Mirza Mikayilov, the legendary voice of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, died in Munich on January 31, 2020 at the age of 72.
Mikayilov was born in Soviet Azerbaijan in 1947 and emigrated to Israel in 1974, serving briefly in the Israeli Army before joining RFE/RL in Munich in August 1976. He adopted the on-air name Mirza Khazar, and worked as deputy chief editor of the Azerbaijani Service until October 1985. He then worked from 1985 to 1987 as director of the Azerbaijani Service of the Voice of America in Washington D.C. before returning to Munich, and later Prague, to lead RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service until September 2003.
For many Azeris, Mirza Khazar’s voice is associated with the country’s struggle for freedom after he broke the news on January 20, 1990 of the deadly crackdown by Soviet troops on pro-independence demonstrators in Baku.‘Black January,” as the day became known, claimed more than 200 lives.
Mirza Khazar continued his journalism after leaving RFE/RL, blogging about political developments on social media platforms. Among his numerous literary pursuits, he translated the Bible, both the New old Old Testaments, into the Azerbaijani language.
A private funeral service was held for Mirza Khazar in Munich on February 4. He is survived by his wife and three children.