By Jeyhun Aliyev
ANKARA (AA) - The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) on Friday commemorated the 28th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre committed against more than 600 Azerbaijani civilians in lands now-occupied by Armenian forces.
On the heels of the Soviet Union's dissolution, Armenian forces took 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 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.
Speaking at the event, Unsal Toker, deputy head of TBB, said Armenian forces made preparations before committing the massacre, where they killed 613 "innocent and defenseless" people just because they were Turks.
Toker said 1,275 Azerbaijanis, who were trying to escape the massacre, were captured by Armenian troops, and the fates of 150 still remains unknown.
He emphasized what happened in Khojaly 28 years ago was not just "brutality" but a "genocide."
Toker said more than 1 million Azerbaijani Turks, who lived in Karabakh for centuries – now internally displaced people -- have been "plucked" from their lands.
"If our martyrs in Khojaly are forgotten, [their memories] will die," he said.
Azerbaijani Ambassador to Turkey Khazar Ibrahim wished Allah's mercy upon 33 Turkish soldiers who were martyred late Thursday in an airstrike by Bashar al-Assad regime forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria and he wished a speedy recovery to the wounded.
Ibrahim recalled that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev earlier Friday offered condolences to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, regarding the Syrian regime’s attack.
He said it is an indication the two countries are side-by-side in painful days as "one nation and two states."
Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under a 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.
Referring to the victims of the Khojaly tragedy, he said: "We will remember them over the years. We should make historical, legal and political analysis of the genocide so that the [memories of] martyrs do not die."
The Azerbaijani envoy thanked TBB for commemorating the memory of the Khojaly martyrs.
"Our cooperation will strengthen each other's power from now on," he said.
A movie presentation and a panel discussion on the Khojaly massacre followed speeches by distinguished guests.
The two-hour Armenian offensive killed 613 Azerbaijani citizens including 106 women, 63 children and 70 of the elderly and critically injured 487 others, according to Azerbaijani statistics. Eight families were completely wiped out, while 130 children lost one parent and 25 children lost both parents.
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 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.