A Terrible Tragedy Happened 22 Years Ago in Khojaly, Azerbaijan

Rory Peck
Hasan Hasanov, Rauf Aliyev * -
History has seen many tragic events that caused calamities. However, negative public opinion of the war that formed after the WW II raised hopes of peace loving people. These hopes received a boost when the countries, that once used to be enemies, united to create the European Union. Although violent conflicts happen today in different parts across the globe, humanity attaches a particular emphasis to protecting human rights and freedoms, and certain praiseworthy achievements have been made on this front. Azerbaijani residents of the town of Khojaly in Nagorno-Karabakh, a beautiful and integral part of Azerbaijan, too respect these humane ideas and welcome perfect principles of the modern world. But unfortunately…   

On February 26, 1992, a terrible tragedy happened in Khojaly before the very eyes of the world community, which is shouting loudly about human rights and freedoms. Helped by the 366th armored and infantry regiment, whose command and personnel were mostly Armenians, and which was located in the town of Khankendi, the Armenian armed forces brutally massacred unarmed and defenseless Khojaly Azerbaijanis, including children, women and the elderly, and tortured those who survived. The world community has not or did not want to hear the screams of the women who were tortured, the children who were disemboweled and the elders who were beaten on the night of February 25-26. The Khojaly residents who survived say that four Meskheti Turks and three Azerbaijanis were beheaded near an Armenian grave. Two Azerbaijanis later had their eyes pulled out. People were skinned and had their eyes pulled out alive, while captives suffered gruesome tortures. And the only “guilt” of the people who were subjected to genocide and suffered torture was their being Azerbaijanis. It is the very reason why the Armenians killed and tortured people. However, it`s hard to understand why the world remained silent when this unprecedented genocide happened.

In just one night, the Armenian armed forces wiped the town of Khojaly off the face of the earth. The massacre claimed lives of 613 civilians, including 106 women, 63 children, and 70 elders. Some 1,275 civilians were captured, with 150 of them still missing. Eight families were completely annihilated, 25 children lost both and 130 children lost one parent. Some 76 of a total of 487 wounded people were children.

And it is not only we that speak of the brutality of the Khojaly genocide. Foreign journalists who witnessed the tragic events call the Khojaly genocide one of the biggest tragedies of humanity. In their articles, they highlight unprecedented scenes of violence in the town.
Jean Yves Junes

Fore example, Jean-Yves Junet, a journalist from France, the country which still patronizes the Armenians, writes: “...We happened to be the witnesses of Khojaly massacre, we saw the dead — bodies of hundreds of civilians — women, children, old people and defenders of Khojaly. We managed to fly by a helicopter, we were taking photographs of everything we saw around Khojaly at a height of a bird's flight. That was a terrible scene. I heard a lot about wars, about cruelty of the fascists, but Armenians went beyond them, killing 5 or 6 year-old children, innocent people. We saw a lot of injured people in hospitals, carriages, even in kindergartens and schools.”

Rory Peck of Frontline News, a British TV channel, says: “It`s hard to convey to the world community the scale of the tragedy in Khojaly. It took us a lot of trouble to get by helicopter to the village of Nakhchivanik, where the Armenians settled. Here we saw tens of badly mutilated bodies. These were not the bodies of the fighters who were defending Khojaly, these were the bodies of civilians of the Azerbaijani town – the children, women and the elderly shot down by the murderers. We suppose they were murdered while running to Aghdam, another Azerbaijani town, in an attempt to survive the Armenian bullets.”

V. Belykh, Russian Izvestia newspaper reporter, writes: “...The bodies of the murdered people were brought to Aghdam. You won't see it even in a nightmare: the eyes pulled out, the ears cut off, the heads scalped, and the heads cut off. There was no limit to humiliation.”

The memories of Leonid Kravets, a Russian Major, are especially horrifying: “On February 26, I was taking the wounded out of Stepanakert by helicopter and returning through Askaran gap. Some bright spots downwards took my eye. We started to descend and my co-pilot cried: 'Look! There are women and children over there'. I saw about two hundred corpses scattered down the hillside. Armed men were walking among them. Then we flew there trying to pick up corpses… Militia captain, I can't remember his name, was with us. He found his 4-year-old son with crashed skull and he went out of his mind. The other child that we had managed to pick up before they started shooting had his head cut off. I saw mutilated bodies of women, children, and the elderly everywhere...”

The Armenians themselves admit the tragedy that happened in Khojaly. One of them is journalist Daud Kheyrian, who witnessed the brutality of the Armenians and then escaped to Beirut. In his For the Sake of Cross book, he says: “…The Armenian group “Gaflan” (dealing with the burning of dead bodies) collected 100 corpses of Azerbaijanis and burned them in a place located one kilometer from Khojaly to the West on March 2… I saw a girl aged 10 in one of the trucks. She was wounded in hands and head. But she was still alive despite hunger, coldness and wounds. She could hardly breathe. Her eyes were full of fear. A soldier named Tigranian threw her on other corps. Then they burnt other dead bodies. I heard a scream coming from one of dead bodies being burnt. I could nothing to do. I returned to Shusha. They continued a terrible atrocity against Azerbaijanis.”

Survived Khojaly resident Ganaet Mammadli recalls these horrible moments by saying, “They started a major artillery assault on Khojaly beginning around 24.00 on the frosty night of February 26th. When massacre began we, unarmed people, began fleeing along Gargar river to Asgaran. Armenians blocked our way and started firing on us with rifles and mortars. People began to scatter. Some tried to flee to the mountains some to the forest. Of them, 12 died after getting stuck in the snow. We, some people, were ambushed near the Armenian village of Aranzanit. They shot dead 17 people on the spot. They killed 20 of survivors after keeping them hungry for two days. I and some others were tied and thrown onto the trunk of a truck We were brought to the motor-transport depot`s yard. There were many men`s bodies. They put us into the basement. They attached nails and glass pieces on the wall to keep us from leaning and sitting. Shortly after, they brought two 15 and 30-aged men to the basement. One of Armenians said after looking at the 15-year-old boy, “Good sheep now we can chop it.” They axed one arm then another arm of a boy who was unable to stand on his feet after tortures. Then they ripped out his heart. They said that it would be our turn. I was unable to resist since my hands were tied during the massacre. I was shocked seeing my compatriots brutally killed. Afterwards, I lost my conscience after screaming.”

Yes indeed, human heart is breaking when hearing bitter and horrible memories of our compatriots who survived the massacre by miracle. As a matter of fact, what was said is just part of the story that we know. There were even more horrible incidents in Khojaly that we do not know. Our heart would break if Azerbaijani women, men, children, old people were alive and could tell terrible things. This is why, the Khojaly genocide is on par with other genocides in the history such as genocides in Khatyn, Lidice and Oradour. In order to prevent the mankind to experience such a tragedy again, the world’s peaceloving people, civilized states, reputable international organizations, international community must be aware of these grave truths and give legal assessment of this outrage on humanity. International law requires it too. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 and went into effect in 1961 stipulated the legal framework of a genocide. All acts determining this crime as a genocide in the Convention were registered during Armenia`s aggression against Azerbaijan beginning from 1988. The genocidal policy of Armenia manifested itself in a more horrible form in the Khojaly tragedy. The crimes, atrocities committed by Armenia are against not only Azerbaijanis but also against humanity. That is why the states and their parliaments, which speak about human rights and freedoms, cherish these values and claim they act on these principles must recognize the Khojaly genocide. They must recognize it so that hundreds of the killed by terrible tortures during the tragedy could rest in peace. They must recognize it so that a group represented in the Armenian leadership including incumbent president Serzh Sargsyan, former president Robert Kocharyan, Defense Minister Seyran Oganyan could face the world community’s condemnation for the crimes committed in Khojaly. They must recognize it so that this crime could never happen again.

Speaking at the international conference entitled “Outrages on humanity: Khojaly genocide” organized in Baku in February 2012 by the Working Group for the Implementation of International Human Rights Standards, judge of the Belgium`s Constitutional Court Jean-Paul Murman said that the international criminal court must be set up on the Khojaly events. Similar courts were created on the crimes committed in Kosovo, Lebanon, Iraq and other countries: Such experience exists on an international level. This is not a local court. It must envisage inviting international experts, conducting researches, making respective decisions. Committers of such outrages on humanity must found and punished… Those who perpetrated these atrocities have been identified but a decision on this has not been made over the past 20 years.“

According to Murman, the countries of the world, international organizations must give up double standards and support the triumph of justice! Instead of adopting laws violating freedom of speech such countries as France who claim it gained successes in democracy, human rights and freedoms could earn international respect and get an image of a humanity and democratic country if it would recognize the Khojaly genocide. Adopting the law on the so-called “Armenian genocide”, which has no legal basis and turning a blind eye to the Khojaly tragedy although it occurred just 20 years ago before the eyes of the world, does not bring respect to any country. All attempts of those accusing us of the fictitious genocide are destined to failure. Such persons will never be able to hold out against justice.

In this respect, Azerbaijan has never felt alone. We are confident that progressive European peoples will be alongside Azerbaijan and provide a moral support the Azerbaijani people.

* Azerbaijan-based Khalg Gazeti newspaper
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07