Khojaly killings: Will Malaysia recognise it as genocide?

I WISH to shed light on one of the worst events at the end of the 20th century that happened in Khojaly, a town in Azerbaijan that was occupied by the Republic of Armenia in 1992, and considered by many scholars and experts as either a tragedy or massacre.

However, the historical evolution process, the target, purpose and implementation of the incident(s) entitles us to call this event a genocide.

On the night of Feb 25-26, 1992, Armenian armed forces with the former Soviet Union's 366th Motorised Infantry Regiment entered the city and seized Khojaly. When the invasion started, around 2,500 inhabitants of the city tried to leave to get to the nearest safe area.

The fleeing people were captured and/or killed by Armenian military forces. Some, mainly women and children, died from cold and frostbite while running to the mountains. On that horrible night, 613 civilians were killed, including 106 women, 63 children, and 70 elderly people.

The fate of another 150 people is still unknown. About 1,275 inhabitants of the city were taken hostage. Another 487 people were wounded, including 76 children. Eight families were completely wiped out, 130 children lost one of their parents and 25 children lost both their parents.

Of those who perished, 56 were killed in a cruel manner. The results of the bloody event were captured on film by local and international media in the following days.

The Republic of Azerbaijan recognized it as an act of genocide against the Azerbaijani population and for almost 30 years demanding justice and international recognition for the Khojaly genocide. For that purpose, the "Justice for Khojaly" (JFK) International Awareness Campaign ( was established.

The JFK is trying to get international recognition of the Khojaly events as a genocide. According to the JFK campaign reports, 16 countries, 19 states of the USA and Scotland (UK) have recognized it as genocide.

Furthermore, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the Final Cairo Communiqué (2013) calls upon Member States to support and actively participate in the events of the Campaign and carry out efforts for recognition on national and international levels of this genocidal act as a crime against humanity.

To understand why countries should recognize the Khojaly events as a genocidal act, let's look at the meaning of genocide according to International Law.

From the International Law perspective, according to the second article of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide from 1948 (hereinafter the Genocide Convention), genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

"Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.".

Also, the Genocide Convention says that whether genocide is committed in time of peace or in time of war, it is a crime under international law. So, according to the Convention, we should answer the following question: Why were the inhabitants of Khojaly killed? What was the main goal?

In the interview made with the former president of the Republic of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan (The Khojaly events took place when Sargsyan was president of the Republic of Armenia as the head of the illegal separatist regime's "Self-Defence Forces Committee") by the author of the book "Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war" Thomas De Waal.

Sargsyan stated the following: "But I think the main point is something different. Before Khojaly, 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 were able to break that [stereotype]. And that's what happened. And we should also take into account that among those boys were people who had fled from Baku and Sumgait."

Reading only this statement of the former president of Armenia shows the exact target and purpose of the horrible event.

The mass atrocity in Khojaly was clearly a genocide, according to the Genocide Convention. Not only because people were killed while the army moved in the town, but also because fleeing civilians were ambushed and brutally killed by the Armenian forces.

As evidence, let's look at the Human Rights Watch report (1993):

"A large column of residents, accompanied by a few dozen retreating fighters, fled the city as it fell to Armenian forces. As they approached the border with Azerbaijan, they came across an Armenian military post and were cruelly fired upon."(4)

After several days, the international media reported the horrifying news. For instance, The New York Times (March 3, 1992) news "Massacre by Armenians Being Reported" included the following information which showed the cruelty of the genocide:

Azerbaijani officials and journalists who flew briefly to the region by helicopter brought back three dead children with the backs of their heads blown off. They said shooting by Armenians had prevented them from retrieving more bodies.

"Women and children have been scalped," said Assad Faradzhev," an aide to Nagorno-Karabakh's Azerbaijani Governor. "When we began to pick up bodies, they began firing at us."

The Azerbaijani militia chief in Agdam, Rashid Mamedov, said: "The bodies are lying there like flocks of sheep. Even the fascists did nothing like that. Near Agdam on the outskirts of Nagorno-Karabakh, a Reuters photographer, Frédérique 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. They were all men, and a few had been wearing khaki uniforms." (5)

Was it an act of revenge, breaking stereotypes as was mentioned by the former President of Armenia, part of the war strategy, etc. it does not matter at all. Those people were killed because of their national and ethnic belongings.

They were brutally killed just because they were Azerbaijanis. In order to prevent future genocidal acts, the world community should show their awareness of the recognition of the Khojaly genocide and demand punishment for those responsible for this mass atrocity.

In conclusion, I hope and believe that the Parliament of Malaysia will raise this issue and recognise the Khojaly genocide to establish/uphold justice worldwide and stop future genocidal acts against humanity.

The writer is a lecturer at Baku State University, Azerbaijan, and currently doing his Phd at Universiti Malaya

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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