The month of February is always filled with sorrow in Azerbaijan, and amongst those around the world who support the rule of law and the sanctity of human life. This is because, 25 years ago, that month saw the single worst atrocity of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Khojaly massacre took the lives of 613 civilians. The death toll included 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly people.
The event on 23 February was hosted in Luxembourg, a country that has experienced many invasions over the centuries – most notably twice during the 20th century – and has great solidarity with the plight of Azerbaijan. It took place in the centre of the city in the glorious Salon des roses of the Hotel Le Royal and was organised by the Benelux office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), within the Justice for Khojaly campaign. It commemorated the victims of the Khojaly massacre, which occurred on 26 February 1992. The pianist, composer and singer-songwriter Nezrin Efendiyeva, accompanied by Astrid Gallez (flute) and Marie-Carmen Suarez (violin) performed various classical and contemporary works by Azerbaijani, German, Russian and French composers.
Speaking before the audience of 130 politicians, VIPs, students and press representatives, Marc Verwilghen, Director, TEAS Benelux, explained: “TEAS is organising these events within the framework of the Justice for Khojaly campaign. This is an international awareness campaign initiated by Mrs Leyla Aliyeva, Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
“The Khojaly massacre was the worst single atrocity of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and claimed the lives of 613 Azerbaijani civilian victims in 1992. The Armenian perpetrators of this atrocity are well-known and have to be brought to justice. We believe that judicial action against these perpetrators is possible with success, even before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are still housed in camps across the country. In a nation of 9.7 million people, this amounts to one of the highest levels of displacement per capita in the world.”
Fuad Isgandarov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Luxembourg, Belgium and the EU, recalled that the Khojaly massacre was a terrible atrocity. He said: “Azerbaijan is renowned for its tolerance, rich cultural heritage and European values. I am glad to say that the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic introduced universal suffrage in Azerbaijan already in 1918, thus making Azerbaijan the first Muslim-majority country ever to enfranchise women. This is one of the numerous examples of the Azerbaijani pro-European orientation. The 613 victims from Khojaly were not only Azerbaijani, they were also European!”
The concert featured pianist, composer and singer-songwriter Nezrin Efendiyeva, the granddaughter of Fikret Amirov, one of the foremost Azerbaijani composers, who often combined the microtones of mugham from the occupied Karabakh region with western classical music. She is also the great-granddaughter of Mashadi Jamil Amirov, a khanende (mugham singer) and tar player from Shusha, the cultural hub of Nagorno-Karabakh, who also composed the 1915 opera Seyfal mulk, amongst other works. The concert also featured Spanish violinist Marie-Carmen Suarez and the Moroccan-born Belgian flautist Astrid Gallez.
Throughout this evocative and emotional evening, the overwhelming sense was of loss and the umbilical connection of Khojaly, part of Nagorno-Karabakh, with Azerbaijani music. The evening began Fikret Amirov’s mellifluous Lullaby, performed as a piano solo by Nezrin, and the programme include an arrangement for flute and piano of Amirov’s evocative piece Elegy, together with Nezrin’s own arrangement of the Azerbaijani folk song Lachin, which originated in the occupied regions.
The concert also included her arrangements of two of the most serene sequences from the score of The Seven Beauties Ballet by Azerbaijani composer Gara Garayev, a protégé of Dmitri Shostakovich – the Adagio and Most Beautiful of the Beauties.
The highlight of the concert was the world premiere of Nezrin’s emotionally-charged composition In Memoriam, written for the event for piano and violin and dedicated to the victims of the Khojaly massacre.
The concert also included contemplative works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Jacques Ibert, Alessandro Marcello, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, Tommaso Albinoni and Sergei Rachmaninov.