November 1, 2013 - 16:48 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - 30,000 people died in the Nagorno Karabakh war, and one million were displaced from their homes, and many more live with the ongoing effects of this unresolved conflict. Despite this widespread human tragedy, the fate of those that lost their lives during the events in and around Khojalu on February 26, 1992, have gained a disproportionate amount of notoriety and publicity. 20 years later, the facts of what happened that night have been consumed by the mythology and sensationalism propagated by the Azerbaijani government, Russell Pollard, an English photojournalist and writer, says in his article published on Artsakh.org.uk, the website he founded 18 months ago.
“Throughout the many texts that report on the events in Khojalu the only consistent piece of data, now, is the number of people who were alleged to have been killed that night –“ 613”, although this number has almost doubled since 1994. Khojalu was a strategic location, with it being the site of the only airport in the original Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) as well as a military base from which attacks were being launched onto Stepanakert; it was a key element in the Azerbaijani blockade of the region, together with Aghdam, and Shushi. The airport was home to the OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Unit – Police/Army) of Azerbaijan who were notorious for their tactics against Armenians,” Mr. Pollard reminds.
“The Armenian plan was to neutralize the military hardware, seize the airport, and occupy the city. To avoid unnecessary loss of life the Armenians gave the people of Khojalu, and the authorities, notice of this plan, in order that they could evacuate themselves. This was confirmed in an interview between Chingiz Mustafayev (Azerbaijani journalist) and Elman Mammadov (Head of the Khojalu Executive Board) held in the following few months before Mustafayev’s death in June 1992. So why weren’t all of the population evacuated, leaving the military to defend the city against the Armenians. One could surmise that maintaining a “human shield” was a useful “military strategy”, particularly as the Meskhetian Turks were not “true” Azerbaijanis. Ultimately it was convenient for the Azerbaijanis to “blur the lines” between the military and the civilians. This was used to greater effect on February 25/26th,” he writes.
Presenting the story of the events, Mr. Pollard offers comments by Eynulla Fatullayev, Azerbaijani journalist and human rights activist, who stated in his book “Karabakh Diary” that:
“…… for the sake of fairness I will admit that several years ago I met some refugees from Khojaly, temporarily settled in Naftalan, who openly confessed to me that, on the eve of the large-scale offensive of the Russian and Armenian troops on Khojalu, the town had been encircled [by those troops]. And even several days prior to the attack, the Armenians had been continuously warning the population about the planned operation through loudspeakers and suggesting that the civilians abandon the town and escape from the encirclement through a humanitarian corridor along the Karkar River. According to the Khojalu refugees’ own words, they had used this corridor and, indeed, the Armenian soldiers positioned behind the corridor had not opened fire on them…
Having crossed the area behind the Karkar River, the row of refugees was separated and, for some reason, a group of [them] headed in the direction of Nakhichevanik. It appears that the National Front Army battalions were striving not for the liberation of the Khojalu civilians but for more bloodshed on their way to overthrow A. Mutalibov [the first President of Azerbaijan] …”
The theory that everyone was killed in Khojalu puts all the blame on the Armenians and is convenient. Knowing that people were deliberately taken in the wrong direction, and died as a result, would be most embarrassing for the Azerbaijani government, Mr. Pollard says.
“The facts of the 26th February 1992 are very complex and we are unlikely, ever, to discover the absolute truth. It is clear that the citizens of Khojalu died in different ways in a variety of locations for many reasons and through the actions of all involved. The concerted effort by the Azerbaijani government to contort the truth and lay the blame, solely at the door of the Armenians is a cynical misrepresentation of the facts and the act of securing “political sympathy” from unsuspecting governments is one of gross deception. This is only made more obscene by the way that this has been achieved on the back of the unnecessary deaths of innocent people resulting from the questionable conduct and incompetence of the Azerbaijani authorities in 1992! I only hope that people now examine the facts and make an informed independent judgment on this issue and stop being fooled by the guile of the Azerbaijani government,” he concludes.