Black January - Crime against humanity

By Sara Rajabova

23 years have passed since the January events of 1990 which went down in the history of Azerbaijan as Black January. Azerbaijani people still remember the tragic day of January 20 as if it happened yesterday.

Hundreds of civilians were crushed or injured by the Soviet troops in Baku on January 20, 1990, on an order from the USSR leadership that was trying to maintain the Communist regime in Azerbaijan and strangle the national liberation movement.

Every year Black January victims are commemorated with great sorrow not only by the people in Azerbaijan, but also Azerbaijanis throughout the world.

This year, the 23rd anniversary of the nationwide tragedy will be marked in many countries of the world. According to the State Committee on Work with Diaspora, a number of events will take place on this occasion in the United States, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Russia, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries.

Conferences, roundtables and seminars will be organized in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and other cities of Russia with participation of the regional department of Azerbaijani Youth Organization of Russia, the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress and other diaspora organizations. At the same time, the newspaper Azerbaijani Congress and other media will publish articles dedicated to the January 20 tragedy.

Azerbaijanis living in countries throughout Europe will also hold a variety of events dedicated to the January 20 anniversary. The Co-ordination Center of Azerbaijanis in Germany, Azerbaijan House, Caspian Hanover Society and Society will conduct a number of events.

The Day of National Condolence will take place in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Kocaeli, Adana, Antalya, Edirne and other cities of Turkey with the support of diaspora organizations.

The nationwide tragedy will also be commemorated in the United States with assistance of the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, Azerbaijan Association of New York and other diaspora organizations.

Besides, earlier in January, U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) launched an annual campaign on informing the American public about the events which took place in Baku on January 20, 1990.

Through USAN's letter campaign, members of Azerbaijani-American community inform the American people on the issue and call on their legislators to pass decisions for official commemoration of the victims of January 20 by the government of the United States.

In the last two years, USAN has achieved two official resolutions on Black January from the legislatures of Texas and New York.

The 70-year Soviet oppression against Azerbaijan culminated with the bloody tragedy on January 20, 1990. Late at night 26,000 Soviet special forces called "Alfa", without declaring a state of emergency, entered Baku and committed atrocities against the innocent Azerbaijani people. The invasion was launched at midnight and was committed with brutality; even children, women and the elderly were not spared.

In total, as a result of the intrusion of troops into Baku and regions of the republic 147 people were killed, 744 wounded.

Though the Azerbaijani people suffered military, moral and political aggression, they displayed their ability to maintain the traditions of historical heroism and resist the cruelest attacks for the sake of the freedom and independence of their motherland, even at the cost of losing their lives. The sons of the motherland perished on January 20, 1990 while defending the freedom and independence of Azerbaijan and with their bravery made history in the chronicles of heroism of our country.

Subsequently, Azerbaijan declared independence on October 18, 1991. And today the Azerbaijanis are proud of those who are ready to perish for the sake of their people's national identity.

Under the decrees of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev dated December 16, 1999, all the victims of the crackdown were awarded the title "Martyrs of January 20."