Khazar was born in 1992 in Ordubad, Ganza, a small village surrounded by Caucasus Mountains, during the Azerbaijani-Armenian war. “When my mom was giving birth, bombs were falling down just a few miles from the hospital,” Khazar told me, “that’s why many years later I could not become anything else than a student of politics and human rights.”
Khazar, a 25 years old tall and robust guy, confessed me that since he was a child, he had a vocation for acting, and when in high school he also got the main rule for Alexander the Great. Teachers suggested him to continue the acting career. “But I did have no choice. My destiny was already written: I had to contribute the peace in my country and the Caucasus region, which it passes through the reconciliation of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.”
In the concrete, Khazar founded in 2016 the “Caucasus House Project”, meaning the safe “house” without war or feuds, which aims the democratization of the region.
Khazar called me a few days ago and asked me if I wanted to support him for the project he had in his mind. “Mariagrazia, would you like to help me asking New Yorkers if they know about what happened in my country 26 years ago?” In the beginning, I was embarrassed showing him that I was not aware of one of the most tragic episodes of the world history: the Khojaly Genocide that happened exacly 26 years ago, the year that Khazar was born in the small village of Ordubad. During the “the tragedy of one night,” on February 26th, 1992, Armenian separatists attacked the small town of Khojaly, and 613 people were murdered including 106 women, 63 children, 70 aged men. Among 1275 hostages, many have not been released today yet. “What exactly do you want to ask New Yorkers?”
He looked at me with a deep look and, then, answered sharply. “I want to ask them only three things. First, if they have ever heard about Azerbaijan. Second, if they have ever heard about Khojaly, and last, if they have heard about Armenian genocide. “
I stayed silent for a minute, aware of the sensitive topic. On Broadway Avenue, which halves the Soho shopping district, there are people from everywhere and with so many different backgrounds who walk frenetically back and forth . Crowds of tourists exit and enter carrying shopping bags from Zara, Uniqlo, Converse and many other iconic stores of this trafficked street; Students from the nearby New York University hang out in Soho, as well as businessmen, and workers of any kind. We did not know what the reaction of the people could have been. “I’ll go with you,” I told him, without showing him any hesitancy, which in part I had. “I want to support your project. Let’s make New Yorkers know about your country and its memory.”
Sikiù Cabrera, a journalist, and student from Venezuela was recording with an Iphone, while Khazar and I were gently interviewing New Yorkers and Soho visitors. We carried with us a white sheet of paper with written on it, in yellow, Azerbaijan. We showed it to the fast-paced people of Soho, while they, looking suspiciously at us, perhaps were fearing we wanted to sell them some products or ask for money. “Do you have a minute? We will love to ask you if you know my country, Azerbaijan?”
We asked that in English, sometimes in Spanish and also we met a French family. Not so many people knew the country, even less knew about Khojaly. Most of the people, instead, have heard about the Armenian Genocide. “Thank you for educating Americans,” told us a guy and smiled to us while referring to the well-known bad reputation Americans have in geography. A girl from Armenia told us, with ironic but sad tone of voice: “The reason I don’t know about Khojaly is that I am Armenian.”
It is not the first time that I reflected on how mainstream media forget about some parts of the world. Why do we know some events while we don’t know about others? I don’t like blaming only on the media but I think that it is everyone’s duty and responsibility to keep an eye to what happens not only in one’s own country, or in the “hegemonic” part of the world, but also in those who look like the “remote” corners. In another world, to care about our planet for entire, for all the people – our sisters and brothers.
As a student of politics and human right, Khazar wants America, and the whole world acknowledges Azerbaijan and justice for Khojaly, which means recognition of genocide and condemnation of aggressors. “It’s not only America’s lack of knowledge in geography, but it is also and mostly our responsibility to stand up for ourselves, to speak up for our own, our own story. But we need people who are open enough to listen to us.” New Yorkers showed us today that they are good listeners.