KHOJALY: Was there a "hymanitarian corridor"?

«Escape route»

There exist a number of evidences and facts showing that the seizure of Khodjaly and massacre of its population was organized by Armenians not only to capture a strategic settlement but to intimidate Azerbaijanis. They intended to deter residents of towns and villages in Karabakh inhabited by Azeri people and believed it would facilitate the ethnic cleansing in the region. For instance, they undertook the similar tactics though small-scaled while seizing Karadaghly settlement. Serge Sarkisian described it in the following way: “We decided to cut the frontline short” (>>>). It should be noted that they were a success at this task to a certain extent. After the capture of Khodjaly, some residents of settlements with Azerbaijanis living there were scared they could experience the same.

According to the Armenian plot, the act of intimidation would give them a psychological advantage in the war against Azerbaijan, as the fear spread among the Azerbaijani population of Karabakh would make them flee their homes. That was a military operation with a strategic and psychological target.

What suits a war, however, is not acceptable for a peaceful time. When persons involved in the crime were promoted to top-ranking positions in Armenia (Robert Kocharyan, Seyran Ohanyan, and others), they tried to provide their own version on the Khodjaly massacre in order not to spoil their reputation in the civilized society. The higher one’s position, the more important is his personality and his past. New Armenian leaders from Karabakh didn’t wish anyone to rummage in their dirty linen and be blamed with the genocide and reprisal of the innocent inhabitants. The favourite method that Armenians have used for many years was to shift the blame onto the victims.

In this regard the Armenian side brings forward one of the main arguments that their armed units allegedly provided the residents of Khodjaly with an “escape route” (referred to as a “humanitarian corridor” in some sources) to leave the town.

In this chapter a question of the existence of the so called “humanitarian corridor” will be considered.

Asked about the taking of Khodjaly, Serge Sarkisian, the current president of Armenia, said carefully: “We don’t speak loudly of these things.” Sarkisian’s summation of what had happened, however, was more honest and more brutal: “But I think the main point is something different. Before Khojali, the 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.”

Sarkisian’s account throws a different light on the worst massacre of the Karabakh war, suggesting that the killings may, at least in part, have been a deliberate act of mass killing as intimidation.

It’s natural that saying all this, Sarkisian couldn’t foresee becoming a minister in the Armenian government, a Premier, and the President, afterwards. But for the people from the Karabakh clan involved in the Khodjaly tragedy and now ruling the state, the Armenian side wouldn’t have had a necessity to tell stories of Khodjaly and waste money to popularize them.

It should be noted that Armenians started to talk of the “humanitarian corridor” straight after the international community heard of the events at Khodjaly. Not a single reliable journalist, however, and a credible international organization were convinced in that. Moreover, this information was never proved in the course of investigation.
But since the end of the 1990s, the ones involved in the Khodjaly occupation have actively popularized this version in mass media, fearing to be claimed to have organized genocide, and infanticide, in particular.

According to the assurances from the Armenian side, an escape route for Khodjaly residents provided on the eastern edge of the town, passed along the river, went to the north-east in the direction of Agdam, leaving Askeran on the left. The corridor was 100-200 meters, at some places even 300 meters wide.

The population of Khodjaly was informed of the “escape route” with loudspeakers on the armored personnel carriers at the very beginning of the attack, the Armenian officials said. But they failed to provide any proof.

Even if there was such a notification, the residents hadn’t heard it for sure because of the gunfire and artillery.

The Armenian officials also told the representatives of Memorial, the Moscow-based human rights group, “Leaflets with a call for the population to leave Khodjaly through the “escape route”, had been scattered out of helicopters a few days before the attack.”

However, they could not submit any samples of the leaflets to Memorial to prove the fact. The Memorial observers detected no trace of the latter at Khodjaly. Refugees interviewed had not heard of those leaflets at all.

So, the claims of Armenians about allegedly informing the civilians of the “escape route” failed, without a shred of proof to back them up. The investigation carried out by international human rights groups, virtually refuted the arguments of the Armenian side, as well.

The first hard fire by Armenians hit a group of refugees from Khodjaly near the settlement of Kyatuk, where a part of them was either killed or taken captives. Even if to assume them to have opened fire falsely on the refugees, they should have realized while approaching that they were shooting on the civilians.

The possibility that Armenians were not aware of shooting at the crowd of civilians is out of the question as they heard women and children cry; besides, the militants took some inhabitants captives and they could not have failed to realize what was happening. After that fire the majority of the refugees managed to break through.

Even if that fire near Kyatuk had been accidental, and Armenians didn’t intend to kill the civil population, with the corridor existing, the Armenian soldiers shooting at the people should have informed other posts by radio of a group of refugees coming from Khodjaly in order not to shoot at them. But that was never done, of course.

Most of the people killed are known to have been shot in an open field, to the east from Khodjaly, near the village of Nakhichevanik. Human Rights Watch wrote on this regard:
The majority of Khojaly residents went along a route that took them across a shallow river, through the mountains, and, by about dawn, towards an open field near the village of Nackhichevanik, controlled then by Armenians. It was here that the most intense shooting took place.

The circumstances surrounding the attack at Nakhichevanik on those fleeing Khojaly indicate that Armenian forces and the troops of the 366th CIS regiment (who were not apparently acting on orders from their commanders) deliberately disregarded this customary law restraint on attacks.

The Armenian side claims the fire there to be unintended, too, that is they didn’t target the civilians. Some Armenian sources state they opened fire at the refugee groups only in return. There were indeed a few dozen retreating fighters among the fleeing civilians carrying automatic guns who fled the city as it fell to the Armenian forces.
Refugees then, testify that their defenders shot only in retaliation. Minesh Aliyeva, a Khodjaly resident, wounded in the arm, recalls:

...We wandered along the woods falling through the deep snow. When we were crossing the road, a bullet hit my arm. I fell down and couldn't get up.

A very intensive shooting started from the wood and shel ters. Alif grabbed me and started pulling to the curb. Then he rushed towards the bushes to hide and started firing back at Armenian armed men. The shooting from the woods ceased for some time. Alif started shouting at the women lying on the other side of the road and ordered them to cross the road as soon as possible. He used to shoot sporadi cally and every time he did the Ar menians stopped shooting. About 20 women and children managed to run across the road. When Alif stopped for a split second to charge the drum, Armenians shot in retaliation. At this moment he was shot through the forehead…

Thomas de Waal in his book “Black garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war” wrote about the fire opened by Khodjaly residents:

«The number of Azerbaijanis who returned fire was small; this could not excuse the clear targeting of hundreds of civilians, including children, in an open space and the shooting of the defenseless people on the ground».
Refugees who survived and were not taken prisoner at Nakhichevanik were attacked and fired upon near the Gyulbaly and Shelli settlements. The civilians, mainly, were either captured there or killed.

Jill Smolowe, a “Time” reporter, also challenged the statements by the Armenian side in his article on March 16, 1992
“But the facile explanation offered by the attacking Armenians, who insist that no innocents were deliberately killed, is hardly convincing”, he wrote.

It’s important to mention that the majority of the refugees was fired upon and killed in the morning, in other words, in daytime. Therefore, a so-called “night muddle” during which Armenians took the civilians for the armed men mistakenly, is out of the question.

Examination of the refugees with multiple stab wounds and point-blank shots led to the conclusion that the Armenian armed units and the troops of the CIS 366th regiment knew for sure whom they were killing.

Moreover, the Armenian posts located on the refugees’ escape way were a part of the evil intent to annihilate the inhabitants.

Besides, taking a great number of Khodjaly civilians captives, including women, children, and elderly men, contravenes the existence of the alleged “escape route” stated by Armenians. What was the purpose of capturing people if there were a “humanitarian corridor” provided?

All the facts considered, including the witnesses’ testimony, press reports, and the results of investigations by international human rights groups leads to the conclusion that, in fact, there was no “escape route” ensured for the inhabitants of Khodjaly. It was invented by Armenians (perhaps, even before the taking of Khodjaly) to avert accusations of mass killings, infanticide, and taking civilians prisoners.

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