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When I was a child, I watched in horror as TV screens in Azerbaijan showed the aftermath of a brutal event: dead women, children and elderly, mutilated bodies, frozen corpses scattered across the ground. This shocking footage was taken at the site of the Khojaly massacre. 613 Azerbaijani civilians, including up to 300 children, women and elderly, were ruthlessly murdered.
My second cousin’s parents survived what much of the world now calls the Khojaly Massacre or Khojaly Genocide. The loud massacre denials of today’s Armenia leaders always leave me shaking my head and asking a simple question: If there was no massacre, then where is the rest of my family?
Most of us today can trace genealogical records — things like birth certificates, census forms and immigration records — to learn about those who came before us. For an entire generation of Azerbaijanis, however, those searches usually yield absolutely nothing.
The town of Khojaly might sound unfamiliar to some. But Khojaly was the scene of one of the most horrific tragedies in modern European history.
Ever since, all Azerbaijanis has worked for the Khojaly massacre to be recognised by the international community. And the world has responded: countries from Mexico to Peru and from Pakistan to Colombia, as well as over a eighteen U.S. states, including Arkansas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and others ¬ have all passed relevant resolutions condemning the Khojaly massacre and its brutality.
Just as in the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis 70 years later, the Azerbaijanis were targeted because they were ethnically and culturally connected to Turks.
Some, like the family of my oldest childhood friend, talked little about the massacre, trying to put that evil legacy behind them. For others, like my Aunt Sevil, the massacre was always right there, just beneath the surface.
That’s the price we pay, I suppose, when human beings cease being human.
If we deny that evil has been among us, how on earth do we prevent it happening again?
Undoubtedly, denial isn’t working.
How many more have to ask, “Where is my family?”
We will continue to remember the victims of Khojaly. And we would like to see the Scottish Parliament and the Westminster join this struggle for justice for those who died in Khojaly. Parliamentary recognition of the Khojaly massacre would be the first step in the right direction. It is vital, for the sake of the future generations, to make sure that such examples of heartless human brutality do not occur again.
Fuad Alakbarov is an Azerbaijani – Scottish political activist, human rights defender and photojournalist. He is known mainly for human rights advocacy for refugees, anti-racism, anti-poverty and humanitarian campaigns. You can follow him on twitter @DrAlakbarov.