Sunday, May 8, 2011

Nineteen years since the occupation of Shusha, peace in the Caucasus is out of reach

LOS ANGELES, NEW YORK - On this day, 19 years ago, Armenian armed forces occupied the city of Shusha, a predominantly Azerbaijani-populated town in the Mountainous Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

Established in the 18th century by Panah-Ali Khan Javanshir Ziyadoglu as a capital of the independent Karabakh khanate, Shusha became a cradle of Azerbaijani Turkic culture, literature and, especially, music. In 1870s, master Sadigjan developed the first Azeri tar (lute) in Shusha. City's rich musical tradition also greatly influenced Uzeyir Hajibeyov, the patriarch of Azerbaijani classical music and opera, first of its kind in the Muslim world. Many other prominent  figures, including Bül-Bül (founder of Azerbaijani opera vocal); Jabbar Garyaghdy oglu (Azerbaijani Mugham Art virtuoso); singer Rashid Behbudov; composers Ashraf Abbasov, Suleyman Alasgarov, Fikret Amirov, Farhad Badalbeyli, Seyid and Khan Shushinski; writers Abdurrehim bey Hagverdiyev, Mirmohsum Navvab, Najaf bey Vezirov; 19-th century poetess Khurshudbanu Natavan; and one of the prominent public figures of Turkish Republic, Ahmet Agaoglu, also originated from Shusha.

As in other occupied regions of Azerbaijan, upon the fall of Shusha in 1992, Armenian forces brutally displaced and ethnically cleansed its  entire Azerbaijani population numbering in tens of thousands. Furthermore, the Armenian forces engaged in the destruction of Azerbaijani historical landmarks in Shusha, such as the famous Govharagha Mosque, the museum-house of Uzeyir Hajibayov, and the memorial of Natavan. Despite the attempts to erase any trace of Azerbaijani identity in the occupied city, today Shusha is largely a ghost town and a tragic witness to irredentism in 21st century.
Over the years, the memory of Shusha remained a fundamental part of contemporary Azerbaijani identity. In June 2009, AAC introduced the first-ever U.S. postage stamp  and a t-shirt depicting the original 19th century coat of arms of Shusha. The stamp is approved for sale by the United States Postal Service (USPS) vendor and both products can be obtained via AAC store online:
AAC and ASA call upon all friends of Azerbaijan in the US to disseminate the stamp promoting Shusha's Azerbaijani history. On behalf of concerned Azerbaijani- and Turkic-Americans, we also appeal to the U.S. public officials and media to denounce the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Shusha and other occupied regions of Azerbaijan. The ongoing military occupation of Karabakh by Armenian forces not only imperils the rich cultural heritage of the Caucasus, but also jeopardizes the peace prospects in the region.
ASA is the oldest grassroots organization uniting Azerbaijani-Americans since 1957, and the only Azeri-American community organization cited in the 1980 Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups

AAC is the first academic grassroots organization of Azeri-Americans since 2006.

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