Press Release: In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre, the French office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) organised a visual art competition, open to anyone who felt inspired to participate, aimed at raising public awareness of this saddest episode in recent Azerbaijani history. It also called for the peaceful resolution of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an end to the illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven surrounding provinces, and the safe return of the estimated one million Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their lands. This competition was placed under the High-Patronage of Mr André Reichardt, Senator of the Bas-Rhin region, and Chairman of the France–Caucasus Group.
The Jury comprised the Paris-based Azerbaijani artist Asmar Narimanbekova; Jean-Pierre Allali, French journalist and writer, and on the other hand, for TEAS, by Sabina Rakcheyeva, Violinist and Cultural Advisor; Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, Director, TEAS France; and Eliza Pieter, Director, TEAS Strasbourg.
The awards reception took place on 16 March in Paris, in the atypical and unique salon Les Signatures, operated by the Press Club of France, before a gathering of over 60 participants comprising diplomats, politicians, artists and journalists. Selected from over 40 entries, 16 artworks were presented at that occasion, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs, all of which represent the suffering of the Azerbaijani people and their hopes for peace.
Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, Director, TEAS France, commented: “With this art competition, we hope to draw the attention of opinion-leaders and civil society to the Khojaly Massacre, and convince these actors of the importance of engagement in the efforts to accelerate peaceful resolution of this conflict, based on the respect of international law, so that both Armenia and Azerbaijan can live in peace, as neighbours, in the near future.”
H.E. Elchin Amirbayov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to France, thanked TEAS for its initiative, and outlined how impressed he was by the artistic quality of the paintings and pictures selected. He also reminded the audience of the imperative to reach peaceful resolution to the conflict, respecting the principles of international law and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. In that respect, the role of France is crucial, and it needs to take very concrete actions to accelerate the process, hopefully enabling Armenians and Azerbaijanis to peacefully coexist, as was previously the case.
Senator André Reichardt explained that he visited Azerbaijan a few days ago, with a delegation of seven French Senators, who went to see the Azerbaijani lands freed last April, after the so-called ‘Four-Day War’, and was horrified to see the appalling state of this territory, where all has been destroyed. On the other hand, he was impressed to see how keen Azerbaijanis are to return to these lands. He underlined the important role that members of the French parliament must play in diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, and recalled the proposal he made to the President of the French Senate, Mr Larcher, in the margins of the official visit to France of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, to host a meeting between MPs from Baku and Yerevan in the near future.
Jean-Pierre Allali, Member of the Jury, stated: “I am proud of being both a friend of Azerbaijan and a friend of Armenia, and that the armed conflict between these two countries is, for me, an ongoing tragedy. I believe that it is necessary to shed light on the dramas, such as that in Khojaly, brought about by this conflict, which is why I accepted to sit on the jury for artworks devoted to Khojaly.”
Asmar Narimanbekova, Member of the Jury, commented: “I was very honoured to be involved in this competition as a jury member. The artists who submitted their works to the competition all knew how to express their emotional responses to these dramatic events in a talented manner. The tragedy of Khojaly will never be forgotten, it is the pain of the Azerbaijani people.”
Both members of the jury announced the prize winners. First prize was awarded to Vugar Quliyev for his painting Libération. Vugar was born in the occupied city of Jabrayil, and is living in the city of Lyon where he studies art and regularly participates in exhibitions. Whilst receiving his prize, he commented: “I had to flee my home due to the invasion of the city by the Armenian armed forces during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. My painting is the direct reflection of this war, and this crime against peaceful citizens. It’s about evil chasing innocent souls who try to escape in the cold winter night.”
Despite the passing of four UN Security Council resolutions against the invasion, Armenia continues to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions to this day. Currently nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory remains occupied, and approximately one million refugees and IDPs are spread across Azerbaijan. The evening was dedicated to the memory of the Khojaly victims and those Azerbaijanis who have only one wish – to return to their homes and lands.
Khojaly Visual Art Competition – France, 2017
First prize – Libération by Vugar Quliyev
Second prize – Khojaly by Mehri Quiliyeva-Moghadam
Third prize – The loss of human face by Andrey Tyrtyshnikov
Jury Prize – Houses full of sadness by Maya Baghirova