Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan (second from right) with Azerbaijan’s Consul General to Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev (right). Credit: Twitter feed of Farrah Khan

On Saturday, October 23rd, the Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC) plans to honor several elected officials at a gala event entitled “Celebrating Truth and Justice.”

There is nothing unusual about a local political party honoring its own elected officials. What is unusual about this year’s gala is the decision by the DPOC to honor Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan with a “Truth” award. 

Earlier this year in her official capacity as Mayor of Irvine, Khan participated in a virtual event hosted by the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles in which she astonishingly described Azerbaijan as a “secular democracy.” Yet the respected nonprofit Freedom House categorizes the country as a “Consolidated Authoritarian Regime,” and assesses it as “Not Free,” when it comes to access to political rights and civil liberties. Even Cuba and Iran rank higher than Azerbaijan on individual freedoms.

In her address at the event, Mayor Khan went on to say that Azerbaijan is a place in which different religious populations are “living peacefully, side by side, something we continue to work on in the U.S.”  This suggestion that the U.S. should look to Azerbaijan as a model for peaceful coexistence of diverse populations is laughable.

When objections to this DPOC award were raised, the government of Azerbaijan pulled Mayor Khan’s video address from its Facebook page and edited her remarks out of their YouTube video of the event. But having her remarks scrubbed from the Internet is not a retraction of those remarks. It is merely an effort to hide them.

Last year, Mayor Khan actively opposed a city council resolution that would have condemned egregious human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the Governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey against Armenians of Nagorno-Karabagh (also known as Artsakh), while a similar resolution was passed by the County Board of Supervisors without opposition.  At the time, Khan argued that condemning human rights violations is not a municipal issue. Yet she has found it OK to travel to Azerbaijan using her official title and to record messages on official Azerbaijani government’s social media channels as the Mayor of Irvine.

Mayor Khan’s continued participation in efforts by Azerbaijan – one of the most authoritarian, corrupt regimes in the world – to obscure its egregious human rights record, not only betrays the Democratic Party’s core principles, but it also serves to embolden a regime that to this day tortures Armenian prisoners of war and civilian captives, deploys terrorist mercenaries, dehumanizes the region’s indigenous Armenian population and rules with an iron-fist over its own population. Here in Orange County this sends a clear signal to idealistic young American voters to jettison their ideals and embrace hypocrisy as standard operating procedure in politics.

Meanwhile, this should be an easy decision for the Democratic Party of Orange County. Going forward with this award would be a betrayal of the very principles of truth and justice they seek to honor, as well as the commitment to democracy and human rights enshrined in the California Democratic Party’s platform.

There are many Democrats worthy of receiving this award. Mayor Khan is not one of them.

Timothy Jemal is an elected Trustee representing the South Orange County Community College District (SOCCCD). 

Carolyn Inmon is an elected Trustee representing the South Orange County Community College District (SOCCCD). 

SOCCCCD is comprised of Saddleback College, Irvine Valley College and the Advanced Technology & Education Park in Tustin.  SOCCCD serves over 40,0000 students annually with rigorous academic classes preparing for transfer to four-year colleges and universities, basic skills attainment, career technical education, robust workforce development programs and top-notch athletics

Opinions expressed in community opinion pieces belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

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