February 28, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On February 26, 1992, the people of Azerbaijan witnessed what the Human Rights Watch later called the “largest massacre to date in the conflict” between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenian soldiers, backed by a former Soviet motorized infantry regiment, attacked the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly brutally murdering over 600 civilians, including many children, women and elderly. Hundreds more were wounded; some are still missing.
The massacre became a symbol of the pattern of extermination and ethnic cleansing of the Azerbaijani civilian population institutionalized by Armenian soldiers. In the most shocking admission of culpability, Armenia’s then-defense minister Serzh Sargsyan was quoted in the book “Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War” (by Thomas de Waal, NYU Press, 2003, page 85), 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 the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict still remains unresolved, the current status-quo poses a serious threat for peace and stability in the South Caucasus. Khojaly is a tragic and urgent reminder of the need to find a peaceful international law-based solution for the conflict that has lasted over two decades.
This year, the Azerbaijani-American community throughout the United States along with millions of Azerbaijanis and friends of Azerbaijan around the world paid tribute to the memory of innocent civilians murdered in Khojaly. In Washington, Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan hosted Khojaly commemoration on Capitol Hill with some twenty members of Congress in attendance.
Speaking at the event, the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus co-chair Bill Shuster said it was important “to remember this tragedy and never forget it to make sure that this never repeated again.” He was joined, among others, by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who stated “we are here to support US-Azerbaijan strong relationship but more important to commemorate this sad, tragic massacre at Khojaly where more than six hundred were murdered and more than a thousand taken hostage and this was one of the worst days in Azerbaijani history and a sad day for all of humanity. Today we honor the memories of those who perished.”
Another speaker, Congresswoman Yvette Clark, emphasized the importance of educating the world about Khojaly. ”It is important that Azerbaijan tells its story so that the human family would be ever vigilant to make sure that never again should such a tragedy occur without there be global outcry,” said Congresswoman Clark
The event also featured a Khojaly photo exhibition and a memorial performance of Azerbaijani music by the virtuoso Kamancha player from Azerbaijan Imamyar Hasanov.
Mr. Fakhraddin Ismayilov
(202) 337 60 40