Khojaly is a district located in the mountainous Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Its territory was a part of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), established within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) and existed until 26 November 1991. NKAO was an administrative division established artificially in response to the territorial claims of the Armenian SSR. As a result of the Armenian claims on the territory, its administrative borders were purposefully defined in such a way as to ensure that the Armenian population constituted a majority. Khojaly was one of the few settlements of this administrative unit that was inhabited predominantly by Azerbaijanis.
In the early 1990s, an armed conflict engulfed the region when Armenia launched aggressive military action against Azerbaijan with the aim of implementing its long-standing plan towards occupying Azerbaijani territories. The unilateral secession of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan and the annexation of it to Armenia constituted the core of this plan. As a result, Armenia occupied this region, including Khojaly and seven other districts of Azerbaijan. The war that followed this aggression took thirty thousand lives, and nearly one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons, while thousands of people disappeared without a trace. Despite that more than twenty years, which have elapsed so far, there is no sign that Armenia will renounce its ongoing aggression and withdraw its troops from the occupied territories.
Khojaly has a total area of 940 square kilometres and a population before the conflict of 7,000. Khojaly is situated 10 kilometres to the northeast of Khankendi, on the crossroads of the Aghdam-Shusha and Askeran-Khankendi main roads. Having the only civil airport in the area, Khojaly was an important centre of communications and had become a refuge for Meskheti / Ahiska Turks fleeing bloody inter-ethnic clashes in Central Asia, as well as for Azerbaijani refugees driven out of Armenia.
The territory of the district is mainly mountainous. The highest peaks are Gizgala (2843m) and Girhgiz (2830m). With the exception of the high mountainous areas, it has a mild/warm climate. The high mountainous areas are covered with subalpine and alpine meadows. The main rivers are the Badara and Gargar. The topsoil is mainly comprised of uphill and mountain soils. 40% of the territory is rich with hazel, beech, maple, birch and other trees.
History and culture
Khojaly is a historical and cultural part of Azerbaijan. It belongs to the Khojaly-Gadabay culture dating back to the 14th-7th centuries B.C. Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age funeral memorials, such as stone boxes; barrows and necropolis were discovered in this town. Khojaly also hosts historic architectural memorials – a round crypt (1356-1357) and a mausoleum (14th century). Also, various stone, bronze and bone adornments, as well as ceramic household items were found by archaeological excavations. The name of the Assyrian king Adad-narari (807-788 B.C.) was engraved on one of the beads found in Khojaly.
Erected in the 18th century by Karabakh khante Panah khan, Askeran castle is located within the administrative confines of Khojaly district, on both banks of the Gargar River. The castle, which was built from cobblestones, is composed of two fortifications. A significant milestone relating to this castle is that in 1810 the castle hosted peace talks between Russia and Iran, which further raised its historical significance.
Winegrowing, beekeeping, cattle and grain farming were the main activities of the Khojaly population. Prior to the Armenian occupation, tens of cultural institutions, museums, colleges, secondary schools, healthcare facilities, agricultural and industrial enterprises and other public organizations functioned in the district. There was a textile factory, two secondary schools and two junior high schools in the administrative centre of Khojaly.
Neighbouring districts: Lachyn, Kalbajar, Aghdam, Khojavand and Shusha.
Khojaly has one city center, one settlement (Askeran) and 50 villages.
Villages: Almaly, Garakotuk, Ballyja, Khanyurdu, Mehdibayli, Jamilli, Chanagchy, Syghnag, Daghyurd, Dashbulag, Badara, Khanyeri, Gayabashy, Sunjinka, Harov, Daghdaghan, Khanabad, Aghgadik, Ashaghi Gylyjbagh, Kosalar, Bashkand, Janhasan, Tazabina, Gyshlag, Javadlar, Yalobakand, Garabulag, Damirchilar, Gushchubaba, Madatkand, Gyzyloba, Ashaghy Yemishjan, Khachmach, Yukhari Yemishjan, Meshali, Nakhchivanly, Aghbulag, Aranzamin, Dahraz, Pirjamal, Pirlar, Dashbashy, Farrukh, Seyidbayli, Ulubaba, Shushakand, Dashkand, Mukhtar, Sardarkand, Shalva.
The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is the oldest ongoing conflict in the post-Soviet area. While the root causes of the conflict lie in the centuries-long Armenian historical territorial claims against Azerbaijan, in early 1988 Armenians started aggressive actions against Azerbaijan to implement the long-standing plan to unilaterally secede Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan and annex it to Armenia. In late 1991 and early 1992, armed hostilities and Armenian attacks on Azerbaijan intensified. Khojaly, a town in the Nagorno-Karabakh region with a total area of 940 square kilometres and a population before the conflict of 7,000, mostly Azerbaijanis, became the target of one of these operations.
From October 1991, the town was entirely surrounded by Armenian forces. On 30 October, ground traffic was cut off and helicopters became the only means of transportation. When a civilian helicopter was brought down over the city of Shusha, killing 40 people, helicopter traffic also ceased. From January 1992, the town had no electricity. Khojaly lived on due to the courage of its people and the heroism of its defenders.
By occupying Khojaly, Armenia aimed to gain a strategic advantage and favourable conditions for capturing other cities of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The idea behind the Armenian brutality was to break the spirit of Azerbaijanis to gain psychological advantage in subsequent military operations. They also aimed at wiping Khojaly off the face of the earth, since traces of history in Khojaly and surrounding areas represented historical evidence refuting Armenian territorial claims.
Over the night of 25-26 February 1992, following a massive artillery bombardment, Armenian armed forces and paramilitary units, with the support from the former USSR’s 366th Motorized Infantry Regiment, moved in to seize the town.
Once the assault began, around 2,500 remaining inhabitants tried to leave with the hope to reach the nearest area under Azerbaijani control. However, they hoped in vain. The fleeing people were ambushed and either killed by gunfire from Armenian military posts or captured near the villages of Nakhchivanly and Pirjamal. Others, mainly women and children, died from frostbite while wandering in the mountains. Only a few were able to reach the Azerbaijani-controlled town of Aghdam.
On 28 February, two helicopters with a group of journalists managed to reach the location of the massacre. The horrible scene shocked all - the field was fully covered by dead bodies. The helicopter’s task was to land in the mountains and pick up bodies at sites of the mass killings. Despite the escort of the second helicopter, it was able to take only four dead bodies because of Armenian intense firing. On 1 March, when a group of foreign and local journalists reached the place, the sight that they witnessed was even more terrible. The dead bodies were mutilated and scalped.
In the words of the journalist Chingiz Mustafaev, who was one of those that visited the area, among the dead were “dozens upon dozens of children between 2 and 15 years old, women and old people, in most cases shot at point blank range in the head. The position of the bodies indicated that the people had been killed in cold blood, calculatedly, there were no signs of resistance of attempts to escape. Some had been taken aside and shot individually; in many cases whole families had been killed. Some corpses displayed several wounds, one of which was invariably to the head, suggesting that the wounded had been finished off. Some children were found with severed ears; skin had been cut from the left side of an elderly woman’s face; and men had been scalped. There were corpses that had clearly been robbed”.
Undoubtedly, what happened in Khojaly was the largest massacre of the conflict. In all, the assault and capture of the town took the lives of 613 of its people, including 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly. 1275 were taken hostage, while the fate of another 150 people remains unknown. The town was razed to the ground. In the course of that tragic night 487 inhabitants of Khojaly were wounded, including 76 children; eight families were completely wiped out; 130 children lost one parent; and 25 children lost both parents. Of those who perished 56 were killed with particular cruelty: they were variously burned alive, beheaded or had eyes gouged out, while pregnant women were bayoneted in the abdomen.
Khojaly is an outrageous case for several reasons. Firstly, it was a completely civilian settlement without serious military equipment and fortifications. The assault with heavy weapons no way be militarily justified because it provided no military advantage. Therefore, the act clearly constituted unnecessary and excessive use of force. Secondly, when the attack broke out it was just the beginning of the interstate phase of the military hostilities; so undoubtedly, Armenia intended to intimidate Azerbaijani civilians to gain psychological advantage for pursuing its subsequent acts of aggression. The unprecedented degree of brutality, including killing at point-black range and with special cruelty and subsequent desecration of corpses by Armenian invaders, can lead only to this conclusion.
Another important point is related to the Armenian claim of an existing “corridor”. Armenia claims that it had allegedly left “humanitarian corridor” open for the peaceful population to leave the town. One may ask a reasonable question: why had Armenia left this exit open for people to escape if they aimed at wiping off the whole town? The answer is simple: Armenia did not leave it open for humanitarian reasons as they claim – it was either unable to block the last exit or deliberately left it open to claim afterwards that they have allegedly offered a choice for the civilian population and they had no intention to kill them.
The corridor claim is vague and easily refutable in the light of well-established evidence, including eyewitness testimonies, as well as international reports and even Armenian officials’ own confessions. They demonstrate that people fled the town unintentionally, chaotically, without any guidance or first-hand information. If such a “corridor” had existed, people would have been aware of it. Furthermore, if the intention was to provide a humanitarian exit, then Armenia should explain why its militants ambushed and killed the fleeing people along the route - in that “corridor” - soon after they set off to reach the Azerbaijani controlled town of Aghdam.
Although it is the bloodiest and largest massacre of the conflict, the Khojaly Genocide is not an isolated case. In fact, mass slaughters in other Azerbaijani settlements committed by Armenia immediately before this massacre, including in Jamilli, Meshali, Kerkijahan, Malibeyli and Gushchular villages, should be regarded as operations designed to pave the way for laying siege to Khojaly.
Along with Khojaly, Armenia occupied other Azerbaijani territories of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts. It conducted ethnic cleansing of the seized areas, expelling about one million Azerbaijanis from their native lands and committing other serious international crimes. Finally, it established a subordinate, ethnically hogenous separatist entity in the occupied Azerbaijani territory.
“Böyüməyən uşaqlar” filmi, İrəli İctimai Birliyi