By Thomas Goltz, the first to report the massacre by Armenian soldiers, reports from Aghdam
Khojaly used to be a barren Azeri town, with empty shops and treeless dirt roads. Yet it was still home to thousands of Azeri people who, in happier times, tended fields and flocks of geese. Last week it was wiped off the map.
As sickening reports trickled in to the Azerbaijani border town of Aghdam, and the bodies piled up in the morgues, there was little doubt that Khojaly and the stark foothills and gullies around it had been the site of the most terrible massacre since the Soviet Union broke apart.
I was the last Westerner to visit Khojaly. That was in January and people were predicting their fate with grim resignation. Zumrut Ezoya, a mother of four on board the helicopter that ferried us into the town, called her community “sitting ducks, ready to get shot”. She and her family were among the victims of the massacre by the Armenians on February 26.
“The Armenians have taken all the outlying villages, one by one, and the government does nothing”, Balakisi Sakikov, 55, a father of five, said. “Next they will drive us out or kill us all”, said Dilbar, his wife. The couple, their three sons and three daughters were killed in the massacre, as were many other people I had spoken to.
“It was close to the Armenian lines we knew we would have to cross. There was a road, and the first units of the column ran across then all hell broke loose. Bullets were raining down from all sides. We had just entered their trap”.
The Azeri defenders picked off one by one. Survivors say that Armenian forces then began a pitiless slaughter, firing at anything moved in the gullies. A video taken by an Azeri cameraman, wailing and crying as he filmed body after body, showed a grizzly trail of death leading towards higher, forested ground where the villagers had sought refuge from the Armenians.
“The Armenians just shot and shot and shot”, said Omar Veyselov, lying in hospital in Aghdam “I saw my wife and daughter fall right by me”, he said.
People wandered through the hospital corridors looking for news of the loved ones. Some vented their fury on foreigners: “Where is my daughter, where is my son?” wailed a mother. “Raped. Butchered. Lost”.