Vol. 6, No. 5 (March 01, 2013)

President Obama, do not be afraid of ‘Khojaly!’

Alimardanova Tamara, Independent Expert
Vugar Seidov, AzerTAg

The White House’s response to our petition about the Khojaly genocide speaks of some unspecified “human losses,” while failing to mention Khojaly itself, a town that stood witness to the most horrendous massacre any post-Soviet locality had ever seen.  Still worse, the response fails to mention the perpetrators by name, an attitude that amounts to nothing less than an appallingly evasive come-off.  Is this supposed to be an “adequate response” to the voice of more than 125,000 US citizens, who approached our President—one who presents himself as a global champion of human rights—asking him to address this particular carnage, which—not even formally denounced—was so far left unprosecuted? 

Washington, however, had been demonstrably capable of moving quickly and decisively on other issues.  Less than a day after the release and extradition of Lt. Ramil Safarov, the Azerbaijani officer who served more than eight years in jail for murdering a uniformed officer (!) of the country (Armenia) that continues to illegally occupy his homeland and does so in cynical disregard of the UN Security Council Resolutions, the US State Department rushed to express its concern about the fully legitimate decision on extradition and pardoning.  But regarding Khojaly, where 613 unarmed civilians—indeed fleeing refugees including women, children, and the elderly—were ruthlessly slaughtered—with the corpses of many mutilated in the most barbaric way—the US only responded once over the last 21 years and only did so in the most vague terms.

Such a shameful evasion is an insult to everyone who signed the petition and expected the Administration to condemn what three countries (Mexico, Colombia and Pakistan) already have officially recognized as an act of genocide, two others (the Czech Republic and Bosnia & Herzegovina) have defined as a crime against humanity, and 11 US state legislatures had denounced as a massacre (including three of them having done so within the both chambers). 

If the reason behind such a formal—and ultimately empty—reply is the votes of Armenian Americans that the White House is afraid of losing, what could then justify a blatant disregard of over 125,000 individuals who have signed the Petition and who happen to be US citizens, and hence voters, as well?  

We call on the US Department of State to treat separately the Khojaly Petition and the second one concerning the actions of the OSCE Minsk Group.  Those are separate issues and should not be lumped together: the former is a human rights issue in need of condemnation, while the latter concerns the ongoing peace process under the tutelage of the OSCE Minsk Group.

When the troops of Ratko Mladich and Radovan Karadzic perpetrated genocide in Srebrenica, no one in the White House chose to refrain from condemning this crime in very specific terms, with the name of the town explicitly mentioned and concern about the future of the Dayton peace process openly expressed (the Srebrenica genocide and the Dayton process were two different issues and were treated as such by Western observers).  No one should fail to do the same now concerning what happened in Khojaly, including treating the humanitarian dimension thereof as distinct from the political agenda of conflict resolution.  The latter must not be used as a pretext for one’s failure to address the former.  To do so in the conditions of the 21st century is utterly unacceptable. 

Washington's failure to condemn this crime allows those who perpetrated it to deny what they did, and such denials, history shows, can lead to a repetition of such horrific crimes. 

President Obama, do not help those who committed this crime and now deny it by failing to talk about the crime and its perpetrators in explicit terms.