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Parallels drawn to plight of Ukrainians under Russian attack

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Born in Kharkiv, Irina Tsukerman is a human rights lawyer. She compared the Russian efforts to dehumanize and undermine Ukranians with their similar actions against Azerbaijan in the past. (Photo: energieinitiative.com)

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On February 28th, 2022, the Economic Peace Center hosted a conference titled “Karabakh and the Khojaly Genocide” at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. The speakers included former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara, prominent Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Azerbaijani communal leader Lev Spivak, myself and many others.  Azerbaijan’s Tourism Attaché in Israel Jamila Talibzada also attended the event.  

The talk began with Esther Halevi, a Canadian Jewish activist of Azerbaijani origin, speaking about how the Khojaly Genocide affected the local Jewish community. 

“For me, it is very personal.  In the late 1980’s, when the Armenians invaded and occupied Azerbaijan, I was a child. I was a teenager during Black January when all of those tanks were on the street. Something similar is happening today in the Ukraine. For me as a child seeing Russian tanks on the street, it was horrendous.”

As a center of multiculturalism. Jews have always played a pivotal role in Azerbaijan, Ha-Levi explained.  “We never experienced antisemitism. Across America and Europe, Jewish and Israeli students are under attack, something that will not be allowed in Azerbaijan, not even close.  In Azerbaijan, we say with pride that we are Jewish and we love Israel. We did not leave Azerbaijan because of antisemitism. We left Azerbaijan because of instability. So much false propaganda in the West is being spread against Azerbaijan. The Armenian Lobby is strong… It is our duty to tell the truth to the world about what happened in Khojaly.” 

Halevi recounted how “innocent women and children were killed.  613 people were brutally slaughtered. More than 1200 were taken hostage.  Many were missing. They were trapped. They brutally killed, murdered and raped. We have to make sure that what happened in Khojaly won’t happen to any other nation in the world.”

She lamented that “The saddest thing is that today we have to advocate and demand that this tragedy be recognized. Recently, we petitioned the Canadian government to recognize the Khojaly Genocide. Why do we have to do that?  There are documentaries. What the Azerbaijanis are going through is similar to what the Jews and Israel are going through. People are believing the false propaganda that is spread.  Just like the BDS is succeeding, it is the same thing with the Armenian lobby.”

“I was in Karabakh. It is hard to believe what happened there, “Azerbaijani communal leader Lev Spivak added.

“There are homes with only one wall. How did that happen? The Armenians sold the homes to the Iranians for 200 dollars per house. Who would buy a house in a time of war? Not even for 2 dollars. But the Iranians did not buy them to live there. They bought them and took all of the construction material and took it to Iran.  Who would buy a home just to take away spare parts and destroy the rest?”

“In Aghdam, I saw two things that were very shocking,” Spivak continued. “One of them is the Bread Museum. It was a museum for everything connected to bread. In there, they had a tiny piece of bread that was given to them by a woman in Leningrad, which she received as rations during the time the Nazis were surrounding Leningrad. They did not have what to eat. That tiny piece was their normal. It was destroyed by the Armenians. Who destroys a museum like that?  Who destroys a tiny piece of bread like that?  How is that possible?” According to Spivak, “Not far from there, there was a cemetery.” He noted that in that cemetery from the Soviet period, the Armenians dug up the bodies from the graves so that they could remove gold teeth and other valuable items from the grave.” 

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Rabbi Zamir Isayev stressed: “I think that all the world should pay attention and recognize it as a genocide, as they recognize the Holocaust. I think it’s not important how many people were victims of the genocide. Numbers are not important. If somebody was killed because of his nationality and we know that in the Holocaust we were killed because of our nationality, and Azerbaijanis were killed only because they were Azerbaijanis, it is genocide. We learned from history and are doing everything so no one will forget about this.”

International human rights lawyer Irina Tsukerman also addressed the conference:

“As a lawyer, I have to deal with atrocities and crimes against humanity on a daily basis… Khojaly was not a spontaneous event. It was organized. It included a series of events including an incursion into Azerbaijan’s territory. This laid the foundation for the occupation of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region for thirty years, which resulted in its liberation during the Second Karabakh War. Unfortunately during this time, it included a mass refugee crisis and trauma.  It all started with Khojaly and similar events.”

“The Soviet Union had a policy of instigating ethnic and religious tensions, creating polarization and divisions, and dehumanizing groups of people that were able to coexist prior. It created fictitious territory for the purpose of dehumanizing and fomenting a false history” As such, she stated, “the Soviet Union backed anti-Azerbaijani sentiments, which led to the tensions with Armenia. It led to horrific atrocities and a great tragedy. Khojaly was a grave tragedy. Unfortunately, there has never been closure from that incident, as the perpetrators were never brought to justice.”

Tsukerman pointed out that “There are no statutes of limitations on crimes against humanity that they perpetrated as a result of state action. It is not too late to state these claims and to push for actions and to impose sanctions on the responsible parties until they either prosecute themselves or the international community does so. The same people who made Khojaly possible have created a system of propaganda with continued dehumanization of Azerbaijanis till the Second Karabakh War. We see echoes of it in the international media. We are now seeing the same kind of thing with Ukraine. It is rooted in the same mentality.”

In conclusion, Tsukerman proclaimed: “The Azerbaijanis should continue to stand for justice. They are fighting for self-defense. They are continuing as a humanitarian leader under these circumstances, helping in the Ukraine as well. This is how a country should conduct itself when injustice is not prevented internationally.” 

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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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

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.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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