Khojaly District is a part of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), established within the Azerbaijan SSR and ceased to exist pursuant to the 26 November 1991 Resolution of the Azerbaijan SSR Supreme Soviet "Regarding Abolition of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast". Before the occupation, the town boasted dozens of cultural facilities, museums, colleges, schools, clinics, hospitals, agricultural and industrial facilities, and other public entities. Khojaly had two primary and one high school and a textile plant.
Construction in Khojaly in the Soviet time
All of them were destroyed. Armenian occupation also resulted in destruction and plunder of many historical, cultural, and religious monuments.

Razed to the ground across the district were: 1 town, 1 township, 6 villages, 2495 residential houses, 31 industrial facilities, 15 agricultural facilities, 5 communication entities, 20 education facilities, 14 clinics/hospitals, 56 cultural facilities etc.

Late in 1987, Armenia launched an aggression against Azerbaijan to unilaterally break away and annex the mountainous part of Karabakh. Military actions against Azerbaijan intensified in late 1991 and early 1992. A town with 7,000 population before the conflict, Khojaly was a target of one such operation.

Armenian forces completely surrounded the town in October 1991. The land communication was severed on 30 October; one could only reach the town by helicopters. This route, however, was cut off not long after. A civil helicopter was shot down over Shusha, killing 40 people, the flights were stopped.

The power supply in the down was cut off in January 1992. Khojaly lived on due to the courage of its people and the heroism of its defenders.

The idea behind the Armenian brutality was to break the spirit of Azerbaijanis to gain psychological advantage in subsequent military operations.

In 1992, Azerbaijan was torn apart by political instability, so the masterminds and perpetrators of the Khojaly Genocide suggested that a mass murder of peaceful population must push domestic policy in the country to the brink of collapse. By occupying Khojaly with its civil airport, Armenia was looking to gain a strategic advantage and favorable conditions for capturing other cities in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Survivors of Khojaly genocide arriving in Aghdam
On the night from 25 to 26 February 1992, Armenian armed forces and paramilitary units, directly backed by the former USSR's 366th Motorized Infantry Regiment (by that time formally a part of CIS United Military Forces), took over the town of Khojaly.

For the assault, Armenians deployed 10 tanks, 16 APCs, and 9 IFVs as well as the personnel of the former USSR's 366th Motorized Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Stepanakert.

When the assault began, nearly 2500 dwellers, who were still in the town, were trying to flee for their life. They did not make it, however: they were shot by Armenian patrols or taken captive near the villages of Nakhchivanik and Pirjamal.

Those who tried to cross the mountains, mostly women and children, froze to death. Only a few managed to reach the town of Agdam.
On 28 February, two helicopters with a group of journalists managed to reach the place of massacre. The horrible scene shocked everyone - the field was covered by dead bodies. The helicopter pilots were tasked to land in the mountains and pick up the bodies of dead. Despite the escort of the second helicopter, they managed to take only four dead bodies because Armenians started intense firing. On 1 March, when a group of foreign and local journalists made it to Khojaly. What they witnessed was even more terrible. The dead bodies were mutilated and scalped.

According to journalist Chingiz Mustafayev, who was in that group, among the dead were "dozens upon dozens of children between 2 and 15 years old, women and old people, in most cases shot at point blank range in the head. The position of the bodies indicated that the people had been killed in cold blood, calculatedly, there were no signs of resistance of attempts to escape.

Some had been taken aside and shot individually; in many cases whole families had been killed. Some corpses displayed several wounds, one of which was invariably to the head, suggesting that the wounded had been finished off. Some children were found with severed ears; skin had been cut from the left side of an elderly woman's face; and men had been scalped. There were corpses that had clearly been robbed".

Undoubtedly, what happened in Khojaly was the largest and the bloodiest massacre during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The bloody massacre claimed lives of 613 people, including:

- 63 children;

- 106 women;

- 70 elders.
Outcomes of the massacre:

- 8 families were wiped out to the last man;

- 56 people were brutally murdered;

- 27 families had only 1 person left;

- 26 children lost both parents;

- 130 children lost one of the parents;

- 230 families lost a bread winner;

- 487 people became disabled (including 76 children);

- 1275 people were taken captive;

- 1165 hostages were freed;

- 150 people went missing.
This are not just numbers, but the facts and evidences to one of the most heinous crimes in the history of humanity, a culmination of Armenia's military aggression against Azerbaijan.

The Khojaly Massacre is one of the most heinous crimes in the history of humanity, but, not at all the only one.

Mass slaughters in other Azerbaijani settlements committed by Armenia before this massacre, including in Jamilli, Mesheli, Kerkijahan, Malibeyli and Gushchular villages, should be regarded as operations designed to pave the way for laying siege to Khojaly.

From the mouth of witnesses
Humay Abbasova
Native of Khojaly
Setting out at 7pm we went through the forest, heading for Agdam … walking barefoot … eating snow. My husband had frostbitten fingers and I had frostbitten feet. Many died in the forest. We were there a long time and walked a long way before we were captured. We were surrounded by forest on all sides and that helped many to survive.

One of my sons was killed. Another son was taken hostage. He was shown once on television, but has never been seen since then.

We were held and taken hostage in Askeran … there were lots of us in Askeran… Women and men were separated… There were beatings … the men had urine thrown over them … they were tortured, spat upon, killed like animals … We were kept in a room not much bigger than this one, crowded with women… They threatened to burn us alive… We were exchanged for bodies and prisoners – one commander for fifty hostages… My husband was beaten and died on the way back… Nobody was tortured like the people from Khojaly. I am still alive, but I lost two sons.

[…] The Armenians started unexpectedly: Khojaly, Askeran, Agdam, their children would throw stones. We gave Novruz bags (of sweets etc.) to Armenians; who could have imagined what would happen?"

(from the book "Khojaly Witness Of A War Crime: Armenia In The Dock". Ithaca Press. London, 2014).
Fazile Hasanova
Native of Khojaly
"[…] Those of us who escaped reached Shelli village; some went back into the forest to help, but many were taken hostage. [In Shelli] … there were many who were wounded and some died of stress. People were crying for those who were missing; there were people dying around us.

I had left with my slippers on, but when we crossed from asphalt into the forest I left the slippers behind and I could walk better. All my clothes were torn when we reached Shelli and I felt weak.

Fuzuli Rustamov had helped us to the village and with some youth he went back into the forest to help others. He looked into death's eyes without fear. He was killed. He is a National Hero.

Whole families were killed. It was a miracle we survived. We saw so many bodies."

(from the book "Khojaly Witness Of A War Crime: Armenia In The Dock". Ithaca Press. London, 2014).
Khojaly Survivors
Elimira Valiyeva
Native of Khojaly
"Armenians captured Khojaly on the night from 25 to 26 February 1992. They burned houses and killed innocent people. We barely made it to the woods and spent five days there. It was very cold. We were just freezing to death. Then they took us captive and kept for several days... Luckily for us, we got exchanged. We were beaten up with batons in Askeran. Armenians seized my ring, necklace, earrings, and money. My wounds often give me migraines, and nervous collapses occur."

(from criminal investigation files)
Valekh Huseynov
Native of Khojaly
Valekh Huseynov,
Native of Khojaly
"[…] I saw people there... I know a woman who had to watch as her three children get killed. What happened there is just beyond any words...

We marched ahead to create a human shield and prevent Armenians from breaking through. When I reached Agdam, I could not find my wife there. They told me she remained in Khojaly. So I came back. I walked 3 or 4 kilometers.

I somehow found her and a few other people, and we walked back to Agdam. There was like 500 meter left, and we suddenly saw Armenians. Alas, we were out of ammo. My wife was killed by an Armenian bullet. Those who were with me started falling back; they asked me to follow them but I couldn't. I just couldn't leave her there. I just wanted to die...

When I realized they are going to capture me, I smashed my weapon to prevent it getting into their hands. Once and again, Armenians thought I was dead. We were so beaten up we could not move a muscle. They even piled us up once while we were out cold, thinking we were already dead.

They learned somehow that I am a guitar player and perform Garabagh Shikestesi. They broke my fingers, tore out my fingernails, then burned my hands with hot iron. They said to me: "Even if you survive, you will never be able to play." The pain was crucifying...

I kept praising God, and a guy sitting nearby asked me: "Why are you praising God?", to which I replied: "For my mother and sister not being here."

There were a few other people kept captive alongside me, we got beaten up regularly. There was an old man, Mammad. He was very weak and always begged for water. When an Armenian came over, I told him; "Bring water to this old man." He kicked me and said: "Okay, we will, but you will get beaten up in exchange." I agreed, so they took me out and beat me up with batons. Still, they gave water to the old man. Later on, he died.

My hair turned grey overnight. I was lying prone; it was extremely cold, but I couldn't even raise my hands to warm up my body, even a bit... I closed my eyes and suddenly heard a sound. I opened them and saw a sightly old man in a white garment standing in front of me. He regarded me for a while, and then said: "Do not worry, for you will return to those who wait for you." Next morning, I was exchanged and set free."

(from interview with
Jamil Mammadov
Native of Khojaly
"...When tanks and APCs entered the town, they opened fire at houses and ran over people. Armenian militants were following Russian soldiers. I took my five-year-old grandson and fourteen thousand rubles and ran to the woods. I took off my clothes and wrapped them around the child to prevent him from freezing. Alas, that didn't help. We had to take cover in the snow.

Next morning, I realized that the child would not make it through this cold; I walked to the closest village of Nakhchivanik, where armed Armenians caught me. I begged them to take all my money but let us through to Agdam for the sake of the child. But they just beat me up, robbed me blind, and took me to their commander. He ordered to lock us up at the farm, already packed with Azerbaijani women and children. They kept us there for four days without food and water. There was no end to their cruelty. But when they relocated my grandson and me to Askeran after four days, I realized my hardship has only just begun.

Foreign mercenaries tore out my toenails. Some of them kicked me in the face. I was lucky as I finally got exchanged for some Armenians. But they took away my grandson. And I have no idea what happened to my wife and daughter..."

(from criminal investigation files)
Sariya Talibova
Native of Khojaly
"...We were brought to the Armenian cemetery. I feel sick even telling how it was. 4 young Meskhetian Turks and 3 Azerbaijanis were sacrificed on an Armenian militant's grave. These poor guys got beheaded. After that, soldiers and militants tormented and murdered children as their parents watched helplessly.

Then they used a bulldozer to dump bodies into a trench. They also brought two Azerbaijani guys in National Army uniforms and pried out their eyes with a screwdriver..."
Susan Jafarova
Native of Khojaly
"I was a nurse. I was helping a doctor carry a wounded guy on a stretcher. We crossed a railway bridge and Gargar River with a group of fellow villagers. I lost my footwear in cold water. We were hiding in snow-covered woods for a long time, as it was surrounded by Armenian militants. One of women was holding a 9-month-old baby in her hands. He was crying loudly. We could get spotted because of him. His mother, scared to death, was covering his mouth with her hand. When they reached Agdam, the baby was almost breathless.

We reached a clearing near the Armenian village of Nakhchivanik. There were many dead bodies strewn around. We heard Armenians talking. I fell down and played dead. They walked around and finished off those who still moved or moaned... I crawled the rest of the way, as I could not walk anymore..."
Chingiz Mustafayev's interview with Khojaly survivors
Leonid Kravets
Helicopter pilot
Leonid Kravets
Helicopter pilot
"We were coming back from some place near Khankendi early in the morning of 26 February, when the second pilot shouted: 'Look, there are so many rags strewn around!' I looked down and saw that the field looked patched. We descended and suddenly saw it was dead bodies lying around. There were at least 300 or 400 people, maybe even more. Militants were strolling around, finishing them off. They saw us and fired at the helicopter. But we made it away.

The same evening, an envoy of Azerbaijani President came over and asked us to get journalists and himself to the place of massacre. Getting a say-so from our superiors, we flew to Agdam, where we took on board Chingiz Mustafayev's camera crew and several foreign correspondents. We also took several policemen from Khojaly.

We could not land on that field, as we could get shot down. Although we had a red cross painted on the helicopter body. I told them they get off on the field, so that I can pick up altitude; for if I land, the enemy will blast me from an RPG. We agreed that I will do a 5-7 minute flyaround over the area and land again to pick up those who came with me.

I gained a certain altitude and saw several cars speeding towards us from Khojaly. I landed back and rushed them to get on board at once.

Chingiz Mustafayev and his crew managed to load several bodies of children on the helicopter. We had one police captain with us (he got on board in Agdam); he found a body of his three- or four-year-old child on the field.
The body was mutilated beyond recognition, as they had fired a whole clip at him. The captain handed over the body, but was unable to get on board himself. We barely managed to drag him into the helicopter while taking off.

On the way back to Agdam, the man was holding his dead child's body and crying. When we approached the city, we realized the heartbroken father had lost his mind. He could not even get off the helicopter."
Pilot Who Saw Hell (short documentary)
Pilot Leonid Markovich Kravets, who witnessed Azerbaijani genocide in Khojaly, provides his account of events.
Colonel Asad Farajev
At that time - legal and military consultant in Karabakh
Asad Farajev
"When Khojaly was captured, the survivors started arriving in Agdam.

It was decided to study the situation on the spot, so journalist Chingiz Mustafayev and I headed there two days after. I told him then that we must film this atrocity. Everyone should see what they...

Armenians fired at our helicopter, but we somehow made it through. It was a field, 17 or 20 km away from Khojaly. The things we saw there... I do not even know how to describe it, no words can be found for that. There are no words to describe it.

You know, I have been through Afghanistan, there was war too. People died there. My friends died... I saw death all around the place. I was wounded and concussed there. I have seen many things. I got, like, harder or something.

But when I saw what Armenians did in Khojaly... I was terrified. Never have I ever seen such atrocities, such savageness.

They did not just kill innocent and unarmed people, they desecrated their bodies. They did not take off rings - they cut off fingers; they did not remove earrings - they cut off ears, or even scalped people altogether.

You know, on the day after they were given some kind of bonuses, awards; next day, they were promised awards for bringing scalps or severed parts of the body like fingers or ears... So they came back and did it again. I have no idea how to call it... No idea.

For a few moments, we were petrified; we could not move, as in a bad dream. We just stood and watched, with our hearts bleeding.

I just do not know... I am unable to describe it.

It somehow dawned to us that we must speak up, bring the terrible truth to the outer world. We realized we must bring journalists here. After a few days, we arranged a second helicopter with journalists from Turkey, Russia, France, and Japan.

Armenians must have thought we came to pick up dead bodies, otherwise they would have shot us down.

We went there to make a footage.

Chingiz was filming as well. He was crying. And I showed him the bodies, saying: "Film this. And this..."
Chingiz Mustafayev, filming in Khojaly
There were bodies of old people. And women. And children... We just could not leave them there. So we decided to take them with us to Agdam. First, we took the bodies of children. One child, two or three years of age, was lying next to his dead mother. She apparently tried to cover his with her body, but was killed. And the child, lying on the cold ground and hugging his mother, froze to death.

It was a girl. I literally tore her away from her mother. Back in Agdam, we brought her to the mosque with other bodies for funeral. I left her body there and went to a place called Guest House. I was sitting there and crying... And suddenly I felt someone kissing my hand. I opened my eyes and saw an Akhund of the Agdam mosque. He told me about a miracle; when the girl' body was bathed, she came back to life, most likely warmed up by hot water.

Thanks God, she is still alive... safe and sound. That was nothing short of a Miracle.

...Journalists who were with us, they were all thunderstruck. But, you know, there were those amongst them who conceived back PR rather than just simply cover the tragedy. One of French journalists came up to me and said: "Maybe these are Armenian bodies?"

I grabbed him by the hand and literally dragged him into the mosque, where dead boys were lying; they were circumcised by Muslim custom. I told him Armenians do not practice circumcision for boys. And that all children, women and men lying here are Azerbaijanis. That's what I told him.

A thirst for revenge was rooting deep in our hearts. We assembled defense volunteer squads, Agdam police; later on, people came there from all around the country. And we always told our fighters: yes, it is a war, we fight Armenian military, but killing civilians is a no-no. Under no circumstances should they do it.

We told them we should not be like those bandits. It is them who are savages, capable of tormenting women and children, torturing and intimidating defenseless people. But we are not like that. We are humans.

...Later on, their field commanders, Sargsyan, Kocharyan, Ohanesyan, gave interviews and said they had provided a "corridor" for civilians to leave Khojaly. Lying bastards. There was no "corridor". I say it as a man who was there and saw with my own eyes what was happening. Again, there was no "corridor". It's just that some dwellers who left earlier - they knew more or less where to go - went at random towards Shelli, Askeran; there was a river, and from there they could reach Agdam.

And the "corridor" they talk about was an area they surrounded just to finish off those who made it out of the town. They encircled this area; it was a trap for unarmed people, and Armenians killed them when they got trapped...

Now they deny it, saying we did it, not them. And didn't the very former President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan say in an interview "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..."? How would they explain this?"

(from interview with

Journalists and media
Yuri Romanov
Russian TV reporter
"When we finally come up to the hospital train (it was standing at the railway station in Agdam), we see the bloody work underway on the platform. One after another, cars with headlights on rush up to the platform; unloaded from them are rather strange wounded: women, children, and elders. There are almost no men...

'Where did you bring them from?' I ask an overwhelmed driver.

'Khojaly...' he waves his hand vaguely. As soon as the trunk is unloaded, the vehicle pulls off quickly...

'And where are these from?' I ask a second driver, who brought a whole family in his UAZ (dubbed "bread loaf" for its shape). A woman and three children, wounded and covered in blood. The family head lies on the steel floor, with no traces of life. The woman holds a fourth child, wrapped in blood-stained cloths, on her hands. When the car engine is stopped, I hear the woman gently singing a wordless lullaby:


'Mom! Mommy!' a boy and two older girls are dragging at her sleeve... They are also crippled or wounded, their clothes covered in blood as well. But the mother does not pay any attention...

'Khojaly...' says the driver, helping the wounded women with a dead child on her hands out of the vehicle.

Vehicles with wounded people arrives one after another. There is a whole column of different vehicles with headlights on. Getting into the cabin, one of the drivers says:

'Before we have only seen wedding processions going like this with headlights on in broad daylight...'

The bloody "wedding" goes on...

A Medical Corps colonel, a stocky man, is rushing about near the train. He has a sallow face and labored breathing of someone with a heart condition. Needed in several places at once, he cannot catch even a minute's break. Khanlar Hajiyev, Chief Medical Officer, Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, stops for a second and puts a white drop of nitroglycerin under his tongue.

'What is going on in Khojaly?

'Not sure, but it seems a group of refugees was caught in a crossfire... We are going to send a helicopter there shortly...'

'Are there many casualties?'

'"Many" is an underestimation,' he produces a notebook. 'As of now (1 pm), doctors in our train alone have provided medical assistance to 290 people. Out of these people, 123 have frostbites. 67 have gunshot wounds. 43 have bullet and 24 shrapnel wounds. Plus, 8 people have been stabbed...'

We are deafened by the sound of blades and rumble. A helicopter emerges from low clouds.

Hajiyev shouts:

'We have already sent 66 people to Baku... The next batch will go now.'

'No, not now...'

Our old acquaintance Zulfi Gasimov comes up, not heard over the noise of propellers. He is in charge of executive power administration in the district; a shadow authority of a sort.

'We are now going to Khojaly. Are you with us?' he asks me.

'Strange question. Of course...'

'Our camera man will arrive, and we will take off...'

'And what about the wounded you have to get to Baku?'

'Our trip won't take long. A half an hour, one hour tops...'
Chingiz Mustafayev
journalist, National Hero of Azerbaijan
Our old friend, camera operator Chingiz Mustafayev jumps out of the ambulance car. A regular Panasonic camera, quite a bulky contraption, looks but a toy on his shoulder. He is in a camouflage uniform, with an assault rifle on his shoulder and a Makarov pistol in his belt holster.

We jump into the helicopter, followed by Gasimov and two policemen. They are all armed. I am a bit anxious about a strange setup of our armed "delegation", so I lean to Chingiz's ear.

'Why are we flying there?'

'To shoot a film. An order came from the very 'top'...' he points his finger at the cabin ceiling.

'You think they will let us film? Who is in control there?'

'Armenians, of course... I think we'll make do.'

I shrug. Our flight is nothing short of reckless. We are flying to the place where thousands of people were murdered like several hours ago; no preliminary arrangements, no preparations, nothing.

And how will the murderers react to a helicopter with journalists? A suicide mission, nothing more. The more I ponder over the situation, the less I like it. Well, Chingiz is a real daredevil. We have done many a coverage together, and it always impressed me how he fearlessly filmed at places where you could not poke out your nose, let alone film.

Gasimov obviously wants to gain favor with President, as the order apparently came from Mutallibov or his cohort. Policemen and pilots act under orders. They were ordered, and they set out... And why the hell did I sign to this mission? Do I have a call?

While I am immersed in self-blame, the engine whining tone changes. It seems we have arrived...

I look through the illuminator of the helicopter and the unbelievably frightening sight that opens in front of my eyes literally traumatizes me. Bodies of dead people are lying on the yellow grass lawn at the shadowy foothills of a mountain, where pellets of snow and hoar-frosts deposited in winter are melting. All this vast area to the near horizon, littered with the corpses of women, old men and women, boys and girls of all ages, from infant to teenager...

Eye pulls out of the mess of bodies, two figures - a grandmother and a little girl. Grandma, with a white head uncovered, lying face down next to the tiny girl in a blue jacket with a hood. The feet are somehow connected with barbed wire. The hands of the grandmother are also tied up. Both are shot in the head. The girl, who looks about four years of age, lies with her hands stretched towards her murdered grandmother. Thunderstruck, it is not at once that I remember about the camera...

But the shock subsides, and I start filming from the window. The hopper hangs above the field; the pilots are choosing a place such that to not tread on the fallen...

Suddenly, the helicopter, which never landed, kind of leaps in the air and goes for a mind-blowing dive parallel to the slope. Floating before my eyes in the window, quite close, is grass, rocks, and bodies, bodies, bodies....

'What's happened?' — I turn away from the camera sight.

'They are firing at us...' Chingiz says briefly, not turning from his camera. 'It's good they are far away.'

'Who's that?'

'Who knows? Armenians, I guess...'

Somewhere far away, almost at the border of visibility, there are dark figures of people in camouflage uniforms; they are spraying our helicopter from assault rifles, like from fire hoses... Red dash lines are projecting from them towards the helicopter. One of policemen accompanying us screams and turns pale. The bullet pierced the helicopter body and hit him in the thigh.

Hiding among piedmont hills, the pilots keep the heavy helicopter literally a meter above the ground. How do they manage to react to tiniest accidents of ground while holding a speed of almost 200 kph? The helicopter races just like a car on the highway. Rare shrubs and heaps of rocks are floating by... After a few moments of crazy flight, which seemed like hours, the helicopter darts into the darkening sky and vanishes in low clouds.

We are in a thick blanket of damp grey fog. Tiny drops collect on transparent plastic windows, then accumulate and drip on the shell.

We made it away from the engagement area thanks to the pilots' skill...

I look at Chingiz. Tears are streaming down the weather-beaten and stoned face of a strong man he is. Catching my sight, he collects his bearings and wipes his eyes with the palm of his hand...

'Why? Why the kids?' he mumbles... There are tears in his eyes again.

I look at my camera time counter. It shows I shot just 37 seconds... 37 seconds of nightmare. After literally 20 minutes of flight, we return to where we took off, near the medical train. The landed helicopter is surrounded by people who stare at us as if we have risen from the grave. Unable to believe their eyes, people touch us over and over.

'We have already given you up for dead...' says Hajiyev. 'Thank God you are alive and well!'

'Not all of us,' replies Gasimov. 'Send medics on the double, we have a wounded policeman...'
Victims of Armenian aggression
His face is pale; he is trying to have a smoke but his hands are shaking and he cannot light up a lighter. His face dark, Chingiz makes his way through the ring of people, sits in a car and heads for Agdam.

I have other things to worry about, my 37 seconds of footage are literally burning my hands. I leave the ring of people and lift the camera.

In the sight I see the road covered by a vehicle with wounded. They are unloaded on stretchers and carried right from the platform into the operation railcar through the opened windows. I see a little girl, about six years of age, with a bandaged head. The bandage is made such that it covers both her eyes. Not turning off the camera, I lean to her:
'What's happened to you, sweety?'

'My eyes, they are burning... My eyes are burning... Please! My eyes are burning!!!'

A doctor touches my shoulder:

'She is blind. They burned her eyes with cigarette butts... When she was brought here, the butts were sticking out from her eye sockets...'
Viktoriya Ivleva
Russian journalist
"I managed to get to Khojaly after the assault and make terrifying pictures of children and women who died in the attack.

One can see from the photos that the people were shot at point-blank range and the town subjected to a relentless shelling."
V. Belykh
Correspondent, Izvestiya
"Time after time, Agdam sees people bringing dead bodies, exchanged for live hostages. You won't see it in a worst nightmare: bodies have eyes gouged out, ears cut off, some are scalped or beheaded.

Some bodies were tied together with ropes and dragged for a long time by an armored vehicle. There is no end to abuse."
Anatol Lieven
The Times, 2 March 1992
As we swooped low over the snow-covered hills of Nagorno-Karabakh we saw scattered corpses. Apparently, the refugees had been shot down as they ran. An Azerbaijani film of the place we flew over, shown to journalists afterwards, showed dozens of corpses lying in various parts of the hills. Тhе civilian helicopter picked uр four corpses and it was during this and previous mission that an Azerbaijani cameraman filmed the several dozen bodies оn the hillsides.

Тhе Azerbaijanis claim that as manу as 1000 have died in а mass killing of Azerbaijanis fleeing from the town of Кhojaly, seized bу Armenians last week. А further 4,000 are believed to bе wounded, frozen to death or missing.

Back at the airlifted in Aghdam, we took а look at the bodies the civilian helicopter had picked uр. Two old men and small girl were covered with blood, their limbs contorted by the cold and rigor mortis. Тhеу had been shot."
Thomas Holtz
The Washington Post, 28 February 1992
Thomas Hotlz
Journalist, author of Azerbaijani Diary
"Representatives of the main mosque in this town east of the embattled enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh said they buried 17 bodies today, brought from an Azerbaijani town inside the enclave that was captured Wednesday bу Armenian militiamen.

Refugees fleeing the fighting in Khojaly, а town of 6,000 northeast of the enclave's capital, Stepanakert (Khankendi), claimed that up to 500 people, including women and children, were killed in the attack. No independent estimate the death was available here. Agdam mosque's head, Said Sadikov, said refugees from Khojaly had registered the names of 477 victims with his mosque since Wednesday.

Officials in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, estimated the deaths in Khojaly at 100, while Armenian officials in their capital, Yerevan (Irevan), said only two Azerbaijanis were killed in the attack. An official from Baku said here that his government fears Azerbaijanis would turn against it if they knew how many had been killed.

Of seven bodies seen here today, two were children and three were women, onе shot through the chest at what appeared to bе close range. Another 120 refugees being treated at Agdam's hospital include manу with multiple stab wounds.

The Armenians who attacked Khojaly Tuesday night "were shooting, shooting, shooting", said Raisa Aslanova, who reached Agdam Wednesday night. She said her husband and а son-in-law were killed and her daughter was missing.

Among the refugees who fled here over the mountains from Nagorno-Karabakh were two Turkmen soldiers from former Soviet Interior Ministry forces who had taken refuge in Khojaly after deserting from their unit last Friday because, they said, Armenians non-commissioned officers had beaten them "for being Muslims".

The two deserters claimed their former unit, the 366th Division, was supporting the Armenian militiamen who captured Khojaly. They said they tried to help women and children escape. "We were bringing а group through the mountains when the Armenians found us and opened fire", said Agamehmet Mutif, оnе of the deserters. "Twelve were killed".
Stephane Bentura
The Irish Times, 3 March 1992
"Stiffened by death and cold, the mutilated corpses of Azeris mown down as they fled an Armenian offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh clung to the snow-covered hillside yesterday almost one week after the attack.

Journalists flown in by army helicopter from Agdam just east of the disputed enclave within Azerbaijan counted 31 bodies, many shot through the head at point-blank range, while some had been scalped. Still others among the dead men, women and children had fıngers missing.

Volunteers had collected another 20 bodies and were to take them back to Agdam where they are to be displayed today at the local mosque.

The journalists saw the corpses in the hills above the village of Askeran amid charges by Azerbaijani authorities and refugees that more than 1,000 people were killed after Armenian forces attacked the Azeribaijani city of Khodjali.

As the last former Soviet soldiers began withdrawing from the enclave, Armenia reiterated denials that its militants had massacred men, women and children fleeing the carnage across snow-covered mountain passes. But dozens of corpses scattered over the killing fıelds of Nagorno-Karabakh lent credence to Azeri reports of a massacre.

The attack came as the refugees fled an onslaught on the airport of Nagorno-Karabakh's main town Stepanakert (Khankendi), located at Khodjali, a city of some 3,000 people.

The corpse of a woman - her eyes half-open - clutched her baby in death, drawing tears from the Azerbaijani militiamen accompanying the journalists, who spent 15 minutes in the area.

The refugees scarcely had time to dress before fleeing from Khodjali into the night. Many of those killed had their arms spread wide as if they had tried to surrender.

According to an Azeri pilot, several dozen corpses were still in the nearby woods, but too close to Armenian positions on the 'front line' in Nagorno-Karabakh to be viewed.

The 20 bodies recovered by the volunteers were stacked in piles. They had been gathered during a fragile truce agreed with Armenian fıghters a few hundred yards away.

Mr Zakhid Dzhabarov (32) said he lost his wife and son in the 'massacre' by the Armenians. He said about 60 bodies were collected yesterday, while 50 residents and fıghters from Khodjali had already been buried.

According to Mr Dzhabarov, after hours of desperate flight across the mountains, several hundred Khodjali refugees reached hills between Askeran and Nakhchivanik at dawn last Wednesday.

Then, he said, 'two armoured vehicles opened fıre without warning. Everyone began to run and tried to return to the forest. Armenian infantrymen came up from Askeran and opened fıre on everything that moved.'

He said he saved himself by diving into a snow-filled ditch with three friends.

According to Mr Dzhabarov, the Armenians captured 300 people after surrounding them in the woods. 'The 200 others were killed, or wounded and fınished off at point-blank range.'

Mr Dzhabarov claimed that 'youths, old men and women then came from Askeran and looted the corpses'.

Assessment by Human Right Defenders
From the report by Human Rights Center Memorial (Russia):
"Around 200 bodies were brought into Agdam in the span of four days. Dozens are reportedly desecrated. The Center has also reported some people scalped alive.

During the capture of Khojaly, the attacking forces committed mass violence against the peaceful population of the town.

Those who survived and was not shot dead were burned alive; some children and adults had their eyes gouged out, hands and legs cut off, and pregnant women had their abdomens cut open.

The mass slaughter of civilians within the boundaries of such "free passage corridor" and adjacent areas should not be justified by any circumstances.

The detention conditions of Khojaly civilians, women among them, who were captured and held as "hostages", were extremely unsatisfactory; acts of violence were reported against the detained residents of Khojaly.
The Human Rights Center Memorial states that actions committed by Armenian militants of Nagorno-Karabakh in respect to peaceful dwellers of Khojaly during the assault on this town represent a gross violation of the Geneva Convention and the following articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (as adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948):

  • Article 2, which states that "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as [...] language, religion, [...] national or social origin, [...] or other status."
  • Article 3, which confirms the universal right to life, liberty and security of person
  • Article 5, which prohibits torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Article 9, which prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
  • Article 17, which declares that everyone has the right to own property and prohibits to arbitrarily deprive them of their property.

The crimes committed by armed formations therefore are in gross violation of the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict (adopted by the UN General Assembly on 14 December 1974), which declares:

"Women and children belonging to the civilian population and finding themselves in circumstances of emergency and armed conflict in the struggle for peace, self-determination, national liberation and independence, or who live in occupied territories, shall not be deprived of shelter, food, medical aid or other inalienable rights, in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child or other instruments of international law."

Source: Report by Human Rights Center Memorial concerning large-scale violations of human rights in respect to the capture of the town of Khojaly by armed units on the night from 25 to 26 February 1992
From the report by Human Rights Watch (former Helsinki Watch)
"On the night of February 25-26 Armenian forces seized the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly.

As some of its residents, accompanied by retreating Azerbaijani militia and self-defense forces, fled Khojaly seeking to cross the border to reach Agdam, they approached Armenian military posts and were fired upon.

Several refugees reported that they saw houses burning during the attack on Khojaly or while they were fleeing the village. Zuleykha Dunyamalieva (whose sister died of exposure during their flight from Khojaly) said that at about midnight or 1:00 A.M. she saw neighborhood where Meskhetian Turks lived go up in flames: "Meskhetians lived in our neighborhood in Finnish-style cottages. When their houses were burned we got out right away."

Most Khojaly residents remained in the town until about 3:00 A.M., some staying in basements in private homes. In addition, about 300 residents reportedly took shelter in the basement of one school. Some reported that they decided to leave at 3:00 A.M. because the self-defense forces were running through the streets shouting instructions to people to run away.

Residents fled the town in separate groups, amid chaos and panic, most of them without any belongings or clothes for the cold weather. As a result, hundreds of people suffered – and some died – from severe frostbite.

The majority of Khojaly residents went along a route that took them across a shallow river, through the mountains, and, by about dawn, towards an open field near the village of Nakhchivanik, controlled then by Armenians. It was here that the most intense shooting took place. Other people fled along different routes that took them directly by Shelli, an Azerbaijani village near Agdam. A number of Khojaly survivors wandered through the forest for several days before finding their way to Agdam's environs.

Thirty-three-year-old Nigar Azizova, who worked in a vegetable store, told Helsinki Watch that when the crowd started falling over bodies, they turned back and fled in different directions. "The crowd was about sixty meters long. I was in the middle, and people in the front were mostly killed. At Nakhchivanik we saw that people in front were falling. They shouted and fell. I recognized their faces. I could see their faces as we stepped over them. We covered the children's eyes so they wouldn't see."

A young Azerbaijani woman who was eventually taken hostage told Helsinki Watch, "It was a cultivated field. We approached it and saw that they began to shoot. I must have seen sixty people dead in the field. Those who were running away with me fell and died."

Hassan Allahyarov said: "First we ran to Nakhchivanik, but when they began shooting people we ran to the other side. There was a BMP standing on the road – I didn't see it, I just saw the shells." Allahyarov 's eighteen-year-old daughter, who got separated from her father, said she saw the tank: "When the tank began to shoot we ran in all directions. I saw corpses scattered, and saw all the people surrounding them fall."

Hijran Alakbarova recollected: "By the time we got to Nakhchivanik it was 9:00 A.M. There was a field and there were many people who had been killed. There were maybe one hundred. I didn't try to count. I was wounded on this field. Alif Gajiev was shot and I wanted to help him. A bullet hit me in the belly. I could see where they were shooting from. I saw other bodies in the field. They were newly killed – they hadn't changed color."

Fifty-one-year-old Balaoglan Allahyarov said: "We got to Nakhchivanik at 8:00 A.M., and were in the middle of the field when they began to fire. They were shooting only from one direction – the forest. Then we ran off the field toward a canyon, where my wife and daughter-in-law were shot. They were shot from about twenty meters. My daughter-in-law was struck three times – through the skull, in her stomach and in her leg. My wife was hit from behind. [The Armenians] stole their rings."

Beginning February 27, Azerbaijani helicopters brought in personnel who attempted to collect bodies and assist the wounded. Some of the rescue team were wearing camouflage clothing, and they were accompanied by a French journalist, reported that some of the corpses had been scalped or otherwise mutilated. One member of the group videotaped the mission.

...the civilian population and individual civilians are not legitimate objects of attack in any armed conflict. The contending parties accordingly must distinguish at all times between civilians and combatants and direct their attack only against the latter. Moreover, the parties may not use civilians to shield military targets from attack or to shield military operations, including retreats. Thus, a party that intersperses combatants with fleeing civilians puts those civilians at risk and violates its obligation to protect its own civilians.

Although retreating combatants and civilians who assume a combatant's role while fleeing are subject to direct individualized attack, the attacking party is still obliged to take precautionary measures to avoid or minimize civilian casualties. In particular, the party must suspend an attack if it becomes apparent that the attack may be expected to cause civilian casualties that are excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

The circumstances surrounding the attack at Nakhchivanik on those fleeing Khojaly indicate that Armenian forces and troops of the 366th CIS regiment (who were not apparently acting on orders from their commanders) deliberately disregarded this customary law restraint on attacks. Nagorno-Karabakh officials and fighters clearly expected the inhabitants of Khojaly to flee since they claim to have informed the town that a corridor would be left open to allow for their safe passage.

No witnesses interviewed by Helsinki Watch, however, said that they knew beforehand of such a corridor. In addition, although witnesses and victims gave varying testimony on the precise time the shooting began at Nakhchivanik, they all indicated that there was sufficient light to allow for reasonable visibility and, thus, for the attackers to distinguish unarmed civilians from those persons who were armed and/or using weapons.

Further, despite conflicting testimony about the direction from which the fire was coming, the evidence suggests that the attackers indiscriminately directed their fire at all fleeing persons. Under these circumstances, the killing of fleeing combatants could not justify the foreseeable larger number of civilian casualties."

Legal Aspects
Qualification of The Crime
The full range of international legal principles applies to the situation concerning the territories of Azerbaijan under occupation by Armenia. Such legal principles include those relating to the use of force; international humanitarian law; international human rights law and international responsibility.

There are sufficient grounds to conclude that the government of the Republic of Armenia and the subordinate forces for which it is liable under international law are responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that amount to crimes under international law. The violations of the rules of war by the Armenian side include but are not limited to: indiscriminate attacks, including the killing of civilians, the taking and holding of hostages, and the mistreatment and summary execution of prisoners of war and hostages.

In relevant resolutions adopted in 1993, in response to the unlawful use of force against Azerbaijan and occupation of its territories, the United Nations Security Council made specific reference to violations of international humanitarian law, including the displacement of a large number of civilians in Azerbaijan, attacks on civilians, and the bombardment of inhabited areas within Azerbaijan. In its judgment of 22 April 2010, the European Court of Human Rights determined the massacre of the Azerbaijani civilian population of the Khojaly town to be "acts of particular gravity which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity".

The official investigation conducted in Azerbaijan found that the following elements of the crime of genocide, as defined under international law, particularly the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, are present with regard to the attacks on civilians in Khojaly: the actus reus consisting of killing and causing serious bodily or mental harm; the existence of a protected group being targeted by the authors of criminal conduct; and the specific genocidal intent to annihilate, in whole or in part, a group distinguished on racial, ethnic, national or religious grounds.

According to the findings of the investigation, the following requirements are met for the purpose of sustaining charges of genocide with regard to crimes committed in Khojaly: clear and convincing proof of intent to destroy a group in whole or in part; the fact that the destruction that took place in Khojaly was "significant" enough to affect the defined group as a whole; and the crime committed within a specific geographic locality.
Responsibility Under International Law
Offences committed during the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan entail both state and individual criminal responsibility under international law.

Thus, due to its initial and continuing aggression against Azerbaijan and its continuing occupation of that state's territory, the Republic of Armenia bears full international responsibility for breaches of international law. Such responsibility arising from Armenia's internationally wrongful acts involves legal consequences manifested in an obligation to cease such acts, to offer appropriate assurances and guarantees that they will not recur and to provide full reparation for injury in the form of restitution, compensation and satisfaction, either singly or in combination.

Alongside the Republic of Armenia's responsibility as a state for internationally wrongful acts, under the customary and treaty norms of international criminal law, certain acts perpetrated in the context of an armed conflict, including those in the town of Khojaly, are viewed as international criminal offences and individual responsibility for them is borne by those who participated in the acts, their accomplices and accessories.

It is well known that the former presidents of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan, together with many other high-ranking political and military officials of that state, as well as leaders of the separatist regime established by Armenia in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, participated personally in seizing Azerbaijani lands and in the actions taken against Azerbaijani civilians and military. It is clear that, given the scale and gravity of the offences that they committed, criminal prosecution of those persons should be an inevitable consequence.

Apart from denying responsibility for its occupation and military presence in the territories of Azerbaijan, official Yerevan (Irevan) does all it can to represent the massacre in Khojaly as an action by Azerbaijanis, who allegedly obstructed the evacuation of the civilian population from the area and, even worse, gunned down their compatriots, in order to exploit large numbers of civilian casualties for their own internal political ends.

However, there is more than sufficient evidence, in reports from numerous sources, including eyewitnesses, governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and the mass media, that testifies to Armenia's responsibility, including that of its political and military leaderships and subordinate separatist armed groups, for the crimes committed in Khojaly.
In its judgment of 22 April 2010, the European Court of Human Rights noted in particular the following: "It appears that the reports available from independent sources indicate that at the time of the capture of Khojaly on the night of 25 to 26 February 1992 hundreds of civilians of Azerbaijani ethnic origin were reportedly killed, wounded or taken hostage, during their attempt to flee the captured town, by Armenian fighters attacking the town."

According to Armenian author Markar Melkonian, who dedicated a book to his brother, the well-known international terrorist Monte Melkonian, the town "had been a strategic goal, but it had also been an act of revenge". The author particularly mentions the role of the fighters of the two Armenian military detachments "Arabo" and "Aramo" and describes in detail how they butchered the peaceful inhabitants of Khojaly. Thus, as he puts it, some inhabitants of the town had almost made it to safety, after fleeing for nearly six miles, when "[Armenian] soldiers had chased them down".

The soldiers, in his words, "unsheathed the knives they had carried on their hips for so long, and began stabbing". (Markar Mеlkonian, My Brother's Road: An American's Fateful Journey to Armenia (London and New York, 2005), pp. 213-214).

The Khojaly events took place in a period when Serzh Sargsyan, the previous president of the Republic of Armenia, served as the head of the occupation regime's "Self-Defence Forces Committee" and, accordingly, his recollections constitute one of the most important sources of evidence. The words from the mouth of Serzh Sargsyan leave no doubt as to who committed the crime in Khojaly: "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." (Thomas de Waal, Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War (New York and London, 2003).

Asked by the journalist whether he had any regrets about the deaths of thousands of people, Mr. Sargsyan answered quite unabashedly: "Our cultures are not compatible. We can live side by side but not within each other." Not only are such words from the mouth of a man from the highest political and military echelons of Armenia self-explanatory, but they nullify any attempts to deny Armenia's responsibility for deliberate crimes it committed against peaceful Azerbaijani people during the standoff.
International Recognition
Combined with the international campaign "Justice for Khojaly!", initiated by Vice-President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation Leyla Aliyeva, purposeful actions taken by the Azerbaijani government have resulted in events held in many countries of the globe to consistently raise the global community's awareness of the Khojaly Genocide.
Leyla Aliyeva, Vice-President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, attends an event dedicated to the 28th anniversary of Khojaly Genocide (Moscow, 29 February 2016).
The very fact of Khojaly tragedy qualifying as genocide is reflected in resolutions and rulings adopted by many countries and international organizations alike. As of today, legislative bodies in 17 countries, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Columbia, Czech Republic, Honduras, Jordan, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Sudan, Djibouti, Guatemala, Paraguay, Slovenia, and Scotland, as well as in numerous US states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Man, Arizona, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada) have adopted parliamentary resolutions to recognize the Khojaly Genocide.

These documents denounce the occupation of Azerbaijan's territories by Armenian forces and the massacre of innocent people in Khojaly, and sympathize the victims of this tragedy. Resolution 1594 of the Georgia House of Representatives was the first document adopted by American legislators that mentioned Serzh Sargsyan in connection with the massacre in Khojaly.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which brings together 56 countries around the globe, has officially qualified the massacre in Khojaly as a crime against humanity and declared it genocide. At its 39th session held in Djibouti on 20 November 2012, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) adopted a resolution recognizing the crimes committed in Khojaly as genocide. OIC called upon its member-states to provide their political and legal opinion on the Khojaly tragedy. The Final Communique issued at the 12th session of the OIC Islamic Summit Conference held in Cairo in February 2013, calls upon member states to exert due efforts for the recognition of the Khojaly genocide.

The Khojaly genocide has also been recognized by the Turkic Council, an organization that brings together Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Khojaly Genocide monuments and memorials have been erected in Baku, as well as in Ankara, Istanbul, Sakarya, Izmir, Izmit, Usak, Kocaeli (Turkey), Hague (Netherlands), Berlin (Germany), Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Mexico city (Mexico).
Every year on February 26, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva visit the memorial erected in Khatai District in memory of the victims of the tragedy, taking part in the Khojaly Genocide commemoration ceremony.

Dozens of thousands of people come to the monument on this day to pay their tribute to the martyrs.

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