BY MKHITAR MORADIAN
A concerned citizen
It is the battle for Mosul and ISIS using innocent men, women, and children as human shield to fend off the Iraqi army’s offensive. This reminds me of the actions of another criminal occupying force: the Azerbaijani government. During the liberation of Khojaly, the Azeris used the people who were brought there previously from Uzbekistan as human shield to hold on to their positions.
The year was 1992, and the Azeri occupiers were attacking Stepanakert [the capital of the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Republic] and its airport regularly, making it difficult for the food and medical supplies to arrive in the city. Their goal was to starve Stepanakert’s occupants so they would be forced to leave the city. The self-defense army of the Karabakh Republic made a decision to liberate Khojaly and stop the attacks. It took the Karabakh self-defense army just two days to liberate Khojaly, yet the losing Azeri side resorted to the most horrifying tactic of wartime, using the human shield. Despite the fact that the Karabakh self-defense army created a corridor for civilians to leave, the Azeri forces blocked their way by continuing to engage in intense battle.
Even the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ayaz Mutalibov confessed in 1992, “the Armenians left the corridor, with the help of which people could escape,” and “there were enough forces near Aghdam to help people” (“Nezavisimaya gazeta,” 2.4.1992). If the Azeri forces had not resorted to using the human shield to delay their defeat, then there would have been no civilian casualties.
Azeris claimed that during liberation of Khojaly, over one hundred civilians were killed, while the Karabakh Armenians reported much less casualties.
The most important issue here is the main cause of civilian casualties. The U.S. led coalition dropped bombs on ISIS forces during the battle for Mosul. Although the target of the bombing was the ISIS fighters’ position, there were reportedly more than 200 civilian casualties.
The same happened during Khojaly; desperate attempts by Azeri forces to holding on to their occupation were unsuccessful. Consequently, they made a conscious decision of sacrificing the town occupants to rationalize their defeat.
The Azerbaijani government, rather than investigating and punishing the army officials responsible for these atrocities, used its army’s horrifying act as a tool to score political gain. The Azerbaijani government’s sinister intents became apparent when they orchestrated the Sumgait and Baku pogroms where hundreds of ethnic Armenians were massacred in a peaceful city living a regular daily life. This hypocrisy of the Azerbaijani government is a typical characteristic of governments who live and survive by advocating and spreading terror.
The similarity between the ISIS terror group’s actions in Mosul and the Azerbaijani army’s in Khojaly is stunning. Using civilians as human shield and blaming the others is uncivil and sinister.
While the world strongly condemns the ISIS use of civilians as human shield, some countries−especially Azerbaijan’s allies−have failed short to acknowledge the truth about what happened in Khojaly. Therefore the task is simple: it is every Armenian’s duty to counter the Azeri lies in every possible way and to spread the truth behind why civilians were not evacuated from a war zone in Khojaly.
Of course, we also need to remember that as long as the Azeri government is ruling its people by spreading lies and fear, there will be no admission of guilt and punishment for the army and government officials responsible for the civilian deaths in Khojaly.
After all, the Azeris reminded us that they are very capable of continuing their war crimes against the Karabakh Armenians during last April’s 4 day war. Beheading and mutilating any dead body is beyond terror, it is barbaric.