formerly vibrant, culturally abundant Azerbaijani towns, villages, and cultural heritage have been razed to the ground and destroyed almost entirely. The largest investment made into the occupied region was the estimated $340 million dollars in landmines that were planted across Karabakh by the Armenian forces and government.
The 2020 Karabakh War ended with an agreement that mandated Armenia to return the occupied territories back to Azerbaijan. The 750,000 Azerbaijani IDPs who have been ethnically cleansed from their homes in the early 90s would now have a chance to return home.
Immediately following the 2020 war the Azerbaijani government began massive rebuilding and reconstruction work in the former warzone: roads, airports, "smart villages" with renewable energy, foreign investment into agriculture, and housing for the former IDPs. Although reconstruction and revival of the land has begun, the landmines continue to kill innocent civilians, journalists and those involved in rebuilding the land.
In December 2021 we proudly announced that as a result of our advocacy work, Mine Action Canada and Members of Parliament faciliated an agreement between Mines Advisory Group and Azerbaijan's ANAMA, to send supervisory support for the mine clearance in Karabakh.
We continue to urge Canada's to send much-needed humanitarian support and expertise to the region, in order to facilitatte the return of more than half a million internally displaced persons to their homes.
This year, Azerbaijani communities around the world marked the 30th anniversary of one of the darkest pages of recent Azerbaijani history – the Khojaly Massacre, committed on the night of February 26th, 1992 by Armenian forces.
In the weeks following the massacre, Western media unveiled to the world the chilling details of the night, where 613 civilians, including women and children, were exterminated by the invading Armenian Armed Forces, aided by the Russian 366th Motor Rifle Regiment.
The Human Rights Watch refers to the 1992 Khojaly Massacre as the largest massacre in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
Ultimately, Armenian forces ended up ethnically cleansing almost 700,000 Azerbaijanis out of their homes in Karabakh and occupying the region, despite the 4 UN Security Council resolutions demanding their “immediate withdrawal out of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.”
Armenia’s former president, Serzh Sargsyan, went on record saying “Before Khojaly, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We were able to break that stereotype. And that’s what happened.” (documented in British historian Thomas DeWaal's book "Black Garden").
None of the perpetrators have been brought to justice in 30 years. This doesn’t only render the innocent victims as invisible in the eyes of the world, but also discredits the strength of the international community and encourages oppressors in different parts of the world to commit crimes with impunity.
We will continue to educate, remember, and work to put an end to the hatred that fuelled the massacre in Khojaly.