The tragedy of Khojaly highlighted in Ankara

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The tragedy of the 1992 Khojaly massacre in Azerbaijan has been the focus of a major event in the Turkish capital, attended by over 100 politicians, Ambassadors, Members of the Turkish Parliament, VIPs and press representatives. This film premiere and book launch was organised by the Justice for Khojaly campaign, in conjunction with The European Azerbaijan Society.

Man standing by Justice for Khojaly screen

The evening provided an opportunity to reflect on the victims of Khojaly

This massacre was not just directed towards Azerbaijanis – it was aimed at all the Turkic peoples.

On 17 February 2015, the new independent documentary 'Endless Corridor' was screened at the CerModern Museum of Modern Art in Ankara, Turkey. The screening commemorated the victims of the Khojaly Massacre in 1992 – the worst single atrocity of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh – which claimed the lives of 613 civilian victims. The death toll included 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly people. The evening also saw the launch of the Turkish edition of the landmark publication 'Khojaly Witness of a War Crime: Armenia in the Dock', the foreword for which was written by Mrs Leyla Aliyeva, Founder, Justice for Khojaly campaign and Vice-President, Heydar Aliyev Foundation.

Speaking before the audience of 100 politicians, Ambassadors, Members of the Turkish Parliament, VIPs and press representatives, Lionel Zetter, Director, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) explained: “TEAS is proud to organise these events within the framework of the Justice for Khojaly campaign, which is an international awareness campaign initiated by Mrs Leyla Aliyeva and launched on 8 May 2008. The campaign’s rapid development is a measure of international support for the restoration of justice in the region. This support has been expressed at events in over 100 countries in Europe, America, Asia and Africa, and has come from individuals and international organisations, as well as states. TEAS is organising events within the Justice for Khojaly campaign in London, Paris, Strasbourg, Brussels, Berlin, Bern, Dublin, Istanbul, Rome, Luxembourg, Vilnius, in addition to tonight’s event in Ankara."

Mr Zetter continued: “'Endless Corridor' is a film that came about because Richard Lapaitis, a Lithuanian journalist and witness of the horror of Khojaly, could not let the experience lie or forget the people who survived. He returned with a touching and humane desire to find out how they coped with memories of loved ones killed before their eyes. Russian journalist Victoria Ivleva also returned to reunite with Mehriban, a mother whose two-day-old baby she had saved in the confusion. The stories are of ordinary people whose lives were devastated by the Armenian invasion of their land.

“Tonight is also dedicated to Dilham Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev, two Azerbaijani civilians who were captured by the occupying forces in July when tending the graves of their relatives in their historic homeland.”

Sinan Oğan, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Turkish Parliament and MP for the Iğdır constituency, took the floor and encouraged Turks and the Turkish authorities to work towards ensuring that the there is greater awareness of the Khojaly tragedy across Turkey. He stressed the importance of undertaking research, writing and distributing information about Khojaly. He commented that such books as 'Khojaly Witness of a War Crime: Armenia in the Dock', should be widely distributed to universities, schools, libraries in Turkey. He said: “This massacre was not just directed towards Azerbaijanis – it was aimed at all the Turkic peoples.”

H.E. Faig Bagirov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Turkey, said: “The injustice of what happened in Khojaly cannot be left unrecognised. Justice has to be sought and implemented. The Justice for Khojaly campaign, initiated by Mrs Leyla Aliyeva, is successfully working towards that end.”

Finally, Valeh Huseynov, a musician and survivor of the Khojaly Massacre, recounted in a moving testimony how he lost his wife during the Khojaly tragedy and was tortured by Armenian troops. He expressed his gratitude to Mrs Leyla Aliyeva for initiating the Justice for Khojaly international campaign to ensure that the world is made aware of this tragedy – a crime against humanity that has been overlooked by so many. He explained that the international community should recognise this massacre and the criminals should be brought to justice. He reminded all those in attendance that, despite Azerbaijan being the most developed country in the South Caucasus, and being able to return its occupied lands by any possible method, the country remains committed to peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Lionel Zetter concluded: “The book, 'Khojaly Witness of a War Crime: Armenia in the Dock' is the first independent publication about the Khojaly Massacre to be published in the West in English. Unique in its presentation of irrefutable hard information, the book includes interviews with witnesses of the events in Khojaly, materials published in the international press, the views of foreign researchers, reports from international organisations and rare pictures taken by international photographers.”

Despite the passing of four UN Security Council resolutions against the invasion, Armenia continues to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts to this day. Currently nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory remains occupied, and approximately 875,000 refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) remain spread across Azerbaijan. The evening was dedicated to the memory of the Khojaly victims and those Azerbaijanis who have one wish – to return home.

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