Khojaly and the Crimes of the Past

On the night of February 25-26, 1992, Armenian forces, in conjunction with what was by most accounts a rogue portion of the 366th Regiment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (the transitional successor to the Soviet Union), struck the village of Khojaly in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The nominal basis for the strike was to root out Azerbajiani armed forces who had been shelling Stepanakert and other heavily-Armenian population centers.

Somehow, along the way, they decided to brutally murder upward of 600 men, women, and children, even down to toddlers, and to desecrate their bodies thereafter. While also targeting purely military targets, they somehow demolished homes, hospitals, and religious areas. Armenian forces would later celebrate the massacre as a military and national victory when not accusing Azerbaijan of brutally murdering its own people for publicity purposes or denying that the killings happened at all. (The current President of Armenia has been quoted as saying that “Before Khojaly, 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. And that’s what happened. And we should also take into account that amongst those boys were people who had fled from Baku and Sumgait.”)

Consistency has been as much a victim as simple honesty in the brutal aftermath of the Soviet Union.

In the West, the terrible events of twenty years ago were lost in those most terrible words of all: “More ethnic violence in the former Soviet Union.” In the years since, any effort to recognize the terrible atrocity at Khojaly has been the subject of furious pushback by some members of the Armenian diaspora, who appear to believe that any recognition of this war crime is somehow tantamount to denial of the Armenian genocide launched by the Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago. Despite this literally absurd effort, some states, including New Jersey and Texas, have begun to recognize the terrible events of that night twenty years ago.

In a just world, the men who did this terrible thing would be haled before courts of justice and confronted with the images of babies with their skulls blown open as sentence is passed upon them. In our fallen world, ideally, international tribunals would be empaneled for what is at the very least a fairly obvious war crime.

Unfortunately, Russia counts Armenia as a trusted client state, and would oppose such an effort; and the State Department does not appear inclined to be any braver than it usually is when confronted with this sort of atrocity. Europe is only slowly coming to grips with this matter, and France — where the Government is desperately courting Armenian votes in advance of the next election — is functionally no different from Russia. Instead, the world must bear witness, knowing that the memory of Khojaly is yet another reason why the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains frozen in amber, and knowing that our failure to act is a rebuke to our determination not to let crimes against humanity go unpunished.

<a href=”″>homeros</a> / <a href=”″></a>