YEREVAN (Realist English). Azerbaijan continues to push “Khojalu” as a parity to the monstrous Sumgait pogroms. The residents of Khojalu were victims not of the Azerbaijani-Artsakh conflict, but of the fanatical policies of Baku politicians.
It is well known that Baku is the organizer of total ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide against the Armenian population throughout the territory of the Azerbaijan SSR in 1988-1990, as well as the initiator of unleashing large—scale military actions against Artsakh and Armenia, and now the blockade of the Lachin corridor.
Of course, the essential difference is not that Armenians were killed in one case and Azerbaijanis in the other.
The monstrous Armenian pogroms in Sumgait on February 27-29, 1988 became a bloody response to the appeal adopted on February 20 by the Council of People’s Deputies of the then NKAO to the relevant authorities of the USSR, Armenian and Azerbaijani SSR on the transfer of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region from the Azerbaijani SSR to the Armenian SSR.
The Armenians of Sumgait became victims of the Azerbaijani terror, with which the authorities tried to intimidate all Armenians and drown the just Armenian demands in the blood of innocent people.
The tragedy of Khojalu falls on February 26, 1992, at the height of the war unleashed by Azerbaijan against Artsakh and Armenia. The village of Khojalu, now Ivanyan, is located 10 kilometers from the capital of Artsakh — Stepanakert. In 1988-90 Baku hosts more than 2 thousand Meskhetian Turks from the Ferghana Valley of Uzbekistan and about 2 thousand so-called “Yerazs”, Azerbaijanis from Armenia, in Khojalu. During the same period, Khojalu becomes “populated” by militants of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, OMON units. The result of their violent activity is the murder and abduction of several dozen civilians of Khojalu of Armenian nationality.
Since November 1991, Stepanakert and nearby Armenian villages have been constantly shelled from Khojalu with Grad and Alazan mortars, 72-millimeter howitzers, the connection of the Askeran and Martakert districts with Stepanakert is blocked. Moreover, the data on the concentration of manpower and offensive weapons in Khojalu testified to the transformation of the village into a springboard for attacking nearby Armenian settlements.
According to all the canons of the military situation, the Artsakh defense forces, in order to ensure the safety of the population, were obliged to suppress enemy firing points and eliminate the dangerous bridgehead. The Artsakh authorities informed the Azerbaijani side about the preparation of the operation to suppress the firing points of Khojalu two months before it began, also informing about the provision of a corridor for the peaceful residents of the settlement to safely leave the war zone. Despite the fact that the Azerbaijani authorities did nothing to withdraw the civilian population to a safe zone, most of the residents of Khojalu, mainly Meskhetian Turks, still left in advance, which, by the way, was extremely negatively perceived in Baku, where they were calling them almost traitors.
However, a group of refugees heading towards Aghdam, which was under the control of Azerbaijani formations, was shot at a distance of 11 km from Khojalu and 3 km from Aghdam, in the territory beyond the control of the Artsakh Self-Defense Forces. Listing the evidence that the “tragedy of Khojalu” is the work of the Azerbaijanis themselves and the result of internal political showdowns between the People’s Front rushing to power and then President Ayaz Mutalibov will take more than one page. We will only cite the confession of Heydar Aliyev, who was holed up in Nakhichevan at that time. In April 1992, he, according to the report of the agency “Bilik-Dunyasy”, said: “Bloodshed will do us good. We should not interfere in the course of events.”
It should be noted that the operation of the Artsakh Self-Defense Forces to suppress firing points in Khojalu and unblock the airport began on February 25, 1992 and ended on February 26. 13 Armenian hostages were released, including 1 child and 6 women, 2 MM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, 4 Alazan launchers, one 100-millimeter howitzer and 3 armored vehicles were taken as a trophy.
More than 700 Azerbaijanis who remained in Khojalu were transported to Stepanakert, held there for several days and handed over to Azerbaijan without any preconditions. So, it is not the Armenians who are to blame for what happened in Khojalu, or rather, near Aghdam, but Azerbaijani leaders and politicians — they unleashed the war and they, proceeding from their own domestic political interests, brutally dealt with civilians of the same Azerbaijani nationality.
Ararat Petrosyan is Editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Republic of Armenia”, specially to the Realist News Agency