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Axar.az presents the interview with Siavosh Derakhti, an activist of Azerbaijani origin, named by Forbes Magazine to its list of 30 influential leaders under the age of 30.
- Welcome to Azerbaijan!
- Welcome to my homeland!
- After your meeting with former US President Barack Obama, you became famous in Azerbaijan, Iran. It is true that the press has been briefed about it and even has called you "Obama's friend". Can you share the impression of your meeting with Obama?
- I started working in Sweden eight years ago. The mother of my close friend in Sweden is a Jew from Israel. When we were 14-15 years old, I saw that boys everywhere creating problems and hitting my friend. They were saying that he was a Jew. I thought that this man was my friend, brother, and I would have to support him. That is why I founded 'Young People Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia' organization. I started to introduce the Holocaust genocide of Jews to the youth in Sweden. Many say that Siavosh Derakhti is a Muslim, but he supports the Jews. In Europe, some young people say that there was no such genocide. And I want the young people to see with their eyes, let them not read the book. Now the Holocaust is slowly recognizing in Sweden. The Swedish government has begun to reward me for my services in 2011-2012. In 2013, I won the "Raul Wallenberg" in Sweden. Raul Wallenberg was a diplomat in the Second World War, rescued the Jews and brought them to Sweden.
After winning this medal, news about our organization began to emerge. Obama also read it. Obama had to come to Sweden when he returned from the G8 summit. He decided to visit Sweden and meet with me.
Then Obama came and asked if you were Siavosh. I was surprised how he knew my name. It turned out that Obama had known me. He told that he knew I was a Swedish, because of the name that I should be an Iranian. I told that I am not an Iranian, I am Azerbaijani. It can be considered a positive event for our country.
Obama told that he was glad to see a 22-year-old young man doing such kind of work, and he would always support me. I thought it was an empty talk, not convincing. But, of course, Obama has supported me. Now every three months I go to the United States and report to the White House about the work I have done because the United States is constantly supporting me. The report mentions the work done with Jews in Europe and radicalism. The attitude towards Jews in Europe is very bad. I have been very supportive of the Jews with the work I have done. Someone wants to hit me with my own blood. They say that you are an enemy of us because you are a Muslim and support the Jews. There are even those who want to kill me. That's why the US has given Sweden a commitment to safeguard my security. They say that if this person dies, there will be a serious problem for Sweden. The United States supports me in Israel. I'm not involved in politics. I am not spying and not working for the US, not at all! All this I do because I have seen bad attitude towards Jews in Europe. Imagine that one of the countries where anti-Semitism is most widespread in France. For this reason, every year, 8,000 Jews flee to Israel because they get deported from France.
- You said there were threats to your life. Are there so many horrendous problems with anti-Semitism in Europe?
- There are so many migrants in Sweden. Sweden is second in the world after Germany for the number of migrants. Many are escaping from the war and dictatorship. In 2015, the situation in Europe was bad. Every week, 10,000 migrants arrived there. Since Sweden was a small country, it was becoming more and more problematic. If the migrant continued to arrive, it would be very difficult to find a home or a job.
I was collecting young people who came to Sweden to introduce the Holocaust. Muslim, Jewish - it does not matter. This is not a Muslim-Jewish problem, but a problem of humanity. I am a Muslim, and most importantly human. I wanted to show that. When they support a Jew in a Muslim country and say something good, they say that it is a Muslim and a good man. But now they see us as a source of problems.
There are migrants from Syria, Iraq, and Iran who are specialized in medicine, but they are not working. The political system has problems in this area. But we need to support migrants. They need to get out of the war and help.
- Perhaps you see people coming from both the Azerbaijan Republic and Southern Azerbaijan. Sometimes such claims sound that it is not easy to find a common denominator between them in Europe. Southerners tend to be more Iran, and the North tend to move in the other direction. Is that true?
- At present, I am very interested in the diaspora, but 3-4 years ago I did not pay so much attention to the diaspora. My father was co-chair of the 6th World Congress of Azerbaijanis. So, wherever we look at our home, you can see Azerbaijan. Television - Azerbaijan, music - Azerbaijan, everything in Azerbaijan. My father was annoyed when we spoke Persian at home. He said that we should speak Azerbaijani. He talked about the Azerbaijani diaspora. He said, there are 50 million Azerbaijanis. My dad wanted me to deal with my country. He always said that when Siavosh was ready, he would understand. Later I understood that I was ready and slowly started to be interested in Azerbaijan. When I came to Azerbaijan for the first time a year ago, I said that I came home, this is my homeland, my heart. Despite being born in Sweden, I love Azerbaijan very much. I love Sweden, but my homeland is Azerbaijan. Sometimes when someone asks my homeland, the first thing I say is that I'm Swedish. They say you are not a Swedish, your hair is dark. I say, right, I am Azerbaijani.
In fact, our diaspora is not strong. Azerbaijan has rich oil, beautiful nature, culture, but we do not have advertisement. Now, if you go to Europe and tell you where you are from, they will not recognize it. They either know about Eurovision or oil. Although the famous Nobel brothers who produce oil in Azerbaijan were Swedish, they do not know us in this country.
If we support each other, our lobby will be stronger. I'm 26 now and I want to do it. Everyone knows Azerbaijan. You need to advertise for that. For example, I went to Forbes magazine. This also advertised Azerbaijan. Maybe they tell he is Swedish, he is Europeans, but most importantly, they will say in the end, he is Azerbaijani. To recognize our country is in our hands.
- You are from Southern Azerbaijan. 30 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran ...
- According to some reports, 40 million.
- Do your friends know Azerbaijan?
- Yesterday my friend called me and asked where I am. I told in Azerbaijan. I am very surprised when my close friends did not know Azerbaijan. They say they have not told about Azerbaijan at school. They know Baku. Because Baku is a brand. Formula-1, Euroleague games, Eurovision international song contest, European and Islamic games have been held in our country, but our advertising is still low.
Every time I come here, I invite guests from abroad. I want them to know our country. We have our meals, nature, sea, winter tourism. If the Italians know that we have Shahdag, believe it, all of them come to rest here.
- Some foreigners claim that it is difficult for them to pronounce the name of Azerbaijan. You said that they know Baku more than Azerbaijan. Maybe the problem is really the name of Azerbaijan?
- The word of Azerbaijan is very clear. End of the name ends with "can" (soul). This problem is not actually about the name of the country. Sometimes when I call Azerbaijan, they tell me that the country is very scary. I wonder why they are afraid of? They base their read on the Internet. When I search the Internet, I see that US websites wrote about terrorism in Azerbaijan. Do we have terrorism in Azerbaijan? Terrorism is in Europe. They need to be afraid of those countries, not from Azerbaijan. The situation in Europe is terrible. Terror, theft, crime is taking place. We are comfortable walking around the city at 5 o'clock. But in Europe, they ask you why you are on the street at that time?
We need to summon big companies to the country to promote our country. Now, the number of tourists coming to our country has increased. If we continue in this way, it will be good if everyone joins us.
-When did you learn Azerbaijani language?
-In my childhood, my parents use Azerbaijani at home.
You are from Southern Azerbaijan, but you do not use the dialect of Urmia or Tabriz. You prefer the Baku dialect more.
- That's it. I also speak well in Turkish.
- As I know, you have many guests from Azerbaijan. They even look at your home, almost as a cultural centre.
- (Laughing) Well, our home is something like the Azerbaijani Cultural Center in Sweden. In Sweden, I got the old bank building, two floors. I want to turn that building into a business centre. The first floor will belong to Azerbaijan. I'm going to create a television there. I've also prepared its site. I want the television to be talked about both Europe and Azerbaijan. In short, it will be an international television. Azerbaijan is a very beautiful country, the food is delicious. We need to advertise the country thoroughly.
- Finally, Cavad Derakhti became head of the World Azerbaijanis Congress and is a well-known politician. But does Siavosh Derakhti think to join politics?
- I have no idea yet. Now I deal with business issues. But whatever happens, I will continue to support my nation. I can not say a definitive question on politics. Maybe it will happen in the future.
2018.04.12 / 16:55