By Jeyhun Aliyev
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey is hosting a number of events to commemorate the 1992 Khojaly Massacre committed against Azerbaijani civilians.
On the heels of the Soviet Union's dissolution, Armenian forces took over the town of Khojaly in Karabakh on Feb. 26, 1992 after pounding it with tank and heavy artillery fire, assisted by an infantry regiment.
The Khojaly Massacre is regarded as one of the bloodiest incidents committed by Armenian forces against Azerbaijani civilians for control of the now-occupied Upper Karabakh region.
In order to raise awareness on the tragedy, Turkey's Gazi University in cooperation with Turkish State Railways (TCDD), the state-run TRT Avaz channel, which mainly broadcasts to Turkic republics in former Soviet territory, and the Azerbaijani Embassy in Turkey organized an event Thursday in the Turkish capital Ankara.
As part of the event held at the historical Ankara railway station, an exhibition of 60 paintings inspired by Upper Karabakh motifs and done by 58 artists from Turkey and two from Azerbaijan was displayed in the wagon of a train on the Eastern Express route — an overnight passenger train running between the capital city and eastern Kars province.
Speaking at the event, Alev Cakmakoglu Kuru, a professor from the faculty of educational sciences at Gazi University, who contributed to the organization of the event, noted that the train on its route will stop in Erzincan, Erzurum and Kars provinces, which also suffered from Armenian persecution in past times.
"The Khojaly [massacre] burns us from inside,” Kuru said, adding the tragedy was a "genocide committed by Armenians to wipe out Turks."
The two-hour Armenian offensive killed 613 Azerbaijani citizens including 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly and critically injured 487 others, according to Azerbaijani figures.
In addition, 150 of the 1,275 Azerbaijanis that the Armenians captured during the massacre remain missing. Eight families were completely wiped out, while 130 children lost one parent and 25 children lost both parents.
"It is very difficult, even impossible to fill the void left by our martyrs," Kuru said.
Kuru said the train also symbolizes the pain of all Turkish people who suffered throughout history, especially during World War I.
"The black train carries the search for justice," she said.
Ibrahim Uslan, rector of Gazi University, who also spoke at the event, said the aim of the exhibition is not only creating an awareness about the tragedy but also passing on that awareness to the entire territory of Anatolia in the country.
"This wagon exhibition is an event that transcends the city," he said.
Calling for justice for Khojaly, Uslan said more than 600 civilians were "heinously martyred" by Armenians in an act of a "genocide."
He also wished "patience and freedom" to all oppressed geographies around the globe.
Samil Ayrim, a Turkish lawmaker who chairs the Turkey-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Friendship Group, said the Khojaly massacre was a "massacre against Azerbaijani Turks."
"If we don't stand for our past, future generations will decry us," Ayrim said.
He also called on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group — co-chaired by France, the U.S. and Russia — to "stop applying double standards" and "stand with justice and the law."
The OSCE Minsk Group was formed to find a peaceful solution to the Upper Karabakh conflict but has not achieved any results so far.
Upper Karabakh is the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan illegally occupied by Armenia through military aggression since 1991.
Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions as well as decisions by many other international organizations refer to this fact and demand the withdrawal of the occupational Armenian forces from Upper Karabakh and seven other occupied regions of Azerbaijan.
Khazar Ibrahim, Azerbaijan's ambassador to Turkey, said his nation “has lived with the pain" of Khojaly for 28 years.
"We have always seen that our Turkish brothers were next to us," Ibrahim said, adding the "roots of brotherhood" between Turkey and Azerbaijan go deep.
The envoy concluded that the 1992 tragedy was not just a massacre but a "genocide" committed against an ethnic group.