During the period of Soviet Union (USSR), Nagorno-Karabakh is an autonomous region that connected to Azerbaijan. In 1991, following the dissolution of the USSR, Nagorno-Karabakh was the subject of an international crisis. Since the 19th century, Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenian population has been settled within the framework of Russia’s Caucacus policy, has been at Armenian’s agenda since then. The Karabakh War started when Armenia claimed rights in the region that was legally belonging to Azerbaijan during the period of USSR. During the war, 366 Armenian troops supported by the Russian Motorized Regiment. On February 26, 1992, they entered the town of Khojaly, where had been blockaded by them. During genocide, according to official figures; 613 people (informal figures, 1.300 people) were brutally killed, 1.275 people were captured, 25 children’s both father and mother were killed and 130 children’s father or mother were killed. Despite passing years of Khojaly Genocide, Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding rayons (one-fifth of Azerbaijan’s territory) are still occupied by Armenia. The people were at the back of Khojaly Genocide have not been subjected to any criminal proceeding up till today. 1 million Azerbaijan Turks struggle for life in the status of “migrating” and the fate of 150 Azerbaijan Turks who have been captured during the genocide, is still unclear.
The Occurrence of Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
Nagorno-Karabakh was legally autonomous to Azerbaijan during the period of USSR. It was also located in one of the most strategic points of the Caucasus, which could control Azerbaijan, Armenia and Iran. During the Soviet period, the demographic structure of Karabakh was tried to be shaped by Russia. The expulsion of the Muslim population from the Caucasus and the replacement of the Christian population took place as a part of Russia’s Caucasus policy. In 1826, Karabakh Khanate was occupied by Russia and the increase of Armenian population in the region was encouraged. For this purpose, Armenians living in Iran and Anatolia were settled in the region. This policy was continued by Russia in 20th century. Russia encouraged the resettlement of Armenians in the region and pursued the policy of expelling the Azerbaijan Turks from the region. The enactment about “ The emigration of a collective farmer and other Azerbaijani population from Armenia USSR to the Kur-Aras plain of Azerbaijan USSR” was adopted by the Council of Ministers of the USSR in December 1947. The enactment aimed to expel the Azerbaijan people from their homeland and to place Armenians in their places. From 1960 the Armenians began to claim the land on Karabakh and Nakhchivan.
In the second half of the 1980s – in the period of the Soviet Union entered the process of dissolution- Armenians began to claim rights in the Nagorno-Karabakh by taking advantage of Garbachev’s policies of “perestroika” (reconstruction) and “glasnost” (transparency). In November 1987, Garbachev’s chief adviser of economy Aganbekyan made a statement that Nagorno-Karabakh belonged to Armenians and those lands were annexed to Armenians. After that statement of Aganbekyan, Armenians started to demonstrate and the acts of violence against Azerbaijan people.
As a result of Russia’s Caucasus policy, Armenia population became a majority in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian’s claiming of rights in the territory, in the period of the Soviet Union entered the process of dissolution (the second half of the 1980s), caused Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. In 1991, after the dissolution of USSR, Armenia and Azerbaijan declared their independency and also Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Because of this situation, the tension between two states turned into a war. During the war, Armenia was supported by Russia. Armenia pursued a policy of settling Armenian population in the Karabakh region and expelling Azerbaijanis from the region. By the project of “From sea to sea Armenia”, the dream of establishing a great Armenia from Caspian to Black Sea was at Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrosian’s agenda. Ter-Petrosian signed the expelling of Azerbaijan Turks living in Armenia and the occupation autonomous region that connected to Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh in behalf of the project. Karabakh War started in 1991 and ended up with the ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan but Armenia, which occupied one fifth of the Azerbaijani territory has not withdrawn from it. Nagorno-Karabakh legally belongs to Azerbaijan but it is still under the occupation of Armenia. During the war, 20.000 people died, 50.000 people got injured and 1 million people were in the position of immigration.
Khojaly is an important regional destination in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and it has a strategic location on Aghdam, Shusha, Hankendi and Askeran roads. The road connecting Karabakh to Armenia also passes through Khojaly. Khojaly was the base for the region beacuse of the only airport and so during Karabakh War, it became a military target for Armenian forces. In the position of capturing Khojaly, the road between Askeran and Khankendi would be opened and all Nagorno-Karabakh could be taken under control of Armenians except Shusha.
Armenians were increasing attacks to Nagorno-Karabakh as from 1987 and the expelling of Azerbaijani Turks from the region was the target. Azerbaijan Turks was subjected to acts of violence such as bus raids, latrocination and so on. In the beginning of 1990, approximately 186.000 Azerbaijan Turks were forced to go Azerbaijan from Armenia. In the year of 1991, October one Azerbaijan village was taken under control of Armenia. In the year of 1991, December Khojaly was blockaded by Armenia. Road transport was closed as from October and the transportation was only possible by helicopters. As a result of the shooting of a helicopter by Armenians in Khojaly in November, 20 people were killed that including Azerbaijan State Officers, also Russian and Kazakh observers. After that event, the airline was closed. The gas and electricity was cut and the territory completely was blockaded by Armenia.
The town of Khojaly, where the population of 3.000 Azerbaijan Turks as well as Ahiska Turks, was subjected to a genocide by the armed forces of Armenia and 366th Russian Motorized Regiment in the night connecting February 25 to 26 in 1992. At that time Khojaly was not under the protection of Azerbaijan Armed Forces and it was protected only by 150 people with small guns. Because of Gorbachev’s law in July 1990, all guns including hunting guns were collected in all regions of the Soviet Union. The leader of Karabakh, Ter-Petrosian did not obey this provision by hoping that Moscow would “understand”. While the Turks were disarmed in the region, Armenians’ arms were preserved.
When Khojlay was completely defenseless, Armenian soldiers (supported by Russia) entered the territory in three directions and civilians were brutally slaughtered. They took action to Hankendi by 366. Reigment troops with Russian Armenian armed forces and Askeran by 1.000 armed Armenian gang. Armenians, who entered the city with the support of the tanks of 366. Reigment, shot headquarters and military targets by cannon fire in the city. Khojaly airport became dysfunctional because of the attacks of Russian Motorized Regiment. A part of people, who were moving on Aghdam direction to escape from Khojaly were taken captive by Armenian forces or they were slaughtered. At the genocide, people were skinned, their arms and legs were cut with saws, their heads were cut off from their bodies, pregnant women’s bellies were cut and people were burned alive. According to offical figures during the attack, 106 women, 63 children, 70 old people and so 613 people were slaughtered in total. 487 people were severely injuried, 76 of them were children. 1.275 people were taken captive and exposed to torture. 150 Azerbaijan Turks from the captives are still missing. Slaughtered Azerbaijani people were 1.300 and injuried people were above 1.000 according to unoffical figures. 25 children’s both father and mother were killed and 130 children’s father or mother were killed.
Khojaly and Subsequent Occupations
26 February 1992 / Khojaly
8 May 1992 / Susha
18 May 1992 / Laçın
2 April 1993 / Kalbajar
28 June 1993 / Agdere
23 July 1993 / Aghdam
23 August 1993 / Fuzuli
23 August 1993 / Cebrail
31 August 1993 / Kubatlı
30 October 1993 / Zengilan and Horadiz
Khojaly Genocide had great impact on the regions where Karabakh War took place and Azerbaijanis evacuated Karabakh and its surrounding regions in a short time. After Khojaly, Armenian troops captured Kubatlı, Zengilan, Cebrail, Fuzuli and Aghdam. 1 million Azerbaijan Turks had to immigrate from occupied territories. Despite over 15 years, those territories are still occupied. 1 million Azerbaijan Turks struggle for life in the status of “migrating” and they are waiting to return their homes.
In the Context of International Law: Khojaly Genocide
According UN’s (United Nations) 1948 The convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide : “Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
In the context of this description, the slaughter of Armenians’ against Azerbaijani people in 1992, Khojaly, should be evaluated as a genocide. In addition to this, Khojaly Genocide is included in the scope of “crimes against humantiy” in terms of the methods and procedures applied during the attacks. “Delibrate killing, delibrate injury, torture or enslavement, deprivation of physical liberty, subject to scientific experiments, sexual assault, sexual abuse of children, forced pregnancy, enforced prostitution by political, philosophical, racial or religious motives against a part of society in accordance with a systematically processed plan” those all crimes against humanity occured in Khojaly.
In Khojaly Genocide, the principles of international law have also been violated in terms of crime of aggression and crimes against peace. This genocide also violates 1948 UN Universial Declaration of Human Rights’ conventions : “People are not deprived of their basic rights and freedoms in consequence of their language, religion, race, nationality, ensuring their immunity from life and property and not being subjected to inhuman humiliating transaction.” All subject of rights in international conventions such as the right to life, the rights injured and patients, the rights of civilian people, the rights of the captures and property rights have been violated in Khojaly. Despite being a party, Armenia has ignored all these international conventions.
International Community and Khojlay Genocide
Although the conventions and principles has been adopted by the international community, they have been clearly violated. Despite all these years, the necessary reaction to Khojaly Genocide has not been demonstrated and the criminals have not been punished. While the international community did not impose sanctions on Armenia, Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sargsyan, who personally played a role in the genocide, in turn as presidents in Armenia. Sargsyan is still the president of Armenia.
Within the framework of the 1921 Treaty of Kars, Turkey announced the military intervention right after Armenians’ attack on Nakhchivan in May 1992. In terms of supporting Independence Act, the US administration declared Azerbaijan as offensive and Azerbaijan had to be stopped. The US also placed an ambargo on Azerbaijan. Israel, South Korea, Canada and other 17 countries also joined this ambargo at the same time Armenia ranked second after Israel in the US aid per capita.
The international community was taking action only in March 1993 when Armenians attacked Kelbajar that the population was more than 60.000. By resolution 822, UN Security Council requested that Armenians withdrew from territories, which they occupied. When UN Security Council’s request was not responded, Turkey and European Organization for Security and Cooperation started to take action. By co-heads of France, Russia and the US, within the scope of European Organization for Security and Cooperation Minsk Group peace talks started to solve Karabakh conflict but they came undone in 2011.
Khojaly Genocide of Armenians were recognized as GENOCIDE by Azerbaijan, Mexico, Pakistan, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovia, Peru and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Youth Forum of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation started international campaign “Justice for Khojaly” in 8 May 2008. The forum continues with various activities to mobilize international public opinion. Human Rights Watch described Khojaly Genocide as the greatest genocide during Karabakh War. In 2001, 31 members of the Parlimentary Assembly of the Council of Europe signed declaration 324 stating “They killed all Khojaly people and destroyed the whole city.” and the declaration pointed out that Armenia should take step to recognize Khojaly Genocide.
Armenian troops (supported by Russian Military Forces) carried out a genocide on February 26, 1992 in the town of Khojaly in Nagorno-Karabakh. The genocide violated the rules such as international law’s genocide crime, crimes against humanity, crime of aggression and crimes against peace.
Right after Khojaly Genocide, Armenians’ occupation still continues in the one-fifth of Azerbaijan’s territory. 1 million Azerbaijan Turks struggle for life in the status of “migrating” and they are still waiting to return their homes. Despite 25 years, 150 Azerbaijan Turks from the captives are still missing.
Any criminal sanctions have not been imposed on those responsible for Khojaly Genocide yet and Khojaly Genocide has not been recognized internationally as genocide. The fact that Serzh Sargsyan, who is in charge of Khojaly Genocide, currently holds the presidency of Armenia, is significant. Khojaly Genocide should be transferred to international judicial instutitions and elements of the international community should be used such as the International Criminal Court, the War Crimes Court, the Human Rights Court.
In Khojaly Genocide the humanity consciense is also slaughtered. Those responsible for Khojaly Genocide has to be called to account for their actions in front of international community.