WASHINGTON—The Armenian embassy in Washington, DC, issued a statement on Monday calling attention to Azerbaijani efforts to spread misinformation about the Khojaly events that took place during the Kharabakh War, voicing concern that this propaganda campaign attempts to divert attention away from Baku’s responsibility over the numerous pogroms and massacres that led to the Karabakh War. The full statement is below.
Azerbaijani lobbying and propaganda continues to mislead the international community and the Azerbaijani people by falsifying the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the facts surrounding the Khojaly events in particular.
By distorting the Khojaly events, the Azerbaijani regime attempts to escape responsibility for the Armenian massacres in Sumgait (February, 1988), Kirovabad (November, 1988), Baku (January, 1990), Maragha (April 1992) and against its own population in Khojaly. Azerbaijan strives to portray itself as a victim, attempting to thereby prepare a moral ground both domestically and internationally to unleash another war against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan continues to reject international appeals, including from the European Court of Human Rights, to openly debate the events in Khojaly. In that regard one can only ask why all those who have expressed points of views differing from Baku’s official version of the events have been either killed, like journalist Mustafaev, or imprisoned like journalist Fatullayev, or politically persecuted like Ayaz Mutalibov, the first president of Azerbaijan.
In reality, the village of Khojaly was one of the Azerbaijani army’s strongholds in the heart of Nagorno-Karabakh which for many months, as Human Rights Watch put it, “pounded the capital of Nagorno Karabakh, Stepanakert, and other Armenian towns and villages with shells and grenades. The indiscriminate shelling and sniper shooting killed or maimed hundreds of civilians, destroyed homes, hospitals and other objects that are not legitimate military targets, and generally terrorized the civilian population.” In this regard, suppressing the Azerbaijani army’s fire had become a matter of survival for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
As Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev stated, “And even several days prior to the attack, the Armenians had been continuously warning the population about the planned operation through loudspeakers and suggesting that the civilians abandon the town and escape from the encirclement through a humanitarian corridor. According to Khojaly refugees’ own words, they had used this corridor and, indeed, the Armenian soldiers positioned behind the corridor had not opened fire on them.”
However, Fatullayev continues, “… part of the Khojaly inhabitants had been fired upon by our own [Azerbaijani troops]… Whether it was done intentionally or not is to be determined by investigators … [They were killed] not by [some] mysterious [shooters], but by provocateurs from the National Front of Azerbaijan’s battalions … [The corpses] had been mutilated by our own …”
Ayaz Mutalibov, then the president of Azerbaijan, blamed his political opponents for the killings in Khojaly. He stated in an interview with Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazetta in 1992 that “…the corridor, by which people could escape, had nonetheless been left by the Armenians. So, why did they have to open fire? Especially in the area around Aghdam, where there was sufficient force at that time to get help to the people. As the Khojaly inhabitants, who narrowly escaped, say, it was all organized in order to have grounds for my resignation. Some forces functioned for the effort to discredit the president.”
The fact that Khojaly inhabitants fell victim to fierce domestic political fighting for power in Azerbaijan was confirmed also by then Chairman of Azerbaijan’s Supreme Council Karayev, his successor Mamedov, Azerbaijani Human Rights Activist Yunusov, and others.
According to a 1992 report by the Azeri newspaper Bilik-Dunyasi Agency, Heydar Aliyev, then a presidential hopeful in Azerbaijan, stated, “…the bloodshed will profit us. We should not interfere in the course of events.”
Mr. Fatullayev, the Chief Editor of the Azerbaijani newspaper Realny Azerbaijan spent many years in prison for alleged defamation of the inhabitants of Khojaly. He appealed to the European court of Human Rights, which ruled that the Azerbaijani government shall immediately release Fatullayev. He was eventually released in 2011 and shortly after confirmed to Radio Liberty that he has not changed his views on the Khojaly events and that he held “Azerbaijani fighters, not Armenians, responsible for the 1992 killings” of Khojaly inhabitants.
Baku’s aggressive rhetoric and distortion of history, backed by the acquisition of billions of dollars of offensive weaponry, bears a serious threat to the security and stability of the whole region and should therefore be adequately countered by the international community.
Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the United States of America