January 18, 2018 - The 28th anniversary of the Black January tragedy of Azerbaijan was commemorated at the influential Thomas Jefferson Law School in San Diego, CA. The commemoration was jointly held by the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles and the San Diego Baku Friendship Association.
On January 20, 1990, Azerbaijan's capital city of Baku was invaded by 26,000 Soviet troops, which, at the order of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his Politburo, stormed the city and began shooting indiscriminately into the peaceful demonstrators. Hundreds of civilians were killed, including children, women and elderly; people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, both Muslim, Christian and Jewish. And a thousand were wounded. The pretext was a massive popular uprising in Baku, calling for Azerbaijan's independence from USSR. This mass killing entered Azerbaijan’s history books as the ‘Black January’ tragedy.
Opening the event, the Executive Director of the San Diego Baku Friendship Association Martin Kruming informed the attendees about the importance of the commemoration and thanked the guests for their presence at the event, honoring the innocent victims of the bloodshed.
In her speech the Dean of the Thomas Jefferson Law School Joan Bullock noted that Black January played a significant role in the struggle of the Azerbaijani people for freedom and independence.
Speaking afterwards, the Consul of the Consulate General of Azerbaijan Orkhan Rustamli stated that the Black January tragedy turned a heroic page in Azerbaijan’s history paving a way towards the nation’s eventual independence and freedom in 1991 following the collapse of the USSR. He mentioned that Azerbaijan’s National Leader Heydar Aliyev, who would later become Founder and President of modern Azerbaijan, fiercely condemned the bloodshed while in Moscow. “His defiance helped to inspire the Azerbaijani people and Aliyev became a leader of the struggle for liberty,” Rustamli said.
In his remarks the American journalist Raoul Lowery Contreras stressed that the Black January was a military aggression and crime committed by the Communist regime to suppress the national liberty movement in Azerbaijan and destroy the freedom spirit of Azerbaijani people.
Following the speeches, a short documentary on Black January prepared by Azerbaijan’s Consulate General was shown.
The event concluded with a mesmerizing performance of classical music by San Diego’s prominent violinist Julia Pautz.