Jewish community expresses solidarity with Azerbaijanis over Khojaly

By | Rachel Brooks

February 25, 2021 

Image credit: “File:Nessah Synagogue 2015.jpg” by Toglenn is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 

The Khojaly Massacre anniversary is a time of mourning for the entire Azerbaijani community. It is a shared pain and dehumanization that the Jewish community the world over is only too familiar with. Jews of all walks of life have come together to express solidarity for the Azerbaijani community over the events of Khojaly. On this 29th anniversary of the tragic events, Jewish leaders from the region demanded justice and recognition from the observing world. 

“The Georgian Jewish community of Azerbaijan, as a part of the Azerbaijani Jewish community, and a part of the Azerbaijani society, strongly condemns the Khojaly massacre, where hundreds of innocent people were killed,” said Rabbi Zamir Isayev, speaking on behalf of the Georgian Jews. 

“The people of Khojaly had been killed for one reason only-they were Azerbaijanis. We call on all the international community to recognize this terrible tragedy as a genocide against Azerbaijanis. We also deeply mourn together with the people of Azerbaijan.” 

A copy of the Jewish community’s statement demanding justice for Khojaly, courtesy of Rabbi Zamir Isayev.

Likewise, the Jewish journalist Rachel Avraham called on the international community to remember the victims of Khojaly and their humanity. 

“The victims of the Khojaly Genocide were Azeri scholars, doctors, teachers, parents and many more, with full lives,” tweeted Avraham, on the morning of February 25. 

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on February 25 that the leaders of Azerbaijan’s Jewish community have chosen to postpone the public celebrations of Purim this year because the event lines up this year with the anniversary of the Khojaly tragedy. The community will observe all religious traditions of Purim indoors for February 25 but will celebrate publicly on February 28. Jewish Telegraphic Agency likewise spoke with Rabbi Zamir Isayev, who noted that a public display of celebration on the day of such brutality would “not be appropriate.” 

The Jewish community is, by expressing this solidarity with the Azerbaijani people, keeping with a tradition that has been held for years now. On February 23, 2018, reported that, on behalf of the Mountain Jewish community of Azerbaijan, Milikh Yevdayev reflected on Khojaly from the Azerbaijani Jewish perspective. Yevdayev called the events of the night of February 25, the early morning of February 26, 1992 “one of the most brutal incidents of inhumane warfare to take place in modern times.” 

The Los Angeles consulate of Azerbaijanis broadcast the event in 2019 that Agayeva recalled in the Jewish Journal. Jewish solidarity with Azerbaijan over the Khojaly events has been an annual tradition for many years, within Azerbaijan and around the world. 

In addition to this spirit of shared national sorrow Jews from Azerbaijan have expressed, Jews from around the world have likewise expressed solidarity, as the Jewish community relates to the events of Khojaly due to the facts of the Jewish Holocaust. On March 3, 2020, Khojaly survivor Durdane Agayeva wrote a letter to the American Jewish Community that was printed in the Jewish Journal. Agayeva expressed gratitude that the AJC had welcomed tweeted in solidarity regarding the Khojaly events. 

“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,” wrote AJC on February 28, 2020. 

Agayeva likewise stated that the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance hosted the Los Angeles screening of the film she appeared in Running from the Darkness which interviewed survivors of the Khojaly tragedy. 

Agayeva noted that the Azerbaijani and Jewish people have had a historic friendship that serves as an important lesson of tolerance for the world community. While Azerbaijani people are predominately Muslim, Jews are safe from discrimination in their nation. Azerbaijani likewise is protected and respected by the presence of Jewish communities among their Diaspora. 

When Agayeva traveled to Los Angeles in 2019 to join a special delegation of Karabakh survivors, she recalled a tour of the Museum of Tolerance with Liebe Geft, the museum’s director, and Michele Gould, a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust. Agayeva and the Karabakh delegation were likewise “honored to visit” the home of a Holocaust survivor and IDF hero Joshua Kaufman. 

Agayeva recalled what she considered “the most meaningful component” of the tour of the Karabakh delegation through the Jewish Diaspora sites in Los Angeles. The delegation visited Nessah Synagogue, which is one of the largest synagogues of the United States. Agayeva stated that there, in the hallowed beauty of the Nessah’s sanctuary, the national anthems of Israel, Azerbaijan, and the United States were sung together. There, the Karabakh survivors shared their stories. The gathering then met for a “festive Kosher meal.” Agayeva recalled how she was overwhelmed with the spirit of unity in that place. 

As the Azerbaijani people pause to remember one of the darkest hours of their history, there is also the spirit of unity and friendship to look forward to, for a better future.