Khojaly Massacre: Anthologies vs. Rhetoric prt. 1 Running from the Darkness

By | Rachel Brooks

February 15, 2021 

Above, a photo taken of  Shakhsey-vakhsey (Bisimallah) in Aghdam for the Khojaly victims. Today, Aghdam has been a morbidly brutalized place, with whole family graveyards excavated. Read our coverage of those events here.

Photo credit: “File:Shakhsey-vakhsey in Agdam for victims of Khojaly massacre 2.jpg” by Ilgar Jafarov is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Khojaly Massacre unfolded in February 1992. The slaughter of 613 Azerbaijani citizens in one fell stroke of ethnic cleansing has fallen into the ashes of history. In the years to follow, the Azerbaijani people have created anthologies of poems and written work in memory of the Khojaly massacre, also known as the Khojaly genocide, because the crimes committed against the people of Khojaly fall into the same criminal categories for the laws defining genocidal crimes. 

The massacre lost to politics 

The Khojaly massacre is often regarded as a forgotten genocide as, even though it happened within the last 30 years, it receives  mixed or vague attention in the world foreign to Azerbaijan. The atrocities of the Khojaly massacre have likewise been heavily politicized, adding insult in the wake of injury. 

Despite the fact that Armenians have acknowledged the killings, the Armenian political rhetoric practices a strategy of avoidance.

Survivors raise their voices 

Durdane Aghayeva is an author at the Jewish Journal today, a Muslim woman with a special connection to the Jewish community because of a shared solidarity. The Jewish people who survived Hitler’s Holocaust and documented their experiences offered a small comfort for Aghayeva who is a survivor of the great brutality of the Khojaly events. Aghayeva now uses the painful wisdom she acquired from witnessing and first-hand experiencing such cruelty to offer political commentary. 

Her work also offers many direct contributions to the anthology of the Khojaly massacre, an event that she could not speak about for 20 years. She was 20-years-old when Khojaly happened.  

Speaking in the documentary Running from the Darkness,  she recalled how the snow ran red with blood that night. She watched as people died before her eyes, and fled the city of Khojaly as it was set ablaze. She recalled as she saw a child reach back calling for his dead mother, and was shot as well. The blood of the child mixed with the blood of the mother in the ground as people were torn from that place. 

The tragedy began for Aghayeva when she along with people escaping Khojaly were taken captive and held hostage in the basement of the Asgeran Police Department. Because Aghayeva had been shot in the leg, she could not run to escape. She recalls being beaten everyday 

She recalled how one little 5-year-old child was among those taken hostage. He approached one of the Armenians and told him that it was his birthday. The Armenian took the child and slapped him. When the child put up a struggle, Aghayeva recalls that the Armenian held him to a wall and shot him through his hand. 

“The child put his hand on his face, and his face was covered in blood,” said Aghayeva. 

Aghayeva then recalled her own torture. She was beaten severely on a daily basis the entirety of her captivity. On one occasion, she lost consciousness, and when she came to, her eyes were forced shut. She had to use her saliva to open her eyes. 

On another occasion, two Armenian soldiers argued over whether they should take her to Yerevan to harvest her internal organs or not. One of them took her to Khankendi for a night. She was tied to a chair by her arms and legs. There she was beaten by a soldier who she identified by the name Karo. He used a baton to beat her, and he extinguished cigarettes on her knees. 

On another occasion, she was forced to sit in a bathtub full of freezing water for about 4-5hours. Today, she is still in poor health as a result of her torture, but 

Aghayeva recalled in the Jewish Journal how, in the years to follow her torture in 1992, the tormentor who ordered her beating received a distinguished award. She saw this on Facebook, and recalled how the voices of Azerbaijani people from the Karabakh conflict were silenced as an extension. 

Aghayeva was excited to take part  in the Running from the Darkness documentary which was created by Los Angeles-based filmmakers to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the massacre. 

This anthology is continued in part 2.