Here we will slightly stray from politics and return to vital problems of Khojali, will find out what was taking place in Khojali, how did Khojali people live. Perhaps, Elman Mamedov, former Head of Executive Committee of that time would best of all picture the life of Khojali and its people. Here is what he told Chingiz Mustafayev in his interview:
Chingiz Mustafayev: Elman muallim, you used to be the Head of Executive Committee of Khojali.
Elman Mamedov: Yes.
Chingiz Mustafayev: I understand that recalling it all is difficult; if possible, tell us about the last events, and what started the seizure of Khojali?
Elman Mamedov: The process of occupation of Khojali by Armenians had started from August 1991. Before that we had the advantage. We were building, creating, dominating, driving to former Khankendi, although with security, but we could still go there. Armenians already started to feel our power. But later on some forces in the republic for some reason started to play such games, that we gave up the advantage in all Nagorno Karabakh. (I think it is not difficult to guess what forces were those.) Villages started desolating, one after another our villages were burnt, our people was killed and expulsed. It was strange that the Republican government bodies, those that were supposed to deal with it, viewed the problem as unimportant, as if it was meant to be that way. At last, before the beginning of Khojali tragedy, the helicopters brought bread, fuel for the last time to Khojali from Ganja on February 13, 1992. On those helicopters we managed to transfer 200-300 women, children, elderly and ill people to a safe zone. Thanks God, we transferred them then.
Chingiz Mustafayev: Excuse me, but you mentioned August 1991, was there an Organizing Committee in Stepanakert at that time?
Elman Mamedov: Organizing Committee functioned in Stepanakert and functioned not bad.
Chingiz Mustafayev: Do you know what I would like to ask? I would like to ask about the changes in politics that took place after 1991.
Elman Mamedov: Since Organizing Committee left, we lost all the advantages. Construction works stopped, money allotments stopped, little by little all ministries started leaving Nagorno Karabakh. For the last time we travelled to the Khojali on the highway on October 30, 1991. Following that date from November 1 to February 25, we could reach Khojali only by helicopter, and only when it was possible. The last civil helicopters flew to Khojali on January 28. On February 4 and 5, the helicopters brought us bread, after that on February 9 and for the last time on February 13. From February 13 to 25 1992, despite everyday promises to open the road and to send support, there was no communication with Azerbaijan. But we lived and persevered. On February 23, I opened the last bag of flour and distributed 1-2 kg per each family for the children not to die of hunger. On February 24, the authorities of Azerbaijan located in Aghdam were informed by transmitters, based on information obtained from a seized Armenian fighter, that in tribute of Sumgait pogroms Khojali would be demolished and that the operation was prepared. We asked to send us helicopters to take out women and children. But, no action followed. On February 25, approximately at 20.30 …
Chingiz Mustafayev: Excuse me, how many people were there in Khojali on February 25?
Elman Mamedov: On February 25, there were at least 3000 people in Khojali. The rest were earlier transferred in shifts, mainly children, women, the ill and the elderly. A part of male population that once had moved to Aghdam side could not return due to absence of helicopters.
Chingiz Mustafayev: Clear, so, earlier on you had informed about preparations of Armenians…
Elman Mamedov: Yes, I had informed that an attack was expected, that the operation had been prepared for a long time, and that it was done in honor of Sumgait event. At around 20.30 pm military machinery from Stepanakert regiment 366, more precisely vehicles like Infantry Combat Vehicle (БМП), Armored Vehicle (БТР), Command and Reconnaissance Vehicle (БРДМ) and even tanks started to surround Khojali from every side. Khojali was being surrounded for about two hours. The positions were engaged. They did not come close and stood at a distance of 1-1.5-2km. At around 22.30 at night, I might be wrong with a couple of minutes, firing started.
Chingiz Mustafayev: But seeing that the tanks and armored vehicles (БТР) surrounded you, why did you not start firing the tanks?
Elman Mamedov: We had no single weapon to shoot down that type of military equipment and resist them. Not one! Besides, resistance should have been given from the side of main forces, from the side of Aghdam, Shushi. They should have been fired at to confuse them and prevent them from starting the operation. We could have won a couple of hours for ourselves, to save ourselves. Besides, we considered that leaving Khojali and fleeing would have been cowardly; we thought it was a provocation and they wanted to frighten us. But when the firing started, we felt that we are being exterminated. Because the firing started at the same time from all the weapons. The earth shook. It was impossible to move. They started to burn Khojali from every side with military equipment and flamethrowers. There were many wooden Finnish and Czech houses around Khojali, which were burnt. Our soldiers gave a dignified resistance. They resisted up to 2am. Many sons were left there, on the battlefields.
Chingiz Mustafayev: You probably know that at that time the State TV informed that only one person died and one was wounded, and on the following day there was a statement that Azeri forces returned to Khojali. What do you think about that?
Elman Mamedov: When we heard the news… the news where it was stated that as a result of attack from Armenians in Khojali 2 persons died and Armenians got a pushback and were thrown back and that Khojali was protected by our side, by that moment we already had about 1000 dead on our side, more than 300 were taken captive, more than two hundred were wounded, people were dying and we, sitting in Aghdam were listening to the news. Listening to the news astonished on who gives that kind of information.
Chingiz Mustafayev: And later, could the remaining people leave Khojali?
Elman Mamedov: The remaining people, women, children, elderly, we led in that winter night through icy rivers and forests in the dark, approximately we walked more than 10 kilometers. When the morning came, we were in 2-3 kilometers from Aghdam. But, unfortunately, nobody came out to meet us. We went into an open zone where there were no forests, and from the other side it was starting to dawn. It turned out that Armenians were waiting for us right there sitting on highlands with their machine-guns. And it was there that they started mass killings of women, children, the ill and the elderly, everyone! Everyone! They spared nobody. Small children were killed by machine-guns, shot in the head. That was Armenian fascism. As it turned out, there is no fascism worse than the Armenian fascism, and we saw it with our own eyes.
Chingiz Mustafayev: And finally here is a question: many are interested what happened to Khojali Airport that was the only one in whole Karabakh and was of strategic importance? I would like to understand if Armenians could use the airport now?
Elman Mamedov: Yes, at the moment the airport is under Armenian control, although planes do not fly yet, but helicopters land already. It is for sure. Khojali used to be such a strategic point that if it Khojali was kept, Karabakh would not be lost. Khojali was the spinal cord of Karabakh, its basis point. Because we were situated where there was an airport, railway, primary automobile roadway. That small Khojali with population of 5-6 thousands blocked the way to Askeran, Aghdam etc.
Chingiz Mustafayev: And finally, where do you see the cause of all our misfortunes?
Elman Mamedov: I will be sincere and will not hide away, as we came to this point by hiding our misfortunes. I see the cause of our misfortunes in senseless fight for power! There should be one president in one republic. The people should elect one person, vote for him so that he could skillfully rule the country. And the rest should be helping him! At this moment, we are in such a situation that it is not known who is doing what. Who the president is, who the opposition is. Who speaks the truth and who lies. It is not clear who serves whom and what are the aims they pursue. We do not know whom to blame in this tragedy. We do not know whether to put it on account of those who tries to shake the President’s chair, using the powers given by the President and those who have thrown us under bullets. Or we don’t know if we should put it on the President’s account, so that the President brings to justice those whom he gave the power and they deceived him and did not protect Khojali. We don’t know on whose account this should be put on, whom the history will blame in this.