Survivor recounts horrific events of the Khojaly Massacre: Escaping death and torture

Born in Khojaly in 1977, I and my family lived there until the tragic day of the Khojaly massacre. On the evening of February 25, 1992, around 11:00 PM, Soviet army units and Armenians launched a heavy assault on Khojaly from all sides with heavy weapons. At that time, I was already in bed when my father woke me, urging us to quickly take cover in the basement. After the tension escalated in Khojaly, we frequently sought refuge in the basement of our home, listening to the sounds as if the battle was taking place right next to our house.

Speaking to, Khojaly resident Ramil Musayev shared his experiences and the atrocities committed by the Armenians:

"It never crossed our minds that we would have to leave the district.

Around 1:00 AM, my uncle Tahir, who was a fighter, came and informed us that Armenians had killed and burned the homes of Azerbaijanis and were advancing. After this news, we had to leave. When we reached the central post office of Khojaly with our neighbors, elderly men were advising on our next steps. It was decided that to avoid falling into the enemy's hands, we needed to leave the region. The population moved in two directions – towards the Karkar River and the Askeran district. We moved towards the Karkar River, and as we reached there, we had to cross the river to enter the Katik forest. I had taken off my shoes to wade through the river when I slipped and fell into the water. My father helped me up, took my shoes, and wrung out the water from my soaked pants. I continued the journey wearing the wet trousers, freezing, and barely able to move my feet.

We had no support...

There was no one to protect us, and when shots were fired, there was no one to respond. We were with thirteen soldiers, but they had run out of ammunition. The district had around 50 soldiers and police, and they stayed behind to defend Khojaly. When we left, we were nearly 200 people. Everywhere was filled with corpses, and it seemed like the enemy was tracking us as there were Armenians on all sides.

My mother silenced her crying child by pressing him to her chest. Unfortunately, the infant drowned and died...

We took a break to rest, and there was a woman with a baby nearby. Suddenly, the baby started crying, and people around us advised the woman to quiet her child to avoid being noticed by the Armenians. In fear, she held the baby to her chest to silence him. Sadly, the newborn suffocated and died. They placed the lifeless infant on the ground, and shortly after, the baby's mother also froze to death from the cold.

The slope was challenging, and many struggled to walk...

The terrain made it difficult to walk, especially for the elderly and the sick. We had many women and elderly individuals, so we were moving slowly. When we finally arrived at Katik Mountain after approximately 10 hours of travel, the Armenians began firing at us. We realized they had been waiting for us, as bringing out the heavy equipment to the mountain took a long time.

We lost our way...

To avoid the gunfire, we had to turn back and cross the Karkar River again. We entered the forest once more, this time moving towards the other side of the mountain. The forest was filled with smoke, making it difficult to see. After walking for about five or six hours, we reached the town of Khan Kendi. To go to Agdam, we had to cross two more mountains, but we had mistakenly deviated from the right direction.

They began calling us to come, inviting us...

Approaching a village, people started calling us, asking us to come. We were relieved, thinking we had reached familiar territory. As we approached, they started firing at us as soon as the military-clad boys stepped outside. We realized the village was entirely populated by Armenians – it was Dahraz village. The gunfire started, and people scattered. I was with a woman named Zahra, and when she screamed, a bullet went through her mouth.

I exploded a sheep pen to distract them...

A boy named Telman, recently discharged from the military, had a grenade in his hand against the tank. He asked for permission to explode the grenade, saying we'd all die, but at least we wouldn't become captives. One of the elderly refused, telling him there were children among us, and it was forbidden.

They held me...

Shortly after that, I saw Armenians coming towards the forest, searching. When they spotted me, they started shooting. With a bullet wound in my leg, I couldn't escape. They came and captured me, throwing me into a tank. Altogether, six Armenians took me to what seemed like an auto repair shop. During the inspection, they found a cartridge in my pocket, accusing me of planning to kill them with it. They struck my forehead with the butt of an automatic gun. Initially, I didn't want to talk about the torture inflicted on my father. However, enduring the pain became unbearable, with the gunshot wound in my leg, the bayonet wound, and the pain from my nails. I told my father everything.

The farm was dark, and the people were barely visible. There was an unbearable stench. We were held there for several days. The Armenians had said that if anyone tried to escape, they would kill everyone.

My mother said, "Take my two sons, at least return one..."

One day, Armenians came in and took those in military uniforms out to the desert. When the boys in military uniform were taken out, a woman with us said that three of them were her sons. She had lost one in Khojaly and requested at least one of them to be returned. In response, an Armenian hit her on the head with the butt of his gun. Then, they closed the door, and without a pause, started firing for 2-3 minutes from automatic weapons and machine guns. The sound was deafening. Since the farm had no windows, we couldn't see anything. Later, we couldn't get any information from the 13 people who were taken out.

They killed their sons and tortured their fathers...

My mother's cousin had two sons – Zahid and Vusal – who had already become martyrs. Armenians came, asking if she had a son. When she answered "no," they threw her son's corpse in front of her. When she wanted to embrace her son, they tortured her. After witnessing these events, I understood that Allahverdi Bagirov, may he rest in peace, had rescued us from captivity through negotiations.

After four days, the Armenians took us through Askeran to Aghdam. When passing through Askeran, we saw the corpses of those in our group and were horrified. They had all been killed.

Upon reaching Aghdam, they released us in the village of Abdal-Gulabli. At first, we didn't realize, but later, we learned that Allahverdi Bagirov had managed to free us from captivity through diplomatic means."

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