Tessa Hofmann: Armenians of Azerbaijan Were Subjected to Genocidal Acts Three Times in the 20th Century

Tessa Hofmann: Armenians of AzerbaijanBy 1990, power in Azerbaijan had practically passed into the hands of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan. By that time, acts of violence against the Armenian population in Baku, as well as in the villages of Northern Artsakh had become systematized.

On January 10, the Parliament of Soviet Armenia appealed to the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev, noting that “innocent women, children, and old people were suffering.”

“It came down to murder by beating, burning, taking hostages, and blocking streets and bridges. On January 13, the pogroms in Baku became organized,” said Tessa Hofmann to journalists at a press conference in January, 2010, “The city methodically, house after house was being “cleared” of Armenians.”

Moreover, in Sumgait, rape of underage girls and elderly women, as well as torture took place. The roads leading to Baku were blocked. Survivors were sent out by ferries.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Baku confirmed in their testimonies that the persecution organized and controlled by the Popular Front proceeded in accordance with a single pattern. 10-20 rioters were breaking into apartments and beginning to terrorize, beat, and torture their residents. Then appeared the representatives of the Popular Front and suggested that the intimidated and exhausted people immediately go to the port.

People were allowed to take their carry-on baggage with them, but all cash, savings books, and valuables were immediately taken away from them.

In the port, the Armenians were awaited by an outpost of the Popular Front. Here, the refugees were searched and often beaten again.

The number of those killed back in the days remains unknown. Not a single investigation has been conducted. There is a lot of evidence of murder committed with particular cruelty, for example, of people being burned alive. It should be noted that those Azerbaijanis or representatives of other nations who tried to help the Armenians were endangering themselves.

In July 1997, the events in Baku were reflected in the report of the Armenian delegation presented at the 17th session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The report stated:

“During the five days of January 1990, in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, representatives of the Armenian community were killed, tortured, robbed, and humiliated. Pregnant women and children were harassed, young girls were raped in front of their parents, a Christian cross was scorched on their backs. People were persecuted only for their Christian faith.”

Acts of organized violence against the Armenian population occurred in those January days not only in Baku but also in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, as well as in the Khanlar and Shahumyan districts of the Azerbaijani SSR. On January 16, the Armenian villages of the Shahumyan and Khanlar districts were shelled, with the small village of Manashid subjected to particularly intense and brutal shelling.

According to the legal definition of genocide given by the author of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) Raphael Lemkin, genocide is considered the consistent and purposeful destruction of any ethnic or religious group. At the same time, it is not at all necessary that this extermination be expressed exclusively by massacres. It may be carried out by other methods as well.

If you apply these definitions to the Armenians of Azerbaijan, you can see that throughout the 20th century, the chauvinistic forces of Azerbaijan three times attempted genocidal acts against the Armenian ethnic group living here, especially in the capital Baku and in Nagorno-Karabakh.

These attempts coincided with the crisis periods of the weakening of the central power in the region, which was the case in 1904-1905, 1918, and 1990. Demographic and cultural data show that the Azerbaijanis attempts, just as the events in the Ottoman Empire, were completely crowned with “success”.

The definite difference is that in Turkey, the Armenian Apostolic Church, after all, is officially recognized as a religious institution as a result of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). In Azerbaijan, the Armenian Church was liquidated as a religious institution at the beginning of the Soviet era.

In conclusion, Tessa Hofmann stated, “The realities of the Armenian-Azerbaijani history are very far from what is propagandized by the current state-owned and widely replicated media in Azerbaijan.

These approaches are designed to create the impression that the Armenians are cruel executioners and criminals, while Azerbaijanis are innocent victims. Such a setup does not allow the slightest critical awareness of one’s own guilt and responsibility; meanwhile, this very approach would be able to form a precondition for achieving real reconciliation of peoples.”




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