Anti-Turk and Azerbaijan graffiti at South Bay cultural center investigated as hate crime

Azerbaijan Cultural Society on Wednesday released surveillance video they say shows a person who wrote obscene graffiti on their building's walls. 

The cultural center said the video was taken on Tuesday.

The graffiti attack left obscene words scrawled in black paint on three walls of the Azerbaijan Cultural Society Building in Los Gatos Tuesday.

"There are three hateful graffitis that are targeting Turks and Azeris," said Bakhtiyar Neyman, a board member with the Azerbaijan Cultural Society of Northern California.

Neyman says fortunately due to the pandemic, children were taking lessons remotely so did not see the slurs.

"We have language lessons, we have Azerbaijani dance lessons, it is the centerpiece of our community," said Neyman, "And it's really disheartening to see that some people do not see that aspect. They do not see the fact that we are trying to bring peace and education."

The building's surveillance video was handed over to Los Gatos police. Police said the angle is different from the video released by the cultural center on Wednesday. Officers say they are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.

"We are worried that the conflict that is happening overseas is seeping into our peaceful life here in California," said Neyman.

The war which broke out Sept. 27 has intensified overseas between Azerbaijan and Armenia. That has led to heightened tension here in the Bay Area.

The San Francisco Armenian Community Center recently was burnt in an arson, and there were other attacks at the nearby church and the San Francisco Armenian School, where vandals painted graffiti.

Roxanne Makasdjian is a spokeswoman for the Armenian National Committee of America's San Francisco Chapter and says they condemn the attack in Los Gatos.

"The community was shocked when we heard about this vandalism at the Azeri Center," said Makasdjian, "We don't wish this type of vandalism and hate crimes to happen to anybody here especially so close to us here in the Bay Area."

The conflict centers around the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which under the Soviet Union was technically part of Azerbaijan but populated by Armenians.

"When the Soviet Union disintegrated at the end of the 80's, the Armenians of Karabakh asked for it to be attached to Armenia," said Stephan Astourian, a U.C. Berkeley Professor of history who specializes in the region.

Astourian says Russian-backed Armenia and Turkish-backed Azerbaijan have intensified strikes using drones and high-tech military weapons. More than one-thousand people have been killed and civilian-occupied areas have become increasingly targeted. Professor Astourain says that is something the U.S. and other countries need to condemn.

"It's to clearly warn the people involved that war crimes will not be tolerated and civilian populations should be left out of this conflict," said Astourian.

The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to meet with both sides on Friday.

"The U.S. has provided in more than $100 million in armaments to Azerbaijan," said Astourian, who added that the U.S. so far has not tried to intervene.

"The U.S. is one fo the three powers that could do much," said Astourian, noting that the U.S. is officially a co-chair with Russia and France of the Minsk Group. That is the arm of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which is tasked with finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana