By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Given the still-expanding global covid-19 pandemic, it was understandable for the Azerbaijani government to order its embassies abroad not to celebrate that country’s Republic Day with a formal diplomatic reception on Tuesday, May 25, for the second year in a row.
But for Azerbaijani Ambassador to Mexico Mammad Talibov and his wife Kamala Talibova, along with the tiny Azeri community in Mexico, ignoring the date entirely was just too much to ask, especially since the Caucasian nation had so much to celebrate this year.
So without fanfare or any external diplomatic involvement other than the rest of the small embassy staff (and South African Ambassador to Mexico Dennis Thokozani Dlomo and his wife Thando Nomthandazo Dlomo, who just happen to be friends and neighbors and who just happened to be celebrating Africa Day that same day), Talibov and his wife decided to throw together an impromptu luncheon to mark the auspicious occasion.
“This is the first time in 30 years that we are celebrating the birth of our republic as a wholly united nation, with no foreign entities occupying our territory. And for a nation that lived for an entire generation with 20 percent of its land occupied and over a million of our citizens as refugees in their own country, this day has a very special meaning,” Talibov said in one of the many toasts offered over the scrumptious meal of grilled lamb, kebobs, rice and an assortment of traditional Azeri delicacies. (Toast-making is a longstanding Azerbaijani tradition.)
“The fact that we have finally recovered that land, which was and is rightfully ours, as recognized by several United Nations Resolution, is cause for a very special celebration, although we also pause to recognize the sacrifices of those who fought and died or lost limbs in the war to regain those territories.”
In September of 2020, ongoing skirmishes between Azerbaijan and its neighbor Armenia, rooted in centuries of mutual distrust and ethnic divisions, as well as the decades-long unlawful occupation by Armenian troops of the Azerbaijani territorial enclave of Nargorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts, escalated into a full-fledged war after Armenia launched a military assault on yet another piece of Azerbaijani territory.
Within hours, Azerbaijan responded in kind and what ensued was a bloody armed conflict that lasted for 44 days and resulted in the tragic loss of hundreds of lives on both sides.
In the end, Azerbaijan was victorious over the Armenian troops and Baku regained the majority of its occupied territories.
What had simmered as an international diplomatic stalemate for more than a quarter of a century was, in this case, ultimately resolved through military confrontation, and thousands of Azeri families that had been dislocated by the Armenian occupation were finally able to return to their homeland.
The victory was — and still is — celebrated across Azerbaijan.
As for the official reason for celebrating May 25, Azeris around the world commemorated (albeit informally) the 103rd anniversary of the 1918 establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) – the first secular parliamentary democracy in the Muslim world.
In that short-lived democracy (the Azerbaijani republic was crushed and assimilated into the USSR two years later), some of the hallmarks of modern democratic values were established, including universal suffrage and a truly secular state.
With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan once again gained its independence, and has since become a global economic and political leader, with a booming market economy and healthy diplomatic relations throughout most of the world.
Mexico and Azerbaijan have maintained bilateral diplomatic relations for three decades, and combined two-way trade amounts to roughly $50 million annually.