|Location||Maraga, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh|
|Date||April 10, 1992|
|Target||Local Armenian population|
|Perpetrators||Azerbaijani Armed Forces|
The Maragha Massacre was the mass murder of ethnic Armenian civilians in the village Maragha by Azerbaijani troops, which had captured the village on April 10, 1992, in the course of the Nagorno-Karabakh War. The villagers, including women, children and elderly, were killed indiscriminately, their houses were pillaged and burnt; the village was destroyed and was subsequently occupied by the Azerbaijani forces. Although the estimates of the actual number of murdered ranges from 50 to 100, according to most of the sources more than 50 people were killed and a further fifty-three were taken hostage, 19 of whom were never returned.
The village of Maraga (Leninavan) was located in the Martakert region of Nagorno Karabakh, just across the border from the Azerbaijani town of Terter (oil-rich Mir-Bashir region) and was one of the region's largest villages. According to the census of 1989 the village had a population of 4660, predominantly ethnic Armenians.
By spring 1992 the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh escalated. The village of Maraga, prior to the invastion by ground forces, had been under artillery fire as a result of which resulted in considerable damage in the village. Residents of the village tried to shield themselves from shrapnel by digging underground shelters. Some of the residents of the village had to leave their houses and temporarily settle in other regions of NKR.
Attack on the village
On 10 April 1992 Maragha was attacked by the Azerbaijani forces. Early in the morning artillery fire started, followed by a ground assault from neighboring Mir-Bashir. By the afternoon, Azerbaijani armed forces entered the village with tanks, followed by infantry, reportedly followed by looters. By that time according to the data of Human Rights Watch the village had 500 residents.
A preliminary investigation was carried out by Human Rights Watch (HRW, Helsinki Watch) and published in 1992. Having spoken to the only eyewitness available to them at the time, an Armenian fighter who took part in the village's defense, the report outlined that Maraghar's defense detachments were unable to hold their positions when units of the Azerbaijani army attacked the village on April 10: they were forced to retreat to a spot overlooking the village and to call for assistance. As reported by the Armenian fighters, the Azerbaijanis had about 20 armored vehicles, and the lack of adequate weaponry on the Armenian side made it impossible for them to repel the attack. The defending units notified the villagers of their retreat and most of the inhabitants left the village, while the civilians who remained, mainly consisting of the elderly and the disabled, hid in basements and underground shelters.
The Azerbaijani army captured Maragha the same day (10 April) and committed a massacre of the civilian population of the village. The village was retaken by the Armenians the following day. Upon re-entering the village, Armenian fighters reported that they came across bodies of forty-three civilians most of whom were mutilated.
According to eyewitness accounts people were decapitated, tortured (such as being dragged tied to a tank or being burnt alive), bodies were mutilated, dissected and burnt; non-combatants, among them women and children, were captured and taken hostage.
Vice-Speaker of the British Parliament’s House of Lords Caroline Cox, who personally visited the place, gave the following testimony,
I, along with my team from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, arrived within hours to find homes still smoldering, decapitated corpses, charred human remains, and survivors in shock. This was truly like a contemporary Golgotha many times over.
As reported by Amnesty International,
Over 100 residents of the village were slain, while their bodies were profaned and disfigured. Forty-five residents of the village were taken hostage including 9 children and 29 women. Two weeks later the village was again attacked and the population was deported. Houses were pillaged and then most of them were burnt down.
As the result of the attack most of the village was destroyed. The bodies were later buried in a mass grave near the village. Two weeks later the village was subjected to another attack - the population was forcibly deported, 13 civilians were taken hostages and the village was completely destroyed.
Besides those killed about 37 people, among them 21 women and 6 children, had gunshot wounds. Those hostages which were later exchanged had suffered humiliation, torture and psychological traumas, as a result of which most of them did not live long after they were returned.
Human rights groups
Accounts differ on precisely how many people were killed in the attack. A 1993 Country Dossier Report by Amnesty International gave forty-five as the number of those killed. According to Gevorg Petrossian, Chairman of the Parliament of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, 53 civilians were killed as a result of the attack, although the 1992 report by HRW expressed uncertainty as to whether those reported killed were civilians or combatants. It assumed, however, that the figure included the forty-three Armenians who were killed by the Azerbaijanis. In 1992, HRW received a report that fifty Armenians had been taken hostage in the attack on Maraghar.
Baroness Cox and Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Baroness Caroline Cox, an advocate of the Armenian cause in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, who led a delegation that observed the damage and interviewed eyewitnesses, stated that after Azerbaijani forces attacked Maragha, they decapitated about forty five villagers, burned and looted much of the town, and kidnapped about one hundred women and children. A more detailed report of the findings of Cox and Christian Solidarity Worldwide was published in 1993.
Maraghar: the name of this village is associated with a massacre which never reached the world’s headlines, although at least 45 Armenians died cruel deaths. During the CSI mission to Nagorno Karabakh in April, news came through that a village in the north, in Martakert region, had been overrun by Azeri-Turks on April 10 and there had been a number of civilians killed. A group went to obtain evidence and found a village with survivors in a state of shock, their burn-out homes still smoldering, charred remains of corpses and vertebrae still on the ground, where people had their heads sawn off, and their bodies burnt in front of their families. 45 people had been massacred and 100 were missing, possibly suffering a fate worse than death. In order to verify the stories, the delegation asked the villagers if they would exhume the bodies which they had already buried. In great anguish, they did so, allowing photographs to be taken of the decapitated, charred bodies. Later when asked about publicizing the tragedy, they replied they were reluctant to do so as 'we Armenians are not very good at showing our grief to the world.'
Baroness Cox has called the Maraghar Massacre "an apparent crime against humanity" and urged the international community to hold Azerbaijan accountable for that.
The Azerbaijani officers directly involved in the massacre were never held responsible or tried for the crimes they committed in Maraga. At the same time the Azerbaijani side has not responded to the accusations of Maraga massacre.
The events in Maraga were not covered by the international media and there is little awareness in the world about the events in this village, despite the severity of the actions. Cox explained that she hadn't brought journalists together with her to Maraga on those days because it was dangerous, but she made many photographs which are printed in her book "Ethnic Cleansing in Progress". Cox also said in her interview that English newspaper Daily Telegraph had agreed to print her report on Maraga massacre but then they refused to do so.
Maraga village is currently controlled by the Azerbaijani army. The former residents of the village now live in Russia, Armenia and other parts of Nagorno-Karabakh. Those living in Russia are unable to return to Karabakh because of the lack of funds to cover travel expenses. The residents of Maraga who stayed in Karabakh have rebuilt another village on the ruins of another village in Nagorno-Karabakh, not far from Maraga. This new village is now called Nor Maraga (New Maraga). There has been a monument erected in New Maraga commemorating the victims of the massacre.
Caroline Cox has stressed this in her interview:
The suffering of your people [should] somehow [be] recognized and they will therefore receive justice and the right to live in peace and freedom in their land… [I]t is impossible for the Armenians who live in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) ever again to accept Azeri sovereignty.
- De Waal, Thomas. Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through War and Peace. New York: New York University Press, 2003, pp. 175-176.
- (Russian) "Хронология Карабахского конфликта, 1992 год ("The Chronology of the Karabakh Conflict, 1992")." BBC Russian. Last updated August 29, 2005. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
- Cox, Caroline. "Survivors of the Maraghar Massacre."Christianity Today. April 27, 1998. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
- Amnesty International. Azerbaijan; Hostages of the Karabakh conflict: Civilians still have to suffer. April 1993 
- De Waal. Black Garden, p. 176.
- Human Rights Watch/Helsinki (1994). Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. New York: Human Rights Watch. p. 6. ISBN 1-56432-142-8.
- Amnesty International. "Azerbaydzhan: Hostages in the Karabakh conflict: Civilians Continue to Pay the Price." Amnesty International. April 1993 (POL 10/01/93), p. 9.
- Левон Мелик-Шахназарян, «Военные преступления Азербайджана против мирного населения Нагорно-Карабахской Республики» Глава 9, Распятие Мараги
- Denber, Rachel; Goldman, Robert K. (1992). Bloodshed in the Caucasus: escalation of the armed conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. New York: Helsinki Watch. p. 29. ISBN 1-56432-081-2.
- Video: MARAGHA 12 APRIL 1992
- Eyewitness accounts
- Documentary Maragha
- Amnesty International. "Country Dossier List 1993 Europe. "Unofficial sources report that ethnic Armenians Liana and Ulyana Barsegyan were detained on 10 April 1992 when Azerbaydzhani forces entered the village where they lived (Maraga) in the disputed region of Karabakh. AI is concerned that they are reportedly non-combatant civilians, held hostage solely because of their ethnic origin."
- Eyewitness Svetlana Poghosyan. Source: Petition to the Human Rights Committee c/o Centre for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva 8-14 avenue de la Paix 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. "I cannot recount what they were doing to the young ladies and girls that they took hostage; the women who did return were covered in scars inflicted from cigarette burns." 
- Amnesty International. "Country Dossier List 1993 Europe . Amnesty International.
- Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict, p. 92.
- Great Britain, Parliament, House of Lords (1999). The parliamentary debates (Hansard): official report, Volume 598. H.M.S.O. ISBN 0-10-780598-7. "Baroness Cox: "It is clear that I am an unashamed advocate of the Armenian cause in Karabakh. That is born of direct experience and grounded in evidence. In Christian Solidarity Worldwide, we try to emulate Andrei Sakharov""
- Cox, Caroline and John Eibner. Ethnic Cleansing in Progress: War in Nagorno Karabakh. Zurich and Washington D.C.: Institute for Religious Minorities in the Islamic World, p. 58, 1993.
- Baroness Cox: That was a cold blooded slaughter of civilians in Maragha 20 years ago
- Interview with Caroline Cox about Maraghar Massacre – Part 1
- Interview with Caroline Cox about Maraghar Massacre – Part 2 (4.03-4.19; 4.30-4.58)
- Photographs of the Maraghar Massacre – Warning: Graphic Content
- Ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
- UK House of Commons report
- Survivors of Maraghar massacre: It was truly like a contemporary Golgotha many times over
- Interview with Caroline Cox on YouTube