Extensions of Remarks by Honorable Bill Shuster
February 15, 2007 - "Mr. SHUSTER. Madam Speaker, one of our greatest strengths as elected officials is the opportunity to bring to light truths that are little known and command recognition.
Today, as the Co-chairman of the House Azerbaijan Caucus, I would like to bring to the attention of this body the tragedy that took place in Khojaly , Azerbaijan , a town and townspeople that were destroyed on February 26, 1992. Fifteen years later, there is little attention or interest paid to the plight of Khojaly outside of Azerbaijan.
Sadly, Khojaly, a town in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan , now under the control of Armenian forces, was the site of the largest killing of ethnic Azerbaijani civilians.
According to Human Rights Watch and other international observers, the massacre was committed by the ethnic Armenian armed forces, reportedly with the help of the Russian 366th Motor Rifle Regiment. This crime led to the death of 613 civilians; including 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly men; 1,275 persons were taken hostage, and the fate of more than 150 remains unknown.
As part of the population tried to escape the town of Khojaly , they encountered violent ambushes and were murdered. According to the Russian organization, Memorial, 200 Azerbaijani corpses were brought from Khojaly to Agdam within four days, and it was discovered that they were subjected to abuses, torture and mutilation. Human Rights Watch stated that "we place direct responsibility for the civilian deaths with Karabakh Armenian forces.''
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.''
Time Magazine stated "While the details are argued, this much is plain: something grim and unconscionable happened in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly two 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.''
Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) from Albania, Azerbaijan, and the United Kingdom stated in May 2001 in Written Declaration No. 324 that the "Armenians massacred the whole population of Khojaly and fully destroyed the town.''
Khojaly was the first significant Azerbaijani settlement overrun by Armenian forces in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The forces next overran the Nagorno-Karabakh districts of Zangilan, Gubadli, Fuzuli, Aghdam, and Kalbajar, as well as the towns of Shusha and Lachin. Altogether, the occupied territories represent roughly 20 percent of the territory of Azerbaijan . And, altogether roughly one million Azerbaijanis were evicted from their homes over the course of the Armenian-Azerbaijan war.
On January 25, 2005 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe overwhelmingly adopted a resolution highlighting that "considerable parts of Azerbaijan 's territory are still occupied by the Armenian forces and separatist forces are still in control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.''
Armenian Defense Minister, in an interview with British journalist Tomas de Waal openly admitted that "Before Khojaly the Azerbaijanis thought that ..... the Armenians were people who could not raise their hands against the civilian population. We were able to break that [stereotype].'' Madam Speaker, the tragedy of Khojaly was a crime against humanity and I urge Congress to join me in standing with Azerbaijanis as they commemorate this tragedy."