Azerbaijan International

Spring 2002 (10.1)
Page 53

Azerbaijanis Online
Birth of the YDnet Community

by Javid Huseynov

The Yeni Dostlar Network (New Friends Network) (YDnet) began in 1995 as an informal network of Azerbaijani college students e-mailing each other about living abroad. Today, this forum has grown to include subscribers of all ages from around the world and serves as an important medium of information exchange among Azerbaijanis, especially in regard to political developments that affect Azerbaijan.

Javid Huseynov became actively involved with the forum in 1995, during his undergraduate study in the United States. Javid, 26, is now a Ph.D. student and research/teaching assistant in the Information and Computer Science department at the University of California - Irvine. Here he traces the remarkable development of the YDnet community over the past five years.

Before I came to the U.S. as an exchange student in 1995, I had only heard about the Internet through international magazines. In the fall of 1995, I received an e-mail from Nofal Rezayev, a fellow student in Texas asking me to join a small online discussion group, an initiative apparently started by a few Azerbaijani students in America. And so I became one of the first few members of the initial Dostlar (Friends) forum, also referred to as E-Majlis-L (EML).

When Nofal completed his studies and returned to Baku in 1996, Adil Baghirov took over the online initiative. Young, aggressive and a nationalist at heart, Adil was able to formalize the list by establishing two educational Listserv accounts at the University of Southern California (USC). I joined Adil in managing these newly born lists: for news and for discussions.

The idea for these lists came out of our understanding of the purpose and future of Internet technology: communicating. We were encouraged by the fact that we were the first wave of Azerbaijani students in America, and we felt that we needed to communicate and keep in touch with each other. Many of our first exchanges back in 1996 were about our impressions of studying in America.

News and Discussion
Habarlar-L, the first-ever Azerbaijani and regional online news distribution list, is a convenient, fast and easy way to receive the day's news about Azerbaijan - all in one e-mail. One of the list moderators, Kevin Miller at Indiana University, works to increase the quality and range of Habarlar-L news. Other list moderators include myself, Taleh Ziyadov of Beloit College in Wisconsin and Adil Baghirov of Los Angeles. Our news audience today ranges from ambassadors, news agencies, government officials and NGOs to professors, scholars and students worldwide. Habarlar-L has been quoted in several news sources and press releases and has become a useful source of information for more than 1,000 subscribers.

In August 2001, we started the Habarlar-Int listserv, an extension of Habarlar-L that distributes news in Azeri, Turkish and Russian. The audience for this list is also on the rise, thanks to the work of list moderator Taleh Ziyadov.

E-Majlis-L, the first Azerbaijani discussion listserv, was founded in 1995-96. At first, it was the only such list on the Internet and therefore attracted almost every Azerbaijani worldwide who was plugged into the Internet community. Today, there are many more groups to choose from. YDnet is the continuation of E-Majlis-L, a closed, restricted, un-moderated discussion network dedicated to Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis. The official languages of YDnet are English (preferred) and Azeri. Turkish and limited transliterated Russian may also be used under certain circumstances.

YDnet is a medium for discussions on a breadth of Azerbaijan-related issues: culture and arts; history; religion; Karabakh, Nakhchivan and Zangazur; genocide; economics and business; politics; humanitarian aid and refugees; education, science and research; travel, tourism and geography; the military; sports and entertainment; and Internet trends and developments in Azerbaijan.

In our intense discussions, we naturally run into differences of opinion - both major and minor - which can have either a positive or negative effect on YDnet. When there is mutual understanding and tolerance among the members, the community is strengthened and productive. When these qualities do not exist, the community keeps dividing itself along opinion and temper lines, becoming counter-productive and even damaging in some cases.

Most of our differences have been based on issues related to the internal problems and politics of Azerbaijan. As an active member and moderator of YDnet, I strongly believe that for an online community of Azerbaijani diaspora, the internal politics of Azerbaijan should not be a major issue, but a minor point of discussion. Those of us who live abroad should unite and defend the interests of our country, not those of particular political forces.

Through these continuous transformations, unifications and divisions, today we have a strong, unified and productive kernel: Yeni Dostlar (YDnet), now an official online forum of the Azerbaijan Society of America (ASA). YDnet is the driving force behind a wide range of actions taken to defend the interests of Azerbaijan.

Letter-Writing Campaigns
Our members continuously monitor the media and provide interesting articles for discussion. We have a small number of activists who monitor online media sources and post related articles to YDnet. Members express their views, exchange ideas and suggest possible protest or appreciation letters (depending on the content) directly to the publication or the editor.

When unjust articles about Azerbaijan appear in the international media, we raise our united voices to counter Armenia propaganda. I would like to specifically mention Liz Fuller from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who is on our protest "black list" for her frequent, clearly biased pro-Armenian reports, which misrepresent Azerbaijan. She and her agency receive many letters from YDnet members.

List member Adil Baghirov wrote a letter to Reuters to criticize the wire service for repeatedly labeling the Nagorno-Karabakh War as a conflict between "Christian Armenia" and "Muslim Azerbaijan." Azerbaijan has no official state religion, Adil pointed out, and religion was not a relevant factor in the war. [To read Adil's letter, see AI 5.2, Summer 1997. SEARCH at]

YDnet is at the forefront of letter-writing campaigns to the U.S. Congress, asking it to defend Azerbaijani interests. The core members of YDnet compose letters to send to Congress; these letters are then submitted en masse by YDnet members. Normally, one of us prepares a draft and a list of contacts, but members are free to write their own letters as well. Once prepared, letters are submitted via e-mail, mail or fax.

I'm sure that YDnet has a lot of room to grow. I think that in the near future, YDnet will be more integrated with ASA as an official organization. This will allow our forum to become more influential in representing Azerbaijan and uniting our community in America and worldwide. There are many Azerbaijanis coming to the U.S. every year to live, study or work. We hope to develop this network so that Azerbaijanis abroad will have ties to strengthen their homeland.

To subscribe to the Habarlar-L list, e-mail a request to: or visit the group's Web page: habarlar-l.htm. To subscribe to the Habarlar-Int (International) list, e-mail a request to: or visit the group's Web page: To subscribe to the Yeni Dostlar (New Friends) Network (YDnet), e-mail a request to: YDnet-subscribe or visit the group's Web page:

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