“Diplomatiya aləmi” .2008.-N18-19.-P.91-94

 

KHOJALY MASSACRE

 

In February 1992, an unprecedented massacre was committed against the Azerbaijani pop­ulation in the town of Khojaly. This bloody tragedy, which became known as the Khojaly genocide, involved the extermination or capture of the thousands of Azerbaijani's; the town was razed to the ground. Over the night from 25 to 26 February 1992 the Armenian armed forces with the help of the infantry guards regiment No. 366 of the former USSR implemented the seizure of Khojaly - a small town situated in the Nagorny Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan with the total area of 0.94 sq. km. and the population before the conflict of 23,757.

The inhabitants of Khojaly remained in the town before the tragic night (about 2500 people) ried to leave their houses after the beginning of the assault in the hope to find the way to the nearest place populated by the Azerbaijanis. But these plans have failed. Invaders destroyed Khojaly and with particular brutality, which violated every norm of common sense, implemented :arnage over its peaceful population.

Brutal annihilation of hundreds of blameless inhabitants of Khojaly was one of the most hei­nous crimes during the armed conflict in and around the Nagorny Karabakh region of the Re­public of Azerbaijan. The Armenian armed forces and foreign military units spared virtually none of those who had been unable to flee Khojaly and the surrounding area. As a result, 613 persons were killed, including 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly people. 1,275 inhabitants were taken hostage, while the fate of 150 persons remains unknown to this day. In the course of the tragedy 487 inhabitants of Khojaly were severely maimed, including 76 children not yet of age. 6 families were completely wiped out, 26 children lost both parents, and 130 children one of their parents. Of those who perished, 56 persons were killed with especial cruelty: by burning alive, scalping, beheading, gouging out of eyes, and bayoneting of pregnant women in the abdomen. Armenian officials deny their responsibility for the crimes committed during the conflict, in­cluding against the population of Khojaly, airily falsifying facts and sharing own interpretations of them, which deviate not only from reality but also from elementary logic. Nevertheless, even the subtlest propaganda will never manage to disprove the facts that speak of a situation dia­metrically opposite to that represented by the Armenian side.

Apart from the considerable information in possession of the law-enforcement agencies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the responsibility of Armenia is documented also by numerous inde­pendent sources and eyewitnesses of this tragedy.

Thus, as Thomas Goltz reported, "[t]he attackers killed most of the soldiers and volunteers defending the women and children. They then turned their guns on the terrified refugees."1

According to Reuters, though "[t]he Republic of Armenia reiterated denials that its militants had killed 1,000 people in the Azerbaijani-populated town of Khojaly last week and had massa­cred men, women and children fleeing the carnage across snow-covered mountain passes", "[b]ut dozens of bodies scattered over the area lent credence to Azerbaijani reports of a massacre."2

In view of The Times, "[m]ore than sixty bodies, including those of women and children, have been spotted on hillsides in Nagorny Karabakh, confirming claims that Armenian troops mas­sacred Azeri refugees."3

In response to misrepresentation by the Armenian side, Executive Director of the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki Holly Cartner made clear that the Armenians bore direct responsibility for the civilian deaths in Khojaly, while no evidence supported the argument of the Armenian side that Azerbaijani forces had obstructed the flight of, or had fired on Azerbaijani civilians.4

Congressman Dan Burton in his speech in the U.S. House of Representatives on 17 February 2005 pointed out the following:

[F]or years a number of distinguished Members of this House have come to the Floor of this Cham­ber every April to commemorate the so-called Armenian Genocide - the exact details of which are still very much under debate today almost 90 years after the events. Ironically and tragically, none of these Members has ever once mentioned the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Armenians dur­ing the Armenia-Azerbaijan war which ended a mere decade ago. Khojaly was a little known small town in Azerbaijan until February 1992. Today it no longer exists, and for people of Azerbaijan and the region, the word "Khojaly" has become synonymous with pain, sorrow, and cruelty. On February 26,1992, the world ended for the people of Khojaly when Armenian troops supported by a Russian infantry regiment did not just attack the town but they razed it to the ground. In the process the Ar­menians brutally murdered 613 people, annihilated whole families, captured 1275 people, left 1,000 civilians maimed or crippled, and another 150 people unaccounted for in their wake [...] This savage cruelty against innocent women, children and the elderly is unfathomable in and of itself but the senseless brutality did not stop with Khojaly. Khojaly was simply the first. In fact, the level of brutal­ity and the unprecedented atrocities committed at Khojaly set a pattern of destruction and ethnic cleansing that Armenian troops would adhere to for the remainder of the war [...]

Armenian officials deny their responsibility for the crimes committed during the conflict, includ­ing against the population of Khojaly, airily falsifying facts and sharing own interpretations of them, which deviate not only from reality but also from elementary logic. Nevertheless, even the subtlest propaganda will never manage to disprove the facts that speak of a situation diametri­cally opposite to that represented by the Armenian side.

Apart from the considerable information in possession of the law-enforcement agencies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the responsibility of Armenia is documented also by numerous in­dependent sources and eyewitnesses of this tragedy as well as is acknowledged by the direct perpetrators of the massacre.

Thus, for example, Markar Melkonian, brother of the well-known international terrorist Monte Melkonian, while considering what has happened in Khojaly simply as a consequence of "disci­pline problems" and "insubordination" among Armenian military units, testified the following:

At about 11:00 p.m. the night before, some 2,000 Armenian fighters had advanced through the high grass on three sides of Khojaly, forcing the residents out through the open side to the east. By the morning of February 26, the refugees had made it to the eastern cusp of Mountainous Karabagh and had begun working their way downhill, toward safety in the Azeri city of Agdam, about six miles away. There, in the hillocks and within sight of safety, Mountainous Karabagh soldiers had chased them down. "They just shot and shot," a refugee woman, Raisa Aslanova, testified to a human Rights Watch investigator. The Arabo fighters had then unsheathed the knives they had carried on their hips for so long, and began stabbing.

Now, the only sound was the wind whistling through dry grass, a wind that was too early yet to blow away the stench of corpses.

Monte crunched over the grass where women and girls lay scattered like broken dolls. "No discipline", he muttered. He knew the significance of the day's date: it was the run-up to the fourth anniversary of the anti-Armenian pogrom in the city of Sumgait. Khojaly had been a strategic goal, but it had also been an act of revenge.5

In his book "Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war", the British journalist Thomas de Waal makes references to words of the Armenian militaries. Thus, "[a]n Armenian po­lice officer, Major Valery Babayan, suggested revenge as a motive. He told the American reporter Paul Quinn-Judge that many of the fighters who had taken part in the Khojaly attack "originally came from Sumgait and places like that."6

But the most important was that the recently elected President of Armenia Serzh Sarkisian said of what had had happened:

Before Khojaly, the 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. And we should also take into account that amongst those boys were people who had fled from Baky and Sumgait.

As Thomas 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".7

The facts mentioned above confirm that the intentional slaughter of the Khojaly town civil­ians on 25-26 February 1992, including children, elderly and women, was directed to their mass extermination only because they were Azerbaijanis. The Khojaly town was chosen as a stage for further occupation and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijani territories, striking terror into the hearts of people and creating panic and fear before the horrifying massacre.

 

 

1 "Armenian soldiers massacre hundreds of fleeing families", The Sunday Times, 1 March 1992.

2 "Massacre by Armenians being reported", The New York Times, 3 March 1992.

3 Anatol Lieven, "Massacre uncovered", The Times, 3 March 1992)

4 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, 24 March 1997.

5 Markar Melkonian, My Brother's Road. An American's Fateful Journey to Armenia (London & New York: I.B.Tauris, 2005), pp. 213-214.

6 Paul Quinne-Judge, "Armenians, Azerbaijanis tell of terror; Behind an alleged massacre, a long trail of personal re­venge", Boston Globe, 15 March 1992, as cited in Thomas de Waal, Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and War (New York: New York University Press, 2003).

7  Thomas de Wall, Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war (New York & London: New York University Press, 2003), pp. 169-172.