Azerbaijan Celebrates National Highland Festival

The opening ceremony of the festival, which was organized by the Javad Khan History and Culture Foundation and the Governorship of Gadabay under the guidance of Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) at the Düzyurd-Miskinli Highland, was attended by thousands of people from Azerbaijan and 16 other countries.

The festival, which was held in Azerbaijan for the first time, drew great interest. Many high-ranking officials, including the World Ethnosport Confederation President Bilal Erdoğan (the guest of honor), Azerbaijan's Minister of Agriculture İnam Kerimov, Turkey's Ambassador to Baku Erkan Özoral, Turkey's Ambassador to Ganja Zeki Öztürk, Governor of Gadabay İbrahim Mustafayev, Vice President of the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities Hadi Turus, Acting President of the World Ethnosport Confederation Hakan Kazancı, TİKA's Baku Program Coordinator Teoman Tiryaki, and Vice President of the Javad Khan History and Culture Foundation Müzadil Hasanov, took part in the opening ceremony.

During the event, which kicked off with a representative Dede Korkut greeting the crowd, there was a forging ceremony, and guests visited the craftsman corner and the market place set up in the ethnic town. During his speech, Bilal Erdoğan conveyed the greetings of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the guests. Stating that Azerbaijan has hosted significant sports events in recent years, Erdoğan emphasized that the presence of an enthusiastic and big crowd at the event demonstrated the strong support of the Azerbaijanis for national sports. Moreover, Erdoğan indicated that they gave importance to Azerbaijani youth holding on to their national sports and made the following assessment: "If we lose our culture, we lose our independence. Those who wish to defeat us try to invade our minds when they are unable to enter our lands. They do this through their culture, music, and sports. If we do not keep our culture alive, then those who want to defeat us will succeed in doing so. We have to stand up for our culture and values. The World Ethnosport Confederation conveys this message not only to the Turkic world, but also to the entire globe. All nations in the world have the right to keep their sports alive. Hopefully, the National Highland Festival will contribute to the development of national sports in Azerbaijan and raise the awareness of the people of Azerbaijan on this topic."

Turkey's Ambassador to Baku Erkan Özoral expressed that when he looked out to the crowd, he felt like he was at a highland festival organized in Turkey. Highlighting that Turkey and Azerbaijan are two countries but one nation, Özoral said, "Turkey's strength means Azerbaijan's strength, and Azerbaijan's strength means Turkey's strength. As long as we stand side by side and draw strength from each other, we will head towards a bright future. Looking back at our past will open up the path ahead of us and move us towards the future. The festival held today will demonstrate that we are one people and will open up new horizons."

Azerbaijan's Minister of Agriculture İnam Kerimov emphasized that the festival was a symbol and example of the close relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Kerimov added that the festival would be further improved in the upcoming years. Governor of Gadabay İbrahim Mustafayev expressed his gratitude to TİKA officials for their contributions in making such an event possible.

TİKA's Baku Program Coordinator Tiryaki touched upon the projects they implemented in Azerbaijan and conveyed that more will be launched.

Moreover, Vice President of the Javad Khan History and Culture Foundation Hasanov expressed that they had full faith in the project and thanked TİKA for their support. Following the speeches, Azerbaijani riders performed an acrobatic show on Karabakh horses which drew great interest. The guests applauded when the riders did one last lap with Turkish and Azerbaijani flags. The event then continued with the musical performances of traditional Azerbaijani folk artists followed by the shows of Turkish and Azerbaijani archers, which fascinated the crowd.