Khojaly Massacre: Tragedy of 20th century

By Amina Nazarli

“... they pressed my hands to the stove and held until a liquid flowed from them," a survivor of the Khojaly massacre, Valeh Huseynov rememberes. In the winter night I was trying to find a cool corner to cool my burning hands and put them on a cold piece of metal radiator. The pain was unbearable, but then, when it eased I fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning I could not take my hands off the radiator, as they stuck to it. The enemies saw it and they pulled my legs to unstick from the radiator. My meat peeled off the palm of my hands.”

His wounds hurt every day, reminding him of the painful days in captivity, which he will remember for the rest of his life.

Huseynov, whose hair turned gray overnight, is not the only victim of this massacre. Maybe he was lucky to stay still alive, (if one can call this a luck), but thousands of innocent people could not escape from dirty hands of Armenian soldiers that night. The night when 613 civilians mostly women and children were killed, a total of 1,000 people stayed disabled and 1,275 were held hostage.

Eight families were exterminated, 25 children lost both parents, 130 children lost one parent and the fate of 150 abductees remains unknown to this day. They have only one sin - they were Turks...

February 26 marks the 24th anniversary of the Khojaly Genocide, one of the most horrible tragedies, which Azerbaijani people faced in the 20th century, during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Within one night, Khojaly, one of the oldest settlements in Karabakh with a population of about 7,000 people, was razed to the ground.

It began when Russian 366th Regiment and Armenian fighters surrounded the town of Khojali from four directions, opening heavy and ceaseless fire from artillery and salvo launchers. Within a short time, the city was enveloped in flames of fire. The defending army and local population had to leave town.

Hoping to escape the aggressive and insidious Armenian soldiers, the population of the town run to the mountains and forests in frosty February night. Armenian armed forced pursued them there and jeering at them cruelly. Many young girls were taken hostages, many civilians were shot at close range, scalped or burned alive and many of those froze to death.

Many foreign publications were shocked of what they saw that day. The Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets wrote on January 29, 1994: "We have seen prisoners from Khojaly. Almost all of them were unfit for normal life. In cold weather they were kicked half-naked out into the street, doused with icy water, glass was smashed over their heads... An Armenian cut a baby’s body into two and began to beat his mother with one half. The mother, soaked in blood, suddenly started laughing ... She went mad...”

Over 200 years Azerbaijan has endured ethnic cleansing and genocide by Armenian chauvinists. Azerbaijanis were expelled from their historical lands, became refugees and IDPs, and all this was accompanied by massacres committed by Armenians.

The events that unfolded over Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988, the desire of Armenian ideologists to implement crazy idea called "Armenia from sea to sea" led to the destruction of villages, cities and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from their historical lands.

Historian Lala Aliyeva said Armenians wanted to clear Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijanis and the genocide was arranged to scare Azerbaijanis to make them leave their villages.

“Khankendi city in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region is controlled by Armenians since 1989. Whereupon, Shusha and Khojaly remained two large settlements consisted of Azerbaijanis in the Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenians were unable to arrange the massacre in Shusha, since Shusha was located on a steep hill and has a large population. But Khojaly was more "affordable,” she explained.

Despite the country formed volunteer troops to fight against Armenians in Nagorno- Karabakh, Azerbaijan was not recovered yet at the time after securing independence in 1991. That’s why the population of border villages were in a panic after the horrors committed by Armenian forces.

“After the Khojaly tragedy residents of Azerbaijani villages left their homes before the Armenian attacks,” Aliyeva said.

Thus, Khojali was chosen by Armenian extremists deliberately. The fact that the city was populated only by ethnic Azerbaijanis is enough to argue that it was a genocide, as the Armenian soldiers killed civilians on ethnic grounds.

Today, thousands of Baku residents arrive at the Khojaly memorial every February 26 to pay tribute to the victims of the genocide. Numerous events are organized in different cities and regions across Azerbaijan to commemorate the tragedy.

In an interview with British journalist Thomas de Waal on December 15, 2000, Serzh Sargsyan, then the commander of breakaway Nagorno Karabakh's military forces and current president of Armenia, confessed his involvement in the Khojaly massacre.

“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,” Sargsyan said.

The parliaments of Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Jordan, as well as the legislative bodies of 20 states of the Unites States, including New-Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Western Virginia, New-Jersey, Tennessee, Arizona and Hawaii have adopted relevant documents.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) adopted a final Cairo Communiqué in February 2013, at its summit held in Cairo, labeling the Khojaly tragedy genocide against humanity. The Communiqué calls on the international community to recognize the genocide.

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Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli

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