February 26, 2020

A Neighborhood of Nations: Celebrating a Special Relationship between California and Azerbaijan

There are not that many neighborhoods that share a distance of thousands of miles. However, there is one such case.  With my recent trip to San Diego, I visited a neighborhood that shares a special bond with my country Azerbaijan, a country set in a very difficult part of the world. And here I found myself in this beautiful Southern California city by the ocean where believe it or not, we have a sister-neighborhood relationship between San Diego’s Switzer Highland Neighborhood and the Nasimi District of Azerbaijan’s capital city of Baku. I have the good fortune, to sit on the District Council and in that District we have churches and mosques and synagogues that are within blocks of each other, where on a daily basis, Jews, Muslims and Christians pass each other on the street after celebrating their faith openly and in peace.

I came to visit from my homeland in Azerbaijan, as part of a small delegation of leaders, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s independence, and also to commemorate a very special  anniversary –  the 5th anniversary of the sister-neighborhood relationship of our two communities.

I flew over 7,000 miles with Dr. Asim Mollazade, Member of Azerbaijan’s Parliament, and Mr. Asif Asgarov, Head of the Executive Authority of the Nasimi District of Baku, to celebrate and also discuss what it was that made this October 26 event and these relationships so important. We were hosted by the Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles, Mr. Nasimi Aghayev, and celebrated together with American Jewish Committee of Los Angeles.

At the event, California State Assemblymember Rocky Chavez commented on how important the relationship between the United States and Azerbaijan is, and how significant it is to capture that at the local level, such as through the sisterhood of two neighborhoods.

I know that San Diego, like Azerbaijan, is a place renowned for its diversity, and it is quite fitting that we count each other as sister neighborhoods – with so much we share in common. Tolerance, acceptance and progress are defining characteristics for both neighborhoods. It makes perfect sense that we would celebrate our national independence with a friendship such as we share in San Diego – a place known for opportunity and inclusivity; not to mention its natural beauty, which is another quality the two neighborhoods, and nations, share in common.

At the event, Consul General Nasimi Aghayev elevated the commitment a step further, and announced the establishment of the San Diego-Baku Friendship Association. These events and efforts were applauded by many leaders, some that could not attend but sent official declarations in their absence. Members of U.S. Congress from San Diego Susan Davis and Juan Vargas, San Diego County Board of Supervisors and California State Senators Marty Block and Joel Anderson sent certificates of recognition and proclamations honoring this critical and promising friendship. We also had the opportunity to meet with the leadership of the San Diego Jewish Federation as a way to build greater bridges between our communities of faith.

It’s exciting and invigorating to realize the growing number of U.S. leaders that celebrate the friendship shared between Azerbaijan and the United States, both at the local level and at a national scale. In times of division and unrest, it seems this recognition will only increase. The idea that people can live together in peace and harmony is especially important now.