Regardless of the overwhelming number of bigoted Westerners who report on
"Turkish" matters, including matters regarding other Turkic peoples
(or as Christian Scholar Samuel Weems put it — see first link that follows: "Truth would become distorted and truth would not be
considered in 'Christian' nations when making political decisions relating to
Azerbaijan"), there will
always be one or two exceptions who put their prejudices aside, and report
fairly and squarely. In the case of Azerbaijan, overrun by Armenian forces,
with the assistance and equipment of Big Brother Russia, we can rely on a
biased perspective, as with the Minsk
Conference, and the hysterics of "good Christians," such as
Baroness Cox. But then there is
Thomas Goltz, who knows injustice when he sees it, and believes in integrity.
(Note how he stresses that he is not, in effect, an agent of the Azeri
government, no doubt victimized by Armenin propagandists.)
Note as well that it took Goltz eight months to get the story of eight Azeri
POWs who were executed by their Armenian captors, in violation of the Geneva
Convention, published in the Washington Post. Armenian propaganda is
simply too powerful, and the West is too prejudiced..
While investigating the tragic fate of Karabakh's invasion and occupation, and
needing to respond to the usual Armenian propaganda, it's important to know
what the real facts are. Naturally, there is propaganda from the Azeri side
too. For example, how many were massacred in Khojali? (The
"reliable" numbers range from 600 to 1,000, and the truth likely
lies smack-dab in between.) How much land did the Armenians occupy? (From my
previous investigations, I have settled on 16%, from what I took to be a very
reliable source. Goltz sets the record at 15%, and he could be correct.) And
how many were refugees? The Turkish and Azeri side usually says "one
million," but my previous investigation (and Goltz confirms this) hovers
at around 800,000. (There were a couple of hundred thousand Armenian refugees
as well, from Azerbaijan.)
Then there are the Armenian tales, some sounding pretty convincing on the
surface, and Goltz has addressed a few of them here. One that wasn't
convincing, and actually horribly shameful, was the Armenians' claim of the
mutilated Khojali victims as having been mutilated by the Azeris themselves,
in order to derive sympathy from the Western press. Naturally, those of us who
know the history of Armenian mass murder are familiar with the fact that not
only did the Armenians murder, but too often they gleefully murdered in the
most sadistic of ways. (The more modern example of Armenian mutilation might
have had more to do with frightening the rest of the Azeri folk away, rather
than the racial hatred that accompanied the mutilation-murders of hundreds of
thousands of Ottoman Muslims and Jews, circa the WWI years. In the case of the
Azeris, this campaign worked. (Assuming it was a campaign, and not a case of
Armenian soldiers going berserk, as Goltz will put forward below, signifying
the most rational Armenian explanation.) Just as Armenia herself has been
ethnically cleansed of "undesirables," particularly during 1918-20
(the CIA Fact Book tells us today's Armenia is some 98% racial-pure), the
Armenians succeeded in driving away the non-Armenians, in these lands the
Armenians have criminally appropriated.
Another article by Mr. Goltz follows.
|Khojali: A Decade of Useless War Remembered
Azerbaijan International (Magazine) Spring 2002 (10.1)
Khojali: A Decade of Useless War Remembered
by Thomas Goltz
"If the recent history of the Middle East is any indicator, the sweet cream of
victory will eventually sour. And the victors of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, alienated from
their neighbors, with whom they are condemned to live, may turn out to be the real victims
The following is an edited transcript of the 10th Year Khojali Massacre Commemoration
presentation delivered by writer Thomas Goltz at the London School of Economics on
February 26, 2002. This event was organized by the [Azerbaijani] Vatan Society of the
United Kingdom. Mr. Goltz delivered a shorter version of these remarks on February 21 at a
similar commemoration organized by the Azerbaijan Society of America (ASA) at the Cannon
House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
I have been asked, and thus honored, by friends both inside and outside the government of
Azerbaijan to help mark the 10th year commemoration of the Massacre at Khojali on February
26th, 1992. I feel humbled to have been asked to do so.
Thomas Goltz also authored
I want to preempt any speculation or misunderstanding and from the
beginning state that I have not been paid to make this speech. I wish to stress this
because I have seen too many references on the Internet and elsewhere about my being some
sort of paid lackey of the government of Azerbaijan and/or Big Oil. Thus let us be clear:
I am NOT now a lobbyist for Azerbaijan or any oil interests, never have been, nor have I
ever received a dime from either the government of Azerbaijan or any oil or other company
for any appearances or public presentations on any issue relating to Azerbaijan.
And yet, there is no question that I feel very strongly about Azerbaijan. Perhaps one of
the most important reasons for this is my experience of the events surrounding the Khojali
Massacre of 10 years ago.
Today, few people outside Azerbaijan and, arguably, Armenia, are really interested in
Why should they be? In a decade that subsequently saw the vast ethnic cleansings of
Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, East Timor and Chechnya, as well as the slaughterhouse of Rwanda
— to name just a few of the killing zones of the pre-September 11  — World Trade
Center bombing "Age of Innocence" — the 800 odd victims of Khojali are
"but a drop in the bloody bucket" of ethnic/national and religious insanity that
is the birthmark of the so-called post-Communist world.
(Caption from original web page; "Above: The
cross-hatched area of the map shows the Azerbaijani territory currently being occupied by
Armenia; note that seven of the regions occupied are not even in Karabakh.")
Even within the context of Azerbaijan, the numbers killed and displaced as refugees from
Khojali are but a fraction of those eventually killed or displaced in the course of the
war over Mountainous [Nagorno] Karabakh. Depending on which, or on whose, abacus you
choose to tally, the total number killed is around 30,000. Those displaced because of the
war are approximately 1 million, before the cease-fire was established in 1994, which left
Armenia occupying some 15 percent of Azerbaijan's territory.
Everybody, or at least the victim, always tries to push them higher.
I say this because the official percentage of Azerbaijani territory under Armenia
occupation is 20 percent. This number sounds good because it can be expressed as
"one-fifth," even though it is a provably inaccurate and politicized number.
The Armenians occupy 15 percent, not 20.
I tell my friends in the government of Azerbaijan that it would behoove them not to get in
the habit of exaggeration.
On the other hand, Armenian apologists suggest that because "independent"
Karabakh cannot "occupy" itself, the real number of square kilometers under
Armenian occupation is less than 10 percent of territorial Azerbaijan.
Ten percent, as opposed to 20.
Let me say right now that this is a ridiculous argument, and one along the lines of a girl
admitting to her parents that she is "a little bit pregnant".
Either you are or you are not-pregnant, that is.
And either you are occupying Azerbaijani lands, or you are not. It doesn't make any
difference if it's five percent or 50 percent.
And, as for the familiar dodge that it is not Armenia, but an "out-of-control"
Karabakh that occupies the Azerbaijani lands, well, one need only look as far as the
citizenship of the current President of Armenia to dismiss this argument [Robert Kocharian
is from Karabakh, which is officially Azerbaijani territory]. Unless, of course, you want
to make the argument that Karabakh not only occupies a good chunk of Azerbaijan, but all
of Armenia itself!
That was supposed to be a joke
But back to Khojali and February 26th, 1992.
There has never been a proper reconstruction of what actually happened that night. One
might ask if any reconstruction is really possible, given the lack or absence of an
Armenian equivalent of Russian human rights crusader Sergei Kovalyov or an organization
like Memorial, which has courageously addressed the issue of atrocities for a similar
massacre in the Chechen town of Samashki in 1995.
We do not have time to go into this in depth now, but suffice it to say that this book,
entitled "By All Available Means", is an effort to get at the facts about
the Samashki Massacre and publish them not only for Russian consumption, but for the
world's. It is precisely the sort of insider investigation needed to get to the bottom of
the Khojali Massacre, and precisely the sort of undertaking that is lacking because the
Armenian side does not dare do so.
Does not dare do so.
Still, there are problems with reconstructing violent histories. While I have the greatest
respect for Memorial and its efforts to meticulously research and publish its findings,
its publication on Samashki is not perfect. There are errors of time and person and place.
Without elaborating, suffice it to say that while Memorial accepts that the Russian
command used the presence of outlander Chechen fighters from Shamil Basayev's Abkhazia
Battalion attacking an armored train and sabotaging repair of tracks as the excuse to
encircle and then attack the town, in fact all those fighters were local. I know because I
was with them taking pictures. Memorial was not.
They were not nameless Mujaheeds—they were Hussein and Ussam and Seylah and Sultan and
I hope you get my point: even the most meticulous reconstruction of a violent event runs
into problems if you were not there.
And even then, it often becomes problematic. The problems with properly reconstructing
events in Khojali are far more complex than those of Samashki in Chechnya.
For starters, there was the initial denial on both the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides that
anything untoward had happened at all.
I refer, of course, to the infamous statements of the government in Baku of Ayaz
Mutallibov, that everything was "normalno", (Russian for normal) in Karabakh
during the period in question, as well as the standard Armenian denials of any and all
involvement in the killing—a denial followed by the outrageous suggestion that the
massacre was perpetrated by the Azerbaijanis themselves.
Yes! In some circles, the accepted "truth" about Khojali is exactly that.
Although the differences in the order of magnitude are huge, this persistent
"self-slaughtering" argument is akin to such grand conspiracy theories as
the all-too-popular belief circulating throughout much of the Muslim world that the
attacks on the World Trade Center [September 11, 2001] and Pentagon were perpetrated
by the Americans themselves in order to create a reason to take up arms against an
innocent Osama bin Laden.
If you want to drift into large conspiracy theories that defy logic, you're welcome!
But I prefer to stay based in reality.
So, what really happened that night of February 25/26th, 1992, and why? My own
findings at the time, coupled with subsequent discussion and research — I would
like to note, with leading Armenian academics and others who had contacts on the
Armenian side (but with whom I have not had direct contact for reasons of personal
safety)—suggest the following. Perhaps motivated by the anniversary of the
so-called "Sumgayit pogroms", and certainly in keeping with the pattern of
flushing all traces of Azerbaijaniness from Karabakh, Armenian fedayeen units
succeeded in surrounding Khojali and issued an ultimatum that included a provision
of "safe passage" for the population through a corridor.
But this is where things get murky or fall into bitter dispute. Was there an
all-out, armored attack on the town, spearheaded by the 366th Russian motorized
infantry brigade, allegedly in Karabakh to secure the peace? Survivors and
eyewitnesses ranging from distraught civilians to several Turkmen conscripts that I
interviewed in Aghdam after they deserted the 366th insist it was so. The most
rational Armenian version of events, recorded by folks I trust and that does not
necessarily contradict the blitz story, suggests that either prior to the
evacuation, or during the course of it, shots were fired that resulted in the death
of certain Armenian commanders. Their units, without a great deal of discipline in
the best of times, went berserk — and the slaughter began.
The one version that can be dismissed out of hand is the so-called
"self-slaughter" of Azerbaijani citizens by Azerbaijani militia forces,
allegedly lurking in ambush in no-man's land in order to discredit the government in
Baku and cause a revolution to unseat the Mutallibov regime. This version, so often
repeated by the Armenian side to exculpate itself and throw the onus of killing
hundreds of civilians by "friendly fire", is always sourced back to Ayaz
Mutallibov after he was ousted from power in the Spring of 1992. But now even
Mutallibov himself has repudiated this version of events. In a BBC interview last
night [February 25, 2002], the last Communist Party boss of Soviet Azerbaijan
specifically blamed the Khojali massacre on Moscow's inability to keep the peace,
weirdly absolving himself by asking the rhetorical question of whether George W.
Bush was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
I was allowed to publicly comment on Mutallibov's remarks, and so I guess he should
in fairness be allowed to publicly comment on mine about his — and I am ready to
respond should he chose to do so. Should he want to, my point is simply this: if
there is culpability on the Azerbaijani side for failing to protect Khojali, it
rests with Ayaz Mutallibov for believing too much in the power of the Center —
distant Moscow — to resolve the problem. And from his pre-recorded remarks, I
think we are in essential agreement.
It was his incompetence, and not some deep-dark conspiracy hatched by the Popular
Front or other forces, that resulted in that night of horror.
But back to Khojali.
Call it a plot, or call it denial of involvement — it ultimately makes no
difference. Khojali established the pattern for all future disinformation from the
Armenian side throughout the remainder of the Karabakh conflict.
In May, three months later, there would be the conquest of Shusha [the town most
closely identified with Karabakh because of its deep Azerbaijani cultural roots].
Once again the attack came, just as it had with Khojali, during a time when
high-level peace negotiations were being mediated by Iran. Azerbaijani forces were
said to be "attacking" Stepanakert [the administrative center of the
Nagorno-Karabakh district, which the Azerbaijanis historically refer to as Khankandi
— place of the Khan].
By then, Shusha was an "enclave" within an "enclave", to use all the
wrong and politically loaded expressions. And the idea of launching an "attack"
at that point in the conflict was, quite frankly, insane.
But the propaganda line stuck — and the Armenian defenders were able to defend
themselves very nicely — by conquering Shusha.
Next there was Lachin [a small Azerbaijani town between Karabakh and Armenia], attacked
under the guise of assisting local Kurds in "revolt". Strange that the Kurds in
question ended up fleeing to Baku, while the "local Kurds" encountered and
interviewed by international observers were sent to the region from Yerevan and all seemed
to be Yezidi Kurds, meaning that they had come from Armenia itself.
Using the Kurdish issue to confuse the international community was an excellent stratagem
and the brainchild of a senior member of Levon Ter-Petrossian's inner circle, who detailed
it for me after we had learned to trust each other for the sake of piecing together a
complete history. It was clever because it was built upon the familiar cliché that
Azerbaijanis are "Turks" and thus hate "Kurds" and vice versa, as is
believed to be the case in Turkey by many in the West.
I shall not enter that debate now, but only wish to note that whatever situation pertains
between Turks and Kurds in Turkey, it was not, and is not, the situation that pertains to
Kurds and all the other ethnic groups in either Soviet or post-Soviet Azerbaijan, where an
entirely different ethnic policy has existed for decades. I repeat. Whatever situation
exists in Turkey between Turks and Kurds, good or bad, is not what exists in Azerbaijan
between Kurds and all the other ethnic groups in the country.
On the most basic level, there are Kurdish newspapers and magazines and associations in
Azerbaijan — and have been for years, decades. The idea that Kurds in Azerbaijan would
join Armenians in a revolt against Baku is, quite frankly, nonsense—but a nonsense that
much of the world apparently was willing to believe when the idea was floated at the time
of the fall of Lachin, because the Armenian side was able to capitalize on world (or
Western) notions of the clichéd conflict of Turk versus Kurd and Kurd versus Turk.
"Well done," I want to say — but my heart won't let me compliment the
successful propagandists and destroyers of homes to that impersonal degree.
Similar to Lachin was Kalbajar, where the twin stratagem of announcing a spirited Armenian
"defense" of an alleged Azerbaijani "attack" was coupled with the
theme of "Kurds in revolt" with splendid results.
A confused international community blinked, Armenian forces gained a few extra days and a
new flood of Azerbaijani civilians — many of them Azerbaijani Kurds, if you want to
identify them as such — were flushed from their homes in an act of gratuitous ethnic
cleansing and territorial aggrandizement on the Armenian side.
The Armenian side?
Oh, no, excuse me!
Merely the feisty Karabakh self-defense forces, acting out of the control of Yerevan!
And that pattern continued because it was so successful: Gubadli, Fuzuli, Jabrayil,
Zangilan and then, what seems the most absurd, Aghdam.
I remember it all too well.
In the internal chaos and confusion of that long, nasty summer of 1993, with Surat
Husseinov marching on Baku from Ganja, and thus cutting off Aghdam from all support from
Baku, the Armenian side once again announced "a major Azerbaijani offensive"
coming from besieged Aghdam, and they succeeded in "defending" themselves
accordingly, meaning, of course, the conquest and total destruction of Aghdam and the
ethnic cleansing of another large chunk of Azerbaijan.
It was clever. It was effective. From a military standpoint, I guess, I have nothing but
praise for the Armenian side for having pulled it off.
If my sarcasm did not read, then let me elaborate on another case of victory and denial,
namely, the tragic case of the so-called "Azeri Eight".
It was a story that took me eight months to get published in the Washington Post
because no one wanted to know about it. No one wanted to believe a familiar pattern about
all aspects of the war in Karabakh, thanks to the effective Armenian propaganda.
Eight months. Thirty days for every victim. Eight.
The eight that I'm referring to were Azerbaijani commandos taken prisoner during the last
phases of the Karabakh conflict in 1993-1994. They were captured in Kalbajar — poor
souls — and then transferred to a Yerevan prison. One might well ask why Yerevan, if
Armenia was allegedly not involved in this war. But no matter. In Yerevan, they became
wards of the International Red Cross, with all the rights of visitations, food packages,
letters from home and such that are associated with official POW status [Prisoners of War]
afforded by the Geneva Conventions.
Things went along all right for a month or two, but then the Red Cross became lax about
the Eight and skipped their regular visitation date. When they attempted to see the
Azerbaijani soldiers a month later, there was a problem. The prisoners were not
accessible. The Red Cross became worried and began pursuing the issue. The Armenians
finally admitted that all the eight prisoners had died.
But how did it happen? At first the Armenian side said the men had been killed when they
tried to escape — in other words, they were shot down on the run, as it were. But the
forensic evidence did not jive with such a theory. The bodies were examined by a doctor
from Physicians For Human Rights, a group normally and ironically associated with the
Baroness Cox herself, who is well known for her Armenian sympathies.
The doctor, Derrick Ponder, determined that in three instances, the muzzle of the gun had
been resting on the skull when the trigger was pulled. In three other instances, the
muzzle blast was so close that the effect was virtually the same — in other words, a
point blank execution. The remaining two of the Azeri Eight met a slightly different fate,
forensically speaking: one was killed by a rifle blast to the chest at point blank range,
and the remaining prisoner had his throat slashed — allegedly by himself.
Dr. Ponder brought the bodies to Baku as part of a humanitarian exchange. Word at the time
was that the Armenians had gutted the bodies and sold the livers and hearts for
transplantation purposes — a story widely believed in Baku. Dr. Ponder contradicted this
theory, stating flatly and scientifically that organs removed from dead bodies were
The more important story seemed lost on the sensation-driven journalists present in the
room at the time. The Azeri Eight, said Doctor Ponder, had been executed in "the
clearest breach of the Geneva Conventions I have ever seen."
Then, after eight months, I got my story about the Azeri Eight published in the Washington
Post. Eight Months.
And then the Armenians changed their story: instead of the Azeri Eight being killed
during an attempt to escape, now they had killed themselves. Suicide. The forensic
expert from Physicians For Human Rights insisted that this, while theoretically
possible, was highly improbable given the evidence at hand. The men had been
executed in prison, in one of the most obvious violations of the Geneva Conventions
perpetrated by the Armenian side. But still the Armenian side got away with it —
because they had managed to coax a[n] "improbable" from Dr. Ponder instead
of an "impossible". And the world thus remained silent.
Who among you remembers the Azeri Eight today as examples of violations of the
Geneva Conventions about executing — EXECUTING — POWS in Geneva's care? Who,
Another victory for appropriate public relations by Armenia, you might say — your
ignorance, that is.
But what are the ultimate gains for Armenians? A sense of revenge fulfilled?
Did they gain a new self-image of the conquering Armenian, as opposed to the
If the recent history of the Middle East is any indicator, the sweet cream of
victory will eventually sour. And the victors of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, alienated
from their neighbors, with whom they are condemned to live, may turn out to be the
real victims themselves.
So what is to be done? There has been a cease-fire since May 1994. There have been
the interminable discussions of the Minsk Group [the 12 Member Committee of the
Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)]. There have been repeated
private meetings between Presidents Heydar Aliyev and Robert Kocharian.
I am not privy to all the details but think it is safe to say that the peace
negotiations always stumble over the question of the final status of Karabakh, as
well as the status of the occupied territories outside the formal borders of the
Autonomous District of Mountainous [Nagorno] Karabakh in Soviet times.
Thus my painful question for my Azerbaijani friends. Is there no price to be paid
for incompetence in that horrible thing called war? No price for choosing or
tolerating the wrong leadership or allies? And if there is no price to be paid, and
the situation is supposed to revert to some ideal status-quo-ante and a sort of
universal "right of return", what is that status-quo-ante, the ideal
Is it 1993, before the capture of the eastern provinces [outside of Nagorno Karabakh]
and Kalbajar? Is Year Zero the year of 1992, before the capture of Shusha and Lachin?
Or is it 1991, before Khojali?
How about 1990, before Chaykent and Operation Ring and the, shall we call it,
"ethnic adjustments" of Jeranboy/Shaumiyan?
Or before January 1990, meaning that the Armenians living in Baku would get to
return to their homes?
What about 1988, before Sumgayit and the expulsion of the Azerbaijanis from Zangazur?
Why not make Year Zero that era before the massacres of 1918, 1915 or maybe even
Why not 1828 and the Treaty of Turkmanchai [which divided Azerbaijan between Russia
and Iran into Northern and Southern regions], when Yerevan was still an Azerbaijani
or at least a Muslim settlement?
Do you get my point?
When and where is Year Zero?
Which date must the two sides return to in order to resolve this problem?
I have no answer to this thorny question, but I know it must be asked. And having
asked it, I now would like to return to Khojali, leaving the larger, rhetorical and
historical questions aside, and to focus for a moment on the victims of that ghastly
night of February 25-26th, 1992.
The following is a selection of the chapter in my book on the early days of
post-Soviet Azerbaijan, and entitled, simply, "Khojali".
After that I will be ready to answer your questions.
The following is another valuable article by Thomas Goltz; he has a few others in Azer.com,
such as "Khojali: Eyewitness Account From the Following Day (1992)," "Khojali:
13 Years Later: Remember, But Be Sure to Preserve Your Souls," and "Khojali:
How to Spell 'X-O-J-A-L-I'?"
Facts About Khojali
Spring 2005 (13.1)
Facts About Khojali
by Thomas Goltz
The year 1988 is generally accepted as the beginning of the conflict between Armenia
and Azerbaijan over Karabakh. The fighting eventually petered out to a bitter
"no war"/"no peace" ceasefire in May 1994. Virtually everything
since then has been disputed between the two sides — the numbers of those killed
or wounded, the number of those forced to flee their homes (and the reasons why),
and even the amount of Azerbaijani territory currently under Armenian occupation.
A recent report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) urged
Armenia to cease its occupation. Armenia responded by denying that it was occupying
any Azerbaijani land at all, insisting that local Karabakh Defense Forces were
responsible and that Yerevan had no control over them.
Khojali (which has numerous spellings including Khojaly, Xocali, Hojali, Hodjali,
etc.) had an official population of about 10,000 in 1992. It was the first major
Azerbaijani settlement overrun by Armenian forces in Mountainous Karabakh (Nagorno
Karabakh) on February 25-26, 1992. Then followed the towns of Shusha and Lachin,
which are outside the administrative borders of the Mountainous Karabakh Autonomous
District (often referred to as "NK" in the literature), and then other
"valley" Karabakh "rayons", or districts in Azerbaijan proper:
Zangilan, Gubadli, Fuzuli, Aghdam and Kalbajar. Altogether, these territories
represent some 15 percent of the territory of Azerbaijan.
The official percentage number cited by the authorities in Baku is 20 percent, which
is a number that was rounded higher for political reasons and, thus, is disputed by
Armenians, who claim that they are "only" occupying some 9 percent of
Azerbaijani territory because they exclude "NK" from the total.
Those "valley" Karabakh territories were effectively "ethnically
cleansed" of some 800,000 Azerbaijani residents during the course of the war.
Recent satellite photography of many towns and settlements in the occupied
territories reveal substantial building of new structures in and among the burnt
shells of the ruins of war. Such activities are in direct violation of the Geneva
Conventions which define what an occupying force may do. The suggestion is that the
Armenian authorities are moving in settlers to create a "fait accompli"
human rights issue if, and when, an international settlement is ever imposed.
For further reading, see "Azerbaijan Diary" (M.E. Sharpe 1998/99) by
Thomas Goltz, or the more recent and Karabakh — specific "Black Garden"
by Tom de Waal, New York University Press, 2003.