Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s Visit to the Azerbaijan Center

On December 15, 2013 the United States Representative for Oklahoma’s 1st congressional district, Congressman Jim Bridenstine visited the Azerbaijan Center in Houston, Texas and met with local cultural activists and volunteers. The newly elected Congressman spoke about his recent visit to Azerbaijan and expressed interest in growing Azerbaijani diaspora, placing emphasis on aligning Azerbaijan and United States on issues of international security and economic development in Caucasus region.

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One of the topics discussed in the meeting was strengthening both cultural and economic ties between two countries and forming strategic partnerships that will ensure reaching common goals of United States, as well as Azerbaijan. Azerbaijanis present at this meeting were mainly U.S. educated young professionals that are currently working with U.S. and taking part in various cultural initiatives to promote Azerbaijan culture in America.

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It was noted that the level of cultural and business exchange has increased in the last decade as a result of increased presence of western energy corporations opening offices in Baku, Azerbaijan as well as increased number of Azerbaijanis obtaining graduate education in Europe and the United States of America.

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Overall, the meeting was held in a friendly atmosphere, concluding with various future plans for cooperation between Congressman’s office and Houston-Baku Sister Cities Association.

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Annual Thanksgiving Potluck

The Annual Thanksgiving Potluck event was hosted by the Azerbaijan Center in Houston, Texas on November 30th, 2013.

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One of our biggest community events of the year, the Annual Thanksgiving Potluck Feast is where old friends and new neighbors gather together and enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings as well as good music and dancing.Guests brought turkey, salads, sides and deserts inspired by their own family traditions.

“Thanksgiving Day is a time of festivity, family meals and reunions in America. It is also a time to show your gratitude and respect to your elders, friends, your siblings and also your colleagues; therefore, I am happy to host such event at the Azerbaijan Center”, said Irada Akhoundova, president of Houston-Baku Sister City Association and Azerbaijan Center.

Azerbaijan Artist at the Citizenship Month and the “Open the Door” Initiative in Houston,Texas

 A celebration of Citizenship Month and unveiling of the “Open The Door” at Lone Star College-University Park took place on Tuesday, November 19, 2013.

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Several dignitaries such as Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, University of Houston-Downtown President Bill Flores, Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Thomason, HP Comptroller Olivier Delelis, French Cultural Attaché Sylvie Christophe and Deputy Cultural Attaché Lauriane Blandel were present at the event.

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The “Open The Door” artists, Saida Fagala, Azerbaijan and Jin Young Oh shared a few words about their artwork and what the door represents.

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The event, hosted by LSC-University Park President Shah Ardalan, and the Texan French Alliance for the Arts, is a celebration of the diverse cultures that make up the Houston area as well as the Lone Star College System.

Houston’s East Downtown (EaDo) District, Tree Planting and Neighborhood Block Party

On November 16, 2013, Sister Cities of Houston (SCH) participated in a major urban renewal tree planting event and celebration which took place in Houston’s East Downtown (EaDo) District.

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In close collaboration with EaDo, Trees for Houston and Watershed Market this effort kicked-off the development of the Houston International Promenade which is planned to grow into an exciting, new public destination where the city’s international and diverse community can unite and be celebrated.

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More than 150 volunteers from different communities pulled together for this planting event which was attended by Mayor Annise Parker, Council member James Rodrigues and Former Council member and TIRZ chair Gordon Quan as well as other city officials and representatives of  partner organizations.
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The effort  marked the first step towards the further realization of a public space envisioned by Sister Cities of Houston through a concept study by Project for Public Spaces which was developed with extensive input from the community.
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Azerbaijan Center Celebrates National Flag Day in Houston, Texas.

On November 9, 2013 Azerbaijani Center of Houston, TX held an official reception on the occasion of National Flag Day, a public holiday held in Azerbaijan to honor state flag of Azerbaijan. Among the dignitaries attending the event were the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the United States Elin Suleymanov, U.S. congressmen Al Green, Steve Stockman, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, State Senator and President of New Mexico Mary K. Papen, Texas state congressmen Sylvester Turner, Jessica Farrar, Alma Allen, Joe Deshotel, acting Consul General of Turkey, consuls of Greece, Croatia and Italy in Houston, delegation of State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic led by its Vice-President Khalik Mammadov and Rauf Mammadov, Director of Representative Office of State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic in the United States of America.

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The evening program was opened by the Director of Azerbaijan Center and President of Houston-Baku Sister City Association (HBSCA) Irada Akhundova, who welcomed and thanked the guests for honoring Azerbaijani Flag by their attendance. In her speech she talked about One Year Anniversary of the Azerbaijan Center and what it has accomplished during one year; she also talked about Constitution Day of Azerbaijan which is celebrated on November 12, and gave a short summary about the history of Azerbaijan.
Taking the stage next, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the United States Elin Suleymanov expressed gratitude to all participants on behalf of Azerbaijani government and told the audience about the history of the flag of Azerbaijan and the significance the occasion bears for the Azerbaijani statehood.
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Members of U.S. Congress Sheila Jackson Lee,
Al Green, Steve Stockman and Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis spoke to the audience about the strategic alliance between the United States and Azerbaijanб and congratulated the Azerbaijani community on the occasion of National Flag Day.
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Then the Ambassador of Azerbaijan Elin Suleymanov and the head of Azerbaijan Center Irada Akhundova were presented with certificates of recognition and the flags flown over the United States Capitol in memory of Azerbaijani Center and in honor of National Flag of Azerbaijan.
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Azerbaijani Community of Houston Celebrates Independence Day of Azerbaijan

On October 12, 2013 As a part of an annual tradition, members of the Azerbaijani community of Houston and surrounding cities gathered in a state park to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Independence Day of Azerbaijan.

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A new generation of young Azerbaijani Americans participated in the event, which plays a special role in upbringing of national spirit. The event was co-organized by the Houston-Baku Sister Cities Association and Azerbaijani Center of Houston.

Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence from Soviet Union on October 18, 1991.

Azerbaijan Center Hosts Annual Family Halloween Party

On October 26th, 2013 Azerbaijan Center hosted annual Halloween Party for Azerbaijani community in Houston, TX.
Prizes for the best carved pumpkin, best, scariest and most unusual costumes, and much more were given away to the winners.
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Caspian Forum in New York City

On September 25, an Istanbul-based Caspian Strategy Institute (HASEN) held the Caspian Forum, dedicated to the Southern Corridor and energy security of Europe at a famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, New York. Among the dignitaries attending the forum were members of diplomatic corps, business communities, think-tanks and representatives of various governments.

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A pre-event reception was hosted by HASEN. The event, sponsored by SOCAR and TANAP, co-sponsored by BP, TP, TAP, Total, Botas, consisted of two parts.

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The first part included speeches by government officials and business leaders. The second part consisted of a panel moderated by the Emmy-award winning TV anchor, Charlie Rose and included a panel discussion on energy security by foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia, Greece, Special Envoys and Representatives for U.S. and EU. All range of issues, including the benefits and risks to Southern Corridor, as well as future potential projects were discussed. A grand dinner reception followed the event.

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The opening remarks were delivered by the Secretary General of the Caspian Strategy Institute Haldun Yavash. The first speaker who took the podium was Vice President of State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) for Investments and Marketing Elshad Nassirov who gave an overview of the history of the oil and gas production in Azerbaijan. The SOCAR representative noted that the first oil well in the world was drilled in Baku in 1848, the first pipeline was laid from Baku to Batumi, and that Baku provided 80% of Soviet production during the WWII, which in turn, significantly contributed to the Allied victory over Nazis.

1271208_10201237105862853_1293927581_oMr. Nassirov underlined the fact that the first global oil crisis took place not in sixties or seventies, but in 1920, when Bolsheviks seized the Baku oilfields. Reiterating the importance of energy resources of Azerbaijan, the Vice President of SOCAR spoke of significance of the Southern Corridor. Concluding his remarks, Mr. Nassirov stated that after recent signing of gas deals with the European companies, participating countries got even closer to the physical construction of the pipeline.

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Azerbaijani Pianist Performed at The Annual September Concert

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On September 19, 2013, the Annual September Concert hosted by Sister Cities of Houston took place at the University of St. Thomas with special performance from Baku, Azerbaijan pianist Tarana Garayeva-Taylor, the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts Chamber Choir: Julia Hall, Karenia Garrido Clarinetist from Cuba, Avaghys, Musician and dance from Cameroon, and Andrew Menger, Violinist.

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Each year the collective Sister Cities strive to bring people together for a concert to reaffirm hope for peace and to celebrate life and universal humanity. The September Concert seeks to unite individuals in art to bridge the gap between people regardless of geographical, cultural or language barriers.

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Tarana Garayeva- Taylor performed three pieces during the concert such as “Papillons” by Robert Schumann, “Ballad” by Jovdat Hajiyev and “1001 nights” by Fikret Amirov.All three were stylistically different pieces that allowed the audience to experience the various sounds of music.

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The September Concert at the University of St. Thomas was an enjoyable evening full of intellectually stimulating experiences of music.

Operetta “The Cloth Peddler” Conquers Los Angeles, California

On September 7th, 2013 Los Angeles has hosted the premiere of Arshin mal alan (The Cloth Peddler), a world- known operetta by great Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli.

This 100-year-old musical comedy with a breathtaking love story and amazing music is considered to be the first operetta of the entire Muslim world, and has been successfully performed in scores of languages in over 60 countries!

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The operetta was performed by an all American team and produced by famous director Michael Schnack. Actors had diligent rehearsals for several months. They said the toughest thing to do was to learn to sing in Azerbaijani.

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James Judd, who played the musical comedy`s main character, Asgar, said it took them a long time to learn the words of arias.

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Asha Lindsey, who played Gulchohra, said she learned a lot about Azerbaijan`s history and culture, as well as Islam when she played in Arhshin mal alan for the first time seven years ago.

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“I have many Azerbaijani friends. I can tell much about this unique country. I know very well what my character wants. If Gulchohra lived now, she would have been very brave,” Lindsey added.

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Michael Schnack said the Americans have a different approach to tradition, especially in an artistic sense. “Younger generations in America are open to changes. One of the reasons why Azerbaijan is of such interest to Americans is that the West was once strongly influencing this country.”

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The musical comedy was played to a full house at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, one of the premier opera houses of the world also famous for hosting Oscar Awards ceremonies in 1970-90s.

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 An audience of 3,000 people enjoyed this comic and romantic story of love full of songs and humor for about two hours. The performance received a standing ovation.

Congressman Michael Turner from Ohio visited Azerbaijan Center

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On August 30th, 2013 Congressman from the state of Ohio Michael Turner visited the Azerbaijani Center in Houston. At a meeting with members of the Azerbaijani community of the city and friends of Azerbaijan, Congressman discussed a number of issues concerning bilateral relations between the United States and Azerbaijan.

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Michael Turner represents the 10th Congressional District of Ohio, and is chairman of the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces of the Armed Forces Committee of the U.S. Congress and a senior member of the Committee on Government Reform and Control of the United States.

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As a supporter of U.S. activeness in energy security, improving mutual relations and trade ties between the U.S. and its energy producing allies and as an author of the resolution in Congress calling for strengthening of energy security of European allies through the implementation of the Southern Corridor, Turner discussed the Trans Adriatic Pipeline project and significant contribution of Azerbaijan to its implementation and energy security of Europe.

The legislator said that the U.S. administration should pay more attention to Azerbaijan in this sphere.

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Congressman got familiar with the work of the Azerbaijani center and praised the project of twin cities, in particular the work of Houston-Baku Sister City Association, which for the past 37 years has made a tremendous contribution to development of relations between the two oil cities of Azerbaijan and the United States as a whole. Turner noted that the Azerbaijani Diaspora in the U.S. is growing, stressed the role of the U.S. Azeris Network and members of the Azerbaijani community in general in the development of US-Azerbaijani relations.

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Congressman Steve Stockman visited Azerbaijan Center in Houston Texas

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On August 21st, 2013 Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX) has visited the Azerbaijani Center of Houston. During the meeting with the members of Azerbaijani community of Houston, the lawmaker discussed the bilateral relations between the United States and Azerbaijan.

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Stockman noted that he was amazed by the rapid growth of Azerbaijani economy in the last ten years. The congressman appreciated the role of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in the development of the country, accentuating on the skills of the head of Azerbaijani state in development of relations with other countries.

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Congressman Steve Stockman represents the new expanding 36th congressional district of Texas. In 1995-1997s, he served as the US Congressman for the 9th congressional district in the opposite part of the city.

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The U.S. Congressman’s Visit at the Azerbaijan Center.

On August 6th, 2013, one of the senior members of the U.S. House of Representatives Ruben Hinojosa, representing the 15th District of Texas, visited the Azerbaijani Center in Houston (Texas), the fourth largest city in the United States.
The Congressman Hinojosa communicated the importance of the partnership between the U.S. and Azerbaijan.

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The Congressman Hinojosa has expressed a desire to visit Azerbaijan Center in Washington in June 2013, at a meeting with the Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation headed by Samad Seyidov, during a conversation with the head of the Azerbaijan Center and the Sister Cities Association Houston-Baku (HBSCA) Irada Akhoundova to discuss prospects of cooperation, investment and exchange of experience in industries such as medicine, education, petrochemicals.

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The Congressman discussed his desire to expand investment in human capital in Azerbaijan, and joint economic and educational opportunities between Azerbaijan and Texas, especially within his Congressional District. The Congressman Hinojosa suggested an exchange of agriculture, manufacturing and business experts between Azerbaijan and his Congressional District to share their knowledge and skills.

The Congressman also mentioned the South Texas’s involvement in instilling a desire for technical, scientific, economic, and medical disciplines for students from elementary school and up. In particular, he talked about the large traditional education fair, which is held every year in Texas, where companies, universities, research centers, and etc., provide all the information for children of all ages. The congressman said that such an event might be interesting for Azerbaijan and expressed a desire to see our representatives there.

The Congressman also took a great interest in history and culture of Azerbaijan. The founder of the “Bakililar” community, Elkhan Agamirzaev, who also attended a meeting with a congressman talked about rich traditions, ancient history, and unique culture of Azerbaijani people.

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At the end of the meeting, Irada Akhoundova presented books and materials with information on Azerbaijan and introduced the congressman with a real Azerbaijani tea, while explaining a secret to its proper brewing and other nuances of Azerbaijani tea party.

Mayor Annise Parker Announces Houston’s Language Access Plan

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Representatives of the Houston Baku Sister City Association joined Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Mayor Pro Tem Edward Gonzalez, City Councilmembers Ellen Cohen, Melissa Noriega, Jack Christi, Jerry Davis and Andrew Burks, as well as representatives of Houston’s large international community and Consular Corps at Houston’s City Hall today for the announcement and executive signing of the City’s Language Access Program which will translate essential information for public consumption.

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Over the next six months, this program will translate vital information regarding key city services and disaster related information in the event of an emergency, such as a hurricane or home gas leak into the five most spoken, non-English or Spanish, languages in Houston.

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We were proud to be invited be a part of this events and present to witness the signing of this progressive document which will add to the reasons why Houston is one of the most diverse and international cities in the United States.

To view a short video of the press conference, please click here!

Houston Mayor’s Iftar Dinner a Success!

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In what has quickly become a highly sought seasonal event in the Houston area, the 2013 annual Iftar Dinner was a complete success following another annual night of friendship, dinner and faith.

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Iftar is one of the group observances conducted during Ramadan where communities gather together to break the daily fast, and  on Saturday, July 27th, 2013, members of all faiths and denominations joined together for this prestigious yearly dinner at the Bayou City Events Center.  Although planned for 1500 guests, almost 2000 people attended the dinner organized by the Baku, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul and Karachi Sister City Associations and hosted by collaborating organizations such as The Azerbaijan Center, Bilateral US Arab Chamber of Commerce, Council on American Islamic Relations of Houston (CAIR), Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, Muslim Council of USA, Raindrop Turkish Center, South Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Hashoo Foundation (www.hashoofoundation.org) and many others.

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The Mayor of Houston and other Congressional, County, City, business and civic leaders also attended to show their support and solidarity during this multi-cultural event.  After being introduced by Midland Energy President and CEO Javaid Anwar, Mayor Annise Parker addressed the importance of community and faith while addressing the full banquet hall.  The Mayor and First Lady of Houston were joined by Houston City Comptroller Ronald Green, Councilman Larry Green and Harris Country Sheriff Adrian Garcia.   Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Congressman Al Green, both Congressional representatives whose districts are located in Houston, also greeted the audience and presented proclamations to the organizers of the dinner for their hard work towards creating a more diverse society.

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Ramadan is a time for giving and coming together as people through fasting, patience and sacrifice.  Through suppressing our selfishness, we open ourselves to explore the emotions brought on by the less fortunate.

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The Azerbaijani community together with the Pakistani, Arab, and American communities were proud to be a part of this wonderful event and we look forward to it again next year.

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To view more pictures of the Mayor’s Annual Iftar Dinner, please click here.

2013 Annual Ramadan Dinner on July 27th.

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Dear Friends,

Thank you for your overwhelming support of the 2013 Ramadan dinner hosted by the Baku, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul and Karachi Sister City Associations.  As of a few days ago we already have 1500 people registered for this amazing event.  We thank the organizers who have worked so hard to ensure this dinner takes place and we hope to see everyone there!

2013 US – Azerbaijan Convention in Baku

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On May 28-29, 2013, Baku hosted the “Azerbaijan-US: Vision for Future” convention co-organized by the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians and the American Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ).

The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev delivered the opening remarks to the audience.

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Among the guests present were a special delegation consisting of 11 Members of the United State’s Congress and 200+ legislators from 42 different States. The U.S-Azerbaijani Convention was huge success overall with a record of 300+ high level officials attending.

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In attendance from Houston were former Mayor Bill White of Houston,  Sheila Jackson Lee, Rubin Hinojosa, Ted Poe and Steve Stockman, all members of the Texas delegation to the United States Congress, and Houston City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Edward Gonzalez, Matthew Bryza, Former US Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan and current US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar.

Additional guests included former Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, Congresswoman Michelle Grisham of New Mexico, Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, and Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.

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During this conference the delegates were treated to a private audience with President Aliyev, Lt. General Elchin I. Guliyev, Chief of the Azerbaijan’s Border Security, and Shahmar Movsumov, Executive Director of the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan where they discussed matters of importance to the US – Azerbaijan relationship.  They later visited the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy.

The US delegation also met with delegates of the Mili Majlis which included Samad Seyidov, Ziyafat Asgarov, Mukhtar Babayev, Sevinj Fataliyeva, Asim Mollazade, and Sahiba Gafarova.

To view another article, please visit: http://en.trend.az/news/politics/2155430.html

To view additional pictures of the convention, please visit:  http://s1292.photobucket.com/user/houstonbaku/slideshow/2013%20US%20-%20Azerbaijan%20Convention

95th Anniversary of Azerbaijan’s Republic Day at Houston City Hall a Success!

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On Monday night the Houston-Baku Sister City Association in cooperation with the Azerbaijan Center hosted more than 100 guests from Houston’s international community for a reception at the historical Houston City Hall to celebrate the Anniversary of Azerbaijan’s Republic Day.

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The event was attended by delegates of Houston-based consulates and city officials including co-host and Mayor Pro-Tem Councilman Ed Gonzalez, Andy Icken, Mayor Annise Parker’s Chief Development Officer, The Consul General of Mexico and his wife Dr. and Mrs. Malpica, the Consul General of Turkey Cemalettin Aydin, Greek Consul Genearl Georgios Papanikolaou, Trustee Erica Lee, Harris County School Board Position 1, and Lynn Strickland, VP of Exploration for ConocoPhillips.  In addition to our guests we also had esteemed representatives from the congressional offices of Congressmen Ted Poe and Steve Stockman, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.  Also present were representatives of Houston’s business, cultural, educational, non-profit communities and many Azerbaijanis living in Houston.

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The celebration recognized the 95th anniversary of the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR), the first secular and democratic republic in the Muslim and Turkic world. Azerbaijan People’s Republic was declared on May 28, 1918 in Tbilisi by the Azerbaijan National Council headed by Mahammad Amin Rasulzadeh. Over the 23 months of its existence prior to Bolshevik occupation of Azerbaijan in April 1920, ADR succeeded in restoring the territorial integrity of the country, in securing the international recognition of Azerbaijan, and in establishing democratic institutions, including the Parliament and the multi-party representative government. Among other key achievements of the first republic were the 1919 universal suffrage law, granting women the right to vote, ahead of the United States and some European nations; the establishment of Baku State University; and the adoption of the modern national symbols of Azerbaijan, including its tri-color flag, anthem and the coat of arms.

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Co-host of the event was Houston City Council Member, the Honorable Edward “Ed” Gonzalez.  Councilman Gonzalez is a close friend of the Azerbaijani community and will be attending this month’s US-Azerbaijan Conference in Baku.  After his speech about the strong relationship between Houston and Baku, Councilman Gonzalez presented the Mayor of Houston’s proclamation declaring 28th of May as Azerbaijan’s Republic Day in Houston.

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A special thanks also to our friends at the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) for their generous financial contribution that allowed this event to take place.

Upcomign Event: 95th Anniversary of Azerbaijan Republic Day

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Upcomign Event:  95th Anniversary of Azerbaijan Republic Day

Please join us at 5.30p.m. on May 20th, 2013 at the Rotunda of Houston City Hall, 901 Bagby, Houston, Texas, 77002, to celebrate the 95th Anniversary of Azerbaijan Republic Day with our special guest, the Honorable Ed Gonzalez, Houston City Councilman. National cuisine and entertainment will be provided.

RSVP required due to space: azerbaijancchouston@gmail.com

HBSCA and Corpus Christi School join to participate in the 2013 Children’s Parade for the I-Fest!

For over five years the HBSCA educational program has been very active in the Houston International Festival.  As part of this educational program, each year a member of our association chooses a Houston area schools and educated the children at the school about Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani language.

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This year our members, Arifa Bixby, Director of the Women’s Committee, and recently joined community member Konul Baltas visited the Corpus Christi School in South West Houston to teach the children about the culture, history and people of Azerbaijan as well as the language.  Continuing on this program, the children from Corpus Christi School participated in the Children’s Parade where they represented Azerbaijan and the Houston Baku Sister City Association.  They greeted the guests with a newly learned Azerbaijani greeting.    HBSCA donated specially made shirts with the symbol of Azerbaijan on the chest to stand out to the audience. DSCF0795 During the parade, city officials including Mayor Pro Tem Ed Gonzalez, Councilman Jack Christi, Councilman Larry Green and Councilman Jerry Davis were present and addressed the audience regarding the importance of the relationships between the sister cities and their economic and cultural importance to Houston. DSCF0796 The audience was patient as the children representing the numerous sister city associations gave a brief greeting to the audience.  Children from the Corpus Christi school were introduced by parade emcee and KHOU Channel 11 News anchor Greg Hurst (see video below): “The students are wearing special made Houston Baku Tshirts.  Baku and Houston have been Sister Cities since 1972…Baku is also a city known globally for its oil and energy commerce just like Houston, and the students would like to give you a greeting in Azeri” The student’s responded with a robust “SALAM FROM BAKU”! before departing the stage to watch the performances by the remaining sister city associations. photo 5 We are very thankful for all parents and students from the Corpus Christi school and the community volunteers who worked with the children to make HBSCA’s participation in the 2013 Children’s Parade a success.

HBSCA hosts a traditional Novruz celebration for children at the Azerbaijan Cultural Center

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Novruz, or “Novruz Bayrami” as it is referred to in Azerbaijan is a traditional Persian holiday which celebrates the coming of Spring and the New Year.   Each of the 4 weeks preceding Novruz is devoted to one of the four elements. Each Tuesday people celebrate the day of one of the four elements – water, fire, earth and wind. People do house cleaning, plant trees, make new dresses, paint eggs, make national pastries such as shakarbura, pakhlava and a great variety of “national cuisine”.  Wheat is fried with kishmish (raisins) and nuts (govurga). As a tribute to fire-worshiping every Tuesday during four weeks before the holiday, children jump over small bonfires and candles are lit.

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Every year this popular, national holiday is not only celebrated by our friends in Azerbaijan, but also by members of the Azerbaijani diaspora around the world and our Houston Azerbaijani community is no different!   During the past many years, HBSCA’s facilitated the celebration of Novruz with annual Gala Dinner events but this year also a special Novruz celebration for children was added to the program.

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On Sunday, March 24, 2013 the center at Avondale St. in the Montrose district in Houston opened its doors for the community and while the bonfires may have lacked, the children were treated to a special performance by volunteers that told the story of the beautiful Spring Bahar’s quest to be freed from the lair of the evil Father Winter.

With the help of Kossa and his friend Kechel, the children participated in a group Easter egg hunt, which contained the clues needed to free Bahar and bring Spring and the New Year to Houston!

Luckily, the children were able to put together the clues and free Bahar, who after being set free delighted the guests with a beautiful dance that welcomed the Spring!

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 The successful hunt and liberation of Bahar was celebrated with traditional music, dancing, Novruz delicacies and party favors for the kids who continued their Spring adventure on the bouncy castles outside on the patio.

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A big thank you goes to our sponsors at SOCAR and to the organizers, the kids and all the participants who made this celebration so special.  With the coming of Spring, Novruz is one of the happiest holidays that brings families and the larger community together.   Don’t forget to join us for the celebrations next year, and more so, don’t forget to sign up for an HBSCA membership as soon as possible!

For additional pictures or to watch the excitement as it happened, watch the YouTube videos by clicking below!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7eGdNnvLj7WSgIgvRIM5bg/videos

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HAPPY NOVRUZ!

HBSCA welcomes guest delegation to the Azerbaijan Cultural Center.

On March 8th, 2013, HBSCA was honored with the visit of a very special delegation from Azerbaijan to the Azerbaijan Cultural Center.  The guests included Azerbaijani Ambassador, Elin Suleymanov, Mr. Khalik Mammadov, VP of SOCAR, Mr. Rauf Mammadov, Director of SOCAR USA, and the Honorable Samad Seyyidov, the Honorable Asim Mollazade, the Honorable Ms. Sevinj Fataliyeva and the Honorable Sabiha Qafarova, all members of the Azerbaijan Parliament. 

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In honor of the visit of the delegation and to celebrate International Women’s Day, the Azerbaijan Center opened its doors for a dinner party with the guests and members of the community.  The 70 guests that attended enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and enjoy traditional Azerbaijani food, a good time was had by all. HBSCA President Irada Akhoundova welcomed the guests and visitors and spoke about the importance of the Azerbaijan Center and HBSCA as they collaborate in strengthening the relationship between our two cities

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March 8th is also celebrated around the world as International Women’s Day, a day where women are recognized globally for their contributions to politics, society, culture, business and the family.  As no Women’s Day celebration should conclude without honoring the great women in our lives, the female guests received bouquets of flowers in gratitude for all their efforts.

Happy Women’s Day!

Strengthening Government Relations

The mission of the Houston Baku Sister City Association (HBSCA) is to promote mutual understanding, appreciation and cooperation between the citizens of Houston, Texas and Baku, Azerbaijan.  As a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that aspires to connect these two cities through creating and strengthening partnerships in business, culture and education, it goes without saying that having strong relationships with local and state elected officials in Houston and in Baku are essential to the success of our organization.  Maintaining these relationships as well as reaching out to establish new contacts with the officials is an important responsibility of the HBSCA leadership. It is with pleasure that we hereby highlight a few recent connections that were facilitated by our organization under the leadership of President Irada Akhoundova.

When Ambassador Elin Suleymanov and SOCAR VP Khalik Mammadov visited Houston earlier this March, HBSCA was honored to introduce the guests to Mayor Annise Parker who welcomed them at Houston’s City Hall.  A discussion was held regarding the ongoing special relationship between Houston and Baku and maintaining the economic, education and strategic relationship.  Additionally, Mayor Parker shared that she was planning on making a future trip to visit Baku in the future.  Following the meeting, Ambassador Suleymanov and Mr. Mammadov presented Mayor Parker with a one-of-a-kind painting of pomegranates, a regional delicacy, brought especially from Azerbaijan as a gift for the Mayor.

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Visit of Azerbaijan Government Officials Delegation

It was a great honor for HBSCA to welcome the delegation of Azerbaijan Government officials on March 8th at the Azerbaijan Cultural Center on the occasion of International Women’s Day.   The delegation guests included his Excellency the Honorable Elin Suleymanov, Amabassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States, Members of the Azerbaijan Parliament the honourable Samad Seyyidov, the honourable Asim Mollazade, the honourable Sevinj Fataliyeva and the honourable Sabiha Qafarova, SOCAR VP Khalik Mammadov and SOCAR USA Director Rauf Mammadov.

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The visit offered a good opportunity for our community to meet with the officials and to demonstrate how the HBSCA community is committed to strengthening the friendship relations between Houston, Texas and Baku, Azerbaijan.

The delegation visited Houston as part of a US tour during which they also visited  Austin Texas to meet with Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Strauss, and with members of the Texas State House and Senate. The delegation spoke with a number of elected officials concerning the ongoing relationship between the United States and Azerbaijan along with the continued economic and social support. The guests were hosted on a wonderful tour of the Texas Capitol Building and were invited to join Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Comptroller Susan Combs and Governor Rick Perry for a number of events and meet and greets in the Capitol Complex. Following the day’s events, State Representative Jim Pitts hosted a reception at his private residence in Austin.  HBSCA welcomes the increased level of government relations between the two countries as it emphasizes the importance of our efforts in connecting the two cities, Houston and Baku through cultural, educational and trade exchange programs.  Instrumental in arranging for the delegation’s visit was Senator Rodney Ellis, who has been a leading voice of the Azerbaijani people in Texas.

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To view the pictures of the delegation’s visit to Austin, click on the below link for our photosharing library at Photobucket!

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HBSCA President Irada Akhoundova also met with Houston City Councilwoman Ellen Cohen, District C, who represents the district in which the Azerbaijan Cultural Center is located.   Topics of the meeting included general information about the HBSCA organization and activities as well as a conversation about various issues that may affect the relationship between our two sister cities.

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Another important meeting was with Houston City Councilman Ed Gonzalez, District H, whose office is co-operating in the plans for the construction of the Azerbaijan Friendship Park which will be located within his district.  Councilman Gonzalez and his office will be instrumental in assisting with the planning and procedures required by the City.  Councilman Gonzalez’s office was also kind enough to present our organization with a proclamation from the city recognizing our recent events in remembrance of the Khojaly tragedy.

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We are very thankful for all of the elected officials who take time out of their busy schedules to hear about the mission and objectives of our organization and who support our efforts in building relationships between Houston and Baku.

To view other proclamations, resolutions and governmental recognition that HBSCA and the Azerbaijan Cultural Center have received, click here:  http://bit.ly/WYZG43

Khojaly Lecture A Success!

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On February 25th, 2013, the Azerbaijan Center along with the Houston Baku Sister City Association and in cooperation with the University of St. Thomas, Houston, was proud to hold the first in a number of historical and education lectures.DSCF0719  

Titled:  “Frozen Conflicts in the Countries of the Former Soviet Union”, the lecture consisted of a panel of guest speakers who shared their wealth of knowledge with the audience.

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We were proud to have with us Dr. Hans Stockton, professor at the University of St. Thomas, who was kind enough to host us; Ms. Irada Akhoundova, president of the Houston Baku Sister City Association; Dr. Jean-Phillipe Faletta, professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas; Dr. Ryan Kennedy, professor of political science at the University of Houston; Mr. Mammad Talibov, Counselor of the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States; Mr. Elkhan Agamirza, scholar of international relations; Mr. Yusif Babanly, co-founder and director of the US-Azeri network; and Dr. Riad Efendi, director of the HBSCA.

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In addition to our distinguished guest speakers, we were also pleased to be recognized by a number of elected officials, who sent proclamations and resolutions in recognition of Khojaly.  We were thankful to have Ms. Aquanita McClaney from Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis’s office who presented a proclamation on behalf of the Texas State Senate.

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In addition to Senator Ellis’s proclamation, we were proud to receive proclamations from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas State Representative Gene Wu, Mayor Pro-Tem Edward Gonzalez and a resolution for the congressional record on behalf of the office of Congressman Gene Green.

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First Annual Azerbaijan Music Night

On Saturday, February 2nd, 2013, the Azerbaijan Community Center was pleased to open its doors for the first annual Azerbaijan Music Night and new member meet and greet.

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Friends, visitors and members of the community joined together to enjoy traditional Azerbaijani music played by musician and frequent guest entertainer at the Azerbaijan House Ali Haghshenas, who always entertains our guests by playing the garmon for us.  We also had the great pleasure of introducing new HBSCA members to current members.

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In addition to Ali’s beautiful music, we were also lucky to have with us visitors from Germany, who accompanied Ali by singing beautiful and moving traditional songs.

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As song and dance are a mainstay of Azerbaijani gatherings, so are delicious food and drinks.  Azerbaijan Music Night was also a pot luck, where members of the community were invited to bring a little taste of their own.  The community center was filled with the delicious smells of traditional Azerbaijani delicacies, sweet treats and aromatic teas. 

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Thank you friends and volunteer for all the hard work that went into this night, it was great seeing new friends and sampling everyone’s delicious home made food!  We hope to see you at our next gathering.

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The Azerbaijan Community and Cultural Center remembers Black January.

Local Azerbaijanis and Houstonians join to remember the events of 20 January 1990.

On Sunday, January 20, 2013, the Azerbaijan Community and Cultural Center in cooperation with the Houston Baku Sister City Association, hosted an open house in commemoration of those who lost their lives during the attacks against Azerbaijan’s capital Baku before the country officially gained its independence in 1991.

On 20 January 1990, military forces of the Soviet Union, under orders issued by a decree signed by then President Mikhail Gorbachev, launched an offensive attack against the city of Baku in an attempt to impose emergency rule and seize military control.

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In a sign of solidarity, the people of Baku resisted peacefully against the occupying forces, and three days after the initial invasion, Soviet forces withdrew.  Despite the peaceful resistance against the invading forces, over 100 people were killed or injured, and as a result, 20 January, or Black January, is the official observance of those who lost their lives that day.2

The commemoration of Black January was opened with a slide show created by Elkhan Agamirza and Yusif Aleskerov, a local expert of the events that took place in Baku on that fateful day.  In addition to the guest lecture, a brief question and answer session took place followed by eyewitness statements from those who were present that day.

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Immediately following the statements issued by eye witnesses, a moment of silence was held in memory of those who died that day. Co-founder of the US Azerbaijani Network Yusif Babanly also gave a brief history of the events that caused the 20th of January invasion and it’s implication of Azerbaijan’s quest for independence.

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A moment of silence in memory of the deceased.

In addition to the guest lecture, the Azerbaijan Community and Cultural Center’s doors were open to the whole community, and we were grateful to be joined by members of the Avondale Society who took time out of their weekend to visit and partake not only in this educational lecture, but also the delicious homemade finger foods and teas that were served by our gracious volunteers.

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A group photograph of those who joined the commemoration and open house.

Puppet Show and Special Guest Visitor!

Aladdin and Jasmine Marionette Show at the Azerbaijan Center.

On January 5th, 2012, Houston’s Azerbaijan Cultural Center organized a puppet show by Marionette Playhouse performed by Jean Kuecher, a popular puppeteer based in Houston for local children in celebration of the holidays.

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More than 50 people attended a marionette performance of the story of Aladdin, a Middle Eastern hero from the book “A Thousand and One Nights”, which both the children and their parents enjoyed and were encouraged to participate in by singing.

Following the show, the puppeteer explained the background of the story and showed the children how the marionettes worked. After the performance, the children were surprised by a visit by Santa Claus himself, who presented gifts to not only the children but also the adults. The puppet show and the visit by Santa were an enjoyable occasion had by all and a wonderful way to ring in the New Year!

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SOLIDARITY DAY AND 2013 NEW YEAR CELEBRATION

30th of December Azerbaijan Solidarity Day and 2013 New Year Celebration at the Cultural Center

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Every year on December 31st, Azerbaijanis around the world celebrate Solidarity Day, a day of victory and unity for Azerbaijani people all over the world.

On December 30th 2012, friends, guests, and members of Houston’s Azerbaijani community joined at the newly opened Azerbaijani Cultural Center in the historic Montrose neighbourhood as part of Houston’s own Solidarity Day celebration.548031_10151395073894236_542684979_n[1]

This day of celebration included networking opportunities, delicious Azerbaijani foods and drinks, and of course, no Azerbaijani event is complete without dancing, singing and lively music.  We were also honoured to have Ali Haghshenas, a member of the Houston – Azerbaijani community, who played beautiful Azerbaijani music on the garmon, a traditional Azerbaijani musical instrument similar to an accordion.

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Solidarity Day was first celebrated in 1989 when at the Conference of the Turkish-speaking countries held in Istanbul, it was agreed that December 31st would be a day of celebration of the solidarity of Azerbaijanis around the world.190643_10151395073679236_2043740506_n[1]

Solidarity Day is unique in that despite being a national holiday in Azerbaijan it is celebrated by Azerbaijanis globally.  It presents an opportunity for the organization and consolidation of Azerbaijanis living in foreign countries and offers them the opportunity to maintain strong ties to their homeland and culture.