Khojaly: twenty-five years of impunity for Armenia's crime against humanity
Twenty-five years ago, on February 26, 1992, the world witnessed what the Human Rights Watch later described as the "largest massacre to date in the conflict" between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces, backed by the former Soviet Union’s 366th Motor Rifle Regiment, attacked the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly slaughtering over 600 civilians, including many children, women and elderly while thousands were taken hostage and tortured, hundreds more were wounded, many are still missing.
This massacre became a symbol and the pattern of ethnic cleansing of the Azerbaijani civilian population replicated by the Armenia’s military in the other occupied towns and villages of Azerbaijan. In the most shocking admission of culpability, Armenia's incumbent president, then a separatist military commander, 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 Khojali, 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."
This confession by the highest ranking official of Armenia is a clear testimony to the intentional character of the massacre committed against the Azerbaijani civilians with the purpose to spread terror. Armenia's blatant disrespect for basic norms of humanitarian law continues today as the Armenian military refuses to allow medical access to wounded Azerbaijani servicemen and to return bodies of the fallen soldiers.
Over the past years, the international community has made significant strides towards recognition of the massacre in Khojaly. So far, the legislative bodies of a dozen countries, as well as from more than fifteen states in the United States have adopted acts on recognising and commemorating this massacre.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Khojaly massacre and Azerbaijanis and friends of Azerbaijan all over the world pay tribute to the memory of innocent civilians murdered and tortured in Khojaly, while raising their voice to bring to justice those who perpetrated this heinous crime. In the United States, Khojaly commemoration events are held in Washington, New York, Boston, Houston, Chicago, Saint Louis, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
As the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict remains unresolved, the ongoing illegal occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia continues to be the main threat to peace, security and prosperity in the region.