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Brutal Massacre of Azerbaijani Civilians in the city of Khojaly


Khojaly was Azerbaijani settlement situated within the administrative borders of the Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Its population constituted over 7 thousands ethnic Azerbaijani and Meskehetian Turks, many of which were refugees from Armenia and the Central Asia. When the ethnic conflict between Azerbaijanis and Armenians living in the region erupted, the town was caught in the middle of the conflict.

Monument erected for the memories of the victims of Kodjlay massacre in Baku, Azerbaijan

Monument erected for the memories of the victims of Kodjlay massacre in Baku, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani forces were using the town’s strategic location to control Armenian communication lines and fire up on Armenian positions while Armenian forces were trying to capture the city in order to obtain an access to this strategic location and get hold of the only airport located in the region. By the early 1992, Armenian forces started to gain ground in the region with the support of the Russian troops located in the area. By the mid February 1992, two small villages around Kodjaly – Qushcular and Malibeyli were taken by the Armenian forces, which left the town completely defenseless.

In the night of February 25, 1992 the city has become under an intensive fire from the two opposite directions – from towns of Khankendi and Askeran that had been already under control of Armenian forces. During the night from February 25 to 26 the Armenian armed forces supported by the Russian troops launched an offensive into the city. The strength of occupying force was much greater than 150 Azerbaijani soldiers defending the city. Within the several hours of the attack, the majority of ethnic Azeri defenders of the city were killed or captured by the joint Russian and Armenian forces, thus leaving the civilian population of the town completely defenseless.

Under the heavy fire, the towns’ population moved into the darkness of the night trying to escape to the next closest Azerbijani town – Aghdam, which was located about 30km (19 miles) away. However, on the way to escape they were ambushed and brutally slaughtered by the Armenian forces. According to Human Rights Watch and Azerbaijani government sources, about 613 civilians, including 106 women and 83 children were killed that night. Fifty-five people were killed with outrageous brutality, 8 families were totally exterminated, 25 children lost both parents while 130 children lost at least one parent in a massacre which has become the most brutal punishment of civilians during the whole 3 years of the conflict.


A woman named Asli claims on Azerbaijani public TV that she is the only survivor of the massacre from her extended family. “…all the pictures that you see on this wall, were used to be my family. I used to see them every day and live a normal life. On February 25 of 1992, in one night everything was changed for me; they all were murdered. My sisters, brothers their kids and my first 7 year old grandchild were killed on this day. I was the only survivor from my extended family. The tragedyof this extent, I do not wish upon any nation, not even upon the families of those who committed this crime.”


As noted by New York Times on March 3, 1992 on outskirts of Nagorno-Karabakh, a Reuters photographer, Frederique Lengaigne, said she had seen two trucks filled with Azerbaijani bodies. “In the first one I counted 35, and it looked as though there were almost as many in the second,” she said. “Some had their heads cut off, and many had been burned.

On March of 1992 Times Magazine also noted “..while the details are disputed, something grim and unconscionable happened in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly two weeks ago. So far, some 200 dead Azerbaijanis, many of them mutilated, have been transported out of the town tucked inside the Armenian-dominated enclave of Nagorno- Karabakh for burial in neighboring Azerbaijan. The total number of dead — the Azerbaijanis claim 1,324 civilians were slaughtered, most of them women and children — is unknown. But the facile explanation offered by the attacking Armenians, who insist that no innocents were deliberately killed, is hardly convincing.”


The absence of political allies in the international arena and lack of media exposure was one of the reasons that people who committed this crime did not get punished. During those times Azerbaijan was still in information blockade. Having gained its independence from the Soviet Union only the previous year, the country did not have access to the international media, nor was it able to raise the issue in front of the international organizations in adequate level.

Although this unprecedented brutality and massacre has been well documented and reported, no one who committed this crime has been brought to justice. Unfortunately, over the last 19 years, since the events had happened, the Armenian government has been denying its involvement. Armenian mainstream media has been trying to either downplay or justify the events, or even blameAzerbaijani forces for the massacre. It may largely be due to the fact that, the people who were involved in the Kodjaly massacre are still holding the power in Armenia.

The current president of the Armenia Serge Sarkisian, long-time Defense Minister and Chairman of Security Council of Armenia was also amongst the people responsible for organizing the occupation of Kodjaly. Serge Sarkisian, several times noted that the numbers of casualties have been significantly exaggerated, and the fleeing Azerbaijanis had put up an armed resistance.

In 1997, Armenian government even sent a letter to Human Rights Watch trying to put the blame on the incident on Azerbaijani forces, particularly on Popular Front of Azerbaijan. In response to the letter, Holly Cartner, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch put full responsibility of the tragedy on Armenian forces by saying: “Yet we place direct responsibility for the civilian deaths with Karabakh Armenian forces. Indeed, neither our report nor that of Memorial includes any evidence to support the argument that Azerbaijani forces obstructed the flight of, or fired on Azeri civilians.”


The representatives of Azerbaijani diaspora are demanding justice for victims of Khodjaly massacre in London, UK (26, February, 2010)

The representatives of Azerbaijani diaspora are demanding justice for victims of Khojaly massacre in London, UK (26, February, 2010)


Today, it has been 19 years, since this crime against humanity has been committed. Every year, onthis day, representatives of Azerbaijani diaspora across the world, gather together to remember and to raise awareness of the Kohdaly massacre as well as to demand the international justice for those who committed this crime. But the survivors of Khodaly, are still waiting for the justice to happen!



Radio program aired on February 26th, 2011, Vancouver, Canada

by Eyyub Hajiyev, Vahid Qarabagli, and Natella O Isazada

//Odlar Yurdu Radio Azerbaijan//