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26 February 2024

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has laid the foundation stone for the Khojaly Genocide Memorial in the city of Khojaly, met with representatives of the general public.

The head of state first met with the ceremony participants.

Female resident: Welcome. May Allah bless you, Mr. President. It is the happiest day of our lives.

Residents: May Allah protect you, Mr. President.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.

Addressing the meeting, President Ilham Aliyev said:

- This is the first time we are commemorating the innocent Khojaly victims in the city of Khojaly on the anniversary of the Khojaly genocide. After 32 years, we have returned to our native lands. To perpetuate the memory of the victims of Khojaly, the foundation of a memorial complex will be laid here today, on February 26. I must inform you that this project was ready a long time ago, the location was selected – near the Khojaly Genocide Memorial in Baku. But every year I had certain hesitations regarding the construction of the memorial complex and postponed the project. Because, just like you, I also believed and knew that we would return here, that we would return to Khojaly where a memorial complex would be created to perpetuate the memory of innocent victims. After 32 years, you are back. After 32 years, after that horrific tragedy, we are living, building and restoring every corner of Azerbaijan, every corner of Karabakh as its owners and as children of this Motherland. Extensive construction work is underway across all liberated lands.

The Khojaly genocide will never be erased from the memory of our people. The people of Azerbaijan will never forget that bloody crime. Thirty-two years ago, the Armenian state committed this horrific tragedy and killed innocent people. A total of 613 people were brutally killed, 150 people went missing – of course, their fate is also known, more than 1,000 people were taken hostage, more than 60 children, over 100 women and 70 old people were massacred by the Armenian savages and fascists in one night.

Regrettably, our call for “Justice for Khojaly!” has fallen on deaf ears. It is true that 18 countries have recognized this bloody tragedy as an act of genocide thanks to our efforts. However, there are no large countries among those. International organizations, many of them have remained indifferent to this tragedy.

The state of Azerbaijan, our government agencies and also the Azerbaijanis living abroad, our public organizations, including the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, have made great effort to inform the world about the Khojaly genocide. The “Justice for Khojaly!” campaign, which has been widely promoted by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, has reached out to various parts of the world. Many events and presentations have been carried out, books and articles published, and exhibitions organized. In other words, we have made an enormous effort to convey this truth to the world, and we rightly demanded justice from the world. Because the Khojaly genocide is a bloody crime that was perpetrated before the eyes of the world. Denying the Khojaly genocide is unfair and dishonest. However, the Armenian state, the same forces that stood behind it back then and are still there now, the same countries were doing everything in their power to cover up this crime, not to bring Armenia to account, not to introduce sanctions against Armenia, and to let them get away with it.

We worked for decades, especially in recent years, to bring the perpetrators of this bloody crime to justice. But we realized that it was up to us only to restore this justice, and we did exactly that. The Second Karabakh War was a celebration of justice. As a result of the Second Karabakh War, most of the occupied lands were liberated, while the rest of the occupied territories were liberated five months ago.

I know that you, the natives of Khojaly, were just as happy as all the people of Azerbaijan at the time. I also know that you were having certain thoughts about what would happen to Khojaly and Khankendi? I knew that, but I couldn't tell you what would happen. But you and I knew that everything would be fair. We could not consider our territorial integrity and sovereignty fully restored without Khojaly. Khojaly has such a significant place in the history and consciousness of the Azerbaijani people, this tragedy has left such deep wounds in our hearts that we could not be at peace with ourselves until Khojaly was liberated. Five months ago, as a result of the anti-terror operation, all our territories that were then under occupation and where the separatists were challenging us, including Khojaly, were liberated. On October 15, 2023, the Azerbaijani flag was raised in Khojaly. We have also started major construction work here.

Our “Justice for Khojaly!” demand was completely justified. The fact that we secured this justice on the battlefield is fully consistent with international law and historical justice. We have restored historical justice. We avenged the innocent victims of Khojaly on the battlefield, we avenged their blood. True, it took us 30 years, but the work we did in those 30 years and our consistent policies made it possible for us to come and live here today.

At that time, in the numerous meetings with displaced people during the years occupation – they are called formerly displaced now, and the concept of displaced people has already been completely erased with regard to all our citizens – I told them every time that the day would come when we would raise the Azerbaijani flag on all our lands and restore our territorial integrity. More than a hundred IDP settlements were built, and I participated in the opening of all of them. The first IDP settlement was established with the participation of National Leader Heydar Aliyev in Aghjakand village at that time, specifically for the people of Khojaly. We did not have substantial financial means back then. However, whatever money we had was used for those purposes, and that was an indication in itself. In other words, the National Leader showed to us all that we must create appropriate living conditions for those living in the most challenging circumstances. At the same time, our primary objective was the liberation of our lands. In the numerous meetings with the IDPs at the time, I was saying to them that these conditions had been created for them and that those conditions were good. The last tent camps, as you know, were dismantled in 2007. But it was a temporary residence. After the liberation of our lands even better conditions will be created in your native lands, and today we are witnessing that. The former IDPs have already returned to five settlements. This year, the number of settlements will reach 20. This year, life will be restored in both Khojaly and Khankendi, including the nearby villages of Malibayli, Karkijahan, Turshsu of Shusha. The city of Aghdam is being restored, and the first relocation to Aghdam will begin next year. In other words, construction work is gaining momentum.

As for Khojaly, after we fully restored our sovereignty on September 20, I immediately gave instructions to restore houses in Khojaly first. Because the enemy committed a horrific genocide and displaced the people of Khojaly from their native land. In addition, they attempted to change the historical name of Khojaly and settled separatists, our enemies, including from foreign countries, in the houses that belonged to Azerbaijanis. And it was a sordid crime committed against our people, and want to repeat that the world continues to remain indifferent to this. Armenia and its patrons thought that no one would punish them. They were completely wrong, and they are still wrong today. Armenia, which is looking for a new master and seeking refuge in somebody’s arms, should understand that the only way is to accept all of Azerbaijan’s conditions and give up its territorial claims against Azerbaijan.

We will never forget the Khojaly genocide. Let me reiterate that we took our revenge on the criminals during the Second Karabakh War and the anti-terror operation, crushed them, destroyed the Armenian army and forced it to sign capitulation twice. Unlike them, we have never fought a war against the civilian population, and everyone sees and knows that. The military operations we conducted both in 2020 and in September of last year were conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian law – everyone is aware of that and no one can criticize us. This is further evidence of the greatness of our nation. However, there is a sense of revenge in our hearts when we revisit this history marred by blood, when we watch those horrific videos and see those photos. We are filled with anger, and this anger will not let up even after 300 years, let alone 30. And this is natural, we are human beings, but at the same time, we are represent a great nation, a nation that has shaken off its shackles, a nation that united like a fist and broke the back of the enemy, the enemy with great powers behind it both then and now. If those great powers had not supported them, our lands would not have been occupied in the early 1990s. We were powerless then, while they had great forces with them. Today we are strong, and some people are telling us that we should have mercy, but did they have mercy on us back then?

Let me say again that all these are, of course, our thoughts and feelings. I repeat that we took our revenge, showed excellent professionalism, heroism and selflessness both during the 44-day Second Karabakh War and during the one-day anti-terror operation. The sons of this country were prepared to die to free these lands from the invaders. May Allah rest the souls of all our martyrs in peace!

Residents: May Allah rest the souls of all our martyrs in peace, amen.

President Ilham Aliyev: Our Armed Forces showed great professionalism and courage. The whole world can see this, especially today. The events, wars and bloody clashes taking place in different parts of the world show again that the Azerbaijani Army is professional, patriotic, capable and, at the same time, it conducts its operations in such a way that the seemingly impossible solution can be achieved in a short period of time – one of them, and perhaps the first, being the Shusha operation.

Today we are here, our presence here means a complete restoration of historical justice. Khojaly is being rebuilt and we will now go and get acquainted with the progress. Construction work is being carried out in all other areas, and the foundation stone of the Khojaly Genocide Memorial will be laid here today. The souls of Khojaly victims are rejoicing today, may Allah rest them in peace.

Residents: Amen.

President Ilham Aliyev: Their dear memory will live in our hearts forever. Thank you.

Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Anar Alakbarov briefed the head of state on the Khojaly Genocide Memorial.

The Khojaly Genocide Memorial to be created by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation will be located along the Khojaly-Asgaran road.

It will comprise various sections, commemorating the tragic events of February 25-26, 1992, as well as depicting the historical and geographical significance of Khojaly and the town's way of life before the atrocities against civilians occurred. Additionally, the memorial will include a model illustrating the district's geographical layout.

The memorial will feature documentaries recounting the Khojaly massacre.

x x x

The head of state laid a foundation stone for the Khojaly Genocide Memorial.

x x x

After laying a foundation stone, President Ilham Aliyev, while reviewing the model of the memorial complex, said: The garden in the middle means life.

Anar Alakbarov: Yes, it does, Mr. President. The capsule will be placed inside the complex.

x x x

Residents: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Good luck to you.

Male resident: Mr. President, thirty-two years ago, we left Khojaly as a defeated people. We were subjected to genocide. After thirty-two years, we have returned to Khojaly as victors, and it is you who led us to this victory. Your leadership and your wise policies have secured this Victory, for us, the people of Khojaly, the entire Azerbaijani people and the entire Turkic world. On behalf of all the natives of Khojaly, we embrace you. Thank you, Mr. President, for being there for us.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.

Female resident: Mr. President, as a daughter of a martyr, I am grateful to you on behalf of all the children of martyrs. My father was taken prisoner by the Armenians during the Khojaly genocide. He was a member of a self-defense battalion. Even today, we have no information about his fate.

On the 32nd anniversary of the Khojaly genocide, visiting these lands today, alongside a supreme commander like yourself, visiting the imaginary graves of our unburied martyrs, is a sacred mission. The fact that you raised the flag in Khojaly last year on October 15, on the 20th year of your presidency, was a testament that your heart beats in unison with the families of martyrs from Khojaly. We are always grateful to you and may Allah protect you and our army. We are grateful to you on behalf of all the children of the martyrs.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much.

Male resident: Mr. President, by February 24, 1996, our family had completely lost hope that we would ever see Khojaly or Karabakh again. On February 24, 1996, our National Leader, our great commander, the world-renowned Heydar Aliyev arranged a meeting with us – martyrs’ families and intellectuals from Khojaly. There he assured us that we would not leave an inch of our land under enemy occupation. Then he said that he believed in Ilham Aliyev as much as he did in himself. I felt that this was a message he was giving to the future. He believed that our Commander-in-Chief, Mr. President would overcome this and that you would fulfill that mission. We express our infinite gratitude to you for giving us this honor and glory today. Thank you very much. We are grateful to you.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Male resident: Mr. President, I am a doctor decorated with the Order of the Flag of Azerbaijan. In 1994, I was awarded the Order of the Flag of Azerbaijan by a Decree of the National Leader. In 1996, when he personally presented that order to me, I conveyed a wish of the people of Khojaly that if that day were to come and our lands were to be liberated, we could meet you in Khojaly. That day has come. Today, we are in our native and free Khojaly thanks to you, who very successfully continues the domestic and foreign policies of the National Leader. Thank you very much. May Allah protect you.

Male resident: Mr. President, we will not take up too much of your time. All the people of Khojaly have made a promise to our National Leader. I personally gave that promise to him. I said that Mr. President, under your leadership, after our lands are liberated from occupation, we will erect your monument in the most spectacular and prominent place of Khojaly. Mr. President, we ask you very much, as you have successfully chosen this place, we ask you on behalf of all natives of Khojaly to erect the monument of our National Leader in the most worthy location in Khojaly.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much.

Residents: Thank you very much.

x x x

Then, President Ilham Aliyev, accompanied by residents, inspected the ongoing construction works in the city of Khojaly.

Female resident: As a living witness to the events of Khojaly, I express our gratitude to you for the fact that we are standing in Khojaly together with you. Back on February 25, 1997, our National Leader, the late President Heydar Aliyev personally presented my husband’s “Gold Star” medal to me. Twenty-seven years have passed since then. Today, I am pleased to meet you in the land of Khojaly. May Allah bless you with long life and robust health. Long live our victorious army, long live our Commander-in-Chief!

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much.

Another female resident: I am sure that our people will never forget your services to the nation. The golden page of our history will always live.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.

Female resident: May Allah always have you as the leader of Azerbaijan.

Residents: Amen.