By Sara Rajabova
The Los Angeles-based “Pico Shul” synagogue held commemorative event honoring the victims of the Khojaly massacre on February 22.
“Today we stand together as Jews and Azerbaijanis, to bear witness and to mourn the awful tragedy that befell the residents of Khojaly 23 years ago. We are grateful for the friendship of the Republic of Azerbaijan, both with the State of Israel and Jewish communities across the world. I pray that our friendship continues to grow and deepen, bringing peace and prosperity to our peoples,” said Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, the founder of the Pico Shul synagogue.
Khojaly massacre took place on February 26, 1992, when Armenian armed forces attacked the town of Khojaly in Azerbaijan and massacred 613 civilians, including hundreds of children, women and elderly people. The Human Rights Watch called it the “largest massacre in the conflict”.
Nasimi Aghayev, Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles thanked the “Pico Shul” synagogue and the Jewish community for sharing the pain of the Azerbaijani people.
He noted that this commemoration was historic, because it was the first Khojaly remembrance event at a Jewish synagogue in the U.S.
Aghayev highlighted the strong bonds of centuries-old friendship between the Azerbaijani and Jewish people. He mentioned that when over the centuries Jews were persecuted in surrounding regions, they found safe heaven in Azerbaijan.
Aghayev also highlighted the great outcomes achieved in terms of the recognition of the Khojaly massacre by the world community and mentioned in this regard the “Justice for Khojaly” campaign led by Leyla Aliyeva.
Anar Usubov, the survivor of the Khojaly massacre shared his painful memories of that cold night. He noted that as a result of this massacre he not only lost dozens of his family members and relatives, but also his entire childhood and youth.
Emily Pflaster, the member of the “Pico Shul” community and a grand-child of a Holocaust survivor spoke about the friendship between Azerbaijani and Jewish communities.
“The beautiful friendship between Azerbaijan and Jewish communities is the most important template for peace that exists today. We must create awareness, both of the intense pain suffered by the victims of Khojaly, and the still occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory by violent Armenian forces, those same forces that deny the massacre took place. As Jews, we know the consequences of persecution and the denial that it ever happened. We are honored to support our friend, Azerbaijan, in creating a lasting recognition and healing for their tragedies and their country. This is the least we can do for our friends,” Pflaster said.
Following the remarks, the attendees watched a video testimony by Durdane Aghayeva, another survivor of the massacre. In the video Aghayeva speaks about the torture and humiliation she had to undergo in the Armenian captivity, when she was just 20 years old. The video testimony was prepared by the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles.
The attendees were also treated to the performance of Holocaust-related songs by a famous Jewish violinist Leah Jacobson and acquainted themselves with a photo exhibition dedicated to the massacre.
The event ended with a prayer by Rabbi Yonah honoring all innocent victims of the Khojaly massacre.
It should be mentioned that some members of the Armenian lobby, who continue to deny the Khojaly massacre, painted various insulting graffiti on the outside walls of the Pico Shul synagogue on the eve of the commemoration.
The video testimony by Durdane Aghayeva can be viewed here: