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Khankendi ::: Interview ::: Nadir Rashidov: “Despite the bomb alert in our school .... “ 20 November 2012 :::
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  • The streets of Khankendi
  • The view of Khankendi from Shusha
  • A nature view of native Garabagh
  • The monument to World War II
  • Baku-Khankendi-Shusha road

Interview

Nadir Rashidov: “Despite the bomb alert in our school .... “ 20 November 2012

Khankendi, one of the main centers of Daghlig Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) always has an important strategic position, especially in the Soviet period. Though the real name was Khankendi, in the Soviet period it was renamed to “Stepanakert” after one of the 26 Baku commissars, Armenian Stepan Saumyan and was officially known under this name until Azerbaijan gained its independence. The Armenians’ protests in Khankendi played an important role in the genesis of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and in its transformation to military operations in the last years of the Soviet Union. In this context, the socio-political processes occurring in Khankendi, as well as the life and living difficulties of the Azerbaijani population, the attacks and protests against them by Armenians made the situation increasingly intolerable for them.Though the years passed after the war, many people are unaware of difficulties faced by the Azerbaijani population living on the eve of the war and at war time in Khankendi and the events they had witnessed at the time. In this regard, under this heading we will introduce life stories of our compatriots who are driven out of Khankendi, their bitter and pleasant recollections of war. Our first guest is Nadir Rashidov born in the village of Kosalar of Khankendi. The major part of his life he devoted as a teacher to the education of children. Bloody events that took place in Karabakh like many others had an impact on his teaching profession and his family as well. He was born on May 31, 1955, in Khankendi, in the village of Kosalar. He finished Khankendi ten-year school N4 named after Nizami Ganjavi. In 1972, he entered the Khankendi Pedagogical Institute. After graduating from the institute he began his activities as a teacher of mathematics.

─ Nadir muellim, how was life during the Soviet era in Khankendi?

Khankendi was one of the significant cities. Mainly, Azerbaijanis lived there. There were not any Armenians there. Afterwards, the construction of various industrial facilities was started in Khankendi; the town began to be developed rapidly. The construction of the shoemaking factory, dairy plant started up to operation, the opening of the workshop for drying powdered milk, the establishment of educational institutions much more expedited the flow of the people from the surrounding districts to the town. In this case, along with Azerbaijanis, the Armenians of the surrounding districts settled in Khankendi as well. The people worked, created new life and were provided with housing. Therefore, there was a great flow from the surrounding regions and towns. For instance: there were families who migrated to our district from Lachin and Gubadly regions. Various educational institutions operated in the town; Agricultural School, driving school, vocational school, Medical School and others. As a regional center, Khankendi was a developed town.

─ Slogans such as the “brotherhood” and “friendship” were always advanced and sounded among the nations in the soviet era within the Soviet empire. And how it happened that suddenly the Armenians of the region began to protest, attack and to lay claims to land against Azerbaijanis?

─ Peace and tranquility was ruling over the region. However, the Armenians sought for right moment and realized their dirty intentions. The killing of an Armenian child in 1968, even more aggravated the situation in the region. Armenians accused Azerbaijanis in this. Three, not guilty persons, including Arshad muallim were arrested in relation with this case. Later, when they were leaving the court rooms, were savagely burnt by Armenians. Later it became clear that the boy was intentionally killed by the Armenians, thereby by putting the blame on Azerbaijanis, they tried to create a negative opinion about us. This incident caused tension in the region. Some of the families fearing of the Armenian attacks moved from Khankendi to the surrounding districts.After a period, following the arrest of criminals’ relative peace was established in the region; some of the families that fled from the town returned. In 1986, the registration of Azerbaijanis to Khankendi was stopped. After returning from military service my cousin despite of his efforts could not to be registered to the town. Nevertheless my cousin had a 30 square/meter house and he was married. At that time, the people were registered taking into consideration the residential area. Therefore, the Armenian working in “Domkom (house manager´s office)” while speaking to me said that, he could not register him, as there was an instruction from above. However, there was no limit to the migrant Armenian population; they were very easily registered in the town. This was the most obvious example of discrimination against Azerbaijanis. On the whole, the most important government leaders at that time were mostly Armenians. And they were doing their best by all means to increase the number of Armenian population in the town.

─ What can you say about the mysterious “death” of some Azerbaijanis prior to the Armenians’ open protests?

─ At times someone was missing, sometimes later, the corpses of those Azerbaijanis were found in a lonely place. One day, in order to create fear in the town, Armenians killed a young boy named Elchin and threw his dead body under the Malibeyli Bridge. It was rumored that he died of convulsion. However, that young man would be soon admitted to Internal Affairs’ body. Armenians, who were concerned about the admission of an Azerbaijani to the Supreme body, killed that young fellow. Such incidents were common then. In October 1987, at school hours a rumor had reached to us that there was a bomb in the school where Azerbaijanis studied. It caused a great excitement and fear of the children and parents. Students did not attend classes for a long time. We ─ the staff of teachers and management addressed the internal affairs and security bodies of the town to investigate this incident. They came and conduct the search at the school. It became clear that the “bomb alarm” was groundless, fiction of the Armenians. We gathered the parents and explained them that this was an Armenian lie and decisively told that there was not any bomb in school. We managed to convince the parents to the truth that the focus of such rumors was that nothing more than to disturb stability of attendance at school. After that demonstration we managed the pupils to get involved into study till the end of the second quarter. It was October 13, 1988. It was school hours. Suddenly shouting voices were heard. Looking through the class windows to the street, we saw a noisy crowd in front of the Nagorno-Karabakh Regional Party Committee building. A group of Armenians was lodging their protests in the demonstration. We saw such events in the films up to now. If before they operated in their work places covertly – they were listed and launched signature collecting companies in connection of annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, now a new step was made – they sounded their intentions openly in protest demonstrations.We had repeatedly informed the appropriate bodies about the secret compiling of lists by the Armenians in their organizations, but it gave no result.

─ But how was the attitude to the social events taken place and the atmosphere in school N4 where you were working then?

─ Although the school teaching staff consisted of Azerbaijanis, foreign languages were taught by Armenian teachers. At the end of each week, we put shortly the socio-political news occurring in the country and in the USSR at school. Every week, one of the teachers commented the news. At long break we exchanged news and ideas. When the talks were about the Armenians’ protests, their unfair claims there stirred up a dispute over it, but the Armenian teachers always denied it. I will never forget, once our Armenian colleague had to provide us with news. It was the time when our national leader Heydar Aliyev was discharged from the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow. The Armenian teacher notified the news joyfully and laughing, with a particular intonation, disgust. We – Azerbaijani teachers regretted and got angry with secret gladness and hate in her face, but we managed to keep self-control. There was a heavy dispute between us. In fact the reason for Armenians’ gladness was the dismissal of the great and far-sighted politician Heydar Aliyev from the Soviet governing body, which meant that Armenians could realize their dirty plans easily and there was no obstacle; because the Armenians could not protest against Azerbaijanis openly during his governing over the country and feared from the power of this charismatic personality.Protest demonstrations that started in February 1988 in Khankendi became regular; gradually the wave of protests began to intensify. A few days after the demonstration a group of police were sent from Baku. They stood near the demonstration area, observed, and controlled around. With the arrival of the Azerbaijani police from Baku to the town, the Armenian residents calmed a bit, they even feared to go out. But it did not last long. As soon as the police were sent back, the demonstrations intensified. Shouting “Miatsum”, “Miatsum” (in Armenian it means “incorporation”), they demanded the incorporation of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. Charges against Azerbaijanis were put, as if we did not let them live here. However, they held the best and executive posts, lived a well-to-do and happy life. Following the Sumgait events of 1988, the Armenians’ wave of protests in Khankendi further strengthened. The Azerbaijani population was undergoing psychological pressure, attacked and exposed to danger. Armenians tried to achieve the Azerbaijani population to leave the town of their own accord. But no one was willing to leave their native lands. On October 18, 19 and on the night to 20, 1988, Armenians fired a cluster of Azerbaijani houses. That night we saw this from the neighbor’s house. Three days later the commandant was sent to the town and a curfew was imposed. As the appointed commandant was a serious man, Armenians could not act willfully. Fires were prevented. Therefore Armenians did their best in order to send him away from the region.

─ How the Azerbaijani people protected themselves from these dangers?

─ It was always difficult to live under the threat. Soviet Russian soldiers entering the Azerbaijani houses, looking for weapons turned houses upside down. Even the fowling pieces were taken by force. The soldiers attacked my house too. However, they found nothing and returned back. The Armenians set a rumor that as if Azerbaijanis tormented, attacked them and so on. However, it was on the contrary. The arterial highway to Shusha was crossing through Khankendi. Armenians impeded the movement of both the foot-passengers, cars and trunks. Armenians barricaded roads.

─ Who of your relatives have you lost in the war?

My brother Adil Rashidov settled with his family in Khojaly. He was killed on the night from February 25 to 26, during the attack of the 336 infantry regiment locating in Khankendi. My nephew Nazim Rashidov was a victim of the Khojaly genocide. He studied at State Oil Academy.

─ How did you and your family live in Khankendi?

─We lived a happy life with my parents and my family in Khankendi. We could not bare the Armenians’ deeds against Azerbaijanis in the town. After the course of events gained a dangerous ground, we were compelled to remove to Shusha. We could not sleep a peaceful sleep in our house at nights. So the young lads and men posted sentries in the streets and blocks to prevent attacks by Armenians and guarded. The Armenians suddenly attacked houses and burnt them. My children were infants then. I always feared for their lives. Everyone was so.So, I took my wife and children through the dark forest to Karkijahan. It was 40-50 minute’s way from the beginning of the town to Karkijahan. However, we overcame this distance at night for few hours. Hiding in the forest we reached our relatives’ house. The children fell ill on the road. Then I returned to Khankendi. The Armenians opened fire on the houses holding with lighting bullets. The situation was worsened in recent days. Thus, the Azerbaijani population had to leave the town. Afterwards we settled in Shusha. After the occupation of Shusha we removed to Baku. My children have already grown up. However, even though a trifle, my elder son remembers those places. They are waiting for the day to return home...

The interviewer: Efsana Bayramgizi