Azerbaijan, Baku, 25 August/ Trend / Interview with Ceyhun Osmanli, the founder of all-republic Ireli (Forward) youth movement and graduate of Leaders in Development program of Harvard
Question: Ireli marked its three years anniversary in August. Through which path Ireli all-republic movement went through in the past three years?
Answer: Three years ago Ireli started with six people, but today the movement unites more than 6,000 thousand young people. Today as the largest youth movement in Azerbaijan, we can say that we are uniting the greatest part of the youth active in the public life.
Ireli has implemented over 550 large and small projects in three years. Ireli dominates over others both for the number of implemented projects and scale of international relations. Moreover, every year Ireli provides conditions for more than 200 members to attend various workshops abroad thanks to the expanding international relations of Ireli. We, as a movement is cooperating with organizations from more than 70 countries all over the world. Besides Azerbaijan, the members of Ireli are active in Europe and America as members of our movements study in these countries.
Ireli also includes 29 clubs and departments. Our activities cover 20 higher schools and 12 secondary schools in more than 30 regions of Azerbaijan. Besides, we disseminate information about our activities through Ireli Press paper, www.ireli.az website, 12 blogs, Ireli yahoogroups and on internet through "youtube" "Ireli/TV" service.
Question: At the moment everybody all over the country is speaking about your Ilhamla Ireli campaign. What can you say about it? How one can join this campaign?
Answer: Ireli is the initiator of Ilhamla Ireli (Forward together with Ilham) slogan in Azerbaijan and this had become the key brand for those supporting Ilham Aliyev. The above-mentioned campaign is carried out through internet and such political campaign has never been implemented in Azerbaijan before. Those willing to take part in the campaign can join it by posting their photos on www.ilhamlaireli.az. The number of participants of the campaign totals to 20,000 and therefore we held a grandiose PARTY 20, 000 on this occasion. This figure only concerns those who have joined this campaign through internet. If internet were wide-spread in Azerbaijan and everybody had an access to it, I am sure than the number of those joining this campaign would be 100,000.
Question: Can your campaign assessed as a preparation for presidential elections?
Answer: The campaign we are carrying out today has been initiated by the youth who love their president, support him at any moment and is prepared to step shoulder to shoulder with him. Out support for president is the support for dynamic development of Azerbaijan. The active election campaign has not started yet; therefore, it would be unfair to describe our campaigns as a preparation for elections. But, when we started our Ilhamla Ireli campaign, we stated that we will support Mr. Ilham Aliyev in the presidential elections. The chief aim of Ilhamla Ireli campaign is to call on Azerbaijani population, particularly youth to contribute to the development of the country. The campaign also aims at taking into consideration the past 5 years and to call on the population to contribute to more dynamic development.
Question: What has happened for the last 5 years?
Answer: We believe there has not been any sphere in Azerbaijan left aside from development for the last 5 years. I would like to mention most significant moments for me: The most important event during these 5 years is that the transition period in Azerbaijan has ended. Even World Bank indicated in its last report that the transition period in post-soviet space has ended. We stepped from one stage into another.
Azerbaijan became developing country from non-developed. Azerbaijan stepped to 60 to 70th places from the previous 110th and 120th, according to World Bank figures on Azerbaijan. If 5 to 10 years ago the figures of World Bank and UN placed Azerbaijan on the same rank with non-developed Afghanistan or others, now we share the same world rating as in case of developing countries from America and Europe. This is an indicator of beginning of new stage in Azerbaijan. In take into consideration official figures, we will see that the poverty made up 49% in 2003, but this figure has dropped to 12% at the moment. All these took place due to the successful Employment Policy. So, over 700,000 new-created jobs for the last 5 years were a turning point in this situation. The traditions of civil society are developing at present. Today Azerbaijan is a world leader for the number of printed press and political parties per head. A social model of trade economy is being shaped in Azerbaijan. If per head national income in Azerbaijan made up $880 in 2003, this figure makes up $4000 and it will amount to $13,000 by 2013. The improvement in the life standards leads to the expansion of freedoms and development of free thought in society.
The correspondent can be contacted at - firstname.lastname@example.org