Strasbourg experiences a memorable and moving evening dedicated to the Khojaly victims
Press Release: On 16 February, the multi-award-winning independent documentary Endless Corridor – a US/Lithuanian co-production – was shown at the Cinéma Odyssée, Strasbourg, which ranks amongst the most respected art cinemas in the Alsace region. The evening in this city – which is home to such institutions as the Council of Europe and the European Parliament – commemorated the victims of the Khojaly Massacre on 26 February 1992. This was the worst single atrocity of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and claimed the lives of 613 civilian victims in 1992. The death toll included 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly people. The screening was organised within the Justice for Khojaly campaign.
Speaking before the audience of 150 diplomats, VIPs, press representatives and friends of Azerbaijan, Eliza Pieter, Director, Strasbourg Office, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) explained: “TEAS is proud to organise these events within the framework of the Justice for Khojaly campaign, which is an international awareness campaign initiated by Mrs Leyla Aliyeva, Vice-President, Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The Justice for Khojaly international campaign was launched on 8 May 2008. The campaign’s rapid development is a measure of international support for the restoration of justice in the region. This support has been expressed at events in over 100 countries in Europe, America, Asia and Africa, and has come from individuals and international organisations, as well as states.
“The tragedies of today should not make us forget those of yesterday. The millions of refugees today should not make us forget the estimated one million Azerbaijanis who have waited to return to their land for more than 20 years.”
H.E. Ambassador Emin Eyyubov, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe, said: “The town of Khojaly no longer exists today, but the remembrance of the massacred victims survives. They are present in all our memories. We ask for an end to the impunity and injustice regarding the massacre, and that this type of tragedy will never be repeated. I hope that this screening of the film Endless Corridor will help all those here achieve a better understanding of the realities of the massacre.”
Lithuanian journalist Ricardas Lapaitis – whose return journey to Khojaly formed the basis of the film – vividly remembered his experiences, saying: “When I appeared in Endless Corridor, it charted my first return visit to Agdam in 23 years. That which I experienced there, as an eyewitness to the Khojaly Massacre, had completely changed my life. I saw a building filled with victims’ bodies; the body of a six-year-old girl; decapitated men. I cannot forget what I saw.
“At the time, when I filed my report, my editor expressed incredulity – saying that such a massacre was impossible. But I said that such a tragedy should never be allowed to happen again. When I returned to Agdam – which is partially occupied by Armenia – after so many years, I realised that this devastated place is the saddest town in the world. The most incredible aspect is that the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is still ongoing. Armenia continues to occupy Azerbaijani territory. Snipers from the sides sit five metres apart. I remember all those who continue to suffer, due to this conflict. I was pleased with the result of this film, and it is an adequate memorial to the 613 people who are unable to see it for themselves.”
The commemoration concluded with a performance of the tone poem Khojaly 613 by French composer Pierre Thilloy, played in the presence of the composer. Commissioned by TEAS, the work was shortlisted for the Victoires de la Musique Classique awards in 2013. It featured Azerbaijani violinist Sabina Rakcheyeva, the first Azerbaijani graduate from the Juilliard School in New York and Cultural Advisor, TEAS, alongside the Pandora String Quartet.
Previously having been Composer-in-Residence for the French Embassy in Azerbaijan, and Director-General of the Festival De Soie et de Feu (Silk and Fire Festival), Mr Thilloy has become aware of the ongoing impact of the Armenian occupation. Mr Thilloy stated in a recent interview: “Music – unlike the word – has never hurt anyone, and can touch us more profoundly. This is because it can express the unspeakable. It can even touch Western Europeans, who never took any interest in this war, which was not in their world view.”
Following its international premiere throughout 2015, Endless Corridor has received plaudits from critics across the world. It has received the Best Documentary and Best Director for a Documentary Prizes at the Tenerife International Film Festival in Madrid; the Best Documentary Editing Prize at the Milano International Filmmakers Festival; and in the prestigious US-based Accolade Global Film Competition, it achieved two awards – Best of Show in May 2015 and in January 2016 the Outstanding Achievement Award in the Accolade Humanitarian Awards 2015. It has also been screened on the pan-European Eurochannel, CNN Turk and TV 24 (Turkey) channels.
Despite the passing of four UN Security Council resolutions against the invasion, Armenia continues to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts to this day, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory.