Thirty years pass today since the mass murder of ethnic Azerbaijani residents of the Kalbajar region’s Bashlibel village by the Armenian forces during the First Karabakh War in 1991-1994.
In April 1993, the Armenian armed forces attacked Bashlibel village, looting and burning the villagers’ houses. Sixty-two Azerbaijanis who could not leave the village took refuge in natural caves in the mountainous terrain called “Portda,” located at the highest part of the village. Two weeks later, Armenian soldiers found their shelter and began firing on caves, killing 12 civilians, including men, women, and children. Another 14 people were captured, of which nine later died of emotional and psychological trauma.
The investigators revealed that 36 people managed to escape from the Armenian armed forces, but seven out of them died from injuries received during the siege. Those who survived managed to hide in shelters and escape only after 113 days of a life-and-death struggle in July. They avoided the siege of the Armenian army by going through secret mountain roads and moving only at night.
In April 2021, the remains of 12 civilians were found in the Kalbajar district, where investigators were searching for the bodies of victims of the Bashlibel mass murder. According to the data compiled by Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s Office, the remains were found in a cave buried at a depth of 50 centimetres.
In order to determine the victims’ identities, the samples of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) were taken from the remains of the corpses and family members who claimed to be close relatives of the buried persons.
Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s Office revealed it would continue its activities to investigate the crimes against peace and humanity committed by Armenia against Azerbaijani citizens.
Bashlibel, one of the largest settlements of Kalbajar, was liberated from the Armenian occupation on November 25, 2020, after the invaders withdrew from Kalbajar under the document signed on November 10, 2020.
On Tuesday, residents of the Bashlibel village, as well as mass media members visited the graves of the Bashlibel mass murder victims and the site of tragedy in the village. The group of visitors consisted of mainly the women and children who witnessed the massacre and lost their family members and relatives during the horrific event.
Over 30,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis were killed, and one million others were expelled from their homes in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia during the 1991-1994 First Karabakh War.
The mass murder in Bashlibel was part of the systematic acts of terror committed by the Armenian troops against civilian Azerbaijanis during the war. Before Bashlibel, the Armenian armed forces organized the same genocidal acts in the town of Khojaly on February 26, 1992, and in Kalbajar’s Aghdaban village on April 8-9 of the same year. The death toll of massacres in Khojaly and Aghdaban was 613 and 67, respectively.