28 years after the Maragha Massacre the hope to return to the homeland is still alive
YEREVAN, APRIL 10, ARTSAKHPRESS. April 10 marks the 28th-anniversary of the Maragha massacre, one of the most frightful pogroms committed by the Azerbaijani military against peaceful Armenian inhabitants during the Artsakh Liberation War.
Maragha was one of the largest and richest villages in Artsakh before the war – several factories operated, and viticulture was developed in the village. After the pogroms in Baku, Sumgait and Kirovabad, attacks on the civilian Armenian population were highly increased in scope, forcing most of the locals to leave their native villages. On April 10 of 1992, Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, Internal Affairs Ministry and OMON forces (Special Purpose Police Units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan) launched an attack on 118 civilians who were unable to leave Maragha. Staying there for only 5-6 hours, Azerbaijani units brutally killed about 50 people and took almost as many civilians as hostages, including 29 women, 9 children, as well as disabled people among them. Subsequently, it became possible to rescue some of these people, including all the children, yet the fate of 19 hostages still remains unknown.
Starting from 1989, the tension in Maragha was highly increased; the village was under constant shelling and the civilians were in a state of fear because of the attacks towards their properties and cattle, as well as themselves and their families. Maragha and the surrounding villages were systematically raided by Azerbaijani armed forces. In the aftermath, some of the residents of the village had to leave their houses and temporarily settle in other regions of Artsakh.
The village was located in the Martakert region of the NKAO and starting from 1954 to 1992, Maragha and Margushevan, a village located in the vicinity of Maragha, were united under a soviet farm named Leninavan. According to the 1989 Soviet census, Leninavan had 5000 population. The number of people living in Leninavan was highly increased after the Armenian pogroms in Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad and other Armenian settlements. Those who survived the pogroms found shelter in different towns and villages of Artsakh, including Leninavan. Despite the lack of data related to the number of refugees living in Leninavan, assumably, it was quite a large number since the eyewitnesses state that a separate block of houses was built for them.
The first attacks on Maragha and Margushevan took place on February 25-26, 1992. The locals had already formed self-defence units in order to protect the village under the command of Roma Karapetyan. Thanks to the organized self-defence, the villagers were able to avoid distractions in the village.
The main attack was carried out on April 10, 1992, when the Defense Ministry Units of Azerbaijan along with the units of the Internal Affairs Ministry and the OMON forces attacked the village 3 times in a row, without any success. The April 10 attack on Maragha was carried out by not only a manifold but also a big number of armoured vehicles, including tanks. The self-defence units had to retreat as they did not have appropriate military equipment to deliver a counterattack. According to eyewitness accounts, 118 peaceful inhabitants remained in the village on the day of the attack, staying in the underground shelters that were built by the residents in advance.
The eyewitness accounts state that the Azerbaijani military forces destroyed and burned the houses, practically razed everything to the ground and brutally killed the locals without any discrimination within a few hours. Roma Karapetyan and other members of the self-defence unit recall seeing Azerbaijani soldiers carrying swords. After liberating the village, they noticed Christian crosses marked on almost all of the corpses.
Over 50 people including 9 children and 29 women were taken captive. Subsequently, it became possible to rescue some of these people, including all the children, yet the fate of 19 hostages remains still unknown.
Larisa Alaverdyan, an expert of the special Commission of the RA Supreme Council on Artsakh issues at the time, made a great contribution to this issue. She organized the hostage exchange process and collected their memories of Azerbaijani captivity.
Shahin Taghiyev, the commander of “Gurtulush” military unit, one of the units that perpetrated the massacres in Maragha is one of the first national heroes of Azerbaijan. The impunity of the organizers and the perpetrators of those crimes contributed to enrooting Armenophobia as a state policy the outcome of which was shown off during the Azerbaijani aggression against the people of Artsakh in April 2016.