STATEMENT BY LEADERS OF FAITH-BASED GROUPS IN AZERBAIJAN ON THE OCCASION OF THE 31st ANNIVERSARY OF THE 20 JANUARY TRAGEDY
We are on the eve of yet another anniversary of the Bloody January tragedy, which is engraved in the historical memory of the Azerbaijani people as a chronicle of deep sorrow as well as national pride and heroism. Our respect for those who laid down their lives for the restoration of Azerbaijani statehood and our national independence and attained the crown of martyrdom, which is considered one of the highest achievements in the eyes of the Almighty Creator, is boundless and eternal.
20 January is a symbol of the spirit of willingness of our people to fight for national independence and freedom, and a symbol of its invincible will. Our people, who was subjected to punitive actions by the Soviet army on 20 January, did not kneel down and did not lose its will for freedom. Despite all persecution, a brave son of our people, wise statesman Heydar Aliyev, who was in Moscow, demonstrated solidarity with his people and strongly protested against this bloody crime committed by the leadership of the USSR. He wrathfully blamed its organisers and described the incident as a provocation against law, democracy and humanity. Sheikhulislam Allahshukur Pashazadeh sent an open letter full of accusations to former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev to express his harsh and principled reaction to the events. The resolute positions of the political leader and of the religious leader inspired and mobilised the people. More than a million people took to the main square of the city without fearing persecution or even death, and buried in the holy land of their Motherland the martyrs who died for freedom. In this way, the bloody tragedy of 20 January was engraved in the history of the independent Azerbaijani state as a chronicle of the honour and heroism of our people and as an example of national unity.
The Azerbaijani people, who declared its independence in 1991, faced threats to our territorial integrity. After the wise leader of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, was removed from the USSR Politburo by means of intrigues and ruses, Armenia, which laid territorial claims to our country, took advantage of the then domestic strife, chaos and political incompetence in Azerbaijan and occupied 20 percent of our territory. At a time when Azerbaijan's fate, and even the existence of the state, was at stake, Heydar Aliyev, who was called on by the people to lead the country, saved Azerbaijan's statehood. The wise state leader, who raised the flag of independent Azerbaijan for the first time in Nakhchivan, ensured the political and economic power of the Republic of Azerbaijan with his political genius and introduced our state to the international arena. The Great Leader was the architect of the future victories of the statehood of present-day Azerbaijan, which he authored. The successor on his political path fulfilled his father's will for the sake of the nation and of the state and realised the ultimate dream of the Azerbaijani people - he liberated our occupied lands - Karabakh, Shusha, and gave them back to our people.
By means of the 44-day Patriotic War, the Azerbaijani people put an end to the 28 years of policy of occupation conducted by Armenia, which had disregarded international law, had not been constructive during peace talks and had continued to carry out armed provocations. Under the leadership of the victorious supreme commander-in-chief, the heroic Azerbaijani army restored justice and liberated our occupied lands. Azerbaijan's tricolour state flag was raised in our lands and the call to prayer started to be heard. The independent Azerbaijani state won the Second Karabakh War at the cost of the blood of its heroic sons.
The foundation of the road that led to this victory was, undoubtedly, laid on 20 January. 20 January was the first fight and the first moral victory on the road that led us to independence and to the restoration of national and religious values. The martyrs of the war for Karabakh - the First Karabakh War, the April fighting, and the Patriotic War - are successors to the noble moral path of the 20 January martyrs. Our martyrs and war veterans are our source of pride.
The greatest contribution to the sacred souls of our martyrs are our Karabakh victory, the eternity of our independence, the growing might of our statehood, the progress of our Motherland and the happiness of our people. We believe that with the help of God and under the leadership of His Excellency, our dear President Ilham Aliyev, our people will realise all of its noble dreams, and our lands, which have been liberated from occupation, will turn into a flower garden, God willing. Thankfully, owing to the continuous efforts of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and our country's First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva for the sake of the people and of the state, our country's political and economic might is growing even further, its international prestige is strengthening even further, and its cultural, religious and spiritual values are protected and developed at the highest level. The world is an eyewitness to the tolerance of the Azerbaijani people and its respect for multicultural values, and to the attention and care given by head of state Ilham Aliyev and our country's First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva to samples of global universal cultural and spiritual heritage and monuments that belong to all religions - mosques, churches and synagogues - in our country.
Among martyrs who have died for the independence, national statehood and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan are our citizens who belong to different religions and ethnicities. On 20 January and during the Patriotic War, Christians, Jews and people of other ethnicities and religions in this country stood shoulder to shoulder with the Azerbaijani people on the battlefield. We take pride in both National Heroic Fighters who died for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the heroic sons of Motherland such as the Agarunovs, the Yakovlevs, the Polovinkos and the Senyushkins, who represent Jewish, Russian, Ukrainian and other ethnicities. Our martyrs are our source of pride and are dear children of Azerbaijan. May the Almighty Creator rest all our martyrs in peace and heal our war veterans! Long live Motherland!
The Caucasus Muslims' Board, which is Azerbaijan's historical religious centre, has made, together with all faith-based groups in our country, every effort possible toward the victory of our righteous cause at all crucial moments for our people. Religious figures have carried out their spiritual missions and civic duties in the most fitting way day and night and have been there for and at the service of the people and martyrs' families to perform religious ceremonies and bury our martyrs. Together with the leaders of faith-based groups, the Caucasus Muslims' Board sent appeals to the world community, international organisations and influential religious centres during the Patriotic War and disseminated information about the realities of our just struggle, and Armenia's vandalistic and barbaric acts. Our goal was to publicise actions committed by the aggressor Armenia, which violated international law and occupied Azerbaijani lands that are recognised by the world community, and to publicise Armenia's failure to implement the four UN resolutions, and the truth that our country's righteous fight for its own lands in its own territory was fair. The world - which, regrettably, sometimes exercises a biased approach and double standards to problems - should know that among the bloodiest terrorist acts and serious crimes against humanity committed in the 20th century, there is mass terror committed against the Azerbaijani people - the Karabakh conflict, the Khojaly genocide, and the 20 January crime, while in the 21st century there is racist and fascist Armenian extremism, which sought to keep foreign land under occupation and destroy cultural, religious and spiritual values on that land, attempted at falsifying the history of churches and appropriating them, desecrated mosques by turning them into barns, killed civilians, reduced towns to rubble and set fire to lands and turned them into ghost sites. The world should make an assessment of the actions of the Armenian clergy, who, instead of calling its people to peace, pursues political ambitions and, instead of inculcating universal values and divine appeals, holds a cross in one hand and a weapon in the other and calls on its people to occupy foreign land and die in it.
All heavenly religions value human life as a sacred precious thing created by Almighty God and inculcate hope for justice. In Judaism, the salvation of human life is important, and this is reflected in 10 prohibitions and it is considered important for all mankind to prevent bloodshed. Christianity inculcates hope that the dark night will be followed by the arrival of light. The Almighty Creator says in the Holy Koran: "Let there be a people among you who call to goodness, enjoin what is good, and forbid what is wrong! It is them who are successful." (Ali-Imran, 104)
Martyrdom is the highest crown in one's fight for faith and beliefs and to achieve one's goals. It is with deep sorrow that we - the chairman of the Caucasus Muslims' Board and the leaders of faith-based groups in our country, extend our condolences to the families of 20 January martyrs and also to the families of all martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the territorial integrity and national independence of our Motherland, and we pray that Almighty God will give good health to war veterans. It is the sacred duty of all citizens, including religious believers, before God and Motherland to mark, in the most fitting way, this anniversary of the proud date which embodies national sorrow as well as the unity and solidarity of our people, and to commemorate the dear souls of our martyrs.
May Almighty God rest the souls of all martyrs of Motherland in peace!
Sheikhulislam Allahshukur PASHAZADEH
Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims' Board
Archbishop of the Baku and Azerbaijan Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church
Head of the community of Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan
Head of the community of European Jews in Baku
Chairman of the Albanian-Udi Christian religious community
Baku, 18 January 2021
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