Azeri Jews to skip Purim as chag coincides with national day of mourning

The Azeri Jewish community canceled all Purim celebrations this year, as the Jewish holiday coincides with Azerbaijan’s national day of mourning recognizing the Khojaly Massacre.It is the first time the two dates have matched up with one another. Instead Azeri will be opting to celebrating at home with their families.“We are citizens of this multinational state, and as such, the Khojaly Massacre is also our tragedy,” said Rabbi Shneur Segal, Chief Rabbi of Baku’s Ashkenazi community. “We mourn the loss of those peaceful Azerbaijanis who were cruelly murdered. “This year, among the four commandments of Purim, we are paying special attention to the mitzvah of helping the poor in our midst as a way to give back to the community.”The act of genocide committed in Khojaly on February 25-26, 1992, was one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century. Khojaly, one of the ancient settlements of Azerbaijan, was ruined and burned in one night.The storming of the city began with a two-hour artillery bombardment. Khojaly was blocked from three sides, and fire broke out and burned almost the entire city. Many civilians were killed by shells in the first hours of the assault. After the firing began, the Armenian fascists used loudspeakers to inform civilians that a corridor was open for them to leave the city.

When the residents attempted to leave the city at 2 a.m. via the corridor, which was between 100 to 300 meters wide, they were raked with machine-gun fire. A startling 613 people were killed, 487 people were crippled, and 1275 old men, children and women were captured and subjected to torture and humiliation. The civilians who managed to escape were brutally murdered in the forests by the Armenian military.“Before Khojaly, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We needed to put a stop to all that. And that’s what happened…,” former Prime Minister and President of Armenia and a former separatist leader Serzh Sargsyan boasted to BBC reporter Thomas De Waal around the time of the massacre.”From the mass of bodies two figures caught my eye,” said former CNN cameraman Yuri Romanov, who described the horrors he witnessed. “An old woman with an uncovered gray head was lying face down next to a little girl in a blue jacket. “Their legs were tied with barbed wire, and the old woman’s hands were tied as well. Both had been shot in the head. The little girl, about four years old, was stretching out her hands to her murdered grandmother. Shocked, I even forgot about my camera,” he concluded.Rabbi Segal added: “We stand together in remembrance of the Khojaly massacre that happened less than 30 years ago on our soil. May the memory of those who perished be for a blessing.”

Arye Gut contributed to this report.

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