By Abdul Kerimkhanov
Armenia has been systematically cleansing Azerbaijanis in the region. The killing and expulsion of Azerbaijanis from the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions in the early 1990s was not the first case of ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis.
Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis were expelled from Armenia in 1988-89 as Armenians were voicing territorial claims on Azerbaijan during the last years of the Soviet rule.
Late 1980s saw the mass violence against Azerbaijanis.
In this period of time, Armenian nationalists destroyed local cemeteries, historical and cultural monuments, religious institutions, schools, hospitals and other buildings to erase the traces of Azerbaijanis from the territories in Armenia that used to be populated by Azerbaijanis.
After 1988, more than 2,000 Azerbaijani cemeteries in Western Azerbaijan were destroyed. A witness to these events, 72-year-old Ali Mammadov Ali told local media about the troubles that Azerbaijanis experienced at that time.
Mammadov lived and worked as a mathematics teacher in the village of Agbulag of the Goycha of the Chambarak region, historical Azerbaijani land now within Armenian territory. He informed that during the deportation, the local population was forcibly taken out of their homes.
“In other villages of Chambarak, the process began three months ago. As in those villages, we were also warned that we would be deported. Therefore, 5,000-6,000 armed people were stationed in the villages. Central and Armenian television announced that Azerbaijanis must leave Armenia. On the morning of 26 November 1988, we were told that in a few days the same thing would happen to you, which happened in other villages. On November 28, these events also occurred in our village, armed people forcibly began to bring people out of their homes. They used force against those who didn’t want to leave their home, beating them,” he told.
Mammadov noted that many of the families that left Armenia in November-December 1988 as a result of harassment of the population of Azerbaijani villages, the cessation of food supply, the cessation of power supply and armed attacks, were robbed on the roads, some were killed.
The IDP said that most of the crimes committed in Armenia on ethnic grounds occurred mainly at a time when the Azerbaijani population was forced to leave their homes:
"Taking the children, we reached the village of Ivanovka in Gadabay while the weather was cold. Then almost the whole village began to move to Gadabay. Living in Gadabay, I tried to return to Goycha. Via clandestine routes, I went home to collect personal documents, cattle. However, when I reached the village, I saw that Armenians live in the house, who use my property and cattle as their own. I demanded to return my documents, cattle, but in response, I heard a refusal," Mammadov said.
In 1988, Azerbaijanis were expelled from 261 villages and towns in Western Azerbaijan, of which 172 fully consisted of Azerbaijanis, while in the rest 89 there were Azerbaijanis and other nationalities. In addition, Azerbaijanis, along with other peoples, lived in six other cities. These settlements were home to 49,928 families and 250,000 people. The names and demographic indicators of these items to date are not given completely in any source.
"Realizing that I will not be able to return to Gadabay, I went to another village where only a few Azerbaijanis lived. I lived for a while in that village, but then we were informed that the same process would also happen there. Therefore, with several residents of the village, we returned to Gadabay. After a while, my family and I moved from Gadabay to Ganja," Mammadov said.
According to the list compiled by the Society of Azerbaijani Refugees in 1990, on the basis of relevant documents and witness testimony, in 1988-1990, some 216 Azerbaijanis were brutally murdered in Armenia on the basis of ethnic conflict. Late November 1988 was the last stage of the deportation of Azerbaijanis to Armenia. With the exception of more than 10,000 people of the Azerbaijani population remaining in the blockade in Armenia’s Amasia region (now Shirak), almost no Azerbaijanis remained in Armenia.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding regions.
The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations. Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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