It is endemic for the leadership of Azerbaijan to voice only their own interpretation of history in a way that easily resembles to the Goebbels-like ideology: “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.
Since the waning years of the USSR, the people of the self-determined Nagorno-Karabakh have been fighting for the recognition of their status guaranteed by the international law.
The lawful demands of the people of Artsakh to exercise their right to self-determination were met with anti-Armenian pogroms on February 27-29, in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait – 26 km away from Baku. Those events, carried out under the motto “Death to Armenians”, were the embodiment of Azerbaijani leadership’s policy of xenophobia, ethnic cleansing and deportation of Armenians.
Those atrocities were the very reason Andrei Sakharov, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, wrote that “even if some doubted it before Sumgait, no one sees a moral opportunity to insist on territorial unity of NKAO and Azerbaijan after this tragedy happened.”
If official Baku’s response to the aspiration of people of Nagorno-Karabakh to exercise its right to self-determination were pogroms and ethnic-cleansing of the Armenian population, the reaction to the implementation of that right in 1991, based on then existing USSR legislation and norms of international law was the large-scale war against the newly-independent Artsakh, accompanied by gross violations of the international humanitarian law.
Exactly 26 years ago Azerbaijani Armed Forces commenced the months-long shelling of the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh – Stepanakert, which at that time had become a shelter for the refugees fleeing the pogroms in Sumgait, Baku and other cities in Azerbaijan. On February 13 of 1992, in violation of international conventions, Azerbaijan started using BM-21 “Grad” multi rocket launchers on the residential areas of Stepanakert. Khojaly was one of the seven fire bases, used for the shelling of Stepanakert. Even back in Soviet time Khojaly had an important strategic importance, as it was situated on the crossroad connecting Stepanakert to other regions of Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, in 1970s the only airport of Nagorno-Karabakh was built next to Khojaly, which during the Artsakh’s blockade was the single gatepoint to the outside world. Thus, by 1992 it became evident that the neutralization of Khojaly firepoint was an imperative for the physical preservation of the population of both Stepanakert and Nagorno-Karabakh as a whole. The operation to neutralize the Khojaly firepoint started on February 25, 1992.
For months, the Nagorno-Karabakh self-defense forces had been informing the Azerbaijani side through all the possible means about this operation, its objectives and the humanitarian corridor left for the evacuation from Khojaly.
Azerbaijan continues to distort the facts surrounding the bloody events near the city of Agdam, which they call the “Khojaly tragedy”. The mere facts of those events raise many questions, and the Azerbaijani leaderships, even after 26 years, still prefers to keep the answers behind seven locks.
So why did Azerbaijan fail to organize the evacuation of the people of Khojaly?
Here is a citation from Ramiz Fataliev, Chair of the Committee Investigating the Events of Khojaly: “Four days left until the events of Khojaly. On February 22, in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Head of the KGB and others, a National Security Council session took place at which a decision was taken not to evacuate people from Khojaly.” Source: http://www.azadliq.org/content/article/1818751.html
As mentioned, the Nagorno-Karabakh self-defence forces left a humanitarian corridor for the people of Khojaly, the majority of whom safely reached Agdam. The former mayor of Khojaly even reached Baku and is currently a deputy in Milli Mejlis. Unfortunately, a group of residents of Khojaly, who successfully crossed the territories under Armenian control, did not reach Agdam in the territories controlled by the Azerbaijani side.
Here’s an excerpt from the words of Azeri journalist Cingiz Mustafaev, a witness to the events: “On 29th [of February], when I was heading to Agdam from another side, from the village of Umudlu, in a military helicopter, I saw that in 10 kilometers from Khojaly and approximately in 700 meters from our military post, dead bodies of our people were scattered on the ground. What horrified me the most was when I was filming these corpses, there were around 10 people from our side, strolling around easily in military uniforms. I was told that there were no corpses, it was impossible to get there, there were Armenians and there was shooting. But when we eventually landed there on our helicopters, three helicopters unexpectedly and immediately flew to Agdam; those 10 people left, too. I still cannot understand why in 700 meters from our posts, where there were our soldiers roaming calmly, nobody was picking up these dead bodies?”/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uLSIInPRXs
Mr. Mustafaev also speaks of the main crime committed during the Agdam events – the mutilation of bodies, discovered couple of days after the events. “Who has done all this? I was filming here just yesterday, there was nothing like that there.” It’s worth to repeat that the territory where the bodies were discovered was under the Azerbaijani control.
It comes as no surprise that there is zero tolerance in Azerbaijan towards the doubt, suspicion or investigative journalism on the official version of those events. Those who dare to openly speak about these events were either killed like Cingiz Mustafaev’s, or imprisoned like journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, or exiled like the first President of Azerbaijan.
Ayaz Mutalibov, President of Azerbaijan in 1990-1992: The disappointing events happening around, you know – clashes, death of people, arouse the feeling of bitterness and sorrow, as well as suspicions that someone is certainly unsatisfied with the process. You see, I am uncertain about the goals, but nonetheless I have this feeling that there are forces which are against [the process]; they want the situation to become worse, for these things to continue, because, you know, it is always convenient to take advantage of troubled waters. Many here seek these waters. Some people do not care whom to shoot at.
Ayaz Mutalibov: According to the surviving residents of Khojaly, all of this was organized to be used as an excuse for my resignation. Some forces were struggling to discredit the President. …
Ayaz Mutalibov: We are just tired, tired of this confrontation. Common people are dying every day, while someone is building his ambitions on it and pushing forward his political goals.
Let’s not forget that more than 700 residents of Khojaly did not leave the village and were taken to Stepanakert, where they were provided with food and medical aid. Two days later they were transferred to the Azerbaijani side, without any preconditions.
The Azerbaijani leadership has not answered yet to those questions raised by Azerbaijanis themselves. Meanwhile it has almost mastered the art of distorting the abovementioned facts in order to blame others for their crimes and escape the responsibility, while attempting to creating a fictional counterbalance to the massacres that it has perpetrated against Armenians in Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad, Maragha.
The Sumgait events created a precedent of impunity and even of glorification for the killings of peaceful Armenian citizens, something we witnessed later on during Armenian massacres elsewhere in Azerbaijan. The leadership of Azerbaijan continues to inject hatred against Armenians. It encourages such crimes as the brutal murder of Gurgen Margaryan, who in 2004 was axed in his sleep by Ramil Safarov when the two were enrolled in NATO training course in Budapest. The killer was later proclaimed a national hero of Azerbaijan. Even recently, during the April 2016 aggression against Artsakh, the world witnessed the results of the state-run policy of Armenophobia in Azerbaijan. The ISIS-style beheading of Kyaram Sloyan and two other Nagorno-Karabakh serviceman, or the brutal murder and mutilation of elderly family in Talish village, as well as the decoration of the perpetrators of these war crimes by the President of Azerbaijan is abhorrent and should be condemned by the whole international community.