Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan : SD ANALYSIS
– January : From Martyrdom to Independence

Human civilization has been worshipping people’s
resistance against cruelty, repression, abuse of authority, tyranny and the
last but not the least, military aggression since its inception. Subsequently,
people who fought for independence, self-reliance, liberty, freedom, human
rights and social justice became larger than life characters. People’s
resistance brought drastic changes in the national histories of various nations
and resultant was the full independence. The Republic of Azerbaijan and its
people reaffirmed that independence could be achieved through holy martyrdom.
Black January is nothing but true reflection of martyrdom by virtue of which it
succeeded to achieve full independence.

Tragic incident of “Black January” was happened on
January 20, 1990. City of Baku was attacked from all directions. The 26,000
Soviet troops, directed by the Politburo in Moscow, stormed the city and began
shooting indiscriminately. Over 170 innocent civilians, including children,
women and elderly, were killed and a thousand wounded in a bloodshed carried
out by the heavily-armed soldiers.

Ultimately because of strong resistance of Azerbaijan
people, tanks lost and people became victorious. Bullets became ineffective
against true brotherhood. Ammunition was defeated against ethnic diversity of
Azerbaijan multiculturalism. Helicopters failed to demoralize hopes of brave
people. This massacre achieved nothing but regional isolation and international
condemnation for USSR.

Human die-hard spirits overtook the city which
remained under deadly attack and siege ultimately the forces of the USSR had to
leave the city. Subsequently, Azerbaijan declared independence on October 18,
2018. With Decrees of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev of December 16,
1999 all the victims of crackdown were awarded the title of “Martyrs of January

Black January is the prime example of human
nationalism, comprising of patriotism, determination, dignity and self-respect
and courage to fight against all odds to achieve ultimate goal i.e.
independence. Black January was not mere eleven words. It was bloodbath of
common Azerbaijanis who did not bow against military might of Soviet Union and
ultimately perpetual coercion was badly defeated. Black January stood for
Azerbaijan’s rich ethnic diversity wherein Muslims, Christians and Jews laid
their precious lives while defending the motherland. Black January proved to be
first step towards complete independence. Martyrdom has multiplier effects
because it involves Allah’s blessings as well.       

The brutal regime utterly failed. After the massacre,
tens of thousands young and old, men and women, Muslims, Jews and Christians
filled the streets to mourn the victims, and a general strike in honour of the
dead shut down the city for 40 days. Heydar Aliyev, the founder of the modern
Azerbaijan, came to the Azerbaijan SSR’s office in Moscow and fiercely
denounced the bloodshed. His defiance helped to inspire the Azerbaijani people
and Aliyev became a leader of the struggle for liberty. The force could not
stop the people of Azerbaijan from seeking their freedom. In fact, it only
increased their resolve to re-establish a free and independent Azerbaijan.

Black January reflects sorrow as well as Azerbaijanis
strength, struggle and success against all odds. The Soviet leadership ordered
some 26000 troops with heavy military equipment to storm the city of Baku in an
operation called “Strike” during which humanity was “bleed” and beats were
everywhere in the city but it could not strike down the true spirits of
interfaith harmony, patriotism, national pride and communal unity and people
having diversity of faith, belief and origin stood fast to fight against all

Black January carries “tragedy” too but it transformed
outlook of Azerbaijan after which dreams of “qualitative life, socio-economic
prosperity, modernity and smarter economy became reality and now the Republic
of Azerbaijan holds 75 percent GDP of South Caucasus. Since the restoration of
independence, Azerbaijan has achieved immense economic development, social
compatibility, civil superiority and energy diversity. Its strategic economic
road map 2017 has further consolidated its position in the region and beyond.

Azerbaijan is now economically dynamic, politically
stable and an important geopolitical power. It is the biggest economy in the
South Caucasus and one of the biggest in the whole of the former Soviet Union.
International investors have been attracted by the country’s business climate
and Azerbaijan is the centerpiece of the Caspian oil and gas developments,
vital for global energy security as well as other regional mega projects.

Black January also portrays “victory of humanity” over
vicious killing, collective determination over indiscriminate cleansing and
ultimately Azerbaijanis became victors and forces of darkness and evil and
attackers on democratic norms, civil liberties and free will got diminished
which showed values of die-hard spirits of economics of humanity too.

Baku, the city of fire which resounded to the sound of
gunfire in Black January, now resounds to the sound of construction as the city
is transformed into a vibrant and modern outlook. Azerbaijan has become leader
of cultural diplomacy, icon of multiculturalism, sign of Islamic values, and
place for peaceful co-existence in the world. The streets down which Soviet
tanks had once driven were filled with foreign tourists and journalists eager
to see the sights of Baku. Black January 1990 was a paradigm shift for all
Azerbaijan in all respects.

Today, Azerbaijan is militarily strong enough to
defend its territorial sovereignty and its   freedom is solid and irreversible.
Despite some efforts to undermine its sovereignty and return it to a state of
dependency, the country is committed to its independent path and cannot be
diverted from it.

In a report titled “Black January in Azerbaijan,”
Human Rights Watch stated that the violence used by the Soviet Army on that
night constituted an “exercise in collective punishment.” Its comprehensive
report revealed  that in their pursuit for higher casualties, the Red Army
used the 5.45 mm caliber bullets with the shifted center of gravity, which upon
entering a body spiral through the organs, causing excessive pain and internal
bleeding, thus increasing chances of death.

Helsinki Human Rights Watch revealed the Soviet
brutality of January 20, 1990 during which army intentionally crashed unarmed
peaceful civilians under their tanks. Medical personnel, ambulances and even
hospitals were specifically targeted. Hundreds of civilians were killed,
including innocent children, women and elderly, people of different ethnic and
religious backgrounds, Muslims, Christians and Jews. The soldiers sacked and
burnt 200 houses and apartments, 80 automobiles, including ambulance cars, the
state and private property. It was an act of state terrorism and crime against

“Black January” marked the beginning of the end of the
Soviet rule in Azerbaijan, and eventually caused cracks in the foundations of
the Soviet statehood. Millions of Azerbaijanis and friends of Azerbaijan visit
Martyrs’ Alley in the Azeri capital Baku every year to pay tribute to the
memory of the victims who laid down their lives for the country’s independence.

Azerbaijan stands for peaceful political struggle. It
always adopts non-violent means to achieve its goals. The Popular Front of
Azerbaijan, a political organization (APF) played a key role in formulating
national ideology and demanding independence from the declining Soviet Union.
The movement was inspired from the brief experience of national independence in
1918-1920 under the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR).

Martyrs of Black January 1990 are real heroes and sons
of the motherland, Azerbaijan which defended the freedom and liberty with
bravery, and became larger than life characters. Martyrs are still alive in
shapes of Azerbaijan’s “irrevocable independence”, uncompromising sovereignty”
and sustained socio-economic prosperity and the last but not the least,
unbending national pride.

Black January in which disproportionately brutal and
poorly justified military intervention massacred the common people served to
increase national sentiments rather than put an end to the national movement.
The reaction to the intervention was one of shock and outrage. For the first
time since the beginning of the Karabakh conflict, all major political forces
were united in common grief.  The value of martyrdom drives from Islamic
culture. Dying for a cause is important in the history of humanity and
especially in Islam. The Alley of the Martyrs is the triumph of nation despite
all its lost battles.

Being prominent regional expert on Azerbaijan and the
CIS I personally think that military operation of January 20, 1990 was totally
planned and calculated act. It took its roots back to 1988. As the Soviet Union
rapidly withdrew its forces from Eastern Europe, the spill-over from the 1989
upheavals began muffled throughout the Soviet Union. Black January was the
continuation of Soviet attacks on civilians in Almaty and Tbilisi in 1986, 1989
respectively and followed by use of force in Vilnuis, Lithuania.

Various research studies/papers, articles of
magazines/journals and news items clearly reconfirmed that before Black January
terrible incident political bodies and the Azeri Supreme Soviet were paralyzed.
Weapons were gathered from militia employees under the pretext of population
disarmament. Flows of information were stopped and Soviet authorities blocked
electronic transmissions of televisions in Azerbaijan on January 19 in order to
deprive population from getting information. Foreigners were not allowed to enter
to the city. Western reporters were banned from traveling to Baku to cover the
events. Soviet Defense and Interior Minister, and military officials personally
visited to Baku some days before, for realization of this calculated terrorist
attack. Soviet reservist, which was prepared for the special mission, had been
mobilized and sent to the region exactly for fighting. Most of the Soviet
militants were the orphan people prepared for the special mission.

Being prominent regional expert on Azerbaijan and the
CIS I personally think Mikhail Gorbachev and his Politburo use of force in Baku
was nothing but desperate attempt to stop dissolution of Communist ruling in
Azerbaijan. The Soviet Army was trying to rescue the totalitarian regime, the
rule of Communist Party and Soviet Empire. The Empire, whose foundations
started to shake since 1985, had the last chance of survival. Moreover, the
January 20 events played a decisive role in awakening the national
consciousness. It was the final attack by the Soviet Army to try to preserve
its position. It was the fight between communism & anti-communism, between
democracy & totalitarianism. The event helped unify the country and create
a national identity, where previously none had existed.

People of the Republic of Azerbaijan celebrate January
20 as the day of martyrs every year. On January 20, the people of Azerbaijan
tend to mark the tragedy of Black January and pay tribute to its martyrs. But
they also commemorate the achievements in the years since as an independent nation,
and acknowledge that January 20 1990 for all its bloodshed, was a first and
vital step towards Azerbaijan’s freedom. It was a state terrorism and crime
against humanity on part of former USSR. It was marked the beginning of the end
of Soviet rule in Azerbaijan.

“Black January was “turning point” for all the
Azerbaijanis people who abandoned Soviet identity and becoming citizens of the
independent Republic of Azerbaijan at the time when such independence still
seemed unreachable. It also bears heroism of common people, a newlywed couple
and children shot by soldiers and to bullet-ridden ambulances. It showed height
of dutifulness and responsibility on part of doctors, nurses and paramedical
staff who died as they protected their patients.

Black January also upholds “grief” which has enduring
human befitting propositions. It united the people of Azerbaijan despite ethnic
diversity and strengthened their resolve to achieve that independence.
Ultimately, it sustained values of faith, courage, and the strength of human
spirits which are universal and everlasting. It was act of perseverance and
will to move on and move forward with a better life, a life of freedom,
fairness, tolerance and peace and it had also left an even stronger and even
greater impression in daily lives of people to centralization of command to
national politics to the regional geopolitics.”

Human blood is a scared commodity and martyrdom is
zenith of it. Martyrdom is a special blessing of Allah Almighty which gives
life to a just cause. It dominates over destruction and destructive forces. It
controls over coercion. It strengthens people’s resolve and purifies their
needs and dreams. Martyrdom is the path towards eternal happiness and harmony,
purity and progress, security and economic sustainability, dignity and
development, greatness and growth and above all humanity and hope. Black
January highlights the strategic importance of martyrdom and martyrs.

Black January upholds the significance of “Economics
of Humanity” which cares about people’s needs and dreams. It has multiplier
socio-economic effects. It brings some delight to all the people living under a
deadly military operation around the globe. True human spirits for a just cause
is an unending phenomena and doctrinaire fixture. Black January is total sum of
die-hard human spirits and Azerbaijan has already witnessed it in 1990. 

January 20th 2018 marks the 28th anniversary of the
military invasion and brutal killing of civilians in the city of Baku,
Azerbaijan by the forces of the former Soviet Army on 20 January 1990. Black
January stands for martyrdom and miraculous human courage, resistance, denial
of aggression and state terrorism which led to restoration of independence of
Azerbaijan from 70 year former Soviet rule. It was victory of precious “human
blood” over brutality and barbarism.

Black January now serves as an example and a hope to
the victims of tragedy and brutality today, that even in the face of the worst
possible cruelty they may soon know such a future of peace and freedom.