A young Azerbaijani survivor who lost 22 family members in the unprecedented Khojaly massacre by Armenian militias has sent letters to the French and Armenian presidents, accusing them of turning a blind eye to one of the bloodiest atrocities in the post-Cold War period.
“You must be familiar with Khojaly, not only because you are a native of the historical Azerbaijani town of Khankendi, [but because] it is a town where, on Feb. 26, 1992, as a result of the monstrous crimes carried out by the occupying Armenian forces, 613 people were killed and more than 1,275 were taken prisoner, 150 people went missing, 487 became disabled,” wrote Zarifa Guliyeva, 20, to Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan. Guliyeva was fortunate enough not to have been killed by Armenian forces in the small town of Khojaly two decades ago.
Khojaly, a town in Nagorno-Karabakh, over which the then-Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia fought between 1988-1994, is a sister town of the Czech Republic village of Lidice, which during World War II was almost entirely wiped out by the Germans. The international advocacy organization Human Rights Watch called the tragedy in Khojaly “the largest massacre of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” The watchdog group claimed Armenian armed forces were responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians.
In her letter to Sarksyan, Guliyeva asks him to fully acknowledge the “responsibility of the Armenian side” in committing genocide against Azerbaijani civilians in Khojaly. She urges the Armenian president to speak out about the crimes that he acknowledges have been spoken of quietly, which she read about in “Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War” authored by Thomas de Waal, the most distinguished regional expert who is especially known for his commentaries on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its settlement processes. She believes such openness could start a “new chapter in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
According to the book, when “asked about the taking of [Khojaly], the Armenian military leader Serzh [Sarksyan] said carefully, ‘We don't speak loudly about these things'.”
A letter to Sarkozy
Addressing French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a separate letter, Guliyeva asks him to imagine what it means for a kid to grow up without a father, to lose that sense of support in life.
She also asks him if he is familiar with the name of Khojaly. “The only ‘fault' of these people was their Azerbaijani nationality. You tell me, if this is not GENOCIDE, then what is?” Guliyeva says she wants to make the French president think about the Khojaly tragedy that happened two decades ago and draw a parallel between Khojaly and the Armenian “genocide” of 1915, the denial of which is penalized by French law.
Guliyeva hopes Sarkozy will be able to provide a worthy and fair assessment of the genocide committed against the Azerbaijanis in Khojaly. Guliyeva urges Sarkozy and his party to start a discussion in the French Senate of a law that would recognize the Khojaly massacre as genocide. Guliyeva says that Sarkozy, with this initiation, could change the recent unfavorable impression Azerbaijanis have of him after the adoption of a French bill penalizing the denial of the Armenian “genocide.”
‘Khojaly perpetrators must be punished’
The then-Khojaly governor and a current Azerbaijani deputy, Elman Mammadov, has labeled the Khojaly massacre a crime committed against the international community and called on foreign countries to punish the perpetrators of the mass killings that took place in 1992. “The perpetrators of the Khojaly massacre must be punished,” Mammadov said at a ceremony held at Bahçeşehir University on Monday to commemorate the hundreds killed in the Khojaly massacre, noting that the people of Khojaly, irrespective of ethnic and religious origin, hope that no one has to experience such kind of tragedy again. Mammadov also mentioned that no help came to them despite continuous calls on the day of the massacre, recalling how the government officials of the town were unable to defend the civilians brutally killed by armed soldiers. He said the closest Azerbaijani village was 20 kilometers away, adding that there were Armenian villages between Khojaly and this village, meaning any potential help was blocked. Samet Altıntaş, İstanbul