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26th Anniversary of Khojaly Genocide Marked
Special Contribution
From Azerbaijan Embassy in Seoul
The Khojaly Massacre or the Khojaly tragedy was the mass killing of over 160 ethnic Azerbaijani civilians from the town of Khojaly on Feb. 26, 1992.

At the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992 Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict turned into a military phase. Taking advantage of the political instability as a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and internal squabbles in Azerbaijan, Armenia initiated with the external military assistance combat operations in Nagorny Karabakh.

The territorial claims of Armenia against Azerbaijan caused the occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts. The war led to the deaths and wounding of thousands of people; hundreds of thousands of ethnic Azerbaijanis became refugees and were forcibly displaced and several thousand disappeared without trace.

The 20th century has seen many genocides, mass killings and instances of ethnic warfare. One such horror, the biggest war crime at the time in all of Europe, happened during the Armenian-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Khojaly (or Xocalı) - one of the three largest urban settlements of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan with a population of 7,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis.

The Khojaly Massacre, happened on the night of Feb. 25 and 26, 1992, when the armed forces of Armenia led by its current president Serzh Sarkisian, with the help of the infantry regiment No. 366 of the former USSR committed an unprecedented brutalities towards the civilian population and crime against humanity in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly.

As a result of the massacre, 613 people were killed, including 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly. A total of 1,275 inhabitants were taken hostage and later used as bargaining chips by their captors, to be exchanged for everything from cigarettes to gasoline. The fate of 487 people became disabled (76 of whom are teenagers) and more than 150 remains unknown to this day. Six families were completely wiped out, 26 children lost both parents and 130 children lost one of their two parents.

Armenian officials deny responsibility for the crimes committed during the conflict as a whole, including those crimes against the population of Khojaly, creating a false narrative. The current Armenian president, Serzh Sarkisian (then-chair of the NK Region Self-Defense Forces Committee), is quoted in Thomas de Waal's “Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War” as saying: “Before Khojaly, 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.” As de Waal sums up, “Sarkisian's account throws a different light on the worst massacre of the Karabakh war, suggesting that the killings may, at least in part, have been a deliberate act of mass killing as intimidation.”
As it was a crime against humanity, the Khojaly tragedy was then widely covered by the international media, including the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and many other Western news agencies.

The New York Times wrote about “truckloads of bodies'' and described acts of “scalping.” At the same time, the lawyers of the international organization “Human Rights Watch” have classified the tragedy in Khojaly as a "massacre", and the bloodbath among the civilian population as a war crime.

In 2008 the International Awareness Campaign initiated by Mrs. Leyla Aliyeva, general coordinator of the Islamic Conference Youth Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation was launched under the motto of “Justice for Khojaly.”

The Khojaly Genocide is recognized and commemorated by parliamentary acts adopted in numerous countries. So far, the legislative bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Honduras, Jordan, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Romania, Sudan, Djibouti, Guatemala, Scotland as well as nineteen states of the United States of America have adopted relevant parliamentary resolutions.

There is no return to innocence for those who have been involved in a massacre, but there is still hope of finding justice for the victims through an international war crimes tribunal for the perpetrators of the massacre.

This crime against humanity that is annually commemorated by Azerbaijani nation and community, holding a multitude of events throughout the country and around the world to honor those innocent civilians, increase awareness of the major injustices that happen when international law is not enforced or respected.

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