In war there are an abundance of stories which involve the killing of people from an individual personal level to the clinical statistics of mass populations. Despite the sensational numbers each one contains a life lost, a history terminated, a grieving family, and life long memories. Whilst no death should be worth more or less than the next one, it is the inevitability of human nature that certain incidences gain a form of notoriety and publicity that outshine others. Buried within those untold stories are events of significance which can provide more insight into the reality of the time, and the true nature of the situation which the mass-media high level reporting of more “popular history” will miss. The massacres at Maragha are an example of this.
There is nothing about war which is polite but there are accepted norms about what is proper conduct and, where the law may not cover it, there are common codes of moral acceptability . In April 1992, before Azerbaijan had signed up to the 4th Geneva Convention which covered the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, their conduct in capturing the village of Maragha would not have constituted being morally acceptable. The justification for the scale and nature of atrocity in a small village in the north east of Artsakh, which had no strategic value is beyond understanding.
The Azeris would have needed to have passed through Maragha to get to Martakert, and notice to the villagers to flee and move elsewhere would have been a form of proper action. The events which unfolded which resulted in people being decapitated, mutilated, and burnt alive is an atrocity that has no precedence; the state of mind that the perpetrators of this crime were in, is unimaginable. This level of hatred to another people surpasses racism, and touches on a form of evil within someone which is fundamentally disturbing. When confronted by people who are prepared to carry out this sort of action, one’s total fear of the potential for irrational behaviour would be numbing. This atrocity is not about re-establishing a legal position on territorial integrity ; this is simply about hatred by those individuals involved.
Baroness Cox, who was in Artsakh at the time, with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), was one of the first people to witness the scene in the days after, and recorded what she saw. Her graphic recollections are horrific, and the videos on the internet will bear testament to that. In an interview with her she told the following story:
“I went to the hospital at Martakert and met the senior nurse. That day her son had had his head sawn off, and 14 of her family had been killed. I wept with her because there are no words at a time like that. When she stopped weeping I thought it would be of comfort to her if she could tell the world what had happened to her family. So I asked her if she wanted to give a message to the world. I expected a message of anger and bitterness, I could have understood hatred. But her face changed from grief to dignity, and she just said these words “ I am a nurse and I have worked in this hospital for many years and I have seen how the medicines that were brought to us (by the CSW) have saved many lives and eased much pain, so all I want to say is ‘Thank you’ to those people who have not forgotten us in these terrible days” I do not think that ‘Thank you’ would have been the first words that would have come to my mind on the day that I had seen many of my family killed but that is the dignity of the people of Armenia”
Maragha was a place of terrible suffering and cruelty, with 52 people being massacred, 57 taken hostage and 19 still unaccounted for. Given the circumstances of this event, only 20 years ago, it is not difficult to understand why the people of Artsakh will always fight against Azeri sovereignty. What is concerning is that the politicians and bureaucrats sitting thousands of miles away, holding politically motivated discussions about the future of the Armenians in Artsakh, will not be taking much consideration of the lessons of these events in determining how to shape the lines on the map. That is why these painful memories of those tragic days should never be forgotten.
Categories: War and its Legacy