Photo Credit: Ilgar Jafarov
Azerbaijanian children and the elderly after the Khojaly massacre, February 1992.

Recently, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel submitted a comprehensive report to the United Nations describing the sexual violence that was carried out systematically and deliberately on October 7 and later against Israeli hostages in Gaza.

The association told Haaretz: “The report is the first official research since October 7, consolidating evidence and providing conclusions. The report clearly demonstrates that this is not a ‘malfunction’ or isolated incident, but a clear operational strategy involving systematic targeted sexual abuse.”


This report was issued as Azerbaijanis around the globe are commemorating the 32nd anniversary of the massacre in Qaradaghli, which for people in Azerbaijan has many parallels to the Khojaly massacre, when 613 innocent Azerbaijani men, women, and children were slaughtered for the crime of being Azerbaijani.

Systematic rape against Azerbaijani women also took place in Khojaly.

On February 17, 1992, the village of Garadaghli was occupied and burned down by the Armenian Armed Forces, just as numerous areas in Southern Israel near Gaza were occupied and burned down in Israel on October 7. 118 villagers were taken hostage, just as over 200 Israelis were taken hostage. And these hostages were tortured, just like the Israeli hostages.

Kifayat Jabi Aghayeva wrote a report for the Azerbaijani University of Languages claiming: “Human Rights Watch reports that during the conflict with Armenia in the 1990s, women admitted to being subjected to sexual violence. Given that a significant proportion of victims subjected to sexual violence cannot acknowledge the experience to anyone else, the figures are inevitably an underestimate. It was considered likely by interviewers experienced at picking up testimonial clues that at least half the individuals questioned had been subjected to sexual violence.”

She continued: “Women and girls were harassed, humiliated, and raped individually, serially, and by gangs. Women were stripped and forced to submit sexually to the sadistic fantasies of their persecutors, warders, and guards. They were forced to dance a gauntlet naked and defenseless. Such “sexual crimes are used to humiliate as many people as possible, to destroy the fabric of the family, and by extension the fabric of society… Rapes committed in public effectively terrorize communities and convince people to flee. The nature of conflict is changing. Wars are no longer military-to-military conflicts. Ethnic conflicts and ethnic cleansing lend themselves to sexual violence.”

Tamar Herzig, Dean for Research at the Entin School of Humanities at Tel Aviv University, proclaimed: “Wartime rape has a long history; we may trace its early manifestation in the myth of the founding of Ancient Rome, through the serial raping of women of the neighboring tribe, known as the Rape of the Sabine Women, in the eighth century BCE. Yet it was only in the wake of the war in Bosnia (1992-1994) that the rape of enemy women during armed conflicts became a prosecutable crime and, when perpetuated systematically, also recognized as a crime against humanity. This, as feminist legal historian Catharine MacKinnon reminds us, amounted to the recognition that when a woman is raped, the humanity of a human being is severely violated.”

The world must take action against such wanton violence and crimes against humanity, whether they take place in Karabakh or southern Israel. As Israel’s former President Reuven Rivlin once stated, “On this day we must ask ourselves honestly, is our struggle, the struggle of this assembly, against genocide, effective enough? Was it effective enough in Bosnia? Was it effective in preventing the killing in Khojaly? Of Afghans by the Taliban? Is it effective enough today in Syria? Or in the face of the atrocities of Boko Haram in Nigeria? Are we shedding too many tears, and taking too little action? Terrorism does not distinguish between types of blood. In this war, all of us, all the nations united, countries of the free world, must form a united front.”

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Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."