by Durdane Aghayeva
It is difficult to put into words how I am feeling today, a day that follows several weeks of indiscriminate shelling of bullets and missiles that have claimed so many innocent lives. For me, a survivor of Armenian torture camps, a mother and a spokeswoman for peace and other survivors around the world, these recent attacks hit too close to home.
In only the last 2 days, in violation of U.S.-brokered ceasefire, Armenia fired dozens of Russian-made SMERCH missiles at Azerbaijani civilians in the city of Barda, using cluster munitions, with the clear intention of unleashing the kind of terror and bloodshed that Azerbaijan faced 30 years ago during the first Karabakh war. At least 26 lives were taken, including a 7-year-old child playing in her backyard, lost forever for the sake of a criminal war. And there were important witnesses. NY Times team was present during the attack on Barda, barely escaping the missiles, and saw with their own eyes that Armenia is deliberately attacking a civilian population and one that is situated far from the frontline, a place where the residents would not expect such danger and would be easier to murder. For the same reason, the reporters were not expecting or prepared for incoming missiles, and ran for shelter amidst the wounded and the dead, like everyone else in Barda.
The attacks on Barda were preceded by several missile strikes on Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, which resulted in entire residential areas erased within seconds and scores of civilians killed and injured. And attacks were purposefully carried out at night to ensure the maximum death toll!
Since Armenia started a new war against Azerbaijan on September 27, its missiles and artillery fires have murdered 92 innocent Azerbaijani civilians, including 11 infants and children. The youngest victim, named Narin, was only 10 months old. Over 400 Azerbaijanis have been wounded by the attacks, including 36 children.
Armenia’s deliberate targeting of civilians and use of prohibited weapons stands in direct violation of the Geneva Convention and every international legal norm, and what is happening today are war crimes and crimes against humanity, and it must be stopped. Amnesty International has just reported on these violations, and its Regional Director of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Marie Struthers stated that “The firing of cluster munitions into civilian areas is cruel and reckless, and causes untold death, injury and misery”.
In 1992, I was just out of high school and had taken my first job as a telephone operator before I was captured by Armenian troops, tortured and eventually released in exchange for gasoline. To my captors, my life had no meaning but to be used and brutalized and discarded. Today, the same ideology propels the invasions and attacks, which have been condemned by the international community, yet continue as if Armenia is immune to basic laws and human rights. Few can understand this level of depravity, although leaders from Israel have compared our experiences. This week, Arthur Lenk, former Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan, who also served at the Israeli Consulate to Los Angeles in the late 1990s, tweeted in response to aforementioned The NY Times coverage with “Israelis from Sderot, Ashkelon and Beer Sheva will recognize this story. Rockets shot at civilians to “balance” losses on the battlefield. We need to share the #IronDome system with our Azerbaijani friends.”
For nearly 30 years I and 800,000 of my fellow countrymen have waited for justice, to return to our homes in Karabakh, where Armenian soldiers stole our land, our homes and thousands of lives.
Today, Armenia dares to bring brutality and criminal warfare back into the open, with daily assaults and illegal weapons used to take the lives of any Azerbaijani, even babies. Remarkably, this is even happening in the year 2020, amid a global pandemic. But that is the nature of injustice; it has no respect for humanity or the world. Armenia has invaded and continues to attack Azerbaijan on a near-daily basis, yet to the world and especially the West, they feign victim. When so many lives are on the line, as Jewish, Muslim and Christian Azerbaijani soldiers fight to defend the innocent lives and the land of their nation, Armenia is playing politics and media games. As a survivor I say – this is outrageous. This must be stopped. Azerbaijan is a land of peace, flourishing diversity and home to tens of thousands of Jews, Christians and many others, with a vision for global harmony that stands as a beacon to the world. The world must now stop Armenia from this attempt at our genocide.
Durdane Aghayeva is a Muslim woman from Azerbaijan with a special connection to Jewish communities across the world, particularly here in Los Angeles. Durdane is a survivor of torture and a passionate advocate for peace. She works tirelessly for the empowerment of all survivors, to help others to find strength and healing through the unifying process of sharing.
The original article was published in Jewish Journal.