March 31 – Genocide of Azerbaijanis
20 January – National Mourning Day
TRAGEDY OF THE 20TH CENTURY – KHOJALY GENOCIDE
March 31 – Genocide of Azerbaijanis
The history of the Armenian nationalists` policy of genocide against the Azerbaijani people dates back to the early 18th century when tsarist Russia was exploiting the Armenians by promising them to create an Armenian state in the Caucasus in order to ramp up its expansionist policy towards the South Caucasus. On November 10, 1724, Peter I issued a decree allowing the Armenians to settle in Baku and other regions of Azerbaijan. Using this opportunity, the Armenians committed horrific crimes against the Azerbaijani population in different regions of Azerbaijan in order to build an Armenian state in our historical lands. The Armenians` intermittent, but well-thought out policy of genocide resulted in the slaughter of thousands of innocent Azerbaijanis, burning down of their homes and plunder of their property.
Although the Armenians, who were resettled in the territories of Azerbaijan, were less in numbers than the Azerbaijanis living there, they managed, with support from their patrons, to establish an administrative unit. This laid the foundation of the policy of displacement of the indigenous people of Azerbaijan from their lands and their annihilation. In order to realize their fabricated idea of “Greater Armenia”, the Armenians began to falsify their own history and the history of Azerbaijan.
Inspired by the idea of creating “Greater Armenia”, the Armenians carried out a series of bloody massacres against the Azerbaijanis in the 20th century. The atrocities that started in Baku then spread to all territories of Azerbaijan, with hundreds of settlements destroyed and razed to the ground, and thousands of civilians brutally killed.
The first massacres in the 20th century were committed by the Armenians in 1905-1907 when thousands of innocent Azerbaijanis were slaughtered in Baku, Nakhchivan, Zangazur, Iravan and other historical Azerbaijani lands.
From December, 1917 to March, 1918, the Armenian armed forces, led by Andranik, destroyed a total of 197 villages, including 32 villages in Iravan governorate, 84 villages in Echmiadzin governorate, and 7 villages in Nor-Bayazid governorate, slaughtering and expelling local residents, looting their property and razing their homes to the ground.
After the October Revolution of 1917, the Armenians attempted to carry out their despicable intentions under protection of the Bolsheviks. In March of 1918, Stepan Shaumyan was appointed as the commissar extraordinary of the Caucasus and dispatched to Baku.
This marked the beginning of a treacherous plan to wipe out the Azerbaijanis living in the city of Baku. Presented under the guise of the “fight against anti-revolutionary elements”, this plan was carried out by Baku Commune led by Dashnak-Bolshevik Shaumyan.
Among the deadliest of the massacres against the Azerbaijanis are those committed by the Armenian armed forces in Baku, Shamakhi, Guba, Goychay, Kurdamir, Salyan, Lankaran and other regions in March, 1918.
According to official sources, during those tragic events from March 30 to April 3, 1918, tens of thousands of peaceful civilians were killed on ethnic and religious grounds in a horrific act of genocide by Baku Soviet troops and Armenian Dashnak armed units in the city of Baku and a number of regions in Baku governorate, as well as Karabakh, Nakhchivan, Shamakhi, Guba, Khachmaz, Lankaran, Salyan, Zangazur and other areas, residential settlements were destroyed, historical monuments, mosques and cemeteries were razed to the ground.
On March 31, 1918, the massacre of peaceful Azerbaijanis began in the city of Baku. Committed by the 6,000-strong Baku Soviet troops and 4,000-strong armed units of Dashnaktsutyun party, the barbaric act lasted for three days, during which Azerbaijani settlements were suddenly attacked and all residents from children to adults were massacred.
Kulner, a German witness of those tragic events, wrote in his memoirs on Baku in 1925: “The Armenians attacked Muslim (Azerbaijani) settlements, killing everybody, cutting them up with swords and bayoneting. Several days after the genocide corpses of 87 Azerbaijanis were pulled out from a groove. Their ears and noses were cut off, their abdominals were ripped up and genitals chopped. The Armenians showed no mercy to children and elderly people.”
The March 1918 events received considerable attention following the proclamation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) when in order to investigate violence against the Azerbaijani population, the ADR Council of Ministers set up an Extraordinary Investigation Commission on July 15, 1918.
According to material of the Extraordinary Investigation Commission, the Armenian gangs annihilated nearly 8,000 civilians in Shamakhi. 28 villages in Javanshir governorate and 17 villages in Jabrayil governorate were completely destroyed and their population wiped out.
The gangs ambushed and shot down a 3,000-strong caravan of Azerbaijani civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly, to the last person near Gyumru. In Nakhchivan governorate, several villages were burned down, in Zangazur uyezd, 115 Azerbaijani villages were destroyed, 3,257 men, 2,276 women and 2,196 children were killed.
In Zangazur uyezd, 10,068 Azerbaijanis were murdered or made disabled, while 50,000 people became refugees. In Iravan governorate, 135,000 Azerbaijanis in 199 villages were killed and the villages were razed to the ground. In 1918-1920, the Armenian armed units destroyed 150 villages in the mountainous part of Karabakh, annihilating local population.
In 1919 and 1920, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic commemorated March 31 as the nationwide mourning day. In fact, that was a first attempt to politically recognize genocide against the Azerbaijanis and more than a century-long occupation of Azerbaijani lands.
It was national leader Heydar Aliyev who initiated a comprehensive investigation into the March 31 genocide and launched a campaign to raise the world community`s awareness of the tragedy. On March 26, 1998, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev signed a historically-important Decree “On the genocide of Azerbaijanis” to proclaim March 31 as the Day of Genocide of Azerbaijanis. This gave a strong push to efforts to study the history of genocide, and a large number of works have been written and translated into foreign languages. Numerous new evidence and documents have recently been discovered to prove the genocide. One of the bloodiest episodes of this genocide took place in Guba uyezd when 167 villages were completely destroyed in April-May, 1918. Guba genocide mass grave was discovered during excavation works on April 1, 2007. In 2009, the Cabinet of Ministers issued an Order to approve the “Plan of measures to immortalize victims of massacre in Guba district”, which included the erection of a memorial in the site of the mass grave. The Guba Genocide Memorial Complex was unveiled on September 18, 2013. It was later discovered that apart from Azerbaijanis, representatives of other ethnicities living in Guba were massacred and buried in the mass grave, including Lezgis, Jews, and Tats.
On January 18, 2018, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan signed a Decree “On the 100th anniversary of the 1918 genocide of Azerbaijanis”.
20 January – National Mourning Day
On the night of January 19-20, under direct instructions from Mikhail Gorbachev, the then General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, military units from the USSR Ministry of Defense, State Security Committee and Ministry of Internal Affairs entered Baku and nearby districts, massacring the civilian population using heavy military equipment and other various forms of weaponry. The Soviet army deployed a large contingent of special and internal troops in Baku who displayed unprecedented cruelty against civilians who took to the streets to defend their right cause. The army opened fire on hospitals, ambulances, doctors, and peaceful population.
Tens of civilians were killed in Baku that day. Eight others were murdered in areas where a curfew had not been imposed, on January 25 in Neftchala and on January 26 in Lankaran.
As the result of the January tragedy, 131 civilians were killed and 744 more were wounded in Baku and nearby districts. Among those killed were representatives of five nations, and more than 20 women and children.
In times of hardship and grief, national leader Heydar Aliyev was first to express solidarity with his people. Despite being under Moscow`s special surveillance, the national leader risked his own and his family`s lives to visit Azerbaijan`s permanent representative office in Moscow immediately after the tragedy where he gave a press conference. He sharply condemned the Soviet leadership, namely Gorbachev, for committing the bloody tragedy, and demanded immediate withdrawal of the forces from Baku.
January 20 tragedy is one of the bloody acts of terror committed by the totalitarianism in the 20th century. It was a horrific crime against mankind. The deadly military assault on civilian population grossly violated numerous articles of the Geneva Convention of 1949, Charter of the International Military Tribunal, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international human rights acts. All this was confirmed by investigations into the January 20 events.
The issue gained momentum when national leader Heydar Aliyev returned to power by popular demand and took serious measures to ensure recognition of the January 20 tragedy. The national leader signed an Order to proclaim January 20 as the nationwide mourning day. The first political and legal recognition of the January 20 tragedy came when Azerbaijan’s legislative body, Milli Majlis, adopted a relevant resolution on national leader Heydar Aliyev`s initiative. The resolution “On tragic events of January 20, 1990 in Baku” was adopted on March 29, 1994.
In order to immortalize those who died for Azerbaijan`s independence and sovereignty, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev signed a Decree on March 31, 1998, to institute an honorary title of “January 20 martyr” for those who were killed in the Bloody January events.
Under the January 17, 2000 Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 147 citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan, who gave their lives for freedom, sovereignty and state independence of the country during the 1990 events in the city of Baku and Lankaran and Neftchala districts or died later from injuries received during those events (wounds, trauma, contusion), were given an honorary title of “January 20 martyr”.
A memorial to the victims of the tragedy was built in the “January 20” ring in Yasamal district, Baku, featuring an 8m-high statue.
The names and surnames of all 147 victims of the January 20 tragedy are engraved on the memorial with gilded letters.
The January 20 tragedy marked a turning point in Azerbaijan`s restoring its independence. It was the January tragedy that turned a national liberation movement into the driving force behind the establishment of the independent state of Azerbaijan.
TRAGEDY OF THE 20TH CENTURY – KHOJALY GENOCIDE
Targeting the people of Azerbaijan, the Khojaly genocide was an unprecedented act of atrocity
against humanity for its unimaginable cruelty and inhumane punishment methods.
This genocide was a historic crime against the entire humanity.
For its inhumane nature, gravity, cruelty and barbarity, the Khojaly genocide is the gravest crime committed against peaceful Azerbaijani people in the course of Armenia’s aggressive war against Azerbaijan. In the early 1988, the Armenians began an aggressive campaign against Azerbaijan with the aim of implementing their historical plans of capturing Nagorno-Karabakh and annexing it to Armenia.
In the late 1991-early 1992, Armenia`s military operations and attacks on Azerbaijan were gathering momentum. Located in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the town of Khojaly, which occupied an area of 940 square kilometers and was then populated by 7,000 people, predominantly Azerbaijanis, became one of the main targets of the operations.
The Armenian forces laid a complete siege to Khojaly district in October, 1991. On October 30, communication with the district was cut. In January, 1992, power supply to the city was switched off. By capturing Khojaly, Armenia wanted to gain strategic advantage that could help occupy other cities and towns in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
On the night of February 25-26, 1992, helped by the 366th motor rifle regiment, the Armenian armed forces attacked the town of Khojaly to commit one of the gravest crimes against humanity. The Armenian armed units used heavy military equipment to kill civilians, who had been besieged for months, with unprecedented brutality, including the elderly, women and infants. The Khojaly genocide saw the killing of 613 civilians, including 106 women and 70 elders. Eight families were completely annihilated, and 1,275 people were taken hostage.
The fate of many of those who were taken hostage still remains unknown. 25 children lost both, 130 children lost one of their parents. Those who tried to flee or got injuries were massacred by the Armenian troops with a particular brutality. They were skinned, their heads and other body parts were cut up, children had their eyes gouged out, pregnant women were bayoneted, others were burned or buried alive. These facts confirm that what happened in Khojaly was a crime of genocide against innocent people in violation of war ethics.
The Khojaly genocide was organized by the political and state leadership of the Republic of Armenia and was carried out by the Armenian armed forces, Armenian terrorist groups in Nagorno-Karabakh and the infantry units of the 366th motor rifle regiment of the former USSR army deployed in Khankandi.
But this genocide was preceded by massacres by the Armenians of the Azerbaijani civilians in other towns and villages. A few days before the Khojaly genocide, on February 17-18, 1992, the Armenians slaughtered 77 civilians and took other 84 people hostage in the village of Garadaghli in Khojavand district. Other brutal crimes against the Azerbaijani population were committed in the villages of Chamanli, Malibayli, Karkijahan and Meshali.
The parliament of Azerbaijan has issued several resolutions on the Khojaly genocide. The tragedy received its full legal and political recognition when the Milli Majlis adopted a resolution on national leader Heydar Aliyev`s initiative on February 24, 1994. That resolution proclaimed February 26 as the Day of Khojaly genocide to commemorate the Armenian atrocities and pay tribute to one of the tragedies and crimes against humanity faced by the Azerbaijani people.
Ensuring international recognition of the Khojaly genocide is today one of the key priorities of the foreign policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Efforts taken under “Justice for Khojaly” campaign organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation play a crucial role in increasing the world community`s awareness of the tragedy, resulting in a number of states recognizing the act of genocide. The parliaments of 13 countries have officially recognized the Khojaly genocide, including Mexico in 2011, Pakistan and Colombia in 2012, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Peru, Panama and Jordan in 2013, Sudan and Honduras in 2014, Guatemala in 2015, Djibouti and Paraguay in 2017. In addition, 22 U.S. states as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation adopted resolutions and other documents, recognizing the Khojaly genocide.