This ancient Azerbaijan dwelling was a center of bronze-age Khojali-Gadabay culture. The district’s oldest historical site is a cemetery attributed to the late bronze and early iron ages (13-7th centuries B.C.). Following the resumption of Armenian separatism in 1988, Khojali turned into a stronghold district center to counter Armenian aggression.
History of occupation
16 historical sites and six shrines are currently under occupation. The district population is scattered around 50 districts of Azerbaijan.
It is 14 km north-east of Khankandi. The district, located on the Shusha slope mainly in a mountainous and foothill area, had 57 settlements. Situated on the Shusha-Agdam road, Khojali has a favorable geographical location. Its soil is very prolific. Located 580 meters above sea level, the district was established on 26 November 1991 and had a population of 24,000 people.
People of Khojali
Until February 1992, Khojali had a population of 7,000 people. Besides indigenous people, it was home to the Azerbaijanis ousted from Khankandi and Armenia in 1988 and Meskhetian Turks deported from Central Asia.
Located between Khankandi and Askeran, Khojali was the second biggest Azerbaijani-populated settlement next only to Shusha. It received the status of a town in 1990. The district’s only airport was in Khojali. The town always came under attacks and people were gradually leaving it. All roads to and from Khojali were sealed off, while the only way of getting out was by air. On 18 January 1991, a passenger helicopter was blown up, killing 40 Azerbaijanis. After the disruption of air traffic, the only means of communication left was the telephone. Cut off from the rest of the world, the local population, armed with only 50-60 submachine guns, established a defense battalion. It wasn’t too difficult for the armed-to-the-teeth Armenians to seize the town. The Khojali massacre has gone down in history as one of the most tragic events in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Qarabag which started in 1988. This genocide is also considered one of the bloodiest tragedies of the 20th century.
The Armenians, supported by Russia’s 366th regiment, launched an attack on Khojali from Khankandi on 25-26 February 1992. The fully-armed units first fired on the village with cannons. The houses of the sleeping Khojali people started burning as they attempted to escape from the town. Even the town’s defense unit had to leave it under the incessant fire. At 5 o’clock in the morning, Khojali was taken over. Fleeing from the aggressors, the local population tried to hide in the mountains and then move towards Agdam. This time the Armenians ambushed them in the Nakhchivanik village. Unarmed people now attempted to run towards the forest, but there was no chance of survival.
160 residents of Khojali are still missing, 613 were brutally killed, 487 severely wounded and 76 crippled. Of those killed, 106 were women and 63 kids. Eight entire families were killed, 154 children lost both parents. Only 335 bodies of those killed could be recovered and buried. 200 Khojali residents had their legs amputated due to gangrene. 1257 people were taken prisoner and tortured. Perpetrators of this crime still remain unpunished. Many heroes were born of that tragic night.
Alif Latif oglu Haciyev (1953-1992)
Born in Khojali, he was the Khojali airport commandant. He was a brave and determined individual. In order to prevent the airport falling into enemy hands, he blew it up. He was killed while trying to lead the civilian population out of the burning town on the night of the tragedy. He is buried at the Avenue of Martyrs in Baku.
Tofiq Mirsiyab oglu Huseynov (1954-1992)
Born in Khojali, he was a military trainer at school. He joined the army when the conflict broke out in 1988, established and took charge of the Khojali defense battalion in 1991. He fought against the enemy for four years. On the tragic night he was with his battalion, but was killed in an unequal battle. After leading civilians to safety, he wanted to return to the burning town. On that night Tofiq’s entire family was killed, including his wife, father, mother and brother… The commander is buried at the Avenue of Martyrs in Baku.
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