CHAPTER 23 THE PROCLAMATION OF THE NAGORNO- KARABAGH REPUBLIC AS A GUARANTY FOR SELF-DEFENCE

There were no definite figures on the number of civilians who were shot while fleeing Khojali. The head of the special Azerbaijani parliamentary commission, conducting investigation of the Khojali events Namig Aliev Helsinki Watch in April that 213 Khojali victims were buried in Aghdam. Some of the bodies received at the makeshift hospital in Aghdam were identified as combatants. Aliev also reported that of those bodies submitted for forensic examination, thirty-three had been scalped, had body parts removed or otherwise mutiliated.18

The Azerbaijani TV showed the mutiliated bodies of the Khojali victims for several days. This was a new source of anti-Armenian propaganda and a means to counter the Sumgait and Baku events. The Armenian party constantly reported that in fact a a firing had taken place between themselves and the Azerbaijani combatants shielded with the fleeing civilians, but who could have mutiliated the bodies at night, they didn’t know. A new character of an Armenian villain appeared in the minds of the Azerbaijani people. This character terrified them greatly, confirming the existence of the “Armenian syndrome.”

On March 4 the village Ghazanchi of Martakert region was attacked in a ground assault by Azerbaijani forces from Aghdam, which apparantly had assistance from Russian soldiers. All the eighty houses appeared under fire.

In an interview with Helsinki Watch, H. Khachatrian, a bus-driver and part-time fighter in the self-defence, said that after the villages self-defence forces and population fled to nearby villages, the Russians looted and burned its homes, leaving only four houses unscathed. He told Helsinki Watch that when he returned to Ghazanchi in mid-April he saw lying in the street six corpses that had been “eaten by animals.”19

On April 10 Azerbaijani forces attacked Maragha in the Martakert District with an artillery and ground assault from Mir-Bashir. Most of Maragha’s inhabitants had left the village after they got word that their self-defence troops could not hold their posts, which were about 2 kilometres from the village. Civilians who remained in underground shelters, mainly elderly and disabled people, were murdered and captured as hostages. The Azerbaijani forces entered the village accompanied by civilians, who looted the houses. The next day, when the Armenians re-took the village, they found eighty bodies, some of whom were missing their eyes or decapitated. Fifty-four inhabitants of the village were captured as hostages. The Helsinki Watch noted that;

“Both Azerbaijani and Armenian forces actively shelled and engaged in sniper attacks on each other’s towns and villages. They shelling alone damaged or destroyed hospitals, homes and other objects that are not legitimate military targets under applicable humanitarian law rules. These attacks killed or left maimed hundreds of civilians and generally terrorized the civilian population. Although both sides are guilty of these practices, Azerbaijani forces engaged in them with extraordinary ferocity and cruelty.”20

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