26th Anniversary of the Khojaly Genocide
The following article was contributed by the Embassy of Azerbaijan
to the NDNnews(www.ndnnews.co.kr). -Ed.
At the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992 Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict turned into a military phase. Taking advantage
of the political instability as a result of the dissolution of
the Soviet Union and internal squabbles in Azerbaijan,
Armenia initiated with the external military assistance combat
operations in Nagorny Karabakh.
The territorial claims of Armenia against Azerbaijan caused the
occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory, including
Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts. The war led to the
deaths and wounding of thousands of people; hundreds of
thousands of ethnic Azerbaijanis became refugees and were
forcibly displaced and several thousand disappeared without trace.
The 20th century has seen many genocides, mass killings and
instances of ethnic warfare. One such horror, the biggest war
crime at the time in all of Europe, happened during the
Armenian-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Khojaly
(or Xocalı) - one of the three largest urban settlements of the
Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan with a population of
7,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis.
The Khojaly Massacre, happened on the night of Feb. 25 and
26, 1992, when the armed forces of Armenia led by its current
president Serzh Sarkisian, with the help of the infantry regiment
No. 366 of the former USSR committed an unprecedented
brutalities towards the civilian population and crime against
humanity in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly. As a result of
the massacre, 613 people were killed, including 106 women,
63 children and 70 elderly. A total of 1,275 inhabitants were
taken hostage and later used as bargaining chips by their
captors, to be exchanged for everything from cigarettes to
gasoline. The fate of 487 people became disabled (76 of whom
are teenagers) and more than 150 remains unknown to this day.
Six families were completely wiped out, 26 children lost both
parents and 130 children lost one of their two parents.
Armenian officials deny responsibility for the crimes committed
during the conflict as a whole, including those crimes against
the population of Khojaly, creating a false narrative. The current
Armenian president, Serzh Sarkisian (then-chair of the NK Region Self-Defense Forces Committee), is quoted in Thomas de Waal's
“Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and
War” as saying: “Before Khojaly, Azerbaijanis thought that they
were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were
people who could not raise their hand against the civilian
population. We were able to break that stereotype. And that's
what happened.” As de Waal sums up, “Sarkisian's account
throws a different light on the worst massacre of the Karabakh
war, suggesting that the killings may, at least in part, have
been a deliberate act of mass killing as intimidation.”
As it was a crime against humanity, the Khojaly tragedy
was then widely covered by the international media, including
the Boston Globe, Washington Post, New York Times, Financial
Times, and many other Western news agencies. The New York
Times wrote about “truckloads of bodies'' and described acts
of “scalping.” At the same time, the lawyers of the international
organization “Human Rights Watch” have classified the tragedy
in Khojaly as a "massacre", and the bloodbath among the civilian
population as a war crime.
In 2008 the International Awareness Campaign initiated by Mrs.
Leyla Aliyeva, general coordinator of the Islamic Conference Youth
Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation was launched under the
motto of “Justice for Khojaly.”
The Khojaly Genocide is recognized and commemorated by
parliamentary acts adopted in numerous countries. So far, the
legislative bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the
Czech Republic, Honduras, Jordan, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama,
Peru, Romania, Sudan, Djibouti, Guatemala, Scotland as well as
nineteen states of the United States of America have adopted
relevant parliamentary resolutions.
There is no return to innocence for those who have been
involved in a massacre, but there is still hope of finding justice
for the victims through an international war crimes tribunal for
the perpetrators of the massacre.
This crime against humanity that is annually commemorated by
Azerbaijani nation and community, holding a multitude of events
throughout the country and around the world to honor those
innocent civilians, increase awareness of the major injustices that
happen when international law is not enforced or respected.