(By Dr Shahid Qureshi – London Post): – Azerbaijan commemorated the 26th anniversary of the massacre of Black January in the country and in its embassies all over the world. Embassy of Azerbaijan also arranged an annual event to remember those lost their lives due to the Russian aggression and invasion. HE Tahir Taghizadeh, ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan made an introductory remarks followed by very informative speech by the famous activist Farida Panakova. Following is the transcript of her speech.
May I thank all of you all for being here tonight to commemorate the 26th anniversary of Black January.
Today (20th January 2016) the people of Azerbaijan both at home and abroad are commemorating the 26th anniversary of what has become known as Black January. 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.
This National Service of Remembrance is a unique expression of national homage devoted to the remembrance of those who have given their lives for our freedom. The service at the Marturs Alley is framed to ensure that no-one is forgotten.
The events surrounding 20th January 1990 did not happen overnight; it was a well-planned aggression by Kremlin against peaceful people of Azerbaijan. It takes its roots back to 1988.
As the Soviet Union rapidly withdrew its forces from Eastern Europe, the spill-over from the 1989 upheavals began reverberating (echoing) throughout the Soviet Union.
While the events of January 20 in Baku were unprecedented by their scale and brutality, they were preceded by earlier attacks on civilians in Almaty & Tbilisi, in 1986 & 1989 respectively, and were followed by use of force in Vilnuis, Lithuania (and the unsuccessful Coup d’état in Moscow in 1991).
In 1988 Ethnic Armenians in Nagorny Garabagh already declared independence from Azerbaijan, earlier over a million of Azerbaijanis were deported from Armenia, so many were killed & bodies mutilated beyond the belief. Throughout the 70 years of Soviet reign, Kremlin used ethnic differences and tensions to maintain internal control. The creation and exacerbation of anti-Armenian atmosphere was in fact a Kremlin-organised game, in order to give the Soviet Army a pretext to enter the capital and suppress local Popular Front independence movement.
Before the carnage there was a secret order to empty the hospitals, to send the sick home and the fire arms were taken away from local police.
Late @ night on January 19, 1990, 26000 Soviet Troops stormed Baku. On the eve of the Soviet military invasion of Baku, @ 7:15 pm an energy supply source to Azerbaijan TV & State Radio was blown up by the intelligence officers in order to cut off the population from any source of information. TV and radio were silent, and all print media was banned. Thanks to Radio Liberty, Azerbaijanis in and outside Azerbaijan, as well as international communities, learnt about the Soviet invasion and gained a chance to organise protest actions (one was organised in the UK. 700 people attended, organised by Dr Faramaz Akbarian and Dr Mahyar Afshari, thank Turkish Community for their support).
On the 21st January respected and well known people amongst Azerbaijan’s intelligence called an emergency meeting in the parliament. Overnight the Chairperson of the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan SSR made a declaration stating that the Soviet Army invaded the Azerbaijan Republic, entered the country uninvited and Azerbaijanis will never
forgive the tragic death of their sons and daughters to anyone. This was a totally unexpected declaration to Kremlin when Azerbaijan officially considered them as invaders.
So what is Black January? Ever since, every year on January 20 citizens of now independent Azerbaijan pay their tribute to those who gave their lives for their country’s independence. January 20 is marked as the Day of Nationwide Sorrow/Remembrance in Azerbaijan and is now the solemnest date on the country’s national calendar.
Although the true facts surrounding January 20 may never be known, the day has acquired a meaning beyond merely remembering the dead, representing now the country’s common sacrifice in its struggle for independence and for freedom.
The behaviour of Soviet armed forces in Baku must be judged in the context of their actual mission. M Gorbachev’s use of force in Baku was nothing but the desperate attempt to stop dissolution of Communist ruling in Azerbaijan. The Soviet Army was trying to rescue the totalitarian regime, the rule of Communist Party and Soviet Empire. The Empire, whose foundations started to shake since 1985, had the last chance of survival.
The January 20 events played a decisive role in awakening the national consciousness. It was the final attack by the Soviet Army to try to preserve its position. It was the fight between communism & anti-communism, between democracy & totalitarianism. The event helped unify the country and create a national identity, where previously none had existed.
The significance of the events in Baku, on January 20, 1990 cannot be overestimated. On January 20, 1990 the fate of the Soviet Empire was sealed forever. It quickly became apparent that even the might of the Soviet military could not extinguish the hopes, dreams & determination of people seeking independence, freedom, and sovereignty.
Indeed, Black January can be seen as a day of national reconciliation, where the country’s bitter political divisions were forgotten for the moment and all united in a common past and against a common enemy.
Despite the curfew and repression which followed January 20, that day became a turning point for Azerbaijan and strengthened determination of the people to build their own independent county. In 1991, Azerbaijan became independent country and in April of 1993 the first among the former Soviet republics with no Soviet troops & no foreign military bases on its soil.
We must remember. We pause; we reflect and, with grateful thanks, remember them. If we do not, the sacrifice of those who gave their lives will be meaningless. They died for us, for their homes and families and friends, for a collection of traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for Azerbaijan and that can never be forgotten. The meaning of their sacrifice rests with our collective national consciousness; our future is their monument. End
(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He was also international election observer for Kazakhstan 2015, 2016 and Pakistan 2002. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. He is PhD in ‘Political Psychology’ and also studied Law at a British University)