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Yasemen Hasanova

The interview with Yasemen made a deep impression. Her father, Tofiq Huseynov, was declared a National Hero as he gave his life trying to defend the town. Her mother was shot down because she refused to leave her home without her husband. Yasemen herself survived that terrible, freezing, night-long trek through the gauntlet of gunfire and is now a teacher in the school in a settlement of Khojaly refugees in a run-down sanatorium.

It was a beautiful house - two storeys - with grape vines that climbed over the balconies... Address? We didn't have an address; everybody knew our house near the river. There was a big garden with apple, pear and plum trees, and potatoes... my father loved boiled potatoes, and rice soup... One of the apple trees was very small; every year it had just three apples, and we were three children. The apples smelled of honeydew melons and one day I took a bite out of one of them, but I left it on the tree; my father asked, 'Why didn't you pick it?'

A child has a good memory (she was 12 at the time). They would shoot constantly and we didn't understand it, it was like fireworks.

Mother took us into the cellar, we never wore night clothes, always day clothes. They always shot at night and so my father was always at his post (he was commander of the self-defence team). I was proud of him when he defended us. They would stop shooting at 5 or 6am.

There were food shortages, especially flour and bread, the gas and electricity was cut, we cooked on wood fires, and our boys had no weapons like tanks...Khojaly was surrounded, like a tea glass on a saucer, the only way out was by helicopter, and they shot at that...Once, when my uncle was taking us to our grandfather's house, they started firing and my uncle lay down on top of us; grandfather's gate was all shot up...They were shooting at us every day, but my father continued fixing up the house, preparing for my brother's circumcision party.

We couldn't go out at night and in the mornings we found lots of bullets. We didn't go to school; I only studied for one month in my 6th year.

The last attack was barbaric; (as well as both parents) I lost my grandparents, my uncle, my aunt and her two children.

The oldest people had to be left behind, in the top storey of a five floor building.

My mother didn't want to leave without her husband, so we children left together with cousins.

His (her father's) body was left under the snow for a long time. They carried him back on sledges. They told us it was grandpa's body. The day he was buried my brother Murad was given a picture of my father. His tears ran over the picture; it seemed the picture was crying.

16 years after my mother's death there was a picture of her body on the internet. We didn't know she was dead, we thought she was a hostage.

I never imagined that any daughter could thank God that her mother was dead... I thank God she died there, instead of being tortured by Armenians.

Interviewed by Ian Peart
Story source: Book “Khojaly Witness of a War Crime - Armenia in the Dock”,
published by Ithaca Press, London 2014