SOCIETY


Not frozen, never forgotten – plight of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons highlighted by photographer’s lens

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Baku, November 26, AZERTAC

After touring the world for the past three years, the outstanding exhibition Five Roads Back Home – showcasing the work of renowned German photographer Philipp Rathmer – finally came to London on 24 November. Hosted at the iconic mid-Victorian Old Truman Brewery, which has been a leading art space in Brick Lane, London, for over two decades, the images feature a cross-section of some of the estimated one million Azerbaijani internally displaced persons (IDPs). They are the ongoing victims of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and these impressive and emotionally-charged images focus on their faces in stark closeup, set against a black background.

Attendees at the private view included eight members of the Azerbaijan All-Party Parliamentary Group, headed by the Rt. Hon. Bob Blackman MP (Harrow East), who has led visits to many of the IDP camps spread across the 48 regions of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani and Turkish TV covered the opening, in addition to a special report on London Live television, which has an estimated daily reach of 230,000 people (BARB figures, November 2016).

Jack Pegoraro, Director, TEAS London, explained: “At the beginning of the 1990s, Armenia attacked the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh and went on to occupy this and the seven surrounding districts. All ethnic Azerbaijanis were either killed in massacres, such as that in the town of Khojaly, or were forced to flee their homes and move to camps for IDPs and refugees within Azerbaijan.

“To this day none have been able to return to their lands. I have been travelling to Azerbaijan for seven years, and each time we visit an IDP camp. Despite the relatively comfortable conditions, it is heartbreaking to see people totally forgotten by the outside world. They still harbour hope that such influential countries as the UK will take up their cause and help them return home. It is the duty of TEAS to fight for the rights of these people.”

H.E. Tahir Taghizadeh, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, commented: “Next February, we will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre, when 613 civilians were killed in the worst atrocity of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Tonight’s exhibition is successful as it brings a human dimension. People only need to look at those faces. All these people were neighbours in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is currently unfortunately occupied by Armenian armed forces. They were all driven out of their homes. Some died, and these are just a few of the survivors and their children.

“Thank you, Mr Rathmer. A project of this type was missing as this brings a human element to the victims of the conflict. Azerbaijan does not want blood or vengeance – it wants to ensure that human tragedies of this nature never happen again.”

Mr Rathmer explained his methodology: “Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the world’s forgotten conflicts. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan developed into a war in 1992 that killed thousands of people. Now, 25 years on, the conflict is far from over. A ceasefire secures a fragile peace. These IDPs suffer the consequences to this day. In 2012, I visited some of the ordinary victims of this unresolved conflict in their camps. The people told me of their fate, their hopes and their fears – some very candidly, some with a certain reticence.

“These photos show one side of the conflict – the side that had to flee and give up their homes. They represent all those who are displaced in the world’s many wars. One aspiration was common to all – they wanted to take one of the five roads leading back to the occupied regions – one of the Five Roads Back Home.”

The exhibition will continue from 25–29 November from 10.00–17.00hrs.

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