Baku, July 31, AZERTAC
On June 15, “Cultural Center of Azerbaijanis in Switzerland” with the support of the Embassy of Azerbaijan to Switzerland held a public awareness campaign dedicated to the Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs. Below is the interview of Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Switzerland Khanim Ibrahimova on this event.
-What differentiates the June 15 campaign from other events held abroad?
-I guess the main difference was projecting truth about Azerbaijan in a positive, peaceful way. This approach caters better to the mind-set of Europeans and hence generated more interest on their behalf to listen to our message. The purpose of our event was to explain the Swiss random people the tragedy of Azerbaijani refugees and then inviting them to put on canvas/paper their perception of this tragedy. For this purpose, easels were erected at the main square of Bern – Weisenhausplatz and the Swiss children were joined by their peers from “Karabakh” Azerbaijani school in Bern. Before starting a sketch, school students from Karabakh school shared their stories on the refugees. In their comments, these students shared information on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijani IDPs in their own kid friendly language. No doubt, the message about the tragedy delivered by children had a lasting impact on both parents and children. Large-scale attendance, distribution of hundreds of booklets, as well as more than 100 paintings drawn during the campaign attest to the rightfulness of this approach and this event in general. From public awareness point of view the result was definitely appealing. I would love to see the paintings drawn by the Swiss children to be exhibited in Baku.
-Why June 15?
-Each year 15th of June is marked as the National Refugee Day in Switzerland, which has become the main public awareness campaign about refugees problems. Hence, together with the diaspora of Azerbaijan, we have decided to deliver our message and use this date for drawing Swiss society’s attention to our people’s pain. The idea was that any event organized on this date would be more effective in terms of impact and participation. The results went even beyond our expectations. I have to admit that the patronage of the Swiss Refugee Council and this organization’s consent for its logo to be used in information handouts/bulletins intended for the campaign had also contributed to the large-scale attendance. Thus, sponsorship of the Swiss trusted local organization has considerably increased the genuine interest in this event.
-What else happened during the campaign, which added to the operative outcome?
-Besides drawing, the information stands and posters dedicated to the Azerbaijani refugees were erected at the square; paintings depicting Azerbaijani refugees were showcased; local public were informed about Azerbaijani refugees through booklets and information bulletins; 500 booklets in German depicting the story of Karabakhi woman when she was 8 years old were disseminated; balloons inscribed with “for Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs”, symbolizing solidarity with them were distributed among locals and children. All these activities were complementing each other and made the event even more colourful and attractive.
-What was the role of the Azerbaijani diaspora in the campaign?
-In Switzerland, the Embassy and the diaspora are closely cooperating in all matters. For example, opening of the “Karabakh” Azerbaijani school in Bern, which was fully integrated into the Swiss education system, was the result of this cooperation. Thus, public awareness campaign dedicated to the Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs came to fruition as the result of diaspora’s organization, as the official organizer of the event was “the Cultural Center of Azerbaijanis in Switzerland”. The Embassy only supported this event within reasonable limits. I have to emphasize that diaspora should always take the lead in any activities targeting local population. The Embassies, in their turn, should always be ready to render their support, if needed.
-Do you think that this successful experience should be implemented in other European countries as well?
-I have already listed the factors conditioning the success of the public campaign in Switzerland. I am confident that delivering messages about Azerbaijani trauma in abovementioned peaceful way is much more powerful. Therefore, I believe it would be right to hold such events in other European countries as most of them mark National Refugee day. Moreover, each year June 20 is marked as the International Refugee Day across the world. I believe it is of utmost importance to hold public campaigns on these dates and deliver our message to the international audience.