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Interview with eyewitness Anar Usubov
by Sophie Boeschoten
"Before Khojali, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We were able to break that [stereotype]."
Current president of Armenia and 1992 war lord Serzh Sarkisian's interview
(Thomas de Waal, "Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war",
New York & London: New York University Press, 2003, pp. 169-172)
On February 26 1992, Armenian forces, supported by the Ex-soviet 366th motorized infantry brigade based in nearby Khankendi (Capital of ex Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous District) bombarded and captured Khojaly, a town in western Azerbaijan. In the process the Armenian forces killed 613 Khojaly citizens including 83 children, 106 women, 70 elders and expelled the remainder and destroyed the infrastructure of the town. Those who returned to Khojaly days later found the evidence of massive slaughter everywhere throughout the town. According to the results of medical examinations, 57 people were killed with extraordinary cruelty. A lot of bodies revealed that victims were scalped while they were still alive. Armenian soldiers had mutilated body parts—heads, hands, legs, ears. Some had even been burnt alive.
By committing the Khojaly massacre, Armenia had set the stage for the rest of their campaign to occupy Nagorno-Karabagh. As Armenian military forces moved on Shusha, Lachin, and other towns within Karabakh; and then to regions beyond - Zangilan, Aghdam - Azerbaijanis were fleeing to escape the similar fate of people of Khojaly. [ZpicR:14832]
This undeclared war resulted with the occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan's territory and the displacement of nearly 1 million Azerbaijanis and national minorities living in Karabakh and bordering regions.
In May 2008 an international awareness campaign called "Justice for Khojaly" was started to put an end to the misinformation campaign of the perpetrators of this horrid act. This campaign is the first major step by international youth organizations to set the facts right and to correct the historical injustice surrounding the Khojaly tragedy that took place almost 18 years ago. The campaign has undertaken a task on disseminating historical truth about human tragedy which should have been done many years ago. It would be more meaningful to hear the true nature of Khojaly massacre from the words of a survivor:
Interview with 28-year-old Anar Usubov, IDP from Khojaly who survived during Khojaly massacre that left 613 people dead in one night and 1275 people hostages:
Before the Massacre..

Anar Usubov, 29 IDP from Khojaly town, eyewitness "Khojaly was shelled from 1988 onward. Each time there was an attack, people used to flee to the nearby city of Aghdam. But people had to return since they didn't have either place or  means to live in Aghdam. In 1989 when Armenians attacked the town again, approximately 200 Khojaly residents moved to the nearby town of Aghdam. My mom, and my two brothers and I were among those 200 people. We stayed in Aghdam for several weeks until we returned to the town.[ZpicR:14829] There was no place left in helicopter for my two brothers and they were left in Aghdam. The attacks were becoming more intensive, each time destroying more of the infrastructure. In 1990 a bomb blew up the school where I was studying and I had to quit the school. The situation was getting worse. The sound of bombs and shells became part of our ordinary lives as if we were getting used to them. In 1990 Armenians cut off the road connecting Khojaly with the outside world and blockaded the town. This made life agonizing for us. We had no connection with the world. All public and private work places were closed and population was getting all needed and vital things by helicopters. The only connection was via air. But we were deprived of that too after Armenians fired SQAD type rocket at arriving helicopter and killed around 40 people. At midnight on February 25 1992, Armenians fired the town again. As usual we heard shooting and machineguns firing. We were hoping that the attack would stop soon. But artillery fired on us like rain. As if tanks and machines were firing at the same time. We left the houses. Our houses burst into flames. The town was completely destroyed. This is the day I will never forget until the day I die. There were some 3000 people left in the town that time. People got scattered around and started running. The surrounding villages were already occupied by enemy troops. We were trapped on three sides and the only way to escape was through the forest. The forest would lead us to neigboring Aghdam. So we decided to take this way. There was no organized plan to escape. Everybody was trying to save themselves and their family's life. People were scattered around, running in groups. Some were in groups of 30, some in groups of 40, relatives, neighbors, family members were sticking together. Some were running in the wrong direction and taking the road leading right in the direction of Armenian military forces; some were reaching Armenian controlled villages instead of Azeri villages. Now in retrospect, I think that on one hand it was bad that we were not together, but on the other hand it was a good thing. Because when one group of people was captured by Armenians, all of the family members would die and there would be no one left from the family. One of our neighbors who lost all his family members and relatives that day committed suicide in Baku shortly after that.
To reach the forest we had to cross the Gargar river. That meant crossing icy water and walking in snow filled forest. Some people were barefoot without any warm clothes on them. Many froze to death there and some had severe frostbite. The forest would lead us to the Azeri village Nakhchivanik in Aghdam. When we reached the end of the forest, we found out that it was an ambush and that Armenian soldiers had been waiting for us there. Armed soldiers started firing. Some of our men had hunting guns. Compared to machines, tanks, rockets that Armenians were using, our hunting guns were only toys. We couldn't defend ourselves with these primitive guns.
4 days in captivity … [ZpicR:14830]

After the people with guns were all killed by opposition side, we were taken hostages and brought to the closest town Askaran, which was already under the control of Armenian troops. There I realized that my mom and dad were not by my side. Some of our people had been able to hide in the forest. Some had died in the frost; some had been killed in the attack. The hostages – some 40 of us - were put in a line. Armenian soldiers divided us into groups. Men over 18 years of age were taken and sent to Khankendi, and then to Yerevan [the capital of Armenia]. My six young cousins were among them. They are still missing. We never heard of them after that night. Those who were in military uniforms were shot right in front of our eyes there.
There were two main places where hostages were kept. The first one was an Askerani jail, and the other one was a police station. I don't think that it was a jail. It was a dark, cold and concrete covered building. There were around 60 people in that building. Women, children, and elderly were all stuffed in there. Armenian soldiers pulled out golden teeth of all hostages. They were burning hands and fingers of some hostages, putting and smashing their fingers and nails between doors. Girls and women were raped over and over again. Once a day we drank dirty water from a trashcan. Often we would melt frozen snow to drink. Many of the wounded hostages were in a poor condition. They didn't get any kind of help. Every second could be the last moment of our lives. Body parts of many hostages froze, especially toes that were amputated after returning from captivity. We were kept in Askeran for four days until the Azerbaijani side made an exchange for us. It happened because the Armenian side traded other required things such as petrol. I didn't know if there were any negotiations between Azerbaijani and Armenian governments regarding the exchange of hostages until then. Later I heard that corpses were also being exchanged for money and petrol. After being released, I was taken to Aghdam. The sight was shocking. Aghdam looked like a "market" of human beings – dead, wounded human beings. It was scary to look at them all. The town was filled with corpses and released Azerbaijani hostages. Dead bodies were being washed in the mosque and buried in a place called Uzundara which was also occupied by Armenians 6 months later. People were looking for their dear ones among corpses and the survivors. Women were wailing and gouging their cheeks with their nails out of sorrow. It was a scary view.  

IDP life

In Aghdam my relative on my mother's side found me. I lived with her in the Giyasli village of Aghdam for a year. I was rarely attending school there because the school was being shelled from time to time. The same episode was being repeated in Aghdam. Soon in late June 1993 Armenians occupied the city of Aghdam as well, and I became a refugee for the second time. I was taken to Naftalan where I lived for six months. I was half-starving there. We were getting bread with coupon once a day. We were burning kerosene to heat ourselves. Soon Armenians threw a racket bomb close to where we were staying and the refugees had to flee Naftalan. We were taken to one of the two refugee camps set in Barda. There were 1500 refugees in that camp. It is impossible to describe the condition in which we lived in the camp. Five to six people had to stay in one small tent. Five months later, when Armenians stopped bombing Naftalan we returned there and I set up my life there. I lived there till 1999. In 1999 we moved to Barda. Throughout these years we were hoping that each day was our last day as a refugee. We believed that some day we would be told to go back to our hometown but that didn't happen.
In spite of all the interruptions caused by the war and the hardships of a refugee life, I was able to receive an education. I did succeed to study at a graduate school in Baku and was hired at an international Organization. I made my way in life. But there is a scar in my soul, a deep scar…
I appreciate the campaign of Justice for Khojaly which aims to increase the awareness of a human catastrophe of my town at the international level. The more people learn about this tragic history, the less acts against humanity will happen in the future, I think. I thank all campaigners of the JFK campaign all over the world for helping their communities to learn about it, and for urging them to be intolerant against any kind of aggression and inhuman actions. Aggressors should know that they can not get away with killing innocent people. There is a saying: "The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them."
Let's cry out for justice of human being. Let's fight for Justice for Khojaly and for all victims of conflicts… 
Interviewed and written by Sophie Boeschoten, freelance journalist from the Netherlands
©2010 Justice for Khojaly International Campaign

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