An enormous statue of the Jewish national hero was unveiled with military honors before a crowd of dignitaries.
By United with Israel Staff
The most decorated war hero of the predominantly Muslim country of Azerbaijan is a Jew named Albert Agarunov, a brave soldier and outstanding human being respected by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. On November 15, an enormous statue was unveiled with military honors in front of a crowd of government and community leaders, civilians and foreign guests.
In attendance were: Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Commissioner for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and President of Congress of Christian Leaders Rev. Johnnie Moore; Chief Sephardic Rabbi Emeritus of Israel Shlomo Amar, several other rabbis from Europe, the United States and Latin America, as well as state senators from the Western United States,” according to the Jewish Journal.
There are about 30,000 Jews living comfortably in Azerbaijan.
Agarunov, a “Mountain Jew,” born in 1969, volunteered to join the Azerbaijan army in 1991 to fight during a brutal war with Armenia. He was inspired to give back to the country that had “protected him and all Jewish residents for thousands of years,” according to the Journal.
He was known as an outstanding tankist who was able to disarm two tanks at once, acquiring the name from his combat friends “Jewish Sandwich.” Agarunov was so skilled at fighting the enemy that the Armenian army placed a $100,000 bounty on his head.
Not only was he capable of exceptional military feats, such as disabling nine Armenian tanks and two armored trucks in one day, he was also known for his kindness, even to those killed in battle.
“On the worst of days at the height of the Armenian invasion and massacres, Agarunov drove his tank into areas where the ground was literally covered in bodies of men, women and children – slain, innocent Azerbaijani civilians,” the Journal reported. “On those days, Agarunov would leave the safety of his tank, even under the threat of immediate fire, and navigate the driver, so as to avoid harming those tragically murdered bodies anymore than they had already suffered. He had immense respect for the dead, equal to his insatiable respect for life.”
The brave soldier was killed by an Armenian sniper in Shusha, at 23-years-old, while out of his tank guiding the driver to avoid the slain bodies of his comrades.
Agarunov has been recognized several times in Azerbaijan before. There is a plaque affixed to his childhood home. A school that he attended bears his name. In 1992, he was posthumously awarded the honor of National Hero of Azerbaijan, the highest honor given for military service. He is “buried at Martyrs Lane, an impressive monument overlooking the Caspian Sea, one of Baku’s [the capital of Azerbaijan] most visited destinations,” according to the Journal.
Last year, one of the most beautiful streets in Baku was named after Agarunov. The new and impressive statue is now located there.
The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, is credited with his nations’ worldwide reputation for interfaith peace, harmony and acceptance, and for making the street name and statue of Agarunov a reality.
Agarunov is “a symbol of brotherhood and friendship between Azerbaijani and Jewish people, and between Muslims and Jews in general,” noted the Journal. “[He] is also [the] epitome of bravery and peace for all people across the globe, that believe in fairness, justice, and kindness – a person who lived a truly exceptional life. I hope this statue brings happiness to his family, hope to all who visit and hear of it, and inspiration for all of us to continue fighting for what is good.”
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