THE KHOJALY MASSACRE: THE BLOODIEST AND MOST FEARSOME TRAGEDY OF HUMAN HISTORY
- 24-02-2023, 18:47
- ИСТОРИЯ И ОБЩЕСТВО
PhD in History, Associate professor Talibli Subhan Alakber oglu
Leading Researcher Institute of Oriental Studies named after Academican Ziya Bunyadov of Azerbaijan National Academy of Science
Once settled in historical Azerbaıjani territories in accordance with christianization policy of many states and with a comprehensive support of the Tsarist Russia, Armenians at times conducted activities of aggression, looting, pillage and ethnic cleansing, acting according to policies of foreign countries. Created in in 1918 in historical Azerbaijani lands by a comprehensive support of international and regional powers, Armenia conducted under their patronage deportations, massacres, ethnic cleansing and genocide against local Muslim-Turkish communities in 1905-07, 1918, 1920, 1948-1953 and in 1988.
Azerbaijani population of Baghanis Ayrim village in Gazakh region bordering on Armenia, as well as Azerbaijani villages Imarat Garvand, Tugh, Salakatin, Akhullu, Khojavand, Jamilli, Nabilar, Meshali, Hasanabad, Karkijahan, Gaybali, Malibayli, Yukhari Gushchular, Ashaghi Gushchular and Garadaghli was brutally and deliberately murdered during the occupation of the settlements. Khojaly had been under blockade since October, 1991. Road communication with the settlement was cut on the 30th of October and the only possible transportation was by air using helicopters. After the crash of the helicopter hit by Armenians over Susha, at a result of which 41 people tragically died, the communication with Khojaly was totally cut. Electricity also was lost on the 2nd of January.
Three Azerbaijani villages - Malibayli, Qaradaghli and Aghdaban were occupied in February, 1992. The population was either slaughtered or deported. 99 people died, 140 people were wounded. Khojaly faced an assault from three different directions. Therefore, civil population was obliged to flee towards forested mountains across the Qarqarchay. Exhausted on mountain passes and languished in forests, the fleeing population was mostly killed by Armenian Armed Forces brutally.
At the night of the 25th of February through the 26th, Khojaly was occupied by Armenian Armed Forces supported by the Russian 366th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment. The population was massacred, as a result of which 613 civilians lost their lives, among which were 63 children, 106 women and 70 elderly people. 8 families were totally annihilated, 25 children lost both of their parents, more 130 children became orphans. 487 people were wounded, among which 76 were children and 1275 people were taken prisoners. 150 people from the prisoners, among them 68 women and 26 children are still missing and no information is found about their further lives.
The massacre in Khojaly was reportedly committed by the Armenian Liberation Army of Artsakh and various bands subordinate to areal command formations subject to the chief-of-staff and the commander-in-chief appointed by an order of the plenary of the so-called Nagorny Karabakh Republic. Among those, who put enormous efforts for evacuation of bodies after the massacre and exchange of Azerbaijani prisoners with Armenian bodies and prisoners was Allahverdi Baghirov. Using his communication with Armenian colonel Vitaly Balasanian, within 3 days he managed to liberate 1003 prisoners from Khojaly. In return, he brought and delivered Armenian prisoners. Azerbaijani prisoners were delivered in the cemetery of Garaghaji village. Bodies of Azerbaijani victims were bathed in a mosque in Aghdam, shrouded and buried. As a result of negotiations conducted by Allahverdi Baghirov with Vitaly Balasanian, the military video operators Seyidagha Movsumlu and Chingiz Mustafayev could gain access to the area, where they filmed the site of massacre.
Fighters of Baghirov could the same day evacuate bodies of 85 martyrs, among which were bodies of Alif Hajiyev and Agil Guliyev, two Azerbaijani military officers posthumously declared national heroes. While the bodies were later unloaded from two lorries near Aghdam, Frederica Langen, a photo reporter of Reuters also photographed them. In her report to he New York Times, she would later describe it as follows: “In the first lorry I counted 35 bodies and apparently, there was the same number of bodies in the second one. Some of them had been beheaded, others burnt. All of them were males and some had military uniforms.”
In general, 14577 internally displaced people were temporarily settled in 52 different cities and regions of Azerbaijan after the bloody tragedy of humanity in Khojaly.
Armenians themselves spoke of the massacre and barbarity committed in Khojaly. According to an Armenian author named Markar Melkonian, who dedicated a book to his brother Monte Melkonian, a terrorist who took part in the Khojaly massacre, “the city had strategic importance, but it was an act of revenge, too”. The author specially indicates the role of two Armenian bands named “Arabo” and “Aramo” and describes in details how members of the bands brutally murdered civilians in Khojaly. According to him, some citizens could escape the murder after “being chased by (Armenian) soldiers for 6 miles”. The author goes on: “soldiers unsheathed their knives that they had been carrying on their belly and began to stab (them)”. Another Armenian author-journalist David Kherdian proudly reminds in his book titled “For the Cross” the brutality carried out in Kholajy against Azerbaijanis. In the 19th through the 76th pages of the mentioned book we read: “In the frost of dawn we had to make a bridge out of dead bodies over the marches near Dashbulag. I did not want to step over dead bodies. Upon seeing it, colonel Ohanian told me not to fear. I stepped on the chest of a dead girl around 9-11 years old and began to go. My feet and trousers were all in blood. In this way, I stepped over around 1200 bodies. On the 12th of March an Armenian band named “Gaflan” (which was engaged with burning the dead bodies) collected approximately 2000 bodies of the Mongolians (Turks) and burned them out at a distance of 1 kilometer from Khojaly in separate places. In the last lorry I saw a girl around 10 years old wounded on her head and arms. Paying attention, I saw she was still breathing slowly. She was alive despite the cold, hunger and serious wounds. I will never forget the child’s eyes struggling against death. Then a soldier called Tigranian held her by her ears and threw her onto the bodies, which had already moistened with diesel oil. Then they set fire to them. Voices, yelling and calls for help were heard from the fire”.
Zori Balayan, an Armenian author wrote in his book entitled “Revival of our Souls” about the massacre committed in Khojaly: “Entering a house with Khachatur in Khojaly taken by us, we saw a 13 years old Turkish boy nailed to the window. Khacahtur tucked a piece of meat cut from his mother’s breast in his mouth so that the Turk cannot scream. Then I peeled pieces of skin from the Turk’s head, chest and belly. I watched my watch and the child bled to death within 7 minutes. My spirit was proud out of joy. Khachatur then chopped his body into pieces and threw the pieces to dogs with the same origin with that Turk. The same evening we did the same to 3 more Turkish children. I carried out my duty as an Armenian. I knew that every single Armenian would be proud of our deeds”.
Serzh Sargsian, Former President of Armenia answered to a journalist asking if he regretted about the death of thousand people in Khojaly as follows: “Before Khojaly, Azerbaijanis thought we joke with them and that we would not lay a hand on civilians. We could break this (stereotype). It is all what happened… I have no regret. Such moves are necessary, even if thousands of people die”. Notably, only few Armenians like human rights defender Mikael Danielian and journalist Vahe Avetian confessed the act of massacre in Khojaly.
For the introduction of the reality and facts of Khojaly to international community, photos from the massacre were published together with an article in the Turkish Milliyet Newspaper by Rehber Bashiroghlu, which was later followed by articles in numerous newspapers over all the world, including newspapers and news agencies as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times and the Chikago Tribune, the Associated Press and the Time in the USA; Reuters, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and BBC in Great Britain; the Le Monde (March 14, 1992), which is considered as a newspaper with special importance in France; the Komsomolskaya Pravda, the Trud, the Pravda newspapers and the Pasport journal in Russia; The Irish Times in Ireland, The Age in Australia and in other mass media organs throughout the world.
By an initiative of Heydar Aliyev, former president of Azerbaijan, the 26th of February was declared in 1993 the day of the Khojaly Massacre. Upon the Decree N 498 passed by president Heydar Aliyev on the 25th of February, 1997, the Khojaly Massacre is remembered each year in Azerbaijan at 17:00 PM on the 26th of February with a minute of silence as a sign of respect to the memory of the victims. In his appeal to the nation on the 25th of February, 2002, Heydar Aliyev said: Remembrance of the victims is our debt out of humanity and citizenship. On the other hand, achieving a real political and judicial evaluation for the tragedy and judicial punitive actions against perpetrators, ideologists and organizers of the crime should be implemented properly in order to avoid any kinds of repetition of such massacres.
In 2014, president of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev mentioned in regard to the Khojaly Genocide: “The Genocide in Khojaly was as a new bloody page of the continuous ethnic cleansing and genocide acts perpetrated against our nation by Armenian nationalists and their patrons during last 200 years”. Nowadays, introduction and recognition of the Khojaly Massacre is one of the foreign policy vectors of Azerbaijan. Besides Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Sudan have recognized the tragedy as a full scale massacre. In the 39th session of the Foreign Affairs Ministers Council of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation held in Djibouti on the 20th of November, 2020, a resolution recognizing the murders as an act of genocide was adopted. In 2012, the Committee of Foreign Relations of the Senate of Pakistan adopted a resolution condemning the genocide perpetrated against civilians in Khojaly.
The tragedy was recognized as a massacre by Mexico on the 2nd of February, 2012, by Columbia on the 24th of April, 2012, by the Czech Republic on the 19th of February, 2013, by Bosnia and Herzegovina on the 26th of February, 2013, by Panama on the 7th of February, 2013, by Peru on the 14th of June, 2013, by Honduras on the 17th of January, 2014, by Jordan in 2016, by the Republic of Djibouti in 2017 and by Scotland on the 22nd of February, 2017. Besides, it was recognized as a massacre by 22 states of the USA. A public remembrance march was conducted in Baku on the 27th anniversary of the massacre towards the Khojaly Massacre Memorial. An international campaign entitled “Justice for Khojaly” was launched on the 8th of May, 2008, on the initiative of Leyla Aliyeva, vice president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, within which state institutions, youth organizations and institutions of higher education organized presentations and events dedicated to the Khojaly massacre. The campaign actively uses various means of communication and sources, including mass media, internet and live events for delivering the appeal on an international scale.
On the 26th of February, 2012, a public march consisting of approximately 200.000 participants was conducted in Istanbul. The march began in front of the Galatasaray College and continued towards the Taksim Square. Participants sloganized “We are all from Khojaly” (Hepimiz Hocalılıyız). In 2012, as a result of an introduction campaign conducted by the Azerbaijan America Alliance, special posters introducing the realities of Khojaly were set up at entrance and exit doors of Penn Station, the biggest railway station in New York. The same was conducted at various metro stations, bus stations and on buses. More than 400 metro trains, including 95 metro stations and busses taking to Capitol Hill were provided with such posters.
On the 23rd of February, 2019, Azerbaijani diaspora organizations conducting activities in many countries all over the world held a whole European Karabakh meeting at the Place du Luxemburg (Luxemburg Square), protesting with the slogans “Justice for Khojaly” and “Freedom for Dilgam and Shahbaz”. On the 26th of February, 2019, 55 thousand people in Baku participated in the march dedicated to the 27th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre. The march was held towards the Khojaly Massacre Memorial situated in Khatai District.
On the 15th of February, 2003, refugees from Khojaly appealed to the UN, European Council and OSCE with the objective of presenting the tragic realities of the massacre to the international community through the mentioned influential organizations and achieving political-judicial evaluation of the bloody murder perpetrated in February, 1992 in Khojaly. The European Court of Human Rights defined in its judgement of April 22, 2010, that the massacre of Azerbaijani citizens of Khojaly was “acts of particular gravity which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity”.
Armenians continued to conduct their policy of terror against civil population in the 1st and the 2nd Karabakh wars much similarly to what they did in the beginning of the 20th century. Having continued its aggressive provocation on the 27th of September, 2020, political-military administration of Armenia shelled densely populated Azerbaijani areas close to the frontline, causing terror among civilians and damaging social structures. Such heavy crimes, terror, genocide, vandalism and war crimes perpetrated by the Armenian political-military administration against Azerbaijan, its historical sites and civil population in its historical lands contradict any kind of moral values and demands of international law, namely the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, the 1992 European Convention on the Protection of the Archeological Heritage, the 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage and the UN Declaration No 1803 (XVII) adopted by the General Assembly on the 14th of December, 1962.
Today, each Azerbaijani living in the country or abroad and researchers conducting studies in different fields should realize activities and speeches about the Khojaly Massacre in foreign mass media, research and educational institutions, supporting such activities with articles in different languages. Scholars should cooperate with leading universities and scientific-research centers in the world, composing books and writing articles in cooperation with them. We should broaden our activities to convey our message on our right cause. Under the patronage and leadership of the commander-in-chief and president of Azerbaijan Republic, the State of Azerbaijan and its people managed to take revenge for the Khojaly Massacre only within 44 days, achieving a historic victory over Armenia in Karabakh, which had been kept under occupation for almost 30 years.