The number of victims, wounded and disappeared persons from Khojalu brought by official Baku are confusing. Let’s follow the information sources on this matter. Official Baku, contrary to traditions of the Azerbaijan propaganda, tried to keep silent about the developments in the initial stage to save the authority of President Mutalibov.
Logically, Armenian traces in this tragedy could serve as a convenient occasion “to wash off” from Azerbaijan the shameful facts of Armenian pogroms in 1988 in Sumgait and in Baku in 1990, when, according to the official Soviet data, more than 300 Armenians were tortured and killed.
After a long pause the Speaker of parliament of Azerbaijan Elmira Kafarova declared, that the attack of the Armenian armed forces on Khojalu had been repulsed, and that only two Azerbaijani soldiers had been killed.59
After some silence the Minister of Interior of Azerbaijan T. Kerimov informed “Interfax” news agency the following figures: 100 killed, 250 wounded and about 300 missing.60
“… According to the eyewitnesses, for many of them, February 26 became the last day in their life … In searches of save heaven women, children and old men moved to Agdam. But on the way to the Armenian village of Nakhichavanik they were caught by bullets. The people died, their bodies remained on the place of another tragedy … The Aghdam hospital was overflowed: the number of patients from Khudjalu only made almost 120″.61
In the first week of March Western media reported about thousands of killed civilians, mainly getting the inofrmation from the Azerbaijani and Turkish mass media.62
By then T. Goltz announced the official number of victims – 478. In his first publication in Sunday Times and in The Azerbaijan Diary, he mentioned that it is the exact figure brought by Sadik Sadikov, a cleric from Aghdam mosque. According to this information, widely disseminated T. Goltz, 478 corpses were buried in Agdam, according to Islamic funeral tradition of burying the bodies within 24 hours after death (more correctly, before the sunset – H. D., L. M.-Sh.).63
Moreover, 5 days after the events the Azerbaijani news agency Assa Irade informed that the special units discovered corpses of 1234 men. This information at once was picked up by Turkish mass media, which published these data.64
The head of the press-service of the President of Azerbaijan Rasim Agaev informed to the correspondent Russian Nezavisimaya gazeta, with the reference to the Khojalu Mayor Elman Mamedov, that the Armenian attack on Khojalu resulted in thousands of civilians killed, several thousands wounded, and there was no information about the fate of 1500 people.65 And one month after the Karabakh newspaper in March 26, 1992 wrote that the State commission for assistance to refugees from Khojalu provided allowances for families of 476 people missing.
On March 2 the international movement For Democratic Reforms and Human Rights in Azerbaijan sent a text of appeal to the diplomatic missions of foreign countries in Moscow titled “To the Nations of the World”, in which claimed that “In the night on February 26, 1992 the Armenian national army with the participation CIS 366-th regiment leveled to the ground the city of Khojalu. That night 1234 Azerbaijanis were killed”.66
The report by the Moscow based human rights protection center Memorial mentioned that in Aghdam, where all refugees arrived, the state forensic medical examination of 181 bodies (130 males, 51 females, including 13 children) was carried out. The experts concluded that the death among 151 people was caused because of bullet wounds, 20 men – were killed by shell wounds, and 10 – by using a blunt object.67
It should be mentioned that the Memorial observers operated with the official data provided by the Azerbaijani officials, since the collection of information by experts of the center was carried out from the March 7th to the April 5th, 1992, i. e. 10 days after the events.68
In his book T. Goltz brought some data about medical examination of bodies, which he estimated with a little difference – 187.69 Undeclared Karabakhi officials informed the Russian experts about transferring of 120-130 bodies to Aghdam (all of them included civilians and soldiers killed in Khojalu and nearby Nakhijevanik village) of which 96 were buried in Aghdam, (but not 478 as Goltz claims – H. D., L. M.-Sh.) and, the bodies of others were taken away by relatives.70
In the Baku based Ordu newspaper the May 1992 issue informed that the names of 479 killed were identified, while those of 200 still had to be identified. The number of 700 as a real number of killed was confirmed also by Leyla Yunusova, Press Secretary of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan.71
But soon this figure increased to 688 lost and 400 disappeared. An explanation can be found in Goltz’s book, who said that exactly 688 body bags were requested in Aghdam based branch of the International Red Cross.72
Next, in a report at the session of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the CSCE (now OSCE) member countries the head of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Hasan Hasanov claimed about “more then eight hundred” killed.
Probably badly familiar with the climate in Karabakh Tomas Goltz believed that with approach of spring and snow melting the figure 478 would increase. However, with the coming of summer and autumn in the official Azerbaijan reports and documents the number of victims began to decrease.
In November 12, 1992 the Parliamentary Commission for investigation Khojalu incident appeared with a final report before Milli Majlis, which informed that “during the tragedy in Khojalu about four thousand civilians were estimated (whom according to T. Goltz only 40 (!) soldiers defended – H. D., L. M.-Sh.).
According to the data of the Commission during these events 450 people had been killed, 400 wounded, 80 disappeared and 20 men were taken hostage”. The commission found that “the leadership of the republic had all the opportunities, by organizing protection of the city, to prevent tragedy and to withdraw population with the least losses”.
The members of the investigation commission concluded that “it has not taken place because of mistakes made in selection of the cadres, default of the official duties by the ex-President Ayaz Mutalibov, former Prime Minister Hasan Hasanov, Minister of Interior T. Kerimov, Minister of National Security Vagif Huseynov, Head of General Staff Musaev and others. 73
Later, when the Popular Front of Azerbaijan came to power, Vagif Huseynov, former Minister of National Security of Azerbaijan, shortly before his arrest said hinting on some political figures of PFA that “January events of 1990 in Baku and events in Khojalu were the handwork of the same people”.74
But the masterpiece of the situation and intentional distortion of the past was the “Decree of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic on the Genocide of the Azerbaijanis”, issued in March 31, 1998, which stated that “In February 1992, the Armenians committed the unprecedented massacre of the population of the town of Khojaly. This bloody tragedy, which became known as the Khojaly genocide, involved the extermination of thousands of Azerbaijanis; the town was razed from the face of the earth.”75 All previous years former President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliev manipulated with several hundreds lives of his compatriots. For example, in 1998, appearing on the occasion of anniversary of the Khojalu events he again pointed on “several thousands of victims.”76 But the editors of Azadinform news agency corrected the President a little bit, naming instead of “thousands” a concrete number of victims – 613.
Another important assumption is that to increase the number of victims and missing, Baku authorities could simply use Meskhetian Turk refugees who were settled in Khojalu and had no registration as “dead souls”.
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The first information about Khojalu massacre were sent to world mass media by Turkish and foreign journalists accredited in Turkey. The first publication about the events in the Western printed media appeared in the Washington Post authored by Tomas Goltz. However, in this article there was no data about the number of casualties. It is possible, that he had sent a material from Baku before his trip to Aghdam and it was based on unreliable sources.77 Soon, another of his articles appeared in the Sunday Times where he informed about 450 casualties with the reference on the information from survived Khodjalu inhabitant. According to this publication by February 29, 1992 in the morgue of Aghdam 479 corpses were registered of which 29 were already buried in a city cemetery.78
It is symptomatically, before Tomas Goltz arrival in Azerbaijan at the end of 1991, he had been working in Turkey for long time. His Turkish wife, Hijran Goltz worked with him while in Azerbaijan, and she had sent the information about the massacre near Aghdam to the Turkish section of BBC.79 Ankara based correspondent of Reuters Eliph Kaban during those days was together with Goltz in Aghdam. He had a portable telefax with him and the first messages for Reuters were received from him by March 1.80
It is noteworthy that the Turkish correspondents kindly offered their services of interpreter to foreign journalists both in selection of materials, and during the interviews. By the special eagerness in providing similar services were distinguished Rahbar Bashiroglu, the correspondent of the Turkish newspaper Milliet and Ahmet Sel operator of the 5th channel of the French TV and Belgian RTF broadcasting company.81
59 T. Goltz, op. cit. p. 125, V. B. Haruthunyan, Events in Nagorno-Karabakh, Chronics, part 4, Yerevan, 1994, pp. 118-119.
60 Aydin Mehtiyev, Nagorno-Karabakh: more bloog and arms, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 27. 02. 1992. Ermeniler bir Azeri kasabasini geclidi, Hürriyet, Ankara, 28. 02. 1992, COVCAS Bulleten, March 5, 1992.
61 Bakinski rabochi, Baku, 28.02.1992.
62 See The Times, 02.03.1992, The New York Times, 03.03.1992, The Boston Globe, 02.03.1992.
63 T. Goltz, op. cit. pp. 122-123.
64 See, Bariş cabalari nafile, Milliyet, 02.03.1992.
65 Nezavisimaya gazeta, 29.02.1992.
66 Nezavisimaya gazeta, 04.03.1992.
67 Nezavisimaya gazeta, 18.06.1992.
69 T. Goltz, op. cit. p. 130.
70 Nezavisimaya gazeta, 18.06.1992.
71 The Independent, London, 12.06.1992.
72 T. Goltz, op. cit. p. 130.
73 Sohbet Mamedov, The tragedy of Khojalu could be prevented, Izvestia, Moscow, 14. 11. 1992.
74 V. B. Haruthunyan, Events in Nagorno-Karabakh, Chronics, part 4, Yerevan, 1994, p. 120.
75 The National Histories in the Soviet and Post-Soviet states, see Appendix, М., 1999, pp. 403-404.
76 See Azadinform, Baku, # 31 (61), 26.02.1998.
77 The Washington Post, 28.02.1992.
78 Tomas Goltz, Armenian soldiers massacre hundreds of fleeng Families, The Sunday Times, 01.03.1992.
79 Millyet, Ankara, 06.03.1992. T. Goltz, op. cit. p. 124.
80 T. Goltz, op. cit. p. 124.
81 Khojalu: Chronics of genocide, pp. 119-120.