During the last week of February 2021, Azeri Turks around the world commemorated the 29th anniversary of the self-proclaimed bloodiest episode in their country’s recent history. Azerbaijan’s government claims that in one night alone, on 26 February 1992, 613 Azeri civilians died, including 169 women and children. Azerbaijan also claims that Armenian soldiers committed this massacre. Azerbaijan uses this propaganda to promote hatred of Armenians and deflect responsibility for the massacre of Armenians in Azerbaijan. As a result of this racist Turkish propaganda, thousands of Turks gathered in Ankara, Istanbul and Baku demanding revenge on the Armenians during the last week of February, 2021.
The claims of the “Khojaly massacre” were never verified by independent investigators. The site of the alleged massacre is about 10 miles from Khojaly, near the town of Agdam. The facts from international observers showed that the Azeris altered the bodies between the dates of March 2 and 5, 1992 when the two inspections were performed by international journalists. The murder of these civilians occurred in the suburbs of Agdam which was under Azerbaijani control at the time when the tragedy occurred, and not(!) in Khojaly. The Armenian self-defense forces took over the settlement of Khojaly to end the bombing and suppress the fire positions coming from Khojaly and hitting Stepanakert, the capital of the Republic of Artsakh. However, it was fully verified by the international observers that the self-defense forces of Artsakh left a corridor for the soldiers and civilians to withdraw. Both sides acknowledge that Azeri soldiers and civilians of Khojaly fled the city. Armenian self-defenses did not spread out into the suburbs and attack anyone. They entered the city after the soldiers and civilians retreated and later retreated to form a new self-defense line.
Azerbaijani government blames the Armenians for the tragedy in Khojaly without providing substantial factual evidence on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of 613 civilians. However, in an interview with Czech Journalist Dana Mazalova, Ayaz Moutalibov, who was the president of Azerbaijan in 1992, blamed the National Front of Azerbaijan for arranging this crime with the purpose of overthrowing his government (which followed soon). Father and son Aliyevs, who have ruled as President for 28 continuous years since 1992, never initiated an objective international investigation to respond to the existing questions regarding the Khojaly tragedy. President Aliyev has used the tragic event to promote hatred of Armenians and legitimize racism and discrimination against any Armenians living in Azerbaijan.
The attempts by Turkish and Azeri community organizations last month to manipulate U.S. politicians did not sway public opinion in America. The lobbying efforts by Turkish and Azerbaijani community organizations had little effect and in some cases the adopted proclamations by city and state officials were rescinded, which is a rare occurrence in the U.S. Americans for Artsakh applauds the grass root efforts of the Armenian-American communities across the U.S. to successfully counter the Turkish propaganda last month.
- In Minnesota, Governor Tim Waltz first signed the proclamation that involved reference to Khojaly, then revised it by deleting the paragraph referencing Khojaly after local Armenian-Americans expressed their objections to the propaganda efforts.
- After receiving objections from the local Armenian community in Boston, MA, Mayor Martin Walsh apologized to the Armenian community for the Khojaly proclamation and rescinded the proclamation.
- The City of Portland, Maine’s Mayor, Kathleen M. Snyder, announced in a letter to the Armenian American community today that she rescinded the Khojaly Remembrance Day Mayoral Proclamation, stating that it’s in the “city’s best interest to remove this proclamation from the public record,” reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).
Mayor Snyder apologized for the “pain and harm that the issuance of this proclamation has caused.” She also noted that the City of Portland’s process regarding the review of pre-written proclamations has been “changed as a result of this particular experience.”
- In Washington, D.C. the electronic flashboard signs on the “Khojaly massacre” were displayed at bus stops financed by an Azerbaijani organization. The advertising company removed the message from the flashboards on February 27, 2021 shortly after they appeared. Americans For Artsakh was among the organizations that protested the propaganda posters on the electronic flashboards at DC Metro bus stops.
- On Interstate 95 highway in Philadelphia, PA, a sign supported by a Turkish organization declared that the Turks and Azerbaijanis are ready to live in peace with the Armenians, and questioned whether the Armenians were ready for peace. The Armenian community was offended at the timing of the message after Armenia’s humiliating defeat in the recent war between the two countries. “On September 27, 2020, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and with the participation of mercenaries from the Middle East, attacked Nagorno-Karabagh causing thousands of deaths and massive destruction. Both before and after that Turkey and Azerbaijan conducted joint military maneuvers in vicinity of Armenian settlements. Turkey and Azerbaijan need to testify their readiness to live in peace and harmony with the Armenian people, other than putting paid billboards on the highways” stated Paul Sookiasian, a resident of Philadelphia, in response to the billboard. Following the reaction from the Armenian community of Philadelphia, the advertisement company removed the billboards.
Americans for Artsakh welcomes that the number of U.S. government officials that resist Azerbaijan’s propaganda efforts is growing. Azerbaijan attempts to deflect responsibility for their atrocities and human rights violations committed in Karabakh during the 2020 war. In commemorating the Khojaly tragedy that occurred in the 1992 war, we call on Armenian-American communities and supporters of the Republic of Artsakh to prepare for the next blitzkrieg of Turkish and Azerbaijani propaganda in April as they attempt to sway U.S. public opinion to avoid the Turks responsibility for committing the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and subsequent massacres of Armenians that followed in Azerbaijan throughout the 20th century.
American for Artsakh, Inc. is a non-profit organization (501 c3), registered in Washington, D.C. The organization is working to bring together American supporters of the international recognition of the sovereignty of the Republic of Artsakh, and to channel the energy and expertise of Armenian American professionals into practical ways to support the people of Artsakh in their democratic aspirations.
Between hunger and fire.
Power at the expense of lives
This is a documentary account of the siege of Stepanakert and subsequent Khojaly-related events with a full timeline and witness testimonies.
Siege of Stepanakert –
preceding the Khojaly-related tragedy
The capital of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and its Armenian population was a target of a months-long campaign of indiscriminate bombardment by Azerbaijan. The bombardment of Stepanakert and adjacent Armenian towns and villages took place during a total blockade by Azerbaijan and caused mass hunger, widespread destruction and killed or maimed hundreds of civilians. Human Rights Watch reported that the main bases used by Azerbaijani Armed Forces for the bombardment of Stepanakert included the towns of Khojaly and Shusha.
To learn more about the Siege of Stepanakert, the Khojaly operation and subsequent tragic events watch this video and read the Khojaly Fact Sheet.