Photo Credit: Courtesy
Rachel Avraham with Rabbi Shmuel Simantov at the rally in front of the UN headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Feb. 26, 2023.

Hundreds of members of the Azerbaijani Diaspora gathered on Sunday outside the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria, to protest how the United Nations stood by and did nothing in the town of Khojaly in February 1992, as Armenians massacred 613 innocent Azerbaijani men, women, and children for the crime of being Azerbaijani.

The crowd of protesters chanted: “Karabakh is Azerbaijani,” “Justice for Khojaly,” and “Stop Armenian terror.” They held up signs that decried not only the UN’s incompetence during the Khojaly massacre but also the Iranian attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran, recently, where an embassy employee was killed.


The crowd stood for four hours, despite the bitter cold and the snow.

Several distinguished guests were on hand to protest the UN’s ineptitude. One of them was Akhan Sadikhov, an Azerbaijani graduate student studying in Poland whose family came from Khojaly.

“As a result of displacement, I grew up in an IDP camp in Naftalan (a small town near Ganja),” Sadikhov told the crowd. “I left the camp for the first time when I was 17, to study for my undergraduate degree at the Azerbaijani Technical University.”

Sadikhov lost most of his family members 31 years ago in Khojaly: “It is always hard for me to speak about this without emotions, but I will try,” he said. He showed the audience a horrific portrait from the Khojaly massacre and said: “Take a look at this picture. She is my grandmother. At the break of dawn, all of them were ambushed by the Armenians and killed. Most of the Khojali people were killed there in Nakhichevanik, including my grandma, aunts, their children — my cousins. My dad found my grandmother’s corpse seven days later.”

She was lying dead on the ground, wearing a skirt and blue socks: “Her chest was cut open, her head was scalped and all of her valuables had been stolen. My dad was there in the woods, collecting her corpse.”

He noted that some families were wiped out completely. His Aunt Afile lost her husband and their children, Jeyhun, Niyameddin, and Azer: “Their bodies were not found. We lost 49 members of our family on my dad’s side. This was only one family from Khojaly. There were hundreds of other families like that. Thousands of children and young people like me lived in IDP camps away from their homes, homes some of them had never seen with their own eyes, only heard about them.”

Sadikhov concluded: “Thirty-one years have passed, but the people who are responsible for planning the Khojaly massacre have not been punished and the massacre has not been widely recognized. We call on the international community to recognize the Khojaly massacre and to make a joint commitment to end Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan. We want justice for the Azerbaijani people who suffered immensely from war, aggression, and occupation and are deprived of their rights. Please remember the victims, spread the truth, and demand justice for Khojaly.”

Rabbi Shmuel Simantov, a prominent Azerbaijani rabbi who leads a synagogue in Tel Aviv, proclaimed: “Today we remember the tragedy in Khojaly. Khojaly was a small town in Azerbaijan. In one night, 613 innocent people were massacred including small children and women. They were slaughtered only because they were Azerbaijani. I am Jewish and at the same time, I lived in Azerbaijan. I feel this tragedy. The Jewish people understand what it is to witness the murder of innocent people. I want the whole world to hear our voices. Everyone must hear that the Jewish people stand beside Azerbaijan. We want justice for Khojaly.”

Neil Watson, a British member of the advisory board of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy, said: “In Khojaly, the Armenians went on a murderous rampage, and Serzh Sargsyan, the Armenian leader who served as the third President of Armenia from 2008 to 2018, and as the Prime Minister of Armenia from 2007 to 2008 and again from 2017 to 2018, announced that this was their strategic goal.”

Watson blamed Russian propaganda for preventing the West from understanding the full magnitude of Armenia’s crime against humanity: “At the 31st anniversary of this massacre, the perpetrators remain unpunished. So many victims passed away without seeing justice.”

He noted that the UN in Vienna played a major role in the illegal Armenian occupation of Karabakh for close to thirty years, as well as in preventing justice for the victims of the Khojaly for 31 years: “Both Russia and France played a role in derailing the whole process. The victims of the Khojaly massacre can never be forgotten. Nothing can bring them back to life, but Azerbaijan gaining control over Karabakh and the end of the mandate of the Russian peacekeepers can lead to lasting peace in the South Caucuses. The fact is that Azerbaijan stopped Armenian terrorism.”

I began my speech quoting Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel, who said: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

I continued: “In 1889, the infamous Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler, who murdered 6 million Jewish people in the worst genocide in human history, was born in Austria. Today, the headquarters of the United Nations is located in Austria, but although the UN said NEVER AGAIN after the Holocaust, they sat by and watched the Rwandan Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Khojaly massacre and so many other grave crimes against humanity, without raising a finger.”

“On this day, the Azerbaijani people commemorate Khojaly Massacre Day and remember how the incompetent United Nations failed to sanction Armenia for the Khojaly massacre, the ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis, and for illegally occupying lands which do not belong to them in violation of four UN Security Council Resolutions,” I continued. “We remember how the UN sat by, watched, and did nothing when on one day in February 1992, in the town of Khojaly, the Armenians massacred 613 innocent men, women, and children for the crime of being Azerbaijani.”

I proclaimed: “Khojaly was a grave crime against humanity, and the fate of hundreds of people remains unknown to this day. Hundreds of inhabitants of Khojaly were mutilated, including children. People were burned alive, scalped, and beheaded, their eyes were gouged out, and pregnant women were bayonetted. There have been rumors at the time that Khojaly victims were taken to Armenia, and from there to Libya and Syria, where their organs were sold.”

I also mentioned “the evidence of rape, including of minors. Others froze to death in the bitter cold winter or starved. The Armenians created conditions for the residents of Khojaly to perish and have no chance of survival.”

In conclusion, I declared: “While the community of nations rushed to defend the people of Ukraine, the United Nations remained silent for thirty years as Armenia illegally occupied Karabakh and seven Azerbaijani districts. The UN has refused to try any of the perpetrators of the Khojaly massacre for war crimes at The Hague. This is a travesty that must be brought to an end. Justice for Khojaly!”


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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."