Late in the 1980s and early 1990s of the XX century complicated public and political processes were underway across the former USSR. These processes were accompanied by armed conflicts in several constituent republics of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijani civilians living in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR), in Nagorno-Karabakh and other adjacent territories of the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) were extremely suffering from these events. In 1988-1989, within a few months, official Yerevan deported over 250,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis from the current territories of the Armenian Republic, that is, from their historical homeland. Simultaneously, these events occurred against the background of Armenia’s groundless territorial claims against Azerbaijan. In order to realize its claims and in violation of international legal norms, Armenia launched a large-scale armed aggression against Azerbaijan.
Also by adopting several documents contrary to the international legal norms, Armenia was intending to lend legitimacy to its policy of aggression. To this end, the decision of the Armenian SSR Supreme Soviet “On the reunification of the Armenian SSR and the Nagorno-Karabakh” dated from 1 December 1989, and a declaration on the state sovereignty of Armenia from 23 August 1990 should be highlighted. These documents that declared the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan as “an inseparable part of the Republic of Armenia” diametrically opposed the international legal norms.
Along with the Armenian armed forces, groups of armed mercenaries, made up of ethnic Armenians worldwide and international Armenian terrorist organizations were fighting against Azerbaijan.
The latter’s Nagorno-Karabakh region (NKR) and seven adjacent districts (Latin, Kalbacar, Agdam, Fuzuli, Cabrayil, Qubadli and Zangilan) were occupied as a result of the aggression of the Armenian armed forces. Together with the abovementioned districts, a number of villages of the Naxçivan Autonomous Republic, Qazax, Tartar, Agcabadi and Gadabay districts of Azerbaijan on the front line and on border with Armenia were occupied, and some of them in Agstafa, Beylaqan and Tovuz were extensively damaged. At the same time, one of the two occupied villages of the Naxçivan Autonomous Republic, 80 of the 81 occupied villages of Agdam District, 54 of 76 villages of Fuzuli District, 13 of Tartar District, seven of 12 occupied villages of Qazax District together with Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent regions are still under Armenia’s occupation.
Armenia’s territorial claims against Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region have led to the destruction of hundreds of residential areas, deaths of thousands of people and the displacement of about 1 million civilians from their permanent homes.
Armenia’s armed aggression against Azerbaijan was accompanied by massive and gross violation of human rights. The Armenian armed forces killed over 20,000 people, more than50,000 people were wounded and disabled, thousands of people went missing. Armenians carried out extrajudicial killings and mass murders of civilians, took hostages and used them in forced labor camps. Prisoners of war and hostages were subjected to torture and inhuman treatment, the wounded and patients were even refused first medical aid.
The massacre of Azerbaijanis in Khojaly town is one of the heinous crimes in history. Together with the Armenian armed groups in Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, Armenia’s armed forces occupied Khojaly (Xocalı) town located between Xankandi (Stepanakert) and Asgaran on the night from 25 to 26 February 1992 and committed an act of genocide against Azerbaijanis. The personnel and military hardware of the 366th motorized rifle regiment of the former USSR stationed in Xankandi were directly engaged in the crimes in Khojaly town.
Before the town was stormed on the evening of 25 February, it came under heavy shelling and pounded by various heavy weapons. As a result of the bombardment, a fire started in the town and at about 5 o’clock in the morning on 26 February, it was completely engulfed in flames. Around 2,500 residents of the town surrounded by Armenians had to flee in the hope of reaching the neighboring Agdam District of Azerbaijan. However, civilians trying to survive by fleeing were brutally killed by Armenians waiting in ambush.
Of civilians, 613 people, including 63 children, 106 women, 70 elderly were tortured to death with chilling brutality on the night of the occupation of Khojaly, where people were beheaded, their eyes were gouged out, and abdomens of pregnant women were bayoneted. Some 1,275 people were taken captive, 150 people went missing and 487 people were disabled. Of them, 76 were under-aged children. As a result of this massacre, 8 families were entirely killed, 25 children lost both parents, 130 children lost one of their parents, and 56 people were tortured to death. Khojaly town was razed to the ground.
Armenia has carried out ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis in the occupied territories and turned these areas into a mono-ethnic zone. The native Azerbaijani population has been expelled from their permanent homes, who have become internally displaced persons. Thus, after the occupation of Azerbaijan’s former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, ethnic Azerbaijanis were forced out of their homeland. The same scenario was carried out in other occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
In general, 71,000 people from Lacin, 74,000 from Kalbacar, 165, 600 from Agdam, 146, 000 from Fuzuli, 66, 000 from Cabrayil, 37,900 from Qubadli and 39,000 from Zangilan districts of Azerbaijan have become internally displaced persons in their homeland. In other word, over 660,000 civilians from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan have become internally displaced persons as a result of the armed aggression and ethnic cleansing of Armenia.
Over 100,000 Azerbaijani citizens had to abandon their homes on border areas with Armenia or along the front line zone to seek refuge in secure regions of the country. As mentioned above, over 250, 000 ethnic Azerbaijanis were deported from the current territory of Armenia late in 1988 and early 1989, and they have settled down in Azerbaijan as refugees.
In a nutshell, following the occupation of 20% of the Azerbaijani lands and the ethnic cleansing on the occupied territories, thousands of people were killed, got varying degrees of injuries, taken hostages or went missing; civilians went through heavy psychological and spiritual hardships, including the deportation of Azerbaijanis from the current territories of Armenia. Over a million Azerbaijanis were displaced from their historical motherland and homes, who have become refugees and internally displaced persons.
Azerbaijan faced an emergency humanitarian situation following Armenia’s armed aggression and the ethnic cleansing on the occupied territories. The serious concern over the emergency humanitarian situation in the region as a result of the aggression was reflected in the UNSC Resolutions № 822, № 853, № 874, № 884 passed in 1993.
The UN General Assembly Resolution № 48/144 from 20 December 1993 on “Emergency international assistance to refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan” expressed serious concern about the ongoing aggravation of the humanitarian situation in Azerbaijan because of the continuous displacement of a considerable number of civilians. For the first time, the international document confirmed that the number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan exceeded 1 million as a result of the Armenian aggression.
National and cultural monuments of the Azerbaijani people were also totally destroyed and our rich cultural heritage – an integral part of the culture of the peoples of the world – was inflicted an unprecedented damage during the occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories by the military units of Armenia.
The famous Azix and Taglar caves, Qarakopak and Uzarliktapa kurgans – the first human settlements – are currently being used for military purposes and being deliberately destroyed. Along with rare monuments – kurgans in Khojaly, Agdam, Fuzuli, Cabrayil districts, cemeteries, shrines, tombstones, mosques, temples and monuments of the Caucasus Albania and other national monuments of the Azerbaijani people in the occupied districts of Susa, Lacin, Kalbacar, Qubadli, Zangilan and Fuzuli have now been devastated. The aggressors, carrying out large-scale and unprofessional archaeological excavations, are destroying kurgans and take plundered findings to Armenia.
Some 13 historical and cultural monuments of cosmic importance (6 architectural and 7 archaeological), 292 monuments of national importance (119 architectural and 173 archaeological), 330 of local importance (270 architectural, 22 archeological, 23 gardens, parks, monumental and memorial monuments, 15 decorative works of art) have remained under the Armenian occupation.
A total of 247,352 ha forest area, as well as 13,197.5 ha valuable forest lands, 152 natural monuments and 5 geological facilities are also under the Armenian occupation. The majority of these valuable monuments of huge importance are now being brutally destroyed by the occupying state. Wood processing industry in Armenia is developing owing to the deforestation in the occupied regions.
Thus, Ayifindigi trees (Corylus columa) covering 968 ha of lands on the Red Book of the Azerbaijan Republic are massively cut and sold to foreign countries. At present, Armenia is pursuing a policy of ecocide against nature in Azerbaijan. Many of Azerbaijani lakes of ecological importance under the Armenian occupation are undergoing huge anthropogenic influence and undermined the ecological balance in the region. Fresh water resources, such as Boyuk Alagol, Kicik Alagol, Zalxagol, Qaragol, Canligol, Isiqli Qaragol, located in the highlands of Kalbacar and Lacin districts, as well as Qaragol in Agdara District, are under Armenian occupation.
A total of 198-km-long Azerbaijani state border with Iran, stretching from Horadiz settlement to Zangilan District, and 360-km-long Azerbaijani-Armenia border, all in all 558 km, have been violated by Armenia and still remain under its control.
Buildings, posts, border facilities, demarcation lines constructed along the border line during the former Soviet Union were demolished by Armenia. Smuggling of goods, including trafficking in narcotics, is carried out through the unprotected segment of the Azerbaijani-Iranian border under occupation.
Karki village in Sadarak District of the Naxçivan Autonomous Republic, Asagi Askipara, Yuxari Askipara, Quscu Ayrim, Barxudarli and other villages in Qazax District bordering Armenia have been occupied and destroyed. The occupation of those villages endangers a water reservoir, built on border with Armenia on Agstafa River, which is of economic importance for the western districts of Azerbaijan. Agstafa River reservoir with 120 million cubic meters of water capacity and 72.3 km long irrigation canal provides the lowland farms and villages of Qazax, Agstafa, Tovuz and Samkir districts with irrigation water.
Over 900 residential settlements (towns, settlements, villages etc.), about 150,000 houses and flats with a total area of 9.1 million square meters, 4, 366 social and cultural facilities, 7, 000 public buildings, 1, 025 schools, 855 kindergartens, 798 health service facilities, including 695 hospitals and other medical facilities, 4 sanatoriums, 1, 510 community centers, 927 libraries, 598 communication facilities were destroyed by the Armenian aggressors in the occupied regions of Azerbaijan.
At the same time, 5,198 km roads, 286 km railway line, 348 bridges, 116 railway bridges, 7,568 km water pipelines, 224 water reservoirs, 2,000 km gas pipeline, 76,940 km electricity lines were demolished. Some 7, 296 hydro installations, 36 pumping stations, 26 irrigation systems, 18 main irrigations systems installations, 1,200 km inter-farm irrigation canal, 5,600 km intra farm system were put out of order, 127,700 ha of high quality irrigated land remained in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Thus, the historical, cultural and national monuments of the Azerbaijani people, natural resources, socio-economic facilities of the region, as well as the region’s ecological system were inflicted colossal damages as a result of Armenia’s armed aggression and the emergency humanitarian situation has sprung up in the region.
The armed aggression has caused a colossal material and spiritual damage to Azerbaijan. Numerous historical, cultural, national monuments, state institutions, social and public facilities were destroyed in the occupied regions and the ecology of the region were subjected to gigantic destruction.
As obvious, what is happening in the region is not a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is Armenia’s large-scale war and armed aggression against Azerbaijan. Armenia’s war and armed aggression have resulted in the occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan’s territories and inflicted enormous spiritual and material damages on the Azerbaijani state and its people.
International organizations, including UN Security Council and the General Assembly, the European Parliament, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted different documents over the armed confrontation and humanitarian crisis in the region. These international institutions have endorsed the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and demanded an immediate end to the armed attacks and the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the region. Among these documents, it is particularly necessary to underline UN Security Council Resolutions № 822 (1993), № 853 (1993), № 874 (1993) and № 884 (1993), as well as official documents of the General Assembly. Thus, such documents are of universal nature and include the following provisions:
-Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as a region of Azerbaijan and the fact that this region belongs to Azerbaijan is confirmed unanimously;
-It is admitted that the territory of Azerbaijan was occupied;
-The population remaining in Nagorno-Karabakh, after the ethnic cleansing leading to the expulsion of Azerbaijani population from Nagorno-Karabakh, is recognized as the “Armenians of the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh”, but not as the “population of Nagorno-Karabakh”;
-The sovereignty territorial integrity, inviolability of international borders of all the countries in the region and inadmissibility of using forces in order to seize territories are approved;
-The occupational forces are demanded to be withdrawn immediately, completely and unconditionally from all the occupied regions of Azerbaijan;
-It is confirmed that the people expelled from the occupied territories of the Azerbaijani Republic have the right to return to their homes and the necessity of establishing vital conditions, as well as the rehabilitation of the territories damaged from intervention is noted;
-The necessity of establishing normal, safe and equal living conditions both for Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is admitted;
-It is particularly noted that the legitimacy of the condition occurring as a result of the occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory should not be recognized by any state and they should not assist for the maintenance of such a condition.
It should be noted that after Azerbaijan was admitted as a member to the Council of Europe, in the report (Doc. 10364) presented by the PACE’s special rapporteur David Atkinson on 29 November 2004, it was said that “considerable parts of the territory of Azerbaijan are still occupied by Armenian forces.”
The report specifically notes that “the borders of Azerbaijan were internationally recognized at the time of the country being recognized as independent state in 1991. The territory of Azerbaijan included the Nagorno-Karabakh region.” (Section III, Paragraph 5).
Based on this report, PACE adopted Resolution № 1416 (2005) titled “The conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference”. In the resolution, the PACE regretted that the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region remains unsolved; hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced and live in miserable conditions; considerable parts of the territory of Azerbaijan are still occupied by Armenian forces, and separatist forces are still in control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The Assembly expressed its concern that the military action, and the widespread ethnic hostilities which preceded it, led to large-scale ethnic expulsion and the creation of mono-ethnic areas which resemble the terrible concept of ethnic cleansing. The Assembly reaffirmed that independence and the secession of a regional territory from a state may only be achieved through a lawful and peaceful process based on the democratic support of the inhabitants of such territory and not in the wake of an armed conflict leading to ethnic expulsion and the de-facto annexation of such territory by another state. Pointing to the occupation of considerable part of Azerbaijan’s territories by the Armenian forces, the Assembly reiterated that the occupation of foreign territory by a member state constitutes a grave violation of that state’s obligations to a member of the Council of Europe and reaffirms the right of displaced persons from the area of conflict to return to their homes safely and with dignity.
The Assembly recalled Resolutions 822 (1993), 853 (1993), 874 (1993) and 884 (1993) of the United Nations Security Council and urged the parties concerned to comply with them, in particular by refraining from any armed hostilities and by withdrawing military forces from any occupied territories. The Assembly asked its Bureau to create an ad-hoc committee, comprising the heads of the national delegations of the countries of the OSCE Minsk Group.
As the continuation of this process, during the meeting of PACE’s sub-committee on Nagorno-Karabakh held in Strasbourg on 9 January 2006, the occupation of Azerbaijani territories, the separatist regime in Nagorno-Karabakh, the displacement of 1 million Azerbaijanis from their homeland and other facts found their reflection in the report prepared by late Lord David Russell-Johnston.
However, because of the non-constructive position of the Armenian delegation, in accordance with the PACE Resolution 1416, the sub-committee on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in fact stopped its functioning after the death of Lord David Russell-Johnston. Though PACE took a decision on restoring the functioning of the sub-committee in 2011, the Armenian delegation rejected to join the sub-committee’s work and has been boycotting its activity by now.
During its summer session in 2008, PACE once again demonstrated its position with regard to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. According to the report on “The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan” prepared by the co-rapporteurs of the PACE Monitoring Committee, Andres Herkel, and Evguenia Jivkova, Resolution 1614 with the same title was adopted on 24 July 2008.
Paragraph 25.1 of the resolution read that “the Assembly considers that sustainable democratic development will be extremely difficult in Azerbaijan as long as the country’s territorial integrity has not been restored”. A lot of time has passed since the PACE adopted Resolution 1416 (2005) on the occupied territories entitled “The conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference”. The regular aggravation of the situation on the line of contact of the armed forces, the increasing number of deaths among the civilians living in the regions close to the front line zone, non-acceptance of long standing states-quo, and quickly changing political situation in the world required the preparation of a new report about the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.