Introductory speech of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, at the meeting with a group of the Khojali residents, connected with the fourth anniversary of the Khojali genocide - Presidential Palace, February 24, 1996

Nowadays we are commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Khojali tragedy. This tragedy is a black page in our history. At the same time it is an example of the loyalty of our citizens to our homeland. The victims of Khojali perished for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. They will never be forgotten. Their martyrdom will become an example of heroism for the next generations; their memory will eternally live in our hearts.

Eight years have passed since the military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan. For eight years our people have struggled to defend our homeland.

During this period the Azerbaijani people have had many losses. Many brave people became martyrs fighting for our lands. But Khojali holds a special place in this history. It symbolizes the loyalty of every Khojali resident; on the other hand, it is an unparalleled ferocity committed by the Armenians against Azerbaijan. Thus, every year we commemorate the anniversary of the Khojali tragedy. As you know, on February 1994, a special decision on commemoration of the Khojali tragedy as the Day of genocide in Khojali was adopted.

First I ask you to pay homage to the memory of all martyrs with a minute silence who perished defending our lands, with a minute silence.

Today it would have been good to meet every Khojali resident. However, it is impossible, as you know. The IDPs from Khojali have settled in different parts of Azerbaijan. Meeting a group of the residents of Khojali, I think as if I am meeting all the Khojali people.

I am very satisfied of this meeting. For four years you have been grieving for the tragedy and losses you and your relatives had. This tragedy grieves all our people. We all are sad because of our martyrs. It is our duty to remember those days, to ask God to bless the martyrs, to help who live, to take necessary measures to better their living. I suppose that it is the aim of our meeting. I want to listen to you.

Concluding speech

Our meeting and conversation are very significant. At the same time, they evoke sad feelings. The history of our people is rich in heroism, our people have struggled for freedom. However, there were defeats, tragic periods as well.

Throughout the 20th century the Armenian nationalists committed unparalleled crimes against the Azerbaijani people at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1918-1920 aggressions, slaughters were committed against us. The aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan in 1988, the expel of the Azerbaijanis from Armenia, our losses and martyrs since the outbreak of the Karabakh war up to now- all these prove the continuation of the hostility of Armenia against Azerbaijan. Because of them, as well as because of the mistakes and betrayals, 20 per cent of our territories have been occupied by the Armenian armed forces, over one million Azerbaijanis have become refugees.

Among all these tragic events, the Khojali tragedy has a special place. It is the most terrible genocide committed against the Azerbaijani people by the Armenians. We must tell the world community about this ferocity, anti-humanistic event. This tragedy can never be forgotten. We must show the world, to our next generations how many victims our people have given for our freedom. It was mentioned here that a lot of children, women, old, helpless and innocent people were ferociously slaughtered that night. Moreover, many brave people fought against the well-armed Armenian forces and the former Soviet regiment and perished that night.

Therefore, both sides of the event are significant, must be agitated. It is our duty; we must do it.

The conclusion of the discussion of today is that the world community must be aware of the genocide committed against the Azerbaijani people by the Armenian occupants and the 366th regiment of the Soviet Army.

I recommend to send to the word community, as well as the UN, the committee on human rights, other organizations appeals on the fourth anniversary of the Khojali genocide on behalf of the intelligentsia, organizations. It is necessary.

A book or a film on the Khojali genocide is not enough. Just after the tragedy, it was informed to the world community. But we must do it all the time. It can not be forgotten. The world community must be informed about the brutality of the Armenians and about their crimes against the Azerbaijani people.

We must do it. I recommend it in general. But I suppose that there will be concrete actions and a sustainable campaign. We must inform the world community about the crimes committed against the Azerbaijani people, the innocent, helpless Khojali people.

Today the missing people, who haven’t been found yet, from Khojali are mentioned. I give instructions to our staff, to the Minister of National Security Namig Abbasov to discuss it with corresponding organizations. Ramiz Mehdiyev, perhaps you should discuss and determine the ways to find the missing, captive Khojali people. Some of them may not be alive - it must be exactly defined; but who are alive must be found. This issue must be taken into consideration seriously.

The Khojali people must be paid more attention. All the speakers expressed their satisfaction of the governmental bodies. I am satisfied of it. To consider a small aid as a big help is a feature of our people. Especially the people, who left their homes, lost their relatives, property are grateful even for a little help. But I think that they must be taken more care. Of course, all the refugees, the families of martyrs, invalids of the war must be taken care. However, no one has lived the tragedy of the Khojali people. This factor must be taken into account.

A lot of people from Khojali lost their family members. One gradually gets used to losses. However, when family members die in front of you and you cannot help them anyway, that remains in the memory.

Thus, taking into consideration the terrible event committed against the Khojali people, they must receive material and medical treatment. I charge the government institutions and public organizations to do it.

From our meeting I can conclude that the tragedy of Khojali happened because of the brutality of the Armenian occupants and the betrayal of the republic administration then. Therefore, along demonstrating the Armenian ferocity to the world, we must disclose the crime, the betrayals of our politicians. Those crimes, betrayals are obvious.

All the speakers, especially the head of the administration of Khojali spoke in detail. It proves the crimes and betrayals of the persons in charge then. But for four years some tried to cover those crimes and betrayals. As it was mentioned here, the Khojali tragedy happened because of the crimes and betrayals of the then administration and the forces struggling for power. Therefore, not anyone was interested in the disclosure of those crimes and betrayals. We can say it confidently.

In these days I lived in Nakhichevan. The head of the administration of Khojali Mamedov reminded me that he came to Nakhichevan, indeed. Was it September?

Elman Mamedov: It was September 30.

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, it was a month later when I took the responsibilities of the speaker of the Nakhichevan Supreme Assembly. It was a complicated period. The Soviet Union was about to collapse. The Communists were in power here in Baku, but deprived from power in Nakhichevan. When I arrived in Nakhichevan at the beginning of September, the people expressed hatred to the administration and demanded to restore order. As a result of the demands, I had to take the office of the speaker of the parliament of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. We used to work a lot then and had many problems in Nakhichevan. At the same time, I was concerned with the situation in Karabakh. In February 1991, the first session of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Azerbaijan began its work. I was elected to the Supreme Soviet from Nakhichevan. In my speech at that first session I told that we had lost Karabakh, and now we should discuss the ways how to liberate Karabakh. Do you remember that I was interrupted? I was told as if I am lying and agitating against the authorities, as if I want to overthrow the government and that Karabakh is still under our control.

Do you remember those words? It was the beginning of 1991. Later I left. While being in Nakhichevan in September 1991, I was concerned with Karabakh. Then some people from Karabakh visited me or I was called from Shusha, Lachin, other regions and asked to help; I helped them how I could.

Mamedov also visited me at then. At the session of the Supreme Soviet I informed about the visit of the head of the besieged Khojali. I introduced him, he made a speech. We expressed our solidarity with the Khojali people. Later we had a tete-a-tete talk and I gave him some advice.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan have always hurt our people. Everyone tried to serve and contribute to the solution of the problem. Unfortunately, the persons in charge didn’t implement their duties, but betrayed.

Then a commission for investigating the Khojali tragedy was established. I was also looking forward to the conclusion of the commission. Later the result of the activity of the commission was aired on television. I watched it and listened to the report of the secretary of the commission Ali Omarov. Though I wasn’t satisfied, it contained fair and principal points. But the report didn’t name the guilty persons. Therefore, Mutallibov returned to his office on May 14. The commission didn’t name him guilty. Ramiz Fataliev was the chairman of the commission. During the session he was asked several times. But he answered that Mutallibov is not guilty; thus, he must continue his presidential tenure.

Appreciating the work done then, we must acknowledge that the commission could not investigate the issue objectively. Because the people guilty in the tragedy held high positions in the government then. Thus, the results of the investigation of the commission were not real. Later the administration, the president was replaced. We expected the case would be investigated after the election of the new president, because the new government came to power by using the Khojali as a chance. However, nothing was disclosed as if there was no one guilty.

Eldar Hasanov gave some information on the crime. Now there is no one to obstacle the investigation. These issues must be investigated in detail - it is my opinion.

I declare again - the Khojali genocide is not a simple crime. This genocide must not be forgotten even hundreds of years later. The next generations must be informed of the ferocity committed against our people. It means that the savage people, who committed it, must be punished. Eldar Hasanov informed that some of the Armenian armed forces, which committed the slaughter, are known. They will be punished by the international court of justice. So will the 366th regiment. The people who betrayed our people must be investigated and disclosed, too.

A person, who kills just a couple of people, is arrested, sentenced or shot by the decision of the court. Then take into consideration how many innocent people were brutally slaughtered.

I must also clarify one issue. It was a war, an aggressive war of Armenia against Azerbaijan, where there were battles and losses from both sides. It is natural in war. But they besieged a big settlement for a long time, isolated it from the outside world and slaughtered peaceful civilians. It is a totally different case.

As Mamedov informed here, the Armenian armed forces kept Khojali in siege for a long time. But who had to free Khojali from the siege? Why did they let a big settlement remain in the siege for a long time? Why? What for? Which measures did they take and which they didn’t do?

Mamedov says that he visited Baku, asked for the reception for 3 days, but wasn’t received by the President, who is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces because of other issues the latter had. Was there a more important issue? I think that no issue could be more important than Khojali for every person in the government. Just it was necessary to receive him and learn the situation. If the President didn’t want to receive him within three days, then he knew the situation and just he didn’t want to take measures. It is a logical outcome. Thus, I think that these issues must be investigated once more.

The Khojali genocide was committed on February 26, 1992. Why was February 26 not declared the day of genocide a year later? That event has a historic, political and moral significance. In February 1994 I recommended it to the Parliament. It declared that day the day of the Khojali genocide. Today is a day of tragedy and mourning in our history. We adopted it by a law. The people who didn’t do it a year later after the tragedy might be participants of the genocide. It is not just indifference. May there be such a big indifference? Some of those people fled to Moscow, some are in opposition now. Today they have no moral right to speak. They all are responsible for the crime committed.

In 1990 the January tragedy was committed against our people. Some people used that event to come to power and later tried to cover the tragedy. In 1994 I recommended the Parliament to investigate the January tragedy. That issue was discussed for over a month in 1994. However, since January 1990 up to January 1994, that issue was covered and no decision was adopted. But we adopted a decision. The same style - some people used the January tragedy to take the office and covered the facts. But the history disclosed them. It will disclose the facts on the Khojali tragedy, too. But it must be done in time, then the people may feel more comfortable. This is my opinion.

Furthermore, today in the meeting my aim was to share the sorrow of the Khojali people. This is a sorrow, a tragedy of the whole Azerbaijani people.

I bow before the heroism of the Khojali people, I express my respect to them; the heroism of our martyrs will never be forgotten. Their merits for our people and state will always be remembered.

I have some controversial thoughts. I am not exactly informed. How many people who fought in Khojali were awarded with the title of National Heroes?

Elman Mamedov: Three

Heydar Aliyev: Are there any people awarded with other orders and medals?

Elman Mamedov: Only the doctor of the battalion Mammad Nagiyev was awarded with the Order of the Azerbaijani Banner and some people have been introduced for being awarded.

Heydar Aliyev: I think that we must appreciate and award the people who displayed heroism in Khojali. Thus, I instruct you, Mamedov, as well as Ramiz Mehdiyev to be engaged in this issue. Submit your proposals for the award. I wait for your proposals. You should discuss it. For example, our military commanders report on the people who displayed heroism. We award some people according to such reports. You were a witness of the tragedy, so you know who deserves awards. I think that some people must be awarded. Do you have something to say? Please.

Sattar Agayev (Khojali resident, father of two martyrs): My two sons perished; but their corpses were not found. Though I spoke about it in my interviews, little attention was paid. My son served in the National Army and was wounded four times. But he was never mentioned anywhere. I ask for much more attention so that I can speak about my losses.

Heydar Aliyev: Our meeting today will be aired on TV and published in newspapers. The Khojali tragedy must be paid attention further in the press. Let the witnesses tell their impressions, problems. Therefore, I want the press to illuminate the Khojali tragedy. The intelligentsia, the officials should get together and discuss the further steps. Submit the people for award distinguished during the tragedy. As President, I am ready to award the people for for award who deserve orders and medals. I am ready to name the people whose heroism was great, the National Heroes. The brave people deserve them. It is my proposal.

Do you have something to say? Please.

Latif Mamedov (Alif Hajiyev`s father): Mr. President, my two sons perished there. One of them is the National Hero Alif Hajiyev. I witnessed the murder of my other son by the Armenians in Khojali. I was in captivity in Shusha for 64 days. Elman Mammadov is aware of it. On April 24, 1992 I was released from the captivity. The grave of Alif is here in the Martyrs` Avenue. But the corpse of my other son was not found. This is my situation.

Heydar Aliyev: What is your name?

Latif Mamedov: Mamedov Latif Suleyman oglu

Heydar Aliyev: Latif, I share your sorrow. I thank you for bringing up brave sons. The heroism of your sons is the fame for our people. Though your sorrow is deep, you can be proud of your sons. Now we should take necessary measures on what you told.

I ask God to bless all the people perished in the Khojali tragedy. I wish patience for all the Khojali people. I wish health for the invalids. You can be sure that I shall do my best to increase our care for the Khojali people.

The speeches addressed to me today were sincere. I thank for them. At the same time, I perceive that those speeches increase my responsibility. Of course, I constantly realize the responsibility of the President of Azerbaijan. Every day, every minute I think of my responsibility before our people. Especially during such meetings, when people appealed to me with hope as you did, I perceived my responsibility better.

You can be assured that I dedicate all my life, knowledge and experience to improve the hard situation of the Azerbaijani people and I shall do it further. I hope that we shall achieve our goals. Not only I have great expectations, but I do my best to implement them into life as well.

Despite the sorrow, our meeting is very important and makes us proud. Thank you.

The newspaper "Azerbaycan", February 25, 1996