From Khojaly Massacre Survivor to AJC: Thank You!
Last week, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), one of the world’s oldest Jewish advocacy organizations, posted the following on its Twitter page:
“This week, we honor the memory of the victims of the 1992 Khojaly massacre. Our thoughts are with the 613 murdered victims, their relatives, and the Azerbaijani people. May the victims’ memories always be for a blessing.”
Khojaly was a small town in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region. I was born in this town and spent 20 years of my life there that had been home to many generations of my family for hundreds of years. On February 25/26, 1992, Armenian armed forces stormed my hometown, as part of Armenia’s expansionist war to invade and occupy large swathes of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory. Our houses were bombed and burned down. While trying to flee the invading forces with my mother, siblings and thousands of other fellow townspeople, in the darkness of that dreadful and freezing night, and bullets raining down on us from everywhere, I and my brother Elshad lost track of the rest of our family and were captured by Armenian soldiers. We were taken to torture camps, where we were subjected to horrendous cruelty and humiliation for endless days, before being returned to the Azerbaijani side in exchange for cigarettes and gasoline. Though I was fortunate enough to have survived, hundreds of my townspeople from Khojaly, including up to 300 infants, children, women and elderly, were not. 613 innocent Azerbaijani civilians lost their lives that night, in what the Human Rights Watch called the “largest massacre to date in the conflict” between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Also, 150 of the 1,275 Azerbaijanis that the Armenians captured during the massacre remain missing. In the massacre, eight families were completely wiped out, while 130 children lost one parent, and 25 children lost both parents.
Despite international condemnation by the United Nations, the European Court of Human Rights, as well as by over 10 countries around the world and 23 U.S. states, Armenia continues to deny its responsibility, and perpetrators of this massacre are still at large.
As a survivor of the horrors of the Khojaly Massacre, I am immensely thankful to the American Jewish Committee for their support by expressing their solidarity with the Azerbaijani people in the face of this horrific tragedy and injustice. I am also grateful to other American Jewish organizations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance that hosted the screening of a Los Angeles-produced documentary “Running from the Darkness” on Khojaly in 2017, as well as the American Sephardi Federation and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center that organized several commemorative events on this massacre during the last few years.
Azerbaijan is a predominantly Muslim country, with its ancient traditions of interfaith acceptance and understanding. People of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, as well as Zoroastrians, Baha’is, Hare Krishnas and others, have been living together in peace, harmony and mutual respect for many centuries in this nation. We are proud that Jews have never faced any anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan, and today a vibrant and thriving community of 30,000 Jews live and freely practice their faith here in dignity, with many synagogues, yeshivas and schools.
The historic friendship between the Azerbaijani and Jewish people, which has also enabled the establishment of a strong friendship between Azerbaijan and Israel, teaches a great lesson to the rest of the world, especially to our wider region, about the possibility of enduring peace and respect between Muslims and Jews.
Thank you! Todah Rabah!
“Please note that the posts on The Blogs are contributed by third parties. The opinions, facts and any media content in them are presented solely by the authors, and neither The Jewish Journal nor its partners assume any responsibility for them. Please contact us in case of abuse.”