WASHINGTON—A protest organized by human rights group Freedom Now was held on December 14 outside a Hannakuh party hosted by Ilham Aliyev’s Azerbaijani regime at Trump International Hotel – to “highlight the continued repression of civil society and independent voices in Azerbaijan.”
The controversial party – which has been sharply criticized in both the Jewish American and Israeli press – was co-hosted by the Embassy of Azerbaijan, Washington, D.C. and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to celebrate “religious freedom and diversity.”
“We strongly condemn Azerbaijan’s egregious violations of human rights,” said Freedom Now founder Jared Genser. “Hanukkah is the story of good triumphing over evil and the rededication of the Holy Temple. If Jewish leaders attend this celebration, they should take the opportunity to perform the mitzvah rabah (great deed) of pidyon shivuyim (redemption of captives) and urge Ambassador Elin Suleymanov to have his government release its political prisoners.” Earlier this week, Genser had an op-ed in The Forward entitled “A Hanukkah Freedom Party With Human Rights Violators” about this event.
“Activists who protest the government’s religion policy are often arrested and given lengthy prison terms based on false charges. Azerbaijan’s lack of respect for religious freedom has prompted the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to categorize it as a Tier 2 country, indicating serious violations,” read Freedom Now’s press statement on the protest. “Other countries in this category include Afghanistan, Cuba, Russia, and Turkey.”