BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
On this day 30 years ago, the Azerbaijani Popular Front forces began the systematic and brutal massacre of Armenians living in Baku that left thousands displaced and many more savagely murdered in their homes and businesses. Before resorting to mass murder, the group chanted “Glory to the heroes of Sumgait!”and “Long live Baku without Armenians!”
Of course, it was not the first time that the Azerbaijani leaders had resorted to such gruesome violence against Armenians. The pogrom of Armenians began in 1988 when similar tactics were used against the Armenian population of Sumgait, followed a year later by the massacre of Armenians in Kirovabad. By 1990, it was an afterthought for Azerbaijanis to murder Armenians in retaliation for Karabakh’s demands to self-determination and declaration of independence.
While the Baku pogroms were underway, Azerbaijani forces had already launched massive attacks against the Armenian population of Karabakh, relentlessly shelling civilian targets in Stepanakert and other areas from Shoushi. A full-blown war was raging in Karabakh when Azerbaijanis decided to rid Baku of its Armenian population.
The optics were starkly familiar to Armenians. The images emanating from Baku were reminiscent of those that we had all seen from the time of the Armenian Genocide.
However, 30 years on, while the Baku, Kirovabad, Sumgait pogroms, as well as the massacres in Shahumyan, Maragha and other areas of Artsakh are remembered, its perpetrators continue to function under the same xenophobic policies that gave rise to them.
It is unfathomable that these violent acts against Armenians are not part of the issues being discussed by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen, who are tasked to find a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict. Instead the entire Karabakh conflict settlement process is based on a set of principles—the so-called Madrid Principles—which not only ignore this savagery but call on Armenians of Artsakh to “withdraw” from their ancestral lands as a precondition for peace.
One might say that there are casualties during war. But, what about the casualties of ethnic cleansing where there was no actual war being fought? Were there battles raging between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku? The obvious answer is NO!
Furthermore, within the OSCE Minsk Group framework for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, there is no mention of retribution for these crimes, not is there any discussion of justice for the victims.
The Madrid Principles are not best basis on which a settlement can be achieved. Not only do they favor the Azerbaijani position, completely ignoring Armenians’ rights, they also ignore the crimes that Azerbaijan has committed in the name of its nation.
It is time that the systematic ethnic cleansing of Armenians by Azerbaijan becomes a talking point in the conflict settlement negotiations and the international forces that attempting to resolve the conflict hold Azerbaijan accountable for its savagery.
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