The human tragedy of Khojaly commemorated in Istanbul’s Zorlu Center
Press Release: On 23 February, the new independent documentary Endless Corridor was screened in the heart of Istanbul’s Zorlu Center. The showing 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 an audience of over 200 politicians, VIPs and press representatives, Rena Rzaeva, Istanbul Representative, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), explained: “On 23 February, we are gathered here to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Khojaly tragedy. 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 come from individuals and international organisations, as well as states, echoing this important message of justice for Khojaly across the world. TEAS is organising events within the Justice for Khojaly campaign in London, Paris, Strasbourg, Brussels, Berlin, Bern, Dublin, Ankara, Rome, Luxembourg and Vilnius, in addition to tonight’s event in Istanbul.
“We all know that, without respect for international borders, there can be no peace and, without this peace, there is no real justice. It is true that history has always been open to debate and discussion, but what happened in 1992 in Khojaly occurred before the world, in front of our very eyes, and the pain of this tragedy still continues to this day. Let us remember the year 1992 on a cold night in February, when 63 innocent children out of 613 lives were destroyed in the most agonising and horrific way. The book we are proud to present sheds light on the realities of that catastrophic night in the town of Khojaly via first-hand testimonies. I hope that, with this valuable book and important film documentary, we are a few steps closer to achieving peace and justice for Khojaly.”
Ian Peart, Project Co-ordinator, TEAS Baku and co-author of the book Khojaly Witness of a War Crime: Armenia in the Dock,stated: “I had lived in Azerbaijan for 10 years when I was asked to interview survivors from Khojaly. When I had the privilege of speaking to these brave people, my understanding went to a completely different level. We developed the project into a book to present first-hand information from first-hand witnesses, and accounts of what happened, because the purpose was to make people realise that what happened in Khojaly was enacted on real people – we wanted to rise above the statistics. We are delighted that this has been translated into a number of different languages.
“In particular, for this Turkish edition, we are grateful to Mrs Leyla Aliyeva, founder of the Justice for Khojaly campaign. I hope you will read her foreword in this book and the heartrending accounts of the survivors and the objective accounts of the international observers. Finally, ask yourself what you can do to help these people get justice.”
Hasan Zeynalov, Azerbaijani Consulate-General to Turkey, continued: “We are here to commemorate one of the worst tragedies and crimes of the 20th century against mankind – the 23rd anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre. On the night of 25–26 February, Armenian armed forces, together with the officers of the 366th regiment of the Soviet army, entered the ancient Azerbaijani town of Khojaly whilst its residents were sleeping. The town was suddenly destroyed, together with 613 lives, including children and the elderly. Approximately 2000 people were taken hostage, and their fate remains unknown. Unfortunately, due to double-standards, the world has still not fully acknowledged the Khojaly tragedy. The Justice for Khojaly campaign has been initiated by Mrs Leyla Aliyev, Vice-President, Heydar Aliyev Foundation.”
Valeh Huseynov, a brave survivor of the Khojaly Massacre who was taken hostage by Armenian forces and lost his beloved wife, shared his horrific story of pain with the Istanbul audience. His testimony was included in the Endless Corridor film documentary. He said: “That night in Khojaly, under the Armenian bombardment of our town, we knew we had to escape, despite the constant attack from all sides. Young children were not spared, women were beaten, and even the elderly suffered at the hands of the Armenians. I saw all this before my eyes, including the decapitation of children and men being burned alive. I lost my wife right before my eyes, and could not save her. We were all helpless. I was tortured by the Armenians, who knew that I was a guitarist, yet they broke my fingers and tore out my nails so that I could never play again.”
The independent documentary Endless Corridor was also premiered at the Istanbul event. This film 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 seeing 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 sudden Armenian invasion of their land. Endless Corridor is directed by Aleksandras Brokas, co-produced by the Emmy Award-winning producer Gerald Rafshoon and narrated by Academy Award-winning British actor Jeremy Irons.
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.
The documentary will also be screened across multiple cinemas in Istanbul from 24–26 February. Free tickets will be offered to the general public, as part of the Khojaly awareness campaign, which is promoted by a huge public marketing campaign across Istanbul.