Monday, January 21, 2019

Azadi means freedom.

Freedom is something that some take for granted. This isn’t a luxury that most people in the world share.

My name is Tom Garrett. I served as an artillery officer in the United States Army and deployed to the Balkans following the massacre at Srebrenica.

I served as a prosecutor, noted for record sentences handed down to those who preyed on children.

I’ve been a Virginia State Senator, drafting and passing the bill that struck Virginia’s draconian “crimes against nature” laws that criminalized certain acts between consenting adults.

Most recently, I served in Congress representing Virginia’s Fifth Congressional district, one first represented by James Madison. In this capacity, I was able to extract two men from prison in Sudan, who had served two years for rendering aid to their starving neighbors.

I first learned the word ‘azadi’ from members of the Kurdish Regional Government on a trip to Iraq and Syria. It stuck in my mind. All people, regardless of their race, religion, or national origins have the right to certain freedoms in their homes. I couldn’t begin to articulate these freedoms as succinctly or eloquently as Jefferson and Madison and Locke already have, so I will not try.

Later I learned that ‘azadi’ doesn’t just mean freedom in Kurdish, but also in roughly a dozen other languages spanning various linguistic families. Like the Kurds, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Pashto, Baluchi, Luri, Azeri, Punjabi, Bengali, and Armenian speakers who know the word ‘azadi’ means freedom. These people live in areas that reach from the Mediterranean to the South China Sea. Fully one in seven people on earth would recognize this word in their native tongue. That’s three for every native English speaker on the planet. The irony is that these diverse people know a word, but they have almost never been able to experience it.

That is precisely why I started Azadi Consulting, LLC.

Influence in D.C. is wielded too often by monied elite. These monied elite include nation states. China and Russia come immediately to mind, but who would think that Erdogan’s Turkey spends ten million a month to influence US opinion and policy? Who looks out for the oppressed? Who works to espouse a policy that focuses on basic rights and freedoms? This is what Azadi Consulting will do. This is what I will do.

For these reasons, I am delighted to announce my relationship with Voice of Karachi and the South Asian Minority Foundation. Joining Puneet Ahluwalia of New World Strategies and Pakistani American civil rights activist Nadeem Nusrat is a perfect first step. These groups and individuals work to be a voice to the oppressed. They each also represents millions of people who know the word, ‘azadi,’ but do know the experience of ‘azadi.’

The US is uniquely positioned among nations to demand that those who oppress these minority groups reform their horrific human rights records as a precondition to economic and security relations with the United States. This could be done without spending a dime of taxpayer money, and if our government consistently applied these principles, the world would literally change for the better.

Can this be done? Can ‘azadi’ become not just a word, but an experience? We believe it can.

It starts today.

Tom Garret Jr. can be reached at

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