The Azerbaijanis were deported from Armenia gradually several times.
Contrary to the false statements, the last deportation of the Azerbaijanis occurred before the Sumgayit events, rather than afterwards. While pursuing a thought-out deportation policy, the Armenians attacked the houses of the Azerbaijanis in Uluhanli, the center of the Masis (Zangibasar) district near Yerevan and destroyed stone gravestones on April 24, 1983.
In the subsequent years, the Armenians carried out the preparatory plans for deportation both overtly and covertly. As a result of this policy of the Armenians, a group of Azerbaijanis was deported from Armenia before the Sumgayit events in 1988, but this information was hidden from the public.
Sixty-five-year-old Imran Namazov, deported from Armenia in September 1988, witnessed these events and in an interview with Trend spoke about the events that occurred before the Sumgayit events.
The Azerbaijanis living in Armenia were oppressed in the Soviet period. Saying that even before the Soviet power, his fathers and grandfathers lived in Armenia’s Amasia region, Namazov stressed that the majority of the Azerbaijanis lived in this region.
"There were 29 settlements in this region,” Namazov added. “In 25 of those settlements, only Azerbaijanis lived, and 30-40 families lived in the rest four Armenian villages. There were about 1,500-1800 families in one Azerbaijani village.”
“Both Azerbaijanis and Armenians lived together in the regional center,” the witness added. “But the indigenous people of Amasia were Azerbaijanis. Armenians were relocated to this region to take senior positions later. I knew many Armenians who were resettled from Azerbaijan and other countries to Armenia to hold senior positions.”
Namazov said that until the last deportation, approximately 250,000 Azerbaijanis lived in Armenia, adding that many of them were people with higher education.
According to Imran Namazov, Azerbaijanis were oppressed in Armenia even before the 1988 deportation.
"There were very few schools with instruction in the Azerbaijani language in Armenia, so Azerbaijanis could not study in their native language. An Azerbaijani who did not speak Armenian could not work at any job, even if he was an academician," Namazov said.
Namazov noted that due to the oppression of Azerbaijanis living in Armenia, most of those who studied in other countries did not return to Armenia because they knew that they would not find work there and would encounter problems. Armenians began to oppress Azerbaijanis even more after 1985.
The eyewitness to the Sumgayit events added that the oppression of Azerbaijanis in Armenia was always common in Soviet times, but it became more tangible after 1985.
"Back in 1985, Academician Abel Aganbegyan raised the issue of Nagorno Karabakh and the importance of its accession to Armenia. In March 1985, after the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Armenians became more active in their politics," Namazov said.
In his words, they began to oppress highly educated Azerbaijanis who could raise the people, so they were forced to leave Armenia for Azerbaijan, Russia, Ukraine and other countries.
Imran Namazov said that the Armenians beat and insulted the Azerbaijanis in order to intimidate them even prior to the Sumgayit events and the deportation of 1988.
"In those years, Azerbaijanis couldn't leave their villages. Sumgayit Armenians hung so many young Azerbaijanis in their own apartments...," he added.
Imran Namazov noted that rallies began in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan on Feb. 19, 1988. and the slogans of the rallies were "Armenia without Turks", "Armenia belongs to the Armenians".
Namazov noted that after the Sumgayit events, it became impossible for Azerbaijanis to live in Armenia.
“The Armenians informed the Central Committee [of the Communist party] that they wouldn’t be able to live together with the Azerbaijanis, so Karabakh should be annexed to Armenia,” said the witness. “In support of this, the Armenians committed Sumgayit events on Feb. 27-28, 1988. The Armenians living in Sumgayit moved to those areas of Armenia where the Azerbaijanis lived.”
Namazov recalls that because of these events, clashes broke out between the Sumgayit Armenians who considered the Azerbaijanis guilty and the Azerbaijanis living in Armenia.
“After the Sumgayit events, the Soviet government brought in dozens of tanks and military personnel to the Amasia district center, which actually played the role of a catalyst,” the witness added. “If they saw a conflict between an Azerbaijani and an Armenian, they arrested the Azerbaijani and released the Armenian. After the Sumgayit events, all the Azerbaijanis who traveled to Leninakan (Gyumri city), - children, the elderly - were either beaten or insulted. In short, it was impossible to go there.”
Namazov added that the Armenians prepared a plan to exterminate about 30,000 Azerbaijanis in the area.
“Armenians planned an attack on Azerbaijanis living in Amasia in December 1988,” said the witness. “However, a strong earthquake that occurred on December 7, 1988, prevented the implementation of this plan. The attack was planned for December 8, for which even detachments were created that were entrusted with the task of exterminating all Azerbaijanis. By that time, about 30,000 Azerbaijanis were living in the district.”
At the end of his story, Namazov noted that local Azerbaijanis had guessed about the impending attack because of the preparatory activities.
“The Armenians who had close contacts with the Azerbaijanis in the district warned them about these plans. Some Armenians who were close to me said: ‘Leave so that our conscience is clear. The members of the Dashnaktsutyun party are forcing us to shoot those Azerbaijanis whom we know and with whom we have shared the bread, and we will be forced to do so’,” said the witness.
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