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by The Keghart Editorial Board
Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013 at 6:12 PM
Azerbaijan is waging a propaganda war to spread misinformation.
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People following the Armenian/Azerbaijan conflict cannot miss the Azerbaijani campaign to convince the world that the three-and-a-half hour midnight attack on Feb. 25, 1992 by Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (aka Artsakh) Self-Defense Forces on Azeri -held Khojalu was “genocide.”
The charge is so ridiculous that a well-informed person would be tempted to dismiss it out of hand. But these days of true lies, blatant invasions depicted as peace-making humanitarian missions, and the tiresome deception that “in 1915 Armenians were transported to Syria for their protection,” we are forced to assert the truth again and again. It’s a Sisyphean task, but there’s no alternative.
This is what happened in Khojalu. For most of 1991 and early 1992 the Azeri OMON (Special Purpose Militia Detachment) had systematically shelled Armenian civilian targets, using rockets. The Azeris had also blockaded the nearby airport. As a result of Azeri attacks, Armenians had suffered civilian casualties, hundreds had been kidnapped and thousands of cattle had been driven away. The blockade had also resulted in lack of food, fuel and medical supplies, especially in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh. Armenian forces had to neutralize Azeri fire in Khojalu and terminate the blockade. It was also obvious to the Armenians that the Azeris were planning to attack the Armenian centre of Askeran before moving on to the capital.
Using loudspeakers for ten days, the Armenian forces announced to Khojalu inhabitants (mostly Meskhetian Turks who had been settled in the village during Soviet times) and forces that an Armenian attack was imminent. The announcements also informed Azeris that Armenians had dedicated a corridor for the safe passage of civilians to Azeri-held areas. But the Azeri authorities did nothing to facilitate the evacuation of their people.
On Feb. 25, at 11:30 p.m. the Armenian self-defense forces attacked Khojalu. A number of Azeri civilians tried to flee through the corridor. However, Azeri forces fired at the column, killing an unknown number. Although the Armenians were successful in neutralizing the Azeri fire- power, Khojalu remained in Azeri hands for many months.
Soon after the attack, Azeri authorities claimed that Armenians had committed not only genocide by firing at the fleeing Azeris but had also mutilated the bodies of the dead. Although there was no shred of evidence for their allegation, Azeri authorities repeated the charge. In recent months they’ve decided to turn the Khojalu operation into the focus of a full-court anti-Armenian campaign. As a result, Baku has achieved a number of “propaganda and political victories:”
-- In early 2012, US Congressmen Bill Shuster and Dan Boren urged fellow politicians to honor the memory of the Khojalu “genocide” victims.
-- A member of the Texas House of Representatives has proposed a resolution to commemorate the Khojalu “massacre.”
-- An Azeri woman has sent a highly-publicized open letter to the presidents of Armenia and of France, claiming that Armenians had killed 613 civilians and taken 1,275 prisoners.
-- Azeri diplomats are seeking international recognition of Khojalu “genocide.”
-- Pakistan has recognized the Khojalu “genocide” and Mexico is being approached to do the same.
-- Azerbaijan may use its current seat at the UN to spotlight the “genocide” by Armenians.
-- Members of the Azeri Diaspora have been busy in Europe and in North America appealing for the recognition of the Armenian operation as genocide. Latvian Azeris are collecting signatures to protest the Khojalu “genocide.” A petition will be sent to the French Senate, the Latvian Parliament and the European Parliament to demand recognition of the “genocide.”
-- Five Turkish universities and a technical college are commemorating the Khojalu “genocide.”
-- In Feb. 2012, a Khojalu “genocide” public commemoration was held at the central square of Bursa, Turkey.
-- Azeri embassies are holding commemorations and are inviting diplomats from various countries to join in the recognition of the “genocide.”
-- Photographs of Khojalu casualties will be exhibited in Europe and a submission will be made to the International Court.
-- Baku has launched an Internet war with daily updates on “genocide” recognition successes.
The above is by no means a comprehensive list of the Azeri war of words. There are so many facts that disprove Baku’s allegations that one doesn’t know where to begin. Space restrictions limit us from reciting the chapter and verse of evidence against Baku’s allegations. Even cursory research reveals that the Azeris have nothing to stand on:
-- Azeri photographer Chingiz Mustafaev photographed the Azeri corpses immediately after the fight and two days later. His latter photos show that the position of the casualties had been changed and their injuries had strikingly become more brutal. During both his assignments the territory was still controlled by the Azeris. Shortly after, President Ayaz Mutalibov said to the photographer, “Chengiz, do not tell anybody about what you have noticed. Or, you’ll be killed.” Undeterred, Mustafaev began to investigate on his own. But after his findings were made public by the DR-Press Information Agency in Moscow that the Azeri forces had participated in crimes against Khojalu inhabitants, the journalist was killed not far from Aghdam. His death remains a mystery.
-- After visiting Khojalu immediately after the fight, Czech journalist Dana Mazalova reported that he hadn’t seen any trace of barbarity on the corpses.
-- Azeri human rights activist Arif Yunusof wrote in “Zercalo” Azerbaijani newspaper (July 1992), “The town and its citizens were deliberately sacrificed to the political goal.” He was referring to the quarrel between President Mutalubov and his enemies. The latter, who wanted to topple the president, ordered the killing of their own citizens to portray Mutalibov as incompetent.
-- Tamerlan Karaev, chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan Republic, said in “Mukhalifat” Azeri newspaper (April 28, 1992): “The tragedy was committed by Azerbaijan authorities, specifically by a top official.”
-- Vagif Guseynov, former Azeri minister of national security, said shortly before his arrest, that the January 1990 Baku doings [the pogroms of Armenians] and the events of Khojalu are the doing of the same people [Azeri authorities].
-- A month after his resignation, Mutalibov told Mazalova in “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” that according to the “Khojalu inhabitants who escaped, all this was organized to dismiss me. Some forces acted to discredit the president. I don’t think that the Armenians, strictly and professionally treating similar situation, could let the Azerbaijanis gain any documents” which would incriminate them. He also said that he couldn’t believe Armenians would provide a safe corridor and then shoot at the escaping civilians.
-- Eynulla Fatullaev of “Monitoring” Azeri magazine wrote that Khojalu refugees in Naftalan had told her that a few days before the attack, Armenians, with loudspeakers, kept warning the population of the scheduled operation, suggesting civilians to leave the settlement and break out of the encirclement via the humanitarian corridor. These refugees also told Fatullaev that they had taken advantage of the corridor and the Armenian forces had not fired at them. A few days after the report was published, the magazine’s editor [Elmar Guseyov] was shot (March 2, 2000) by a stranger at the entrance to his house in Baku.
-- The former Khojalu mayor told “Megapolis-Express” of Moscow that he had asked for helicopters to evacuate Khojalu residents, but no assistance was provided.
-- The number of Khojalu victims Azeri claim increases from year to year. Immediately after the attack, Azeris reported their casualties as 100. A week later that was inflated to 1,234 [the population of village was 2,000 to 2,500]. In 1992 Azeri journalists Ilya Balakhanov and Vugar Khaliov presented to the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Moscow a video cassette they had shot from helicopter. It showed that Khojalu civilian casualties did not exceed 60 people. Armenian forces reported 11 Azeri civilian casualties. Armenians handed all civilians to Azeri authorities.
--According to the Republic of Armenia (RoA), barbaric mutilations of bodies took place near Aghdam (some seven miles from Khojalu), on territory controlled by Azeri forces.
The above is just a sampling of evidence Armenian authorities in Armenia and in Artsakh have at their disposal. They also have audio, photographic and video evidence.
So despite the lame evidence of genocide, why does Baku invest so much effort to prove that Armenians committed genocide?
-- To distract the Azeri populace from the shortcomings of the corrupt and incompetent Aliev regime.
-- To prove the failings of their predecessor government.
-- To succeed in the information war when they have failed on the battlefield.
-- To distract world attention from the Genocide of Armenians. As junior partners in the “Turkbeijan” (Turkish-Azerbaijan) axis, Azeris have to support their Big Brother.
-- To pre-empt talk of Azeri pogroms of Armenians in Sumgait, Baku and Maragha, the ethnic purges in Nakhichevan, Kirovabad, and the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Stepanakert.
-- To cover up their pre-Feb. 25 crimes around Khojalu: Azeri forces had killed Armenian civilians in the surrounding region through the use of highly-lethal weapons; they didn’t evacuate Khojalu civilians despite numerous warnings from Armenians; they slew their civilians who had opted for the humanitarian corridor; to transform Armenians into ogres, Azeri authorities mutilated their own people. They doctored photos of casualties, using Photoshop and other technical means. Photos of the casualties in the Kosovo War and the Kurdish conflict have been depicted as Azeri casualties. There’s extensive forensic proof of this in Armenian hands.
-- The current Baku leadership had a hand in the Khojalu killings. They did so to defeat to show to Azeri that Mutalibov is incompetent. Blaming Armenians is an effective way to silence the suspicions of Azeri citizens.
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