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AnasayfaAmerikaTürk Toplumu Yerel HaberlerRemembering Azeri Victims of Karabakh Massacres

Remembering Azeri Victims of Karabakh Massacres

Khojaly Genocide
Photo by Viktoria Ivleva, a Russian reporter

Remembering Azeri Victims of Karabakh Massacres. Azeri Tears, Armenian Denials : Remembering Azeri Victims of Karabakh Massacres by Ergun KIRLIKOVALI.

Remembering Azeri Victims of Karabakh Massacres

In 1991, Armenia has invaded neighboring Azerbaijan deceptively claiming self-determination for the Armenian minority in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In the war resulting from this blatant aggression, 30,000 people, including combatants, were killed and Armenia occupied by force of arms Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding districts, totaling about one fifth of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized sovereignty. Over 800,000 ethnic Azeris were forcibly expelled by the Armenian forces and most of them still silently endure in refugee settlements the pain and suffering effects of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Armenians. The U.N. Security Council and General Assembly issued several resolutions, calling for an end to the Armenian occupation and return home the of the Azeri refugees. Thumbing its nose at the U.N., Armenia forged ahead with its aggressive policies to establish an illegal mono-ethnic “NKR” regime on the occupied territories, which neither the United States nor any other country, not even Armenia, recognizes.

Every year on 26th of February, Azerbaijanis solemnly commemorate the anniversary of the largest mass killing of civilians in Europe since World War II. On that night in 1992, during the Nagorno-Karabakh War, Armenian forces supported by Russia’s 366th infantry regiment attacked the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly and massacred its fleeing residents. According to Newsweek, “many were killed at close range while trying to flee; some had their faces mutilated, others were scalped.613 civilians, including 106 women and 63 children, were tortured to death, hundreds more went missing. More than 1,000 people received permanent health damage, and 1,275 people were taken hostage. More than 150 children lost one or both of their parents.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Associated Press and many other sources attested the fact that the Armenian forces carried out the massacre. Armenian field commander, Monte Melkonyan, gave a shocking witness account of the Khojaly “killing fields” in his diary, rebuking fellow Armenian fighters for the war crime. Finally, Armenia’s incumbent president, Serzh Sargsyan, admitted in an interview that his forces acted in revenge to “break the stereotype” of Azerbaijanis. Yet, the official Armenia and the Armenian-American lobby deny these facts; instead they push a myth that Azerbaijanis massacred their own citizens. When dealing with Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, one must pay respect to the recognition of its largest atrocity if healing and reconciliation are really the motives. In the recent years, the legislatures in Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, Florida and Connecticut recognized the Khojaly Massacre.

This year, Los Angeles witnessed a rather unique commemoration of the Azeri victims of Khojaly massacres. On February 21-22, Pico Shul, the newly established Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, organized a “Solidarity and Commemoration Weekend” with local Azerbaijanis and the Consulate of the Republic of Azerbaijan. “Sharing Sorrow and Hope” of the Khojaly victims, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein commented on how Jews and Muslims, frequently viewed as enemies in global media, demonstrated in their synagogue, that Jews and Muslims can be friends. Coinciding with a similarly moving demonstration in Norway where hundreds of Norwegian Muslims have formed a human shield around a Synagogue in Oslo as a symbol of solidarity with the city’s Jewish community, the Los Angeles event gave the Muslim-Jewish peace and friendship a new dimension.

Jewish-Muslim relations are not new. When in 1492, the infamous Spanish Inquisitions persecuted non-Catholics of Iberia peninsula, Jews were given two options: 1) convert to Catholicism and stay in Spain 2) or leave Spain if you wish to stay Jewish. Most Jews chose the latter. The trouble was, no European country would take the Jews in for fear of retaliation by catholic Rome. Only one country was self-confident, principled, and compassionate enough to allow the Jews in: the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Bayezid wrote to Queen Isabella of Spain, “I hear you are expelling your Jews. Give them all to me. They are your loss and my gain. I am sending a fleet of the Ottoman Navy to pick them up.” Copy of this firman (imperial edict) can be seen at the Jewish Museum in the Profilo Building in Istanbul today.

Since 1492, the Ottoman Empire and its successor Turkey were a safe haven for Jewish refugees from Christian Europe for more than 500 years. The ottoman Empire took in

the Jews expelled from Bohemia and Moravia in 1541;

the Italian Jews who left Italy when papal restrictions became unbearable in 1555;

the Jewish survivors of the Bucharest massacre orchestrated by the Romanian prince Michael the Brave in 1593;

Jews from Hungary after the Austrians took Buda in 1688;

Jews from Greece, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria—whose expansion brought persecutions, riots, expulsions and ethnic cleansing of Muslim and

Jewish populations alike—during the 19th century and early 20th century;

Jews from czarist Russia, who fled to Istanbul en masse to escape the pogroms in 1881, 1884, 1892 and 1903.
 This tradition of Turkish-Jewish friendship and trust continued when the Republic of Turkey opened its borders to German Jews running from Hitler’s Germany. Einstein’s letter of September 10, 1933 to Ataturk is well known which urged Turkey to give sanctuary and research facilities to forty German Jewish scientists and doctors who had been removed from their work by the rise of Nazism. Not just the forty that Einstein requested, but many scores of German and Austrian Jewish scientists, their families, and their assistants, moved to Turkey. For the next ten to fifteen years the medical schools, and science and technology departments, especially in Istanbul flourished. In fact, several of my father’s professors at the Istanbul University, Forestry Department were some of those Jews.

During World War II, Turkish diplomats saved Turkish Jews living in France (many were French citizens) from certain death, by issuing tens of thousands of Turkish passports. The diplomats involved were: Behiç Erkin, Turkish ambassador to Paris and later to Vichy; Necdet Kent, Consul General in Marseilles; Paris Consul-Generals Cevdet Dülger, Fikret Sefik Özdoganci, and Paris Vice Consuls Namik Kemal Yolga, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Melih Esenbel; Marseilles Consul Generals Bedi’i Arbel, and Mehmed Fuad Carim.

Jews came to the Turkish lands, Turkey and Azerbaijan and others, and found security, peace, friendship, and respect there for five centuries, and of course, prosperity. With Azerbaijan’s emergence as an independent nation after the fall of Soviet Union, that friendship has grown in many ways.

The enduring legacy of peace, friendship, and prosperity among Azerbaijani, Turkish, and Jewish peoples spreading over a millennium provides a stark contrast to Karabagh massacres of 1992 on this day when we solemnly remember the Azeri victims of Armenian aggression, brutality, and ethnic cleansing.



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