'It is hard to remember' - War correspondent who witnessed Khojaly tragedy - VIDEO | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

10 April, Friday

'It is hard to remember' - War correspondent who witnessed Khojaly tragedy - VIDEO

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It has been almost 30 years since the start of the ethnic and territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Garabagh region of Azerbaijan. It is regretful to say that Garabagh war (or internationally called Nagorno-Karabakh conflict) went in the history with the loss of over thousands of lives of Azerbaijanis, including children, women, men, elderly people and soldiers. Each of the event in the Garabagh war had many sad memories, where all residents evicted from their historical lands, thousands of houses, schools, kindergartens and administrative buildings arsoned and destroyed. 

During the Garabagh war, both civilians and soldiers became victims of ceaseless shootings. Almost all Azerbaijani nationals invloved in that war to defend the territories of Azerbaijan. Among the victims, the role of war correspondents who served shoulder to shoulder with the Azerbaijani soldiers was priceless. Sometimes it cost them their lives through which they faced many challenges and risks. It is due to war correspondents that today we have sufficient facts and documentaries about Garabagh war and Khojaly genocide. Some of them even say the screams and shootings of that shivering night have still remained in their ears. 
"Taking pictures and making videos at that terrible night left serious trauma in many of us. It is hard to remember that...," a war correspondent Irfan Sapmaz spoke to Eurasy Diary with sorrow.

"I saw a woman with an infant in her hug. The infant was dead. The colour of the baby's skin was completely gone but woman did not believe that her baby had died. She was shocked...That photo had a big impact on me. I felt void in my whole body." 

"It was a very painful day for me as a journalist to announce such a massacre to the world. When I was in Shusha Armenians had just started to occupy Garabagh. I watched the clashes in Shusha then went to Agdam region. When I reached Agdam I was told there was a disaster and massacre in Khojaly. We immediately moved towards Khojaly together with our friend Aghasi Han. We arrived in a place called Askaran Hill. This was the last place we could go. Just below it was the Khojaly town," Sapmaz added. 
With the 366th motorised regiment of the Russian army, Armenian troops entered the town of Khojaly, and the massacre in Khojaly started at that horrendous night.  
"We could not enter the Town during that night. Only early in the morning we could witness that horrible scene. We were able to come to Askeran hill where we saw local residents trying to escape. It was more than a massacre; it was a genocide and a great disaster in the history we had ever seen."
Irfan Sapmaz also mentioned that Azerbaijan did not have its own arsenal. He said due to lack of importance that was given in the Soviet regime to Turks living in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan they did not have military experience. According to him, the Azerbaijani soldiers were not properly armed in srategically important places. Therefore when the war began in Garabagh, Azerbaijan was not prepared for that either. 
"When the Khojaly massacre started, the soldiers had only hunting rifles and several kalashnikovs that they had collected from their homes. Armenian troops started to kill innocent people in the early morning on February 26, 1992 and continued until the evening. I was there and took both videos and photos after the terror". 
"The clashes in the evening were so violent that sometimes we had to intervene the injured people. There was only one plane by chance when we arrived in Baku on 26 February 1992. I took all the photos and videos with me. There was not any seat on the plane to Istanbul. When I informed to our friend Jumshid Nuriyev, who was responsible for the Baku Airport, 'I have photos and videos of the Khojaly massacre in my hand', they immediately replaced a passenger with me putting me on board. I arrived in Istanbul on the night of February 26. When I landed at Istanbul airport, I saw myself stuck in mud and blood of injured people." 
Journalist Irfan Sapmaz said the technology of the past was not like today. It sometimes took them over a day to prepare one photograph after several proceses and they were not yet advanced in technology to transfer videos and photos from the location of the war. 
"We were taking photos in slide films. With the technology at that time, we had no chance to send images and photos from there. The photographs were washed in Hürriyet Newspaper editorial then after that we could reveal the Khojaly genocide to the world in the February 27th edition of Hurriyyet newspaper. On February 28, 1992, we covered the first page of Hürriyet newspaper with the news and posts of Khojaly genocide. 3-4 inner pages of the newspaper were dedicated to only the Khojaly massacre. As you know, there was only one channel, TRT. We were also working for TRT as a foreign correspondent. We immediately sent the images to TRT because it was a national issue. TRT also published images of the massacre to the world." 
Days later, real numbers began to emerge - 613 Azerbaijani civilians including 116 women, 63 children and 487 injured people appered in the official report of the death toll in Khojaly. 
"The woman who did not want to believe in the death of her baby in her hug, those who crawled in mud and snow to save their injured siblings and children, Azerbaijani Turks who were trying to protect the civilians with rifles and a few kalashnikovs in their hands... - all of them I still remember. I have been following wars for 30 years. From time to time you have such emotional moments that you can not control your tears," Irfan Sapmaz remembered those days with tears in his eyes.
At the end we left Agdam and continued walking under the blazing bullets until we reached Askaran Hill. Sometimes it was very hard to walk in the mud. Tough climate was also matter for the loss of energy. We shot the incident on the February 26th and a day after that horrible event we arrived in Istanbul. We also published it on the 28th. One week later I returned Garabagh. The bodies of many people were found in the snow in the mountains and carried to the Azerbaijan side...

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