Huseyinaga Quluyev, now 50, had been working in a store before he joined the army, and the subsequent massacre.

“They tortured me for eight days, tortured little children,” he told Anadolu Agency. “They beheaded many people, burned people they tied to logs. They raped women”.

Quluyev stated that he volunteered to joined the army after the Armenians blockaded the region near the end of 1991.

When the Armenians started to invade Azerbaijani territory, Azerbaijani forces, though few in number, were able to repel the attack, he said.

"We didn’t have a regular army, but we resisted them. Then the Armenians attacked Khojaly again with the 366th motorized regiment of the Soviet Russian army," he remembered.

Quluyev described the atmosphere of the massacre when Armenian and Russian forces entered the city and the deaths of Azerbaijani civilians.

"We took children and women and went to the forest. It was snowing a lot that day. People went into the river to save their lives. Soldiers in the city fought and died," he said.

While fleeing the city, he was wounded by tank fire then captured by Armenian forces.

After eight days of torture, he was in such bad shape that the Armenians thought he was dead, so they put him in a morgue.

"My mother came and saw me breathing,” and he was taken to the hospital, he said.

"The doctors thought I wouldn’t heal. Despite that they took me to Baku [the capital]. I was in a coma for 18 months in the hospital, then I opened my eyes again," he said.

Quluyev lamented that this great injustice and trauma inflicted on him and hundreds of Azerbaijani Turks faced is not well known, adding that it should be better recognized as a genocide.

A trap

On the 25th anniversary of the incident, Telman Nusretoglu, head of the Istanbul-based Turkish Islamic Research Center, told Anadolu Agency, "It is not a massacre that was committed in Khojaly but a genocide".

"Armenians carried out massacres, genocides in the regions where Azerbaijani Turks live. They tried to deport Azerbaijani Turks from that region. The Russians gave great support to it at that time," he stated.

He claimed that the Russians confiscated the Azerbaijanis’ weapons before the Armenian attacks in the region.

"They were defending Khojaly under difficult circumstances. With the support of the Russian troops, Armenian gangs surrounded Khojaly. They left a corridor for the civilians, but it turned out later that it was a trap.

"Even the innocents who fled through that corridor were subjected to massacres," he said.

The Khojaly massacre of Feb. 25-26, 1992 is regarded as one of the bloodiest and most controversial incidents of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan for control of the now-occupied Karabakh region.

Armenian forces took over the town of Khojaly in Karabakh on Feb. 26 after battering it with heavy artillery and tanks, assisted by an infantry regiment.

The two-hour offensive killed 613 Azeri citizens -- including 116 women, 63 children and 70 elderly people -- and critically injured 487 others, according to Azerbaijani figures. One hundred and fifty of the 1,275 Azerbaijanis that the Armenians captured during the massacre remain missing.

The parliaments of 15 nations as well as 16 state assemblies have passed decisions condemning the Khojaly massacre, branding it a genocide.

Anadolu Agency