Houston Iftar dinner 2014 with the Mayor of Houston was a success!

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The 4th Annual Houston Iftar Ramadan Dinner with Mayor Annise Parker showed, this year again, a beautiful portrait of Brotherhood where all races and religions shared and enjoyed peacefully under one roof.

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On Saturday, June 12th 2014, Iftar gathered together several communities with members of all faiths and denominations to break the daily fast during this prestigious dinner at the Bayou City Events Center. During Ramadan, Muslims request forgiveness for sins in the past, pray for direction and assistance in abstaining from everyday troubles, and endeavor to cleanse themselves through self-control and great acts of faith.7J4A6940

Almost 2000 people attended this meaningful event organized by the Baku, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul and Karachi Houston Sister Cities Associations and hosted by collaborating organizations such as the Azerbaijan Center, Raindrop Turkish House, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, His Highness the Aga Khan Council for the Southwestern United States, the Pakistan Chamber of Commerce-USA, the National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, the Council on American Islamic Relations Texas Chapter, the Hashoo Foundation, and many others!

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The Mayor of Houston and other Congressional, County, City, business, civic leaders and Members of Consular Corps of Houston also attended the multi-cultural event to show their support and solidarity. After being introduced by Aftab Ghesani, President of His Highness the Aga Khan Council for Southwestern United States, Mayor Annise Parker highlighted the importance of solidarity and diversity as foundations of the City of Houston while addressing the full banquet hall. The Mayor also made emphasis on the wonderful work that all Sister Cities are able to accomplish together.

IMG_5883The Mayor of Houston was joined by a Guest of Honor, S. Javaid Anwar, President and CEO of Midland Energy. 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 and bonded society. All the volunteers at this event were a perfect representation of diversity and unity!

The Azerbaijani community together with the Pakistani, Turkish, Arab, and American communities were all proud to be a part of this symbolic event and look forward to the next ones to come.

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On behalf of the Organizing Committee of Houston Iftar 2014, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the volunteers and participating organizations for their strong support!

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Read more on:
http://www.azertag.com/en/node/1252970
http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-154062-Houston-Mayer-Annise-Parker-attends-Iftar-dinner
http://www.geo.tv/article-154062-Houston-Mayer-Annise-Parker-attends-Iftar-dinner
https://www.facebook.com/CAIRNational/posts/10152278546822695
http://photonews.com.pk/houston-mayer-annise-parker-hosts-iftar-dinner/
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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

“Houston Iftar” Annual Ramadan Dinner with Mayor Annise Parker

On August 11th, 2012, Houston-Baku Sister City Association (HBSCA), together with Sister City Associations of Abu-Dhabi, Istanbul and Karachi held Houston Iftar for Houston communities. The event was attended by about 1500 guests which contributed to yet another celebration of the unity of Houston’s international and diverse communities.

HBSCA President and the Organization Committee Chair Irada Akhoundova opened the event by emphasizing importance of traditions of fasting and breaking the fast for pious and devoted followers of Islam and by welcoming people of the Book and others to join in sharing the feast.

She was followed by members of Turkish, Pakistani and other Houston communities, who talked about sacred meaning of Ramadan and unveiled plans for developing and strengthening of their communities.

The City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker requested a moment of silence commemorating victims of recent assaults on ethnic and religious minorities in the United States and stressed her dedication to development of Houston as a multi-confessional tolerant city. 

Prayer of a mullah indicated the end of day’s fasting and beginning of Iftar, which started with water, dates and fruit followed by delicious lamb, spicy rice and hot chicken.

Azerbaijani community members greeted each other with traditional Nush Olsun and kept exchanging their opinions and views in free and unobstructed manner during the whole dinner. Our spirit and traditions are alive even thousands miles away from Azerbaijan!

Amazing Days in DC

Washington, DC, Thursday afternoon, April 26, 2012, as if Baku Boulevard has been relocated to the Penssylvania Avenue roadside of the Willard Hotel, Azerbaijani Ministers, Members of Parliament and SOCAR executives are sitting in the chairs of the hotel’s terrace cafe. They appear in deep and serious conversation, drinking tea and smoking an occasional cigarette. In a couple of hours it will be show time for Baku.

The one-and-a-half day program described in the glossy information package that was provided upon check-in, lists the details for the receptions, lunches, dinners and the cultural entertainment to be presented in the beautiful halls of the Willard Hotel. Another folder gives biographies of the speakers, a breathtaking list of heavyweights.

There is a close-packed program, an opening speech by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and special sessions dedicated to important and serious matters. Dignitaries listed include Senators, Ministers, Governors, State Representatives, Diplomats, Members of Parliament, Leaders of Azerbaijani’s Religious Communities, Professors and Oil Company Executives. In front of colorful promotional exhibits that display the names of sponsoring organizations, words of wisdom are spoken and visions for the future are shared. Certain words can be repeatedly heard throughout the speeches…“Young Democracy”, “US Friendship”, “Diplomatic Relations”, “Geopolitical Importance”, “World Energy Security”, “Strategic Oil Routes”, “Example for Religious Tolerance”, “Ancient History” , “Silk Road” and “Culture”.

Articles reporting what has been said have already been published. Indeed, an impressive message was delivered in Washington, one that illustrated and confirmed the importance of Azerbaijan’s role in the world’s politics and economy and the diversification of the portfolio of bilateral relations. Of course, content matters, but perhaps even more, the actual opportunity to connect deserves to be highlighted here. Bridges were built as VIP’s of the two nations connected, face to face. There seemed to be a buzz in the air. People mixed during the receptions, lunch and dinner and even during the dances Azeri style. In the lobby of lobbies, in the ballrooms or on the street, ideas were exchanged and partnerships and friendships were forged and momentum was built to move forward. Not all conventions are created equal, not all events offer a program with such an energetic, lively and positive atmosphere. As if a Silk Road caravan sarai was brought to Washington. Typical Azerbaijan, generous hosting, full of decorum, never a dull moment.

Well done, kudos to the sponsors and the organizers, this was the biggest event for Azerbaijan in the U.S. so far. Within a very short time they pulled together and delivered two Amazing Days. Watch this space, Azerbaijan knows how to make big things happen.

Azerbaijani film “Buta” received Houston WorldFest Film Festival’s award

On April 21, 2012, Azerbaijani filmmaker Ilgar Najaf, here in the picture together with HBSCA team member Mehriban Efendi,  was awarded an award at the Remi Awards Gala Dinner of the Houston WorldFest Film Festival for his film production “Buta”. The film, in which multiple story lines set in a small village town in Azerbaijan bring to light Gyoncha a young woman finishing her carpet and finding first love, a boy named Buta whose patterns of rocks adorn a hilltop, screened twice at the AMC theatre in Houston. Thank you Ilgar for bringing Azerbaijani culture to Texas!

Public forum on post-Soviet Politics held at University of Houston

On April 12th, 2012, Azerbaijani Students Association (ASA) organized a public forum dedicated to the history and legal aspects of Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

The event was held at University Center of University of Houston. The main purpose of the event was to educate UH student body about history of Azerbaijan and provide a forum for public discussion on political, social and ethnic roots of Nagorno Karabakh conflict. In her opening remarks, the president of ASA, Mehriban Efendi, mentioned that forum will focus on three main subjects: ethnic history of Caucasus, modern history of Azerbaijan and collapse of Soviet Union and roots of Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

Professor of Political Science at University of Houston Ryan Kennedy spoke about frozen conflicts, as remnants of the collapse of Soviet Union, providing background information on political, economic and social implications of inter-state conflicts. His presentation was followed by Yusif Aleskerov’s presentation on ethnic history of Caucasus, focusing on various periods of rule in the South Caucasus and providing background information on the ethnicity debate between Armenians and Azerbaijanis pertaining to ethnic identity.

Kamran Zahid, the founder of Azerbaijani Student Association and University of Houston alumni, focused on challenges of Azerbaijan as a country in the first two decades in the history and drawing parallels between modern Republic of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR, 1918-1920).

Yusif Babanly, co-founder and Director of U.S. Azeris Network focused his presentation on the legal aspects of Nagorno Karabakh conflict, arguments of sides and the role and stance of the international community in the ongoing negotiations. The forum was concluded by Riad Efendi, Vice President of Houston Baku Sister City Association. His presentation focused on the lookout in the future and possible outcomes of this conflict.

Azerbaijani Students Association was founded in 2006 by Kamran Zahid and seeks to educate students at University of Houston about Azerbaijan’s culture and history. Its current president is Mehriban Efendi, MBA student at Bauer College of Business. The forum was co-sponsored by Houston Baku Sister City Association and U.S. Azeris Network.

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Novruz Bayram, celebrating the vernal equinox in Houston, Texas

Saturday night, March 24 at Le Virage Ballroom on Westheimer, Houston’s friends of Azerbaijan dressed up, dined and danced the night away at the annual Novruz Bayram gala organized by the Houston-Baku Sister City Association (HBSCA).  At the celebration, the international crowd with guests from US, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Holland, Switzerland and Pakistan held hands to cheer for the arrival of the spring maiden carrying a dish of freshly sprouted wheatgrass, so-called “Samani”, symbolic of the new year.   The 100+ guests included Texas State Representative Mrs. Alma Allen, the honorable Mr. Cemalettin Aydin, Consul of Turkey, representatives of the Houston Mayor’s office for Protocol and International Affairs (HOPIA), Sister Cities of Houston, various businesses and organizations with an affiliation to Azerbaijan and of course many of the expatriates from Azerbaijan living in Houston.

Novruz is one of the most beloved and colorful holidays in Azerbaijan.  Meaning “new day”, Novruz marks the arrival of spring and the beginning of the year for people in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iran and other common cultural heritage countries.  Novruz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is rooted in the ancient traditions of the Zoroastrian belief system.

HBSCA is one of the first of the 17 sister cities of Houston, organized under the umbrella of Sister Cities International to foster a non-profit citizen diplomacy network seeking stronger economic and cultural ties at the municipal level between the cities of Houston, Texas and Baku, Azerbaijan.

Welcome New Board Member

Please join us in welcoming Melissa West as Secretary to the Board of the Houston-Baku Sister City Association.  We are very pleased to fill this position in our board with Melissa who joins us with a very interesting and relevant background.  She has served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Azerbaijan from September 2009 until December 2011 where she taught English in a village in Salyan.  She grew up in London, went to college in Boston and returned to Houston after her Peace Corps assignment to be closer to her family.  She speaks Azerbaijani with the accent of a village girl.  Melissa will also take the lead in organizing events and programs within HBSCA’s Educational Chapter.

HBSCA Annual Meeting 2012

On February 12, 2012, HBSCA hosted the Annual Meeting at the Turquoise Center in Houston.  Over 30 members attended the meeting during which the HBSCA teamleads presented the plans for the coming year and sollicited input and ideas for the 2012 HBSCA program.  Highlights for the year include the upcoming Novruz Celebration and the plans for participation in the Turkic Festival in the fall.  More about those plans will be shared on our facebook page in the near future.  The annual meeting also included an overview of the organizational structure, an introduction of the organization’s leadership team, a membership (re)enrolment excercise and the election of Melissa West as Secretary to the Board.  A special thank you goes to our friends from Turkish House for their hospitality and to all our friends who joined us at the meeting and who brought delicious sweets to share with all.

SOCAR delegation visits the City of Houston

September 2011  – The Houston-Baku Sister City Association hosted a visit from a delegation from SOCAR, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic from our sister city Baku.  Various social gatherings were held with members of the HBSCA community and during meetings with City Officials some exciting ideas for further strengthening the friendship between Houston and Baku were discussed.  Work in progress, hopefully more news in the near future.

3rd Congress of World Azerbaijanis

3rd Congress of World Azerbaijanis held in Baku on July 5 and 6, 2011.  Approximately 1300 international delegates from state and government organizations, non-governmental organizations, cultural, educational and other creative institutions and political parties and guests with an affiliation with the Azerbaijan Diaspora attended the 3rd Congress of World Azerbaijanis held in Baku on July 5 and 6, 2011.  Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev who also participated in the congress gave an opening speech during which he mentioned the plans for Azerbaijan to open Cultural Centres worldwide.  Several members of Houston-Baku Sister City Association attended the congress which also provided a valuable opportunity to establish connections with representatives of other international organizations with an affiliation to Baku and Azerbaijan as well as meetings with the local media in which HBSCA’s mission and news about activities could be promoted to the Azerbaijani public.


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Houston-Baku Day

June 14, 2011 was declared Houston-Baku Day in Houston by Mayor Annise Parker
On the occasion of Houston-Baku Sister City Association, Council Member Jarvis Johnson presented a proclamation before council recognizing Houston-Baku Sister for fostering the continuous successful interchange of culture and ideas between Baku and the Houston Community through the diligent work of volunteers.   In honor of this, Mayor Annise Parker proclaimed June 14, 2011 as Houston-Baku Day.

Views of Baku

In 2010, HBSCA coordinated a delegation from Houston to visit Baku.

Baku and Houston are coastal cities, sharing many similarities in commerce, culture, and diversity.

View photos by Maud Bech of their amazing trip:

HBSCA has a new look!

Welcome to the updated website of the Houston-Baku Sister City Assocation (HBSCA)!

Be sure to update your bookmarks and stay tuned to our website for updates, membership information, and upcoming events.

Also, stay updated with HBSCA via Facebook.