The Khojaly genocide is one of the most terrible and tragic pages of Azerbaijan history.
It should be mentioned that Azerbaijan has endured ethnic cleansing and genocide by Armenian nationalist-chauvinists for 200 years. The people of Azerbaijan were deported from their historical lands and became refugees and internally displaced persons because of the Armenian occupation. Azerbaijanis were also forced from their historical lands during the Soviet period. The Nagorno-Karabakh events, which began in 1988 along with continuous efforts to implement the Armenian desire of building a state from sea to sea, led to the destruction of towns and villages, murder of thousands of innocent people, as well as the exile of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from their native lands.
The Armenian government wanted to annex Nagorno Karabakh despite international legal norms and demonstrates their readiness to resort to any kind of crime and barbarism for the sake of its ideology. The Khojaly genocide — the tragedy of the 20th century — was a result of this aggressive and criminal policy. This tragedy, which took place in the 20th century was one of the most serious crimes not only against the people of Azerbaijan, but humanity as a whole. The Khojaly genocide is comparable to the genocides in Khatin, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Songmi.
What was Armenians' purpose in Khojaly? On one hand that was the liquidation of the strategic hindrance in the form of Azerbaijani residents of the mountainous part of Nagorno Karabakh. On the other hand that was the razing of Khojaly to the ground. Because Khojaly was an inhabited place, which reflected the history and traditions of Azerbaijan since ancient times. This distinct culture is classified as Khojaly-Gadabay in Azerbaijani history. Cromlechs, dolmens, Cyclops, tumultuous of Khojaly, as well as different housing wares, are the patterns of material culture that reflect the dynamics of social development. The destruction of all these material, cultural monuments and Khojaly graveyard — one of the most ancient cemeteries in history — after the Armenian occupation is are obvious examples of Armenian barbarism and aggression against the world culture.
The roots of the problem are related to Armenia`s territorial claims against Azerbaijan over the centuries. At the beginning of 1988, Armenians started their offensive actions against Azerbaijan in order to implement their historical plan, separate Nagorno-Karabakh unilaterally, and annex it to Armenia. At the end of 1991 and at the beginning of 1992, Armenia`s armed operations against Azerbaijan was accelerated. Khojaly where is located in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and includes an area of 940 square kilometers and a population of 7,000 (before the conflict) became the target of these armed operations.
By occupying Khojaly, Armenia was also aiming to invade other districts of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, take strategic heights and get favorable opportunities. Armenian cruelty aimed to break the will of Azerbaijanis and gain a psychological advantage in the next military operations. Historical heritages or traces of Azerbaijan in Khojaly were an obstacle for Armenians` territorial claims in Khojaly and other districts of Nagorno-Karabakh. That`s why Armenians were aiming to wipe Khojaly from the face of the earth.
On the night of February 25-26, the Armenian Armed Forces and paramilitary forces with the help of the 366th motorized rifle regiment moved together to capture the city after a heavy bombardment.
After the Armenian attack began, almost 2500 residents tried to leave the city and reach the nearest Azerbaijani controlled area. However, they couldn`t be successful. People who were fleeing the city to save their life, ambushed by Armenian military posts. They were shot, slaughtered, and captured near the villages of Nakhchivanli and Piramal. While women and children, the rest of the residents were fleeing from the city, died in the mountains by frostbite. Just some people could reach the city of Aghdam where was under the control of Azerbaijan.
On 28th February, two journalists groups reached the place with a helicopter where Azerbaijanis were slaughtered. It was a terrifying scene that the whole area was full of dead bodies. Although the second helicopter played a defensive role, it was not possible to take dead bodies from the area because of the heavy Armenian bombardment. Only four dead bodies were taken from the area. On March 1, when local and foreign journalist groups came to the area where the massacre took place, the scene was more terrifying. Dead bodies had been damaged and their scalps had been removed.
Chingiz Mustafayev who was a journalist and one of the victims, visited the area and according to his speech – “there were tens of children, women and elderly people died as a result of the close shooting. When we see the conditions of the dead bodies, it is obviously clear that most of the people killed intentionally. People who were killed by Armenians had no intention to struggle or escape. Some of them were slaughtered alone. In some cases, the whole family members were slaughtered. There were traces in some dead bodies` heads that proving wounded persons had been killed. They cut off the children`s ears, middle-aged woman`s left side of face skin and men`s scalps had been peeled off. It was obviously clear to see that there were some dead bodies which were robbed.
Homicides in Khojaly was the largest massacre of the conflict. Totally, as a result of the attack and capture of the city, 106 women, 63 children, and 70 elderly persons, including 613 people slaughtered. 1275 residents were taken hostage by Armenians, and the fate of 150 of them still remains unknown. The city was devastated. On this tragedic night, 487 residents of Khojaly were injured, and 76 of them were children. 8 families were killed completely, 25 children lost both parents while 130 children lost one of their parents. Between slaughtered people, 56 of them slaughtered with special cruelty. Their scalps peeled off, eyes carved out, burned alive, and pregnant women`s stomach cut with a knife and slaughtered.
Khojaly is distinguished for its various characteristics. First, Khojaly a was totally civilian settlement that there was no military equipment. That`s why it is not necessary to attack and enter the city with heavy artillery because the place was a settlement where no arms exist. Attack to the civilians in Khojaly was not fair. Second, the attack on Khojaly civilians coincides with the beginning of Armenia`s territorial claims and aggressive policy against Azerbaijan. Therefore, there is no doubt that Armenia aimed to gain psychological precedence for the next offensive operations and bring fear for Azerbaijanis. Killing the civilians mercilessly, and after that Armenians` humiliated behaviors on dead bodies give us such results. Armenia`s unexampled cruelty against Azerbaijanis proves it.
Armenia`s ”corridor” claims is another important point. Armenians claim that they established a humanitarian corridor for the residents of the city to leave the area. According to Armenians` this claim, there is a question that arises. If Armenia`s purpose was to collapse the city, then why did they keep this corridor open which provide people`s leaving from the city? The answer is simple. Armenia did not hold this corridor for humanitarian reasons as they claim. Either Armenia couldn`t hold the corridor or they acted so in order to claim that they gave a choice to civilians. By acting so, Armenia would claim that they had no intention to slaughter the civilians. That`s why Armenia didn`t hold the corridor.
Witnessers` expressions, certain evidence, international reports, even Armenian officials` confessions show the weakness of the Armenians` corridor claim. These facts show that residents of Khojaly were aimless, chaotic, and uninformed when they left the city. If there was a corridor as Armenian claims, people would be informed about it. Besides, if Armenia`s purpose was to provide the humanitarian corridor which led Azerbaijanis to reach the city of Aghdam, then why Azerbaijanis trapped and slaughtered by Armenian Armed Forces while residents of Khojaly were trying to reach Aghdam where was under the control of Azerbaijan? Armenia has to answer this question.
Although the Khojaly genocide was the bloodiest and largest massacre of the conflict, it was not the only case. Massacres were committed by Armenia in other settlements of Azerbaijan, including Jamilli, Meshali, Karkijahan, Malibeyli, and Guschular villages to siege the Khojaly.
In February 1992, Armenia along with Khojaly occupied other territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions during the next two years. In the occupied territories, Armenia did not only expelled over one million Azerbaijanis from their native lands and implemented an ethnic cleansing but also, during the conflict period, serious crimes were committed by Armenia against Azerbaijanis.
As a result of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces` counter-offensive operations in September 2020, territories that were under the occupation of Armenia for almost 30 years were liberated.
International conventions and universal laws in the world condemn genocides such as the Khojaly tragedy and declare that such a crime is unacceptable.
According to the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” which was approved on 9 December 1948, Azerbaijan is eligible side to sue the Republic of Armenia in the UN International Court of Justice for Armenia`s brutal crimes. The whole world should be aware that this is not only a crime against the civilians of Azerbaijan, but also, it is a crime against the entire civilized world and humanity.