Black January and Khojaly Massacreby Representative Madeleine Z. Bordallo
Posted on 2014-01-16
in the house of representatives
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, I rise to discuss several matters of
importance to Azerbaijan. I note that January 20, 2013 marked the 23rd
anniversary of an historic and tragic day in the history of the country
of Azerbaijan. On the night of January 19, 1990, 26,000 Soviet troops
invaded the capital city of Baku and surrounding areas. By the end of
the next day, more than 130 people had died, 611 were injured, 841 were
arrested and 5 were missing. This event is memorialized as ``Black
January,'' and, for the citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan this
event left an indelible mark on the minds of all citizens.
Soviet troops entered Azerbaijan under the pretext of restoring public order, while actually aiming to forcefully end peaceful demonstrations for independence. However, Soviet incursion further incited aspirations of Azerbaijani people to regain their independence after 70 years of Soviet rule.
In the end, Azerbaijan's pro-Moscow regime grew weaker and by 1991, popular pressure resulted in restoration of independence of Azerbaijan. On August 30, 1991, Azerbaijan's Parliament adopted the Declaration on the Restoration of the State Independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and on October 18, 1991, the Constitutional Act on the State Independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan was approved. November 1991 marked the beginning of international recognition of Azerbaijan's independence. The United States opened an embassy in Baku in March 1992 and it has remained committed to aiding Azerbaijan in its transition to democracy and its formation of an open market economy.
Some historical observers have noted that the violence inflicted on the citizens of Baku may have been intended to send a message to other Soviet republics that similar aspirations of nationalism would not be tolerated. In the wake of this horrific act and inspired by the strength of the Azerbaijani people's belief in the principles of democracy, the Republic of Azerbaijan has maintained its independence for more than 16 years, despite lingering economic and social problems from the Soviet era. Today, Azerbaijan has developed into a thriving country with double digit growth, in large part due to a freely-elected president and parliament, free market reforms led by the energy sector, and most importantly, no foreign troops on its soil.
The road to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity for the Azerbaijani people has not come without adversity and sacrifice. Athough Azerbaijan thrives today, the people of Azerbaijan recognize those who lost their lives on Black January in 1990 and honor their sacrifice through their commitment to the ideals of democracy. As we reflect on this terrible tragedy, we who believe in the tenets of freedom and the hope of democracy should recognize the incredible sacrifice made by the people of Azerbaijan and by free people all around the world.
I also rise to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Khojaly massacre perpetrated by Armenian armed forces on February 25 through February 26, 1992 in the town of Khojaly in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Khojaly, now under the occupation of Armenian armed forces, was the site of the largest killing of ethnic Azerbaijani civilians in the course of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Khojaly, once the home to 7,000 people, was completely destroyed. Six hundred thirteen people were killed, of which 106 were women, 83 were children and 56 were purported to have been killed. In addition, 1,275 people were taken hostage, 150 went missing and 487 people became disabled. Also in the records maintained, 76 of the victims were teenagers, 8 families were wiped out and 25 children lost both of their parents while 130 lost one of their parents. According to Human Rights Watch and other international observers, the Armenian Armed forces were reportedly aided by the Russian 366th Motor Rifle Regiment.
At the time, Newsweek magazine reported: ``Azerbaijan was a charnel house again last week: a place of mourning refugees and dozens of mangled corpses dragged to a makeshift morgue behind the mosque. They were ordinary Azerbaijani men, women and children of Khojaly, a small village in war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh overrun by Armenian forces on 25- 26 February. Many were killed at close range while trying to flee; some had their faces mutilated, others were scalped.'' As part of the Khojaly population that tried to escape, they encountered violent ambushes that led to abuses, torture, mutilation and death. The Russian organization, Memorial, stated that 200 Azerbaijani corpses were brought from Khojaly to Agdam within four days.
Time magazine published the following description: ``While the details are argued, this [[Page E91]] much is plain: something grim and unconscionable happened in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly 2 weeks ago. So far, some 200 dead Azerbaijanis, many of them mutilated, have been transported out of the town tucked inside the Armenian-dominated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh for burial in neighboring Azerbaijan. The total number of deaths--the Azerbaijanis claim 1,324 civilians have been slaughtered, most of them women and children--is unknown.'' The extent of the cruelty of this massacre against women, children and the elderly was unfathomable. This anniversary reminds us of the need to redouble efforts to help resolve the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. The United States as a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group should intensify its efforts to reach a resolution of this protracted conflict.
Mr. Speaker, Azerbaijan is a strong ally of the United States in a strategically important and complex region of the world. I ask my colleagues to join me and our Azerbaijani friends in commemorating the tragedy that occurred in the town of Khojaly as well as Black January.