Bahram Chelebi, a columnist at AzVision.az and a journalist specializing in crime research, presents his interview with Sumgayit resident Bika Hasanova, who worked at the same facility with Armenian emissaries and murderers who committed the Sumgayit events. It should be noted that the interview took place ten years ago.
-Mrs. Hasanova, you worked at the same facility – a pipe rolling plant in Sumgayit – with the masterminds of these events. Thus, you are one of the eyewitnesses of what they had been doing ahead of the events. But why did you not brief the population, the military and the party leadership on their plans in advance?
- I do not know exactly, as if, the population in the city kept their mouths shut, they thought that such cases would have to be addressed by the KGB (the Committee for State Security), the police and the party leadership. Ordinary people were afraid of being prosecuted for interfering in government affairs. I have never even told my family members about this. Later, we were told that the propaganda, preparation and planning of these events took place in an apartment owned by Ramzik Kasparyan, who was working in our plant. Kasparyan was occupying high positions in the plant. His wife and daughter-in-law were also working in the plant. His wife was working in the crew led by Socialist Labor Hero Zamina Hasanova. His daughter-in-law Rita Ayropetyan was working in our crew. I don’t remember his sons’ names, but I know that his eldest son, who was Rima’s husband, was once jailed for a week. I had a good relationship with Rima.
Almost two or three months before the Sumgayit events, Rima’s mood significantly changed. She was very tired when coming to work in the morning. She seemed like a sleepless person. From that time on, she brought to the work different cakes. We have had a joint dinner. Once I asked why she looked so tired and sleepless. Rima said that they were receiving about five or ten guests from Stepanakert every evening. She added that these cakes were brought by the guests. How did we get to know then who these guests are?
One day I noticed that Rima was so desperate. When I asked for the reason, she said: “terrible events will happen in Sumgait”. I said, what could happen in Sumgait? She said I do not know but awful things are expected. My mother insists me to return Stepanakert, but I do not want to leave Sumgait. I love this place I cannot live elsewhere.
Back in the day, we did not think that we could at least inform some relevant bodies…
- Mrs. Hasanova did Eduard Gregorian, who led the massacre of innocent people during Sumgait events, work in your factory?
- Yes. His workplace was approximately 30 meters away from ours. He was working as a locksmith at the 140th unit. We were coming back home at the same bus. He was getting off in front of the old bus station, but he always bought a ticket for us. I did not know he was Armenian. Once I asked Rima that how do you know this Lezgin boy? She answered that he is not Lezgin, but Armenian. I was surprised; Edik Gregorian was a blonde boy. He was speaking fluently in Azerbaijani. Rima also said that her father-in-law has friendly relations with Edik Gregorian. Later, when I saw Gregorian on television, it became clear to me that Edik Gregorian was the main organizer and one of the active participants of the events committed in Sumgait.
On the eve of the Sumgait events, Rima was continuously crying. We could not console her and she did not tell us the reason for her crying. She was only repeating that terrible events will happen and things will go from bad to worse. On February 25, Rima did not come to work and we were told that she cut her hand with glass and transferred to the hospital. We had a very friendly staff, so a part of our colleagues decided to go to see her. I could not join them because of my vacation. Our colleagues said that Rima was continuously crying at the hospital and the wound in her arm was looking serious. As if, someone cut her veins with a knife or a razor.
The real story was like this ... Knowing about everything to be happened beforehand, one week ago, Rima had a quarrel with her father-in-law demanding to stop urge her husband to join them: “He had already been convicted. Our children would be fatherless if he was detained. If you take my husband, I will commit suicide”.
She cut her veins to dissuade her husband from this idea.
-Where did events start?
-The events started in the “Drujba” street near the old railway station. Both Grigorian and Kasparyan was living in that street. They started a pogrom in a building that was one station far from theirs.
-Mrs. Hasanova, how much time has passed between the pogrom and the incidents you described?
-About two months… Hence, every night the murderers from Stepanakert used to meet in Kasparyan’s home, make a plan of a pogrom and define which Armenians to be killed. And they used to involve drug addict and alcoholic Azerbaijanis who were previously jailed. The day when the incident happened Grigorian was arrested, Kasparyan did not go to work again. I heard it through the grapevine that Kasparyan left Sumgayit unharmed. However, the Armenians, who were killed there, were related to Azerbaijanis. For instance, they murdered a man whose last name was Aramyan and his son. That man in his 40s was living in the micro district and working in our plant. He was a kind and sociable person. He was only friends with Muslims. Our staff was shocked when we heard that he was murdered. His wife and another son could escape from there. Aramyan fought against the murderers to the bitter end and hit two Armenians with an ax. I mean they killed the Armenians who had relations with Muslims.
-Did they kill the Armenians who had Muslim Contacts?
-No… The Armenians who did not give money to the “Krunk” organization, were killed. The members of the “Krunk” were very difficult people. I was working with one of them. He was frequently going to Stepanakert. When he returned from Stepanakert, he was looking at with anger. We did not understand the reason. It turned out that he made propaganda against Azerbaijanis in his work. Neither the head of the plant nor citizens dared to criticize him. Once I was at the end of my tether, I asked him: “What did these Muslim people do to you? We live in basements, but you live in better conditions and work in highest-paying jobs. What do you want?” He responded that Azerbaijanis are Turks and they see Turkish people as an enemy. Then I learned that he was a member of “Krunk”.
I have witnessed the goodwill of Azerbaijani people during those incidents. They tried to protect their Armenian colleagues. I remember our shop manager asked me to accompany Lena (our Armenian colleague) to her home every day.
Anyway… Those days were very difficult and sad. We might not have any idea about politics. Nevertheless, what the KGB and other law enforcement agencies were doing at that time. I suppose the State Security Committee planned all these incidents. Gorbachov’s cabinet was also responsible for these. During that period, Gorbachov was very close with Armenian lobby, scientists and political figures. If they jailed Grigorian and Kasparyan, the Sumgayit pogrom would not take place.
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