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Zenure Salimova

I was asleep, my husband was out with the Self-Defence. I heard my husband calling his brother to move their mother. We took her out with just a blanket and the sky was so bright you couldn't imagine that it was midnight. We went to the cellar of the five-storey building. After about 20 minutes we were told to go to the forest. It was snowing. My mother-in-law was too sick and heavy. My husband had to leave his mother.

We had to cross the river and it was too difficult in shoes, so we went barefoot. We hoped we would stay in the forest for the night and then return. We didn't think we were leaving for good.

Alif Hajiyev was our guide as we went up and down rocks in the snow. Alif was leading six or seven of us and one woman had a baby on her back who was screaming. I tried to calm down the child and the mother said it was hungry and needed changing. I was afraid it would attract the Armenians. There were no leaves on the trees to hide us from the shooting. We got to the road and saw a car; Alif told us to lie down. Those further behind didn't hear him and they were killed. I was pregnant and with the front group, that's how I survived...

We crossed the road and turned back to see a horrible sight. You can't imagine what it was like; it was as if the snow had a red cover over it. No one could help, I was so stressed. We walked the whole night. I can't believe we got through that, stepping over bodies. I was very grateful when we arrived at Shelli village, we were some of the first to arrive, but there were ambulances ready and they took the wounded to different hospitals. Not many survived; they killed us like cutting wheat in a field.

My mother-in-law and uncle were captured. Huseyn Azizov was held for five days and then his body was released; his teeth were pulled out and his head was split open. It was filled with cotton for burial. Bodies were left in the forest for 25 days.

When he had got us to Shelli, Alif Hajiyev[1] returned to help others. He didn't come back; he was shot through the head.

My first child only lived for three months... stress... There is a wound in all our hearts, we'll remember as long as we live.

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


Note: Alif Hajiyev was head of security at the airport near Khojaly. He was declared a National Hero for his efforts to protect those fleeing the town. He is buried in Shahidlar Khiyabani (Martyr's Avenue) in Baku.