Azerbaijan commemorates the victims of the Khojaly massacre

Twenty-six years have passed since the bloodiest and most tragical incident in Azerbaijan’s recent history.
Hundreds of civilians, including women and children, were massacred when Armenian troops assaulted the town of Khojaly on 26 February 1992. According to Azerbaijan’s government, 613 Azeri civilians died, including 169 women and children. They were either shot dead by Armenian soldiers or froze to death as they tried to flee a small Azerbaijani town of Khojaly in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, presently occupied by Armenia.

Each year ever since, to mark the anniversary, Azerbaijanis hold conferences, stage exhibitions and reach out to the international community to spread the truth about this darkest page of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. The Khojaly massacre was part of an act of genocide, which has already been recognized as such by an ever-increasing number of countries and organisations.

Azerbaijanis describe how Armenian troops marched into the town in order to carry out ethnic cleansing of Azeris from Nagorno Karabakh through intimidation and subsequent occupation of the territory.

According to reports from human rights organisations and international media the events that took place on 26 February 1992, saw the killings of hundreds of Azerbaijani civilians with extreme atrocity, most of them murdered, some were burned alive or beheaded, while others were dismembered, while others were scalped, only because they were Azerbaijanis.

Azerbaijani refugees and displaced people who constitute today one million persons out of the total population of 9 million are still struggling as a result of the humanitarian crisis created by the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

Tens of thousands of Azerbaijani inhabitants of Nagorno Karabakh, victims of ethnic cleansing on the part of Armenia, have been deprived of their fundamental human rights and cannot go back to their historical homeland.

A 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations. However, Armenia has rejected relevant UN Security Council resolutions demanding immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts and with its destructive stance blocks the peace process carried out under the aegis of the Minsk Group of the OSCE.

On 21 February 2018, Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry reported that only in the course of that one day, Armenia’s armed forces had violated the ceasefire along the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops more than 100 times.

Azerbaijan’s authorities call on the international community to recognize the Khojaly genocide as a crime against humanity so that it never occurs again. Up to date, more than 15 countries in the world have recognized the Khojaly genocide and the international campaign “Justice for Khojaly” ( launched by Azerbaijan to raise international public awareness of the Khojaly genocide goes on. To date, over 120,000 people and 115 organisations have joined the campaign. Azerbaijan demands that those who orchestrated this massacre should be exposed and brought to justice.

In another important milestone in getting closer to this goal and to obtain legal assessment of the unlawful aggression by Armenia against Azerbaijan, the European Court of Human Rights in 2015, ruled in favor of seven Azerbaijani victims of ethnic cleansing who are deprived of their right to return to their homes and to receive compensation for their property in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan is today a very distant perspective. And it looks even less achievable until the international community gives a just and genuine assessment of the root causes and consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This includes an end of the blind eye turned on one of the conflict’s darkest pages amongst which the massacre of Khojaly stands by far alone.

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