Letters to the Editor - Jan. 20
Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 at 10:20 p.m.
Today, Jan. 20, Azerbaijani-Americans and Azerbaijanis around the world commemorate the 20th anniversary of "Black January" events that marked the beginning of the end of Soviet rule in Azerbaijan.
On the night of January 19-20, 1990, sovereign Azerbaijan was invaded by 26,000 Soviet troops pursuant to a "state of emergency." A courageous resistance by Azerbaijanis to the Soviet invasion continued into February.
Eventually, 170 Azerbaijanis were killed, 321 disappeared (their bodies never recovered), over 700 wounded, and still hundreds more were rounded up and detained.
In a report titled "Black January in Azerbaijan", Human Rights Watch put the events into a larger perspective: "the violence used by the Soviet Army on the night of January 19-20 was so out of proportion to the resistance offered by Azerbaijanis as to constitute an exercise in collective punishment. The punishment inflicted on Baku by Soviet soldiers may have been intended as a warning to nationalists, not only in Azerbaijan, but in the other Republics of the Soviet Union.''
The Soviet attack against innocent civilians in Azerbaijan followed massacres in other Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan in 1986 and Georgia in 1989 and was tragically replicated one year later in Lithuania.
The terrible event remembered by this commemoration was an atrocity, but it also gave birth to a hope that led eventually to independence and freedom the following year.
Eighteen years later, there is no sign of "Black January" declining in significance. Millions of Azerbaijanis and friends of Azerbaijan visit Martyrs' Alley in the Azeri capital Baku on Jan. 20 to pay tribute to the memory of their compatriots who laid their lives for the country's independence. They lay flowers on the graves of the victims and the nation's commitment to independence, democracy, and freedom is renewed.
I and my family are joining the US Azeris Network (USAN) in commemorating the tragedy and its victims, and ask for your support by also commemorating the victims with a minute of silence and statement for the record.
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