Demand Justice for Khojaly: - witnesses of Khojaly genocide| PART 2
Sanubar Alekperova, a resident of Khojaly
... Hasanabad, Mehdikend, Bozdagh —they were shooting from everywhere. The land shuddered at the sound of armored infantry vehicles smashing into Khojaly. At first, women and children were told to hide in the basements.
Then Elman Mammadov, the head of the executive power, came and said that we had to escape, otherwise we would be exterminated. Alif Hajiyev, the director of the airport led the rescue operation breaking through Armenian lines to take the civilians to Agdam. We were trapped in an ambush near the village of Nakhichevanik. I will never forget what I saw: there were piles of corpses. My mother was shot dead. My daughters Hijran and Sevinj were injured. At the same moment the bullet hit me. Young women and children were dying in throes from the wounds on the snow. We had a radio device with us. We cried trying to report what was happening, we begged for help, but nobody ever helped us.
Jamil Mammadov, a resident of Khojaly.
…Upon invading the city, the tanks and armed personnel carriers destroyed the houses, smashed down the people. Russian soldiers were followed by Armenian militants. I took my 5-year-old grandson and 14.000 rubles and ran towards the woods. I took off my clothes and wrapped the child up in them so that he wouldn`t die of cold. But it wouldn`t help. We had to hide inside the snow with the child.
In the morning I realized that the child wouldn`t stand the cold anymore and I started walking towards the nearest Armenian village of Nakhichevanik where we were trapped by Armenian armed men. I begged them to take my money for the sake of the child and let us pass to Agdam. They beat and robbed me in response and took me to their commander. He ordered to keep us locked up in the cattle-shed, where they had already imprisoned some Azerbaijani women and children. They kept us in the cattle-shed for 4 days without any food or water. But there is no limit to evil. When four days later I was brought to Askeran with my grandson the events I saw were so awful that cattle-shed in Nakhichevanik seemed a paradise to me.
Foreign mercenaries (I know Armenian and I can tell local Armenians from the foreign ones) pulled out my toenails. Black mercenaries, who were among Armenians kicked me in the face. After these tortures I was exchanged for some Armenian. However, they took away my grandson. I know nothing about the fate of my wife and my daughter…
Sariya Talybova, a resident of Khojaly.
...They brought us to an Armenian cemetery. It is hard for me to describe what happened there. Four young Mekhetian (Ahiska) Turks and three Azerbaijanis were sacrificed on the grave of an Armenian militant. Then they cut off the dead men`s heads. Later the soldiers and Armenian militants started killing and torturing the children in front of their parents.
Then a bulldozer arrived and it threw the corpses into the mass grave. Afterwards, they brought two Azerbaijanis wearing national army uniform and pierced their eyes with screwdrivers...
Susan Djafarova, born in 1968:
"I`m a nurse. We were carrying a wounded on the stretcher. Together with fellow villagers we crossed a railway bridge and the Gar-Gar river. I lost my shoes in the ice-cold water. We had been hiding in a snow-covered forest, surrounded by the Armenian militants from all the sides. Some woman had a 9-month baby in her arms. It cried out loudly. We could be detected and undone because of its cry. His mother clamped its mouth in a fear. When they reached Agdam, the child hardly breathed...We walked out on a clearing near an Armenian settlement Nakhichevanik. There were a lot of killed lying everywhere. I heard an Armenian speech. I fell down on the ground and pretended dead. They were walking around and dealt a final blow to those moaning and stirring. ..I crept the rest of the way as I could not go anymore."
Janan Orujev, a resident of Khojaly:
…We tried to break through the woods to Agdam, but were met with a heavy gunfire from the side of soldiers and militants near the village of Nakhichevanik. A great number of women and children were exterminated. My son was shot dead. He was 16. They took my 23-year-old daughter with her twins and a younger 18-year old pregnant one….
Mushfiq Alimamedov, a resident of Khojaly. Injured while escaping from the town and left to lie on the snow for 2 days:
.... We had few empty guns: machine-guns, rifles, handguns. We didn`t have any ammunition or food. We were exhausted by a long-term blockade. In the evening on February 25th, Armenians started shooting, and at midnight armed forces and vehicles launched the assault. First, they captured the airport and burned it down. They didn`t have mercy for anyone: neither the elderly, nor women and children. Many people were burned alive in their homes, especially near the airport. An awful smell of burned meat haunts me even now...
Most of the town-defenders were killed in action. The survivors were trying to escape in the woods on the way to the village of Shelli to break through to Agdam. They were ambushed near the Armenian village of Nakhichevanik on the way to Agdam.
Many people were killed in the ambush near the village. That’s also where the director of Khojaly airport Alif Hajiyev was killed. He was there to rescue women. He was the one to have organized the efficient work of the airport. Armenians had promised the award for his life long before.
Minesh Aliyeva, a resident of Khojaly, with a bullet wound in the arm:
...We wandered along the woods falling through the deep snow. When we were crossing the road, a bullet hit my arm. I fell down and couldn`t get up.
A very intense shooting started from the woods and shelters. Alif grabbed me and started pulling to the curb. Then he rushed towards the bushes to hide and started firing back at Armenian armed men. The shooting from the woods ceased for some time. Alif started shouting at the women lying on the other side of the road and ordered them to cross the road as soon as possible. He used to shoot sporadically and every time he did the Armenians stopped shooting. About 20 women and children managed to run across the road. When Alif stopped for a split second to charge the drum, Armenians shot in retaliation. At this moment he was shot on his forehead. It was an awful sight...
Murvet Mamedov, 9, was wounded:
…I was wounded in the leg, and my elder brother Ahmed- in the arm. He is 11. I saw them cutting off ears of the dead. They pulled out golden teeth straight from the mouth of a woman. I was scared they would do the same to me».
Rafael Imanov, a militia sergeant, a resident of Agdam. Helped to take the dead away:
A hollow on the road Nakhchivanik- Askeran was full of dead Azerbaijani women. Their legs were tied with their own stockings. Some had fingers cut off, others- ears. Armenians cut off middle- and ring-fingers and ears in order not to waste time to take off rings and earrings. I still see this nightmare in my dreams...»
Yuriy Romanov, a Russian reporter:
…When at last, we arrived at a makeshift hospital train (standing at the station by Agdam), everyone on the platform and in carriages was engaged in hard work. Cars with headlights switched on one by one arrived at the platform with unusual wounded to be unloaded: women, children, and the elderly. There were almost no men among them
— Where have you brought them from? — I asked a maddened driver.
— Khojaly... — he waved his hand, and as soon as the bodies were unloaded, the car started off and hastily left…
— And where are these from? — I asked the second driver who had brought a whole family in his UAZ. A woman and 3 children, all covered with blood and wounded. The head of the family was lying on the floor, with no signs of life. The woman was cradling a blood-covered parcel, the forth baby. As the overloaded engine failed, I could hear the woman singing softly a lullaby with no words: "Аа-ааh-аа-аh..."
— Mum! Mommy! — A boy and 2 elder girls cried pulling her sleeve. They were also wounded, and their clothes were covered with blood, too. But the woman paid no attention to them…
— Khojaly... — the driver said, assisting the wounded woman with a dead child to get off.
Cars with the wounded arrived one after another. A long column of various vehicles with headlights switched on was formed back to back on the road. One of the drivers getting in the cab noted:
— We are used to drive with headlights on at daylight only at weddings.
And the bloody wedding was continuing…
On the platform, a stout lieutenant colonel of the medical service was rushing along the train. He was pale and short-winded. But the urgent need to be everywhere left no minute for rest. Khanlar Hajiyev, the head of the Ministry of Defense medical service, stopped for a moment to put a grain of nitroglycerin under his tongue.
— What’s happening in Khojaly?
— We don’t know for sure, but a group of refugees was hit by the cross fire…A helicopter will be directed there…
— Are there many wounded?
— Worse — taking a note pad out. — As of now, at 13.00, our doctors helped 290 wounded. 123 of them had frostbites, 67- gunshot wounds, with 43 bullet injuries and 24 missile ones. And 8 people had stab wounds.
We were interrupted by the sound of the blades. A helicopter appeared out of the clouds.
— We have already sent 66 people to Baku… Now we’ll take another group.
— Not now...
Hidden by the noise of the blades, Zulfi Gasymov, an old friend, quietly came up to us. He was the head of the executive power of the district. A kind of a shadow government.
— We’re flying to Khojaly. Will you join us? — He asked me.
— What a weird question… Sure…
— We’re waiting for our cameraman to come and we’ll start....
— What about the wounded in Baku?
— It’s not for long. An hour, at most....
An old friend, Chingiz Mustafayev, a reporter, jumped out of the ambulance. He held a usual “Panasonic”, a pretty heavy camera, which seemed like a toy on his shoulder. He wore an army camouflage, with a subgun on the shoulder and a Makarov gun holstered on the waist belt.
We jumped into the helicopter, followed by Gasymov and 2 police officers. All armed. I didn’t like the scene of this strange armed delegation at all, and bent closer to Chingiz.
— What are we flying there for?
— To video film the area. The approval was given from the “top”…— he pointed to the ceiling of the helicopter cab.
— Do you really think they will allow us to film? Who holds the control over there?
— Armenians, of course… Hope, we come to agreement.
I shrugged off the shoulders. This flight was to be a shady experience, at least. With no treaties, unprepared, we were flying to the place where thousands of people were being exterminated en masse just a few hours ago.
And how would the murderers respond to a helicopter that flew in to collect evidence? A pure gamble. The more I thought about the situation, the less I liked it. Chingiz was totally insane. I used to prep reports with him, and every time I was amazed with his audacity to film in places where it was too dangerous to even stick a nose out, let alone to film anything.
Next, Kasymov obviously wanted to curry the favour with the president Mutalibov, who was most likely to have given the order to fly. The police and pilots were forced to fly. But what the heck was I doing there? What the damn did I need that stuff?
As I kept cursing myself for taking the flight, the engine sound was starting to change its mode. It seemed that we had arrived…
I looked out of a round window and came to a startling and incredibly terrifying picture. There were dead people lying everywhere on the faded grass on the mountain slides, with small snowdrifts melting in the shade. The whole area till the horizon was covered with the corpses of the elderly, women, and children from infants to teenage.
My attention was caught by 2 figures - a grandmother and a little girl. The gray-haired grandma with an uncovered head, was lying face down near a tiny girl in a blue jacket. Their legs were tied strangely with a barbwire, and the grandmother had her hands tied, as well. Both seemed to have been shot pointblank. The last movement of a 4-year little girl seemingly was stretching out her hands to the killed grandmother. Startled, I even forgot to switch on the camera to film.
But I got over the shock and started shooting out of the window. The helicopter hung over the field, the pilots searching for a place to land trying not to disturb the deceased.
All of a sudden, the helicopter jumped back in the air, tilting to the right, and flew away downwards the slope. Grass, stones, and corpses, corpses everywhere floated before the eyes in the window.
— What’s up? — I tore myself away from the viewfinder.
— Shooting at us...— Chingiz replied briefly, not leaving the camera. — It’s good that they are far away.
— Who is it?
— Who knows? Armenians, perhaps…
The silhouettes of people clothed in a camo, shooting at our helicopter with subguns, were darkening far away, on the border of visibility. Bullets, like small red dotted lines, tried to reach us. All of a sudden, one of the police officers cried out and got pale. A bullet hit him in the hip, breaking the skin-plating of the helicopter.
The pilots tried to hold the heavy vehicle a meter away from the ground, trying not to fly too high over the slopes and hills. How could they ever feel the every unevenness of the land at a speed of 200 km/hr? The helicopter rushed like a car on the highway. Bushes and stones whizzed by… In a few moments of that crazy flight which seemed hours for us, the windmill soared into the darkening sky and hid in the clouds.
We got covered by gray wet mist. The windows became shielded by the tiniest drops, getting bigger and then flowing down on the skin-plating.
The professionalism of the pilots saved us from the fire zone...
I looked at Chingiz. Tears were running down on the weather-beaten face of a strong man. Catching my look, he suddenly recollected and roughly wiped away the tears...
— Why? What did they kill the children for? — He mumbled... And tears again came into his eyes.
I looked at the counter on the camera. It showed 37 second, 37 second of horror…
Twenty minutes later, we were back by the ambulance train from where we took off earlier. The landing helicopter got encircled by people who looked at us as if we came from the dead. They were touching us as if they hadn’t believed their eyes.
—We have almost buried you! ... — Hajiyev said. — Thanks God, everyone is safe!
— Not everyone, — Kasymov responded. — Send doctors, we’ve got a policeman wounded.
He was pale, arms were shaking; he couldn’t even light a cigarette. Chingiz with a darkened face moved away from the crowd, got into a car and left for Agdam.
I had my own concerns; 37 second almost burned my hands. I got out of the crowd and turned my camera on.
The viewfinder displayed the road with a car filled with the wounded rushing to the hospital. People put them onto stretchers and carried into the surgery wagon straight from the platform through open windows. A 6 year old girl with the head bandaged so that the band covered her eyes completely.
Not switching off the camera, I bent closer to her:
— What’s up, honey?
— My eyes...They are burning terribly, sir... My eyes are burning!!!
A doctor touched my shoulder saying:
— She’s blinded. Her eyes were burned out with cigarette butts. When she was brought here, we found stubs sticking out from her eyes...
Viktoriya Ivlyova, a Russian journalist
«I came to Khojaly shortly after the attack and was able to shoot some terrible pictures of children and women, killed during the occupation of Khojaly. It is seen from the photos that they were shot pointblank and the town was shelled with heavy artillery».
Leonid Kravets, a helicopter pilot
On February 26, when we were taking the wounded out of Khankendi (Stepanakert) by helicopter, the co-pilot cried out: “Look, so many bright rags over there!” We started to descend and saw that they were corpses, scattered down the hillside, at least 300-400, perhaps even more... Armenian militants were walking among them and finishing off the wounded. When they saw us, they started firing at us. But we escaped.
On that evening a representative of the President of Azerbaijan arrived and asked to take him and the press to the massacre site. Our commander approved, and we flew to Agdam where we took a group of reporters with Chingiz Mustafayev and some foreign correspondents. We also took a few police officers from Khojaly with us.
We couldn’t land on that field right away as the enemy started firing at us although there was a Red Cross sign on the helicopter. I said that I would drop them off in the field, and would fly off higher as there was a risk of being shot down with an RPG if I stayed for long.
We agreed I would return in 5-7 to take them back.
I flew higher and saw several cars rushing in our direction from Khojaly. I landed at once on the field and tried to hasten them to fly away.
Chingiz Mustafayev and some other people took few children corpses onto the board. There was a police captain from Agdam who found his dead 4-year old child. The body was horribly disfigured. The entire gun charger seemed to have been emptied just on him. The captain passed him over onto the board, but, disturbed, he had no more power to get in himself. We helped him to get into the starting helicopter. While we were flying to Agdam, the man cried cuddling his child. Upon the arrival it got clear that he went out of his mind. He could not even move out of the helicopter.
V. Belykh, an “Izvestia” newspaper reporter:
... The dead bodies exchanged for living hostages are occasionally brought to Agdam. You won`t see it even in a nightmare: gauged out eyes, cut off ears, scalped and cut off heads. A number of corpses were dragged by ropes after the armed personnel carriers. There was no limit to humiliation…
Demand Justice for Khojaly: - witnesses of Khojaly genocide| PART 1