WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States -- Twenty-four years ago, on this day in 1992, the people of Azerbaijan witnessed what the Human Rights Watch later described as the "largest massacre to date in the conflict" between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces, backed by a former Soviet 366th Motor Rifle Regiment, attacked the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly slaughtering over 600 civilians, including many children, women and elderly. Hundreds more were wounded; some are still missing.
This massacre became a symbol of the pattern of ethnic cleansing of the Azerbaijani civilian population institutionalized by Armenian military. In the most shocking admission of culpability, Armenia's then-defense minister and now sitting president Serzh Sargsyan was quoted in the book "Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War" (by Thomas de Waal, NYU Press, 2003, page 85), as saying, "Before Khojaly, 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."
As Armenia continues to occupy the internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict still remains unresolved and, the current status-quo poses a serious threat for peace and stability in the South Caucasus. Khojaly is a tragic and urgent reminder of the need to find a peaceful international law-based solution for the conflict that has lasted over two decades.
This year, the Azerbaijani-American community throughout the United States along with millions of Azerbaijanis and friends of Azerbaijan around the world paid tribute to the memory of innocent civilians murdered in Khojaly and demanded justice for this crime against humanity. To support the "Justice for Khojaly" campaign, the Azerbaijani Center of the Midwest hosted a Khojaly commemoration event on Capitol Hill attended by members of Congress, U.S. Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Ambassador James Warlick as well as members Azerbaijani-Americans and members of the diplomatic corps.
Reflecting on the Khojaly massacre, the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus co-chair Steve Cohen said it was important that "we remember history, even painful moment such as this." Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Congressman Dana Rohrabacher indicated that "today we are commemorating one of the horrible and bloody experiences" of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Congressmen Henry Cuellar and Donald Payne joined their colleagues at the commemoration.
The event also featured a documentary produced with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
SOURCE Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States