Khojaly denialism continues, despite hard proof and survivor testimony

Rachel Brooks

February 24, 2021

Image credit: “File:Khojaly massacre campaign 2012 Budapest.JPG” by Konullu is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 This Azerbaijani demonstration regarding the Khojaly massacre took place in Budapest in 2012, the same year that France criminalized denialism of the Ottoman party’s pogroms against Armenians in 1915. An unequal representation of human rights violations between Armenia and Azerbaijan continues to be a major controversy of Caucasus human rights and geopolitical issues in 2021. 

The 29th anniversary of the Khojaly massacre approaches swiftly. On February 26, 1993, 613 Azerbaijani citizens were murdered in an inhumane act of ethnic cleansing first in the occupied village of Khojaly, Azerbaijan, and then on the road to Aghdam. In the years to follow the Armenian occupation of Aghdam, the city was destroyed, with everything from historical palaces to family cemeteries uprooted, removing the memory of Azerbaijani society in the area. The cities of the surrounding area have since returned to Azerbaijani state control. Rather than acknowledge the brutality of the war that led to so much human suffering between neighbors, the Armenian political lobby of the western world continues to spread disinformation that Khojaly did not occur. 

On February 19, 2021, the California Armenian Legislative Caucasus wrote a letter that was distributed to the California state legislature regarding Khojaly. The letter repeats a political narrative that was common in the Armenian republic during the days of the First Karabakh conflict that is non-factual. 

See Republic Underground News’ event regarding the Khojaly massacre, with experts and survivors as special guests. 

“The California Armenian Legislative Caucus strongly urges you to stand with California Armenian Americans. Your office may have received a propaganda request regarding a fabricated Azerbaijani Khojaly Massacre. We urge you to stand with us and not spread misinformation,” the California Armenian Legislative Caucasus wrote. 

“The request is a falsification of the history and truth. In 1992, the Azeri’s shelled Armenian civilian targets using rockets in the Republic of Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh). As a result of Azeri attacks, Armenians suffered civilian casualties as well as hundreds of Armenians being kidnapped. With the help of Turkey, Azerbaijan blockaded all delivery of goods into Armenia: food, fuel, and medical supplies. Armenian forces had to neutralize Azeri fire in Khojaly and terminate the blockade. The Azeri’s goal of attacking and killing the Armenian people was very clearly deliberate.” 

The letter likewise received press coverage appearing in Asbarez news. 

Survivors of the Khojaly massacre have responded in disdain to this statement. Survivor Durdane Agayeva wrote a commentary piece in the Jewish Journal on February 23 expressing her horror at the statement the Armenian legislative body had made. Agayeva stated that it was difficult for her to describe the feelings that she experienced when she read this letter. She is a survivor of the Khojaly massacre, having been only 20-years-old at the time. 

Upon finishing high school, she had started her first job as a telephone operator. Agayeva states that on the night of February 25 and early morning February 26, 1992, the town of Khojaly was invaded by Armenian troops, prompting her family to flee. Agayeva was captured, and because she worked for Khojaly’s telephone company, she stated that the Armenian forces assumed she had classified information. Agayeva was held in the Armenian torture camp along with many others who had attempted to flee the scene. She describes being subjected to violations and torture, sustaining multiple spinal injuries from the beatings she received. She survived because she was traded on the side of the road in exchange for cigarettes and gasoline. Agayeva expressed immense pain at the fact that California, a state known for spreading the message of diversity and inclusion, would fail to acknowledge the events of the Khojaly massacre alongside famous events such as the Jewish Holocaust and the Rwanda Genocide. 

“If I had not made it thru & been traded by my #Armenian captors on the side of the road for cigarettes and gasoline, I would not even be able to write this letter today, to make sure the voices of 613 civilians of #Khojaly, murdered that night, are heard,” Agayeva tweeted, sharing her story in the Jewish Journal, in the afternoon of February 23. 

The western world continues to tolerate the denialism of the Khojaly massacre. However, in France, information regarding the Ottoman Turkish pogroms against Armenia in 1915 has been protected by law, with denialism of these events becoming a criminal offense in 2012, see the BBC’s Armenia timeline. This marked incoherence in the U.S. and European approach to relations between Armenians and Azerbaijanis continues to be a major issue of human rights, and Caucasus geopolitics.