Response to fabricated claims of Armenians about Khojaly genocide

Khojaly, one of the worst human tragedies of the 20th century still waits to be recognized by international community. Unfortunately, still some persistently deny the facts and tirelessly repeat fabricated conspiracies to avoid responsibility for the crime which, first of all, is disrespect for the souls of children, women, elderly and other victims of the crime. This piece is written as a response to such claims which is penned by Mr. David Davidian, however any expert who is familiar enough with details of the conflict would not be able to find any substantial argument in the mentioned writing. All fabricated arguments in the piece were debunked in the past and they do not stand against even mild criticism that are based on well-known history and facts.

Mr. D. Davidian starts his first argument with the claim that “the borders granted them (Azerbaijan) jurisdiction by Joseph Stalin”. This is beloved and tirelessly repeated claim of Armenian leadership and mere attempt of distort of historical facts and manipulate observers who might not familiar with details. They claim that as if Nagorno-Karabakh had never been part of Azerbaijan and it was Stalin’s decision “to grant”, “to allocate”, “to transfer”, “to hand over”, “to pass” or “to award” from Armenia to Azerbaijan or in Russian verb “передать”. In fact, the decision of the Bolshevik rulers of the region at that time regarding Nagorno-Karabakh was not передать, this verb was not used in any documents of that period. The decision explicitly used the Russian verb оставить, which means “to keep” or “to preserve” within Azerbaijan. As you might already understand how some commentators intentionally jumble translation from Russian to English. Furthermore, all historical records of that period demonstrate how in 1920 G. K. (Sergo) Ordzhonikidze, a member of the politburo of the Communist Party, first suggested in his telegram to Stalin and Georgy Chicherin to create autonomous Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.

The second argument that Mr. David Davidian in his piece put is that Khojaly was place from where Azerbaijan was launching indiscriminate shelling on Armenian positions. This claim is completely groundless since there is not any single record of international observers or journalists on the ground stating that Khodjali was exactly that place where Azerbaijan positioned heavy armament, long range artillery or any other military equipment to launch shelling on Armenian positions. Neither Azerbaijan at that time being drowned in complete domestic political instability and struggle among different political factions did have any capability and central military command to plan any military operations on ground. In fact, according to the international observers and journalists Khojali being surrounded for several months did not have military backup from outside neither people of the city could reach other parts of Azerbaijan. The local civilians were protected only by militias with light weapons which in the end easily destroyed by well-trained and equipped military units. Therefore, calling civilian population of Khojaly as “a target needing neutralizing” is inhumane, amoral and cynic approach and another attempt of justification of crime. Also, the author did not provide any evidence or reliable source that prove that any serviceman of the Russian 366 Mountain Rifle group was killed by the attack from Khojaly. Unfortunately, here by pointing the Russian military unit the author also tries to put blame on Russians rather than Armenian military.

Mr. Davidian in his piece argues that before the assault on Khojaly Armenians warned the civilians about coming operation, while he does not give any evidence for it neither there is not any reliable source for defending this claim. Also there is no reliable evidence proving that the human casualties among civilians happened as result of crossfire on the corridor allegedly Armenian troops created for the civilians to leave. Contrary, the former President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan in his interview to Thomas de Wall confessed that “before Khojalu, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We needed to put a stop to all that. And that’s what happened.” In his memoirs Markar Melkonian, brother of famous Armenian volunteer commander Monte Melkonian who was considered a terrorist by Americans also confirmed the deliberate assault on the civilian population. In fact, the confession of the former Armenian leader is enough to qualify the events in Khojaly not just crime against humanity but simple genocide according to international law.

Mr. D. Davidian in his piece refers so-called interview of the former Azerbaijani president A. Mutalibov to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta arguing that he said that Khojaly was result of “the Azerbaijani political engineering of events”, organized by the opposition Popular Front. The former president several times stated that he never made such statements and his comments were distorted by Armenian nationalists to built conspiracies for international audience. Ayaz Mutalibov in an interview to Regnum News Agency said that: “Any reference to me stating that the Popular Front facilitated to the fall of Khojaly is blatant lie. I said only that the Popular Front took advantage of the situation to come to power” after the event.

Interestingly, the author tries to build another conspiracy around the death of Azerbaijani journalist Chingiz Mustafayev who was killed by an Armenian sniper on the frontline when he was recording another fight saying “lost his life under mysterious circumstances”. It was Chingiz Mustafayev who recorded on video all vandalism against civilians that cannot be denied. The author also somehow relates the closure of ANS TV of Vahid Mustafayev who is a brother of Chingiz with the release of the video on Khojaly in 2017. In fact, the ANS TV owned by Vahid was closed down not in 2017 but year before in 2016 and that decision has nothing to do with the video. The fact about that Mustafayev videoed the same bodies of the civilians postmortem mutilated, surrounded by Azerbaijani soldiers has very simple explanation. It is not what the author tries to imply. The simple explanation is that when Azerbaijanis left the area for a while with the helicopter with full of human bodies and came back to get the rest, Armenian soldiers came after the corps to cut different human parts to prove for their superiors that they killed more people in order to get more rewards.

On the other hand, the author questions the authenticity of facts and photos about the genocide in Khojaly. In fact, it is not just Azerbaijani journalist who recorded the tragic events on the ground. Then many leading international outlets reported about it. Among them was Frederique Lengaigne who is now a documentary film-maker, but in 1992 she was working for the Reuters agency in Moscow who also photographed those terrible scenes.

In the end, the author mentions the claims of Armenians around the village of Maragha without any reliable reference where Azerbaijanis allegedly committed act of vandalism against civilians in an attempt somehow justify events in Khojaly that happened after Khojaly.

All these allegations were rebuffed by the reputable international organization Human Rights Watch. The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Holly Cartner, in her letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia dated 24 March 1997 placed direct responsibility for the civilian deaths with Armenian forces and dismissed the argument that Azerbaijani forces obstructed the flight of, or fired on Azerbaijani civilians.

Overall, the piece of Mr. David Davidian as I wrote in the beginning doesn’t stand any criticism. A set of claims and statements in the piece are logically inconsistent, they contradict each other, therefore any serious observer cannot believe that all are true at the same time. Which is very obvious from this piece is that it is another desperate attempt of denial, justification, building different conspiracies and escape from the responsibility at the same time.

Fuad Chiragov
Fuad Chiragov
Leading Research Fellow, Foreign Policy Analysis Department. Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan