Remember Khojaly

E_2015-02-18_Remember-Khojaly_AzCenter (12)

In Texas, Khojaly commemorations started on February, 17th 2015 with an event organized by Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan at the State Capitol in Austin, TX.

On February, 18th 2015, the Azerbaijan Center with the support of its amazing volunteers organized an event in its facility commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre that occurred in Azerbaijan on February 25th & 26th 1992.

Mrs. Irada Akhoundova, CEO of the Azerbaijan Center, opened the event with a brief introduction about the commemoration.

The introduction was followed by a commemorative minute of silence.

A documentary film from the book written by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Heydar Aliyev Foundation titled “War Against Azerbaijan” part of the series of “The True facts about Garabagh”

The documentary was followed by a speech from Mr. Ryan Kennedy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Houston and founding director of the University of Houston’s Center for International and Comparative Studies. Kennedy’s work has spanned a number of areas in comparative politics and international relations, primarily dealing with stability and change in political institutions.

In his speech, Ryan Kennedy spoke about the Khojaly tragedy while comparing it to the one in Ukraine. He made an emphasis on the important of getting world attention which was currently not sufficient and the necessity of continuously work on increasing tragedy awareness worldwide.

Mr. Mammad Talibov, counselor of political and legal affairs for the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States of America in Washington, D.C., delivered a speech that included an overview of Khojaly tragedy’s facts.

Mr. Talibov made an emphasis on the refugee still suffering in Azerbaijan. To this date, this unresolved situation in Azerbaijan is still considered to be a frozen conflict with about 18% of Azerbaijan territory still occupied by Armenians.

The importance of maintaining a united and strong Azerbaijani diaspora around the world is crucial to increasing awareness about the ongoing conflict.

Mr. Talibov highlighted the fact that nowadays, over 15 U.S. states have recognized and commemorated the tragedy – with Texas ranking among the first ones on the list along with several countries worldwide with Turkey among them.

Mr. Abdullah Topcu, Vice-Consul of the Consulate General of Turkey in Houston commented that Turkey is a strong supporter of Azerbaijan and shares the heartfelt pain of Azerbaijani people about the Khojaly Tragedy.

Mr. Topcu reaffirmed that Turkey and the Consulate of Turkey in Houston will remain supportive to the Republic of Azerbaijan and, at a more local level, to the Azerbaijani diaspora in Texas and the Azerbaijan Center.

Mrs. Akhoundova highlighted the willingness of the Azerbaijan Center to maintain unity among organizations in Houston and was happy to introduce Mr. Javid Zeynalov as an active leader of the Azerbaijani community in Houston and President of Houston Azerbaijanis.

Mr. Zeynalov reminded the guests of Houston Azerbaijanis’ commemorative Khojaly Peace Rally to be held on Saturday, February 21st 2015 from 10:30am-12:30pm at the crossing of Westheimer Rd & Post Oak Blvd. The gathering will be @Starbucks to pick-up posters and flyers.

The announcement of Mr. Zeynalov was followed by an open questions session to the speakers.

As a small token of the Azerbaijan Center’s appreciation for his support and participation, a gift in form of books was made to Mr. Ryan Kennedy to keep spreading the word and educating other communities about the Khojaly massacre and the importance of having it recognized.

Once the commemorative session adjourned, all the guests gathered for a casual meet and greet session where light finger foods and Azerbaijani tea.

The Azerbaijan Center would like to extend its sincere thanks to all the volunteers, the speakers and the participants for attending the event and for their constant support to our organization and for commemorating with us such an important date for the Azerbaijani people.

The American-Azerbaijani community would also like to extend its heartfelt gratitude to Congressman Pete Olson and State Representative Gene Wu for their continued support.

The Azerbaijan Center also participated in the commemorative event organized by the Azerbaijanian American Cultural Alliance on Sunday, February 22nd 2015 at the Turquoise Center in Houston, TX.

We appreciate and support all organizations and members’ efforts in increasing awareness about Khojaly massacre by creating a strong impact in Texas through the different initiatives organized.

Following all the commemorations in Texas, the Azerbaijan Center’s CEO, Mrs. Irada Akhoundova participated in other events organized in Washington and Pennsylvania by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani community and Azerbaijani State Representatives feel very appreciative of the support from the American community and State representatives in commemorating Khojaly Massacre.

KHOJALY COMMEMORATION IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Related articles, pictures and videos:


Talents of Azerbaijan Series: Ella Leya and more!

“Azerbai…what?”, we often hear, “Azerbaijan!” we answer with pride. Because it is our vision to build bridges between Azerbaijan and Texas, let us take you, one event at a time, in a journey from Houston, TX to Azerbaijan. No need to fly above the ocean and no jetlag – guaranteed, we find the people, our people to take you under their wings on a journey of art, music, food, stories, poems and more…

There was no better way than a evening like this one to introduce our new program and series showcasing the many Talents Of Azerbaijan


That evening, the spotlights were on four talented guests with that little something in common: their country of birth, their land, their Azerbaijan.

Mrs. Irada Akhoundova, CEO and Emmanuelle Hamilton, Marketing Director of the Azerbaijan Center greeted the participants and introduced all the Talents Of Azerbaijan of the night.


Ella Leya, the guest of honor, is a singer, composer and writer living in London. In a discussion with Inna Naroditskaya, professor in Musicology and specialist in Azerbaijanian and Eastern music cultures but also Ella’s sister, Ella presented us her first novel “The Orphan Sky” and made all the guests travel and (re)discover the streets of Baku, Azerbaijan.

book cover imageThe Orphan Sky

Set at the crossroads of Turkish, Persian and Russian cultures under the red flag of Communism in the late 1970s, The Orphan Sky reveals one woman’s struggle to reconcile her ideals with the corrupt world around her, and to decide whether to betray her country or her heart…

A journey to Baku, Azerbaijan…

During the discussion, while Ella’s words took us, through the story of Leila, on a travel to the Azerbaijan of her book, the guests could enjoy the art work of two of our local artists, Irene Sheytman and Narmin Backus: some pieces inspired by The Orphan Sky and some others by our beloved city of Baku, Azerbaijan.

This book inspired me to start working on illustrations as soon as I put it down, although I was not invited to illustrate it and have very little hope that this book will be published with my works. Book touched me deeply not only because the main characters are my coevals and contemporaries, but also I shared their thoughts and feelings. I was reading the antagonist’s conversation and imagined myself walking down familiar streets. 

Irene Sheytman – Concerto – Acrylic on canvas



122014_NarminBackus_Paintings (2)

All the paintings are part of a series called “Streets of Baku”. The idea for this series was born out of a simple nostalgia for the city where I was born, the city of Baku. As I couldn’t visit Azerbaijan for the first few years of my life in the United States, I began painting streets of my dear Baku; imagining that I was there walking on the streets. As my paintbrush touched the canvas, my heart and my mind were filled with wonderful memories of my life in Baku.


Narmin BackusStreets of Baku series – Oil on canvas

After a brief questions-answers session in this intimate setting with the audience, Ella Leya made us the honor and the delight of performing a few songs from her albums including a “Russian Romance”.

Ella’s performance was followed by a book signing session of The Orphan Sky.


The Azerbaijan Center, with the generous support of El Tiempo Cantina, offered a buffet for the guests to enjoy to finish the evening remembering memories of Baku for some or simply meeting new people for others.

To continue filling the minds of our guests with this country we love so much, The Azerbaijan Center was also proud to showcase the work of Feride Buyuran and her AZcookbook “Pomegranates and Saffron: A Culinary Journey to Azerbaijan”.


Imagine a country where East and West are beautifully intertwined in the cuisine and culture and where its treasured cooking secrets are waiting to be discovered. Welcome to Azerbaijan. Feride Buyuran takes you on a delightful culinary journey through this beautiful land in the Caucasus.



The Azerbaijan Center would like to extend its sincere thanks to its generous sponsors, amazing volunteers, talented artists and wonderful attendees for making this event successful and for “travelling” with us that evening.


Irene Sheytman and Narmin Backus’ art works are on exhibit until mid-April at the Azerbaijan Center.

To learn more about our Talents of Azerbaijan program and artists, please contact us at

Sister Cities of Houston Soccer Tournament returned in 2015!

On January, 31st and February 7th, 2015, the Sister Cities of Houston organized their annual Amateur Soccer Tournament aimed at increasing global cooperation at the municipal level and promote cultural understanding. This year’s tournament was held at Cullen Park.

Mrs. Irada Akhoundova, CEO of the Azerbaijan Center and President of Houston-Baku sister City Association was part of the SCH Soccer Tournament Organizing Committee along with other Sister Cities of Houston members Mrs. Teresa Yates, Mrs. Sandy Phan and Mr. Jamal Bafagih.

Houston-Baku Sister City Association (SCA) with the support of the Azerbaijan Center and its sponsor the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) participated in this tournament along with 7 other teams.

This year, the annual tournament counted with teams of Houston-Huelva SCA, Houston-Abu-Dhabi SCA, Houston-Istanbul SCA, Houston-Chiba SCA, Houston-Tampico SCA, Houston Methodist Hospital International Department and Egypt.

Egypt team won the 1st place of the tournament and Houston-Chiba SCA won the second place.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the players of the Baku-AZ team for their participation and energy.

Many thanks also to all the organizers, participants, referees, volunteers, the Houston Office of Protocol and International Affairs from Houston Mayor’s Offic and the Sister Cities of Houston board for their support in this project.

To learn more about the Sister Cities of Houston, click here.


Picture is courtesy of AKA Photography and Azerbaijan Center