On February 13, 1988, the first demonstration was held in Khankandi, the center of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO). The Armenian nationalists, who gathered at the Lenin Square of the city openly declared their intentions to unite Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia with support of their foreign backers. This was also the beginning of the ethnic cleansing policy of Armenians.
“I was 27 years old when the events started. At that time, demonstrations aiming at secession from Azerbaijan had already started. The people in Aghdam wanted the government to take urgent measures and they organized a demonstration. At that time, people came from Barda on trucks. A meeting was held in Aghdam. I had a friend who served in Afghanistan. He spoke from the rostrum and said that they had been sent to protect somebody’s motherland, but now, we cannot defend our lands. A rally started in the direction of Asgaran. It was attended by adults, young people and children,” participant of events Gadir Gambarpur said.
Neither the leadership of the former USSR nor the Azerbaijani authorities denounced this tyranny committed by the Armenians. That’s why demonstrations turned into armed assaults. Civilians, protesting the groundless territorial claims and separatist statements, marched from Aghdam to Khankandi and were subjected to gunfire. As a result, two young men-Ali Hajiyev and Bakhtiyar Guliyev were killed.
“Bakhtiyar, who died with Ali, was not even 16 years old. They marched against the annexation of our territory to Armenia. Our office was on the outskirts of the village Shelli. We went out with Ali and met Bakhtiyar. I asked my brother to come back. He said that we are holding a peaceful demonstration, we are weaponless. They did not assume that the Armenians were armed. I came back. Almost half an hour later, the shelling started from Asgaran and they started to kill people,” martyr’s brother Arif Hajiyev said.
Ali and Bakhtiyar became the first martyrs of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The demonstrations that started with Armenia’s territorial claims had fueled the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The next stage of Armenia’s claims against the Azerbaijani lands resulted in the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions.
“As it was during Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, the Armenian separatists were armed and started talking about a so-called great Armenia. Thus, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict started. The root causes of the conflict date back to the period of Peter the Great. All scenarios for these pogroms were prepared in advance. The Soviet Russia took advantage of it, when it was necessary for the Bolsheviks. This war was launched by order and directed against the Azerbaijani people. This was an aggressive and unjust war. Many historical scenarios were repeated in it. In the course of this war, genocides were committed once again, the last page of which was the Khojaly genocide,” Director of Institute of History of National Academy of Sciences Yagub Mahmudov said.
Armenians have made territorial claims against Azerbaijanis for centuries. Only in the 20th century this issue was raised three times. They wanted to unite Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia in 1920-on the eve of the establishment of the Soviet Union, in 1922, when the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was established. The next attempt was made in 1945 after World War 2, during the reign of Mirjafar Baghirov, and another one in 1967. Finally, in 1988, on the eve of the collapse of the USSR, they raised the same issue once again. Apart from Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian armed forces occupied the surrounding regions as well. This occupation has persisted for almost 30 years. Negotiations aimed at finding peaceful resolution of the conflict with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs have been fruitless so far. Due to the destructive policy of official Yerevan, progress cannot be achieved in the settlement of the conflict. Baku supports the peaceful settlement of the conflict based in the principles of international law, including the territorial integrity.