On the morning of 15 March, members of the Azerbaijani community travelled to a clearing in St. Albans, north of London, to plant the final 13 of 613 saplings. This event was organised by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS). Each of these saplings represented one of the men, women and children whose lives were cut short 20 years ago during the massacre in Khojaly, in the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In a solemn ceremony, these living memorials were dedicated to the victims, and a plaque on a stone plinth was unveiled. After planting the final tree, Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS, commented: “This year, 613 trees are being planted to commemorate the victims of Khojaly on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. This will be a memorial for the future, and we will return to this site each year. It is important to keep their memory alive.” Also present to plant the final saplings were representatives of Azerbaijani student societies in London, including the Chairpersons of the societies at University College, London; the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS); The University of Westminster; and Goldsmith’s, University of London.
This symbolic act formed part of a series of commemorative events organised by TEAS across London, which also included a landmark concert of Azerbaijani and Western classical music at St. John’s, Smith Square, attended by around 300 people, and the dedication of a bench in Battersea Park.
The Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh raged from 1988–94, claiming the lives of around 30,000 people on both sides. This resulted in the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions, which together equate to around 18 per cent of Azerbaijani territory. To this day, 875,000 Azerbaijanis remain displaced and reside in camps across their country. A ceasefire was called in 1994, and four UN Security Council resolutions were passed against the occupation. Despite these resolutions, the occupation continues to this day.
TEAS is dedicated to raising awareness of this flouting of international law across Europe. In particular, it seeks to raise awareness of the Khojaly Massacre, which went largely unreported by western media at the time. To view a short documentary entitled Khojaly – a massacre ignored, visit www.teas.eu/content/khojaly-massacre-ignored.
(Photo: Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS, and the heads of Azerbaijani student societies from across London took part in the commemorative event)