Plight of the Khojaly victims highlighted in Luxembourg

I saw the murdered children and the other victims. I also saw the reaction of foreign journalists to this, and I knew that this message should be sent to new generations, not just in Azerbaijan, but across the world.

On 16 February, the new independent documentary 'Endless Corridor' was screened at the Hotel Le Royal, located in the heart of Luxembourg. 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 in 1992. The death toll included 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly people. The evening also saw the launch of the book 'Khojaly Witness of a War Crime: Armenia in the Dock'.

Speaking before the audience of 80 business people, students and press representatives, including Dr Marc Hübsch, President, Luxembourg–Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and Eva Rodick, General Secretary, Karabagh Cultural Association, Azerbaijan–Luxembourg, the evening began with comments from H.E. Fuad Isgandarov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the EU. He said: “The Justice for Khojaly campaign is organising events of this kind across the world. Tonight’s film, 'Endless Corridor;, is the best I have seen for explaining the Khojaly Massacre and outlining why we commemorate this day. I would also like to express my appreciation to The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) for its role in organising the event.

“At the end of February, Azerbaijanis across the world commemorate what happened on that fateful night in Khojaly. Azerbaijan is coming to Europe as a success, but its recent history needs to be understood to stop history repeating. We paid a very high price for our freedom, and the Khojaly Massacre was part of that. Azerbaijan is one of the few countries in its neighbourhood to be truly free.

“I am a veteran of war. On 26 February 1992 I was in charge of escorting foreign journalists to see the aftermath of the Khojaly Massacre. I saw the murdered children and the other victims. I also saw the reaction of foreign journalists to this, and I knew that this message should be sent to new generations, not just in Azerbaijan, but across the world. After Khojaly, there were many massacres across Europe – Azerbaijan wants to share its tragedy so such massacres can be avoided in the future. I sincerely welcome these friends from Luxembourg, Belgium, France and UK to commemorate this. Azerbaijan is a small, tolerant, stable and independent country, and that is the best tribute to the victims of the Khojaly Massacre.”

Marie-Laetitia Gordin, Director, TEAS France, 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, Vice-President, Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The Justice for Khojaly international campaign was 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, Ankara, Rome and Vilnius, in addition to Luxembourg.

“'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.”

Ian Peart, Project Co-ordinator, TEAS Baku, stated: “I am one of the editors of the book, 'Khojaly Witness of a War Crime: Armenia in the Dock'. I had been living in Azerbaijan for ten years when I was approached to collect first-hand testimonies from the people who were affected by and survived the Khojaly Massacre. After meeting the people who were directly affected, your understanding goes to a different level. The publication contains direct accounts, and not just statistics – these people are living with what happened 23 years ago. This is the first independent publication about the Khojaly Massacre to be published in the West in English. At the time, many foreign journalists had problems persuading their editors to publish what happened – the book contains first-hand media reports, published both in the west and in Russia, and those from international human rights organisations. Azerbaijan is currently being urged to compromise by international organisations, but when you have lost your wife, husband or home, that is impossible.”

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.