The commemoration of the 24th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre

The commemoration of the 24th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre

For the people of Azerbaijan, the months of January and February of each passing year have become a traumatic anniversary of bloody days and dark weeks. 

This huge tragedy of the Khojaly Massacre which took place 24 years ago left its indelible mark on the dark chapters of humanity.

On Feb. 26, 1992, Armenian forces slaughtered 613 Turks, including 83 children, 106 women and more than 70 seniors, in Khojaly County, located in the district of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. As a consequence of the lack of foresight and fomentation of the administration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and with full support of the 336th Mechanized Regiment of Soviets, the Armenians penetrated the Khojaly and practiced an unprecedented massacre there. Turks were exposed to inhumane practices regardless of their age or gender. It was proven that most of the victims had been burned to death and had their eyes carved out. Without a doubt it was not an ordinary act of murder.

Indeed, the possession of the named region located within the territories of Azerbaijan has been - de facto and de jure - acknowledged by international organizations.

The tension emerging in 1988 from the upheaval of Armenian residents in Nagorno-Karabakh aiming to separate this area from Azerbaijan indicated an escalation of irreversible nature. Upon the decision of the assembly, Nagorno-Karabakh was proclaimed to have been annexed to Armenia. However, the USSR declared its non-recognition against this unilateral act. Following this development, Azerbaijan reacted in the same way and declared to have lifted the autonomous status of Nagorno-Karabakh; this was a decision meant to be a re-annexation of the named region.

These developments experienced in Nagorno-Karabakh triggered a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan which lasted until 1994. Armenia enjoyed the support of the Russians in the end of 1991 and invaded the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Khojaly County, which was considered to possess one of the most strategic hills and positions with a commanding view, had been a crucial military target for Armenia. The county had been exposed to severe artillery fire for several months and besiegement by Armenian forces. The place was then disconnected from the outside world and enclaved entirely.

A ceasefire was achieved in 1994 however nothing resulted from the peace negotiations following this period.

At the time of the events, Western countries showed no remarkable signs of reaction against this massacre encountered in Khojaly. In the following years, upon separate decisions launched by the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly and the European Council registering officially the state of occupation of Armenians on the territories of Azerbaijan, a demand was voiced regarding the re-annexation of Karabakh to Azerbaijan. Yet the past 25 years showed that the detection and reality Armenia was supposed to comply with did not correspond to the must-be situation of today.   

In a report published in 1993 by the Human Rights Watch, the massacre of Khojaly was categorized as the most comprehensive civil massacre since the invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

On the anniversary of that kind of transgression and massacre Azerbaijan was exposed to for many a year, we wish the world’s society will not further turn a blind eye to these unforgettable incidents.

* Dr. Akkan Suver is the president of the Marmara Group Foundation