Society 19:31 14/01/2016

26 years after genocide in Baku: “My mom listened to Sayat-Nova and cried – her father survived Genocide, then she herself became refugee”

Panorama.am has already reported that a collection book Baku Tragedy: Eyewitness Accounts is to be published in the frameworks of the project Ordinary Genocide. It will include the interviews of about 50 refugees currently living in the US who speak about their memories. ‘A Century-Long Genocide. Black January of Baku,’  a film, whose presentation took place a year ago, was made based on those accounts.  

To commemorate the 26th anniversary of the genocide of the Armenians in Baku, Panorama.am goes on publishing chapters from the future book, provided to the website by Marina Grigoryan, the manager of the project an Ordinary Genocide.

Aregak BAGIRYAN

Lived in 37 Nagornaya 11th Street, Baku.

I was born in Baku, in a house behind Mir cinema. We managed to run away from there on 3 December 1988, few days before an earthquake hit Spitak.

My father is originally from Karabakh, from the village Ukhtadzor. Mother’s family on her father’s side comes from Kars. The family fled from there to escape the massacres. Mom was named Nvard after her aunt, who remained in Turkey and was killed in the years of the Genocide. My mom listened to Sayat-Nova and cried… Because her dad had survived the Genocide. And then she fled herself, too. The Armenian history somehow repeats itself. Remembering mom, I always cry, because our family appears to have such a depressive chain. I almost didn’t see my grandpa. Escaping from the Genocide, they arrived in Baku all in poverty, and the other relatives went to other places, where each could. Later, my dad was to run away, now from Baku, with three daughters, the youngest being fifteen… What only didn’t we hear about the Azerbaijanis’ deeds in those days!

I can remember very well the day when a demonstration was held in front of the Government House. It was about a month before our departure from Baku, in November 1988. There was a huge demonstration in front of the Government House. And everyone was shouting, both on the square and on the TV, “Drive out the Armenians! They won’s receive any Karabakh!” And all of a sudden, the whole infuriated crowd ­– at least fifty thousand people – started to chant, “We go to Armenikend!” And they went along Lenin Avenue, with groups turning to the crossing streets in search of Armenians.

The whole of our family was at home, including us – three young unmarried sisters and a brother. And we understood that they were coming. Everyone was shouting, everyone crying. Our neighbours didn’t know where to hide us. My brother was beside himself with anger, he said, “Let them kill me before entering our home.” And he was filling bottles with petrol from the fuel tank of the car. Mom was trying to dissuade him, “Don’t do that! They will kill you! Go away from the gates!” But he said, “I won’t surrender my family, I won’t surrender my house, let them kill me!” He got barbecue skewers, arranged and prepared them all… There was an incredible noise all around, everyone was shouting. And dad was so afraid for his daughters!

We had an attic, a very dark one. No one lived up there. And now, my father took his daughters upstairs – I was the eldest – and gave us three blankets, three bottles of water and three knives. He said, “I don’t know how long you’ll have to stay here. It’s cold at nights. Cover yourselves with the blankets, sit still, keep silent, keep silent… don’t come downstairs until I come.” And gave us knives to defend ourselves in case they decided to check the attic. “If I come,” he said, “you know my voice, I know your names. But if someone else opens the door in the darkness, defend yourselves. If I’m not there, it means they have already killed me downstairs.” And he left. I remember my youngest sister – fifteen-years-old! – she didn’t understand anything, she needed to be comforted, still we had to keep silent. Her hand was shaking, with the knife in the hand, and she said, “What if someone opens the door…” I said, “I’ll go first!” It was a terrible, terrible, terrible moment… What did we go through that night!!! To sit there for hours without knowing if your parents are alive or not, if your brother is alive or not… And the fear that they will get you. There was such a noise, such a buzz in the city, and at the same time, there was some dead silence. But we had luck: the troops entered the city that night. They were standing right on the corner…

After that, dad was trying to find a way to leave. First, he wanted to go in car, but he was told all the big highways were blocked, documents were being checked on the roads and in case they found Armenians, they poured petrol over the car and bunt the people alive. When it got relatively calmer, we went to the airport. It made no difference for us were to escape, we just needed to be saved. But dad said he wanted to live the rest of his life in Armenia. We, the girls, were the first to leave, as soon as we could get tickets. Then there were tickets again, and thus everyone left, two by two. There were nine of us. Brother was already married and we had sent our pregnant sister-in-law to Armenia first of all, immediately after the Sumgait events.

We left all our possessions in Baku. We tried to sell our enormous house, even very cheaply, but many of our Armenian neighbours were selling their houses as well, while the Azerbaijanis were saying, “Why should we buy them? You’ll all anyway flee and this will remain to us.” Thanks God, no one suffered in our family. Anyway, this can’t be remembered without tears. My parents lived only nine years after that, yet they could live longer but for the stress they experienced in the fear that their children could be slaughtered, burnt, raped…

San Francisco, California. 30 March 2014

A mass pogrom of Armenian population was committed in Baku from 13 to 19 January 1990 as a culmination of the genocide of the Armenians in Azerbaijan unfolded between 1988 and 1990. After the Sumgait pogroms (26-29 February 1988), persecutions, beatings, particularly cruel killings, public mockeries, pogroms of separate flats, seizure of property, forcible expulsions and illegal dismissals of Armenians started in Baku. Only some 35 or 40 thousand Armenians of the community of 250 thousand remained in Baku by January 1990; they were mainly disabled people, old and sick people and the relatives looking after them. The pogroms took an organised, targeted and mass nature since 13 January 1990. A large amount of evidence exists about the atrocities and killings committed with exceptional cruelty, including gang rapes, burnings of people alive, throwing people out of balconies of higher floors, dismemberments and beheadings.

The exact number of the victims of the genocide of the Armenians in Baku still remains unknown. According to different sources, between 150 and 400 people were murdered, and hundreds were left disabled. The pogroms went on for a week amid a total inaction of the authorities of Azerbaijan and the USSR, as well as the internal troops and the large Baku garrison of the Soviet Army. Those who managed to avoid death were forced into deportation. The Soviet troops were deployed to set order in Baku only on 20 January 1990.

 

For more detail, visit KarabakhRecords .



Source Panorama.am
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