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The victims of the Khojaly Genocide were Azeri scholars, doctors, teachers, parents and many more, with full lives

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The Khojaly Genocide Memorial in Baku, Azerbaijan - "Mother cry" - is a monument to the victims of the 1992 Khojaly massacre (Photo: bakutravelguide.com)

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Prominent Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel once stated, “For the dead and for the living, we must bear witness. For not only are we responsible for the memories of the dead; we are responsible for what we are doing with those memories.” Later this month, the State of Azerbaijan commemorates Khojaly Genocide Day.  

The Khojaly Genocide may have occurred almost thirty years ago, but the horrific memories of this crime against humanity continue to live on among the victims and the Azerbaijani people. 

In a book titled Murdered in the Mountains, Raoul Lowery-Contreras wrote: “On a bitter cold February night in 1992, the Armenian government ordered its regular and irregular troops to destroy an innocent town of 6,000 people in the Caucasus Mountains. The town Khojaly is in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region. Surrounded on three sides by Armenian troops and their allies, the town was destroyed in less than three hours by bombardment, tanks, and hundreds of attackers on foot. Khojaly’s people were chased down and those not fast enough, women, children and the elderly, were massacred.”

According to this riveting book, one of the victims of the Khojaly genocide was a woman named Mehriban, who had the misfortune of giving birth in Khojaly right as the town was getting bombarded by the Armenians. When the basement where she was hiding with her newborn baby was taken over, she was taken hostage by the Armenian forces: “She was beaten viciously by the Armenians. She fed her children all they had, snow. The Armenians gave the prisoners no food.  All the prisoners had to eat over a period of ten days was snow. Besides beating Mehriban, the Armenians entertained themselves by culling young women and girls from the hundreds of prisoners and raping them in front of prisoners.  They then tossed them at their fathers, deriding them, ‘You fail as a father.’”

Republic Underground and the Caucasus Journalist Network recently hosted a webinar titled “Khojaly Memories,” where Lowery-Contreras reiterated: “I have to tell you that as an American, in 1992, I had no idea that this had happened. I had very few ideas or views on Azerbaijan as a matter of fact.” He noted that he only learned more as he wrote Murdered in the Mountains. 

Sadly, not much has changed since then in America.  Azerbaijani activist Yasmin Bashirova told San Francisco News that the Khojaly Genocide almost “never gets mentioned in the news” in the United States. Lowery-Contreras claimed that unfortunately, the Armenian Diaspora controls the news coming out of the region, thus prompting Khojaly and other similar atrocities to get covered up.

Arzu Jaeed, an Azerbaijani Youth Diaspora member in the United States, believes that this should change, as 613 people were massacred in one day merely for the crime of being Azerbaijani and the world should never forget that: “Behind every one of those numbers is a real tragedy, a broken life. Kids eyes were scorched with cigarette butts. Legs and other human organs were amputated. Heads were cut off. Underage girls were raped.”

Jaeed emphasized that the victims of the Khojaly Genocide were not just statistics but human beings who suffered immensely, who prior to this crime against humanity were scholars, doctors, teachers, parents and so much more, with full lives.  For this reason, this genocide deserves to be recognized and studied in the West.

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Nevertheless, the Republic Underground and the Caucuses Journalist Network webinar highlighted that it is a struggle to raise awareness about the Khojaly Genocide in the West, as the Armenian communities are generally larger and better integrated than the Azerbaijani communities are.  

“The primary newspaper in Spain, until about three months ago, was run by an Armenian man,” explained Javier Medina Ortiz, founder of the Azerbaijan House in Spain. “He describes himself on his website as an Armenian activist. So, if the control of the first newspaper and radio station in Spain is in Armenian hands, it can be difficult to do anything against that.  Of course, the only way to do that is to show the truth to the people. Believe me, I try to do it every day. I was writing some articles for them and I was threatened by Armenian people. Me and my family.”

However, just because it is an uphill struggle to raise awareness about the Khojaly Genocide in the West does not mean that efforts should not be made in this direction, as bearing witness may be the only sense of justice that the victims will ever receive.

Yasemon Hasenova, a Khojaly Genocide survivor, related in the Webinar, “When I was 12 years old, I experienced the terrible days of the Khojaly genocide. I lost my father, the Azerbaijani national hero Huseynov Tofig, my mother, grandparents, uncle, aunts, and my aunt’s two kids. This genocide took away my childhood. I experienced a great tragedy. I could not reconcile with the loss of my relatives.  What do you think it means to lose both parents, relatives and loved ones in one night? For 29 years, I do not know what parental love is.” 

“Much has been written and said about Khojaly,” Hasenova noted. “However, world powers should be neither indifferent nor silent to this tragedy. Justice must find its place.”  

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings at the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”  

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Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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