Human Rights Watch reports on attacks on schools during second Karabakh war

Politics Materials 8 September 2021 18:00 (UTC +04:00)
Human Rights Watch reports on attacks on schools during second Karabakh war

BAKU, Azerbaijan, September 8

By Nargiz Sadikhova - Trend:

Human Rights Watch has prepared a report highlighting the attacks on schools during the second Karabakh war, Trend reports citing the organization.

According to official data, at least 54 Azerbaijani schools were damaged or destroyed, as well as dozens of kindergartens, arts schools, sports schools, and vocational schools, the report said.

The report noted that the Azerbaijani city of Tartar, on an ancient caravan route, was well within range of rockets and heavy artillery fired from the Armenian side during the fighting. Nearly every storefront on the main street was shattered.

Nonetheless, Armenian forces’ repeated use of imprecise, explosive weapons systems to attack densely-populated civilian areas inside the city was indiscriminate and therefore unlawful, the report said.

On October 2, a resident took a video of the dust and debris rising seconds after an artillery shell fired from the direction of the Armenian lines is heard slamming into a kindergarten in Shikharkh, a neighborhood built for people displaced by the [Karabakh] war in the 1990s. Human Rights Watch verified the video, matching it with satellite imagery.

Dr.Mammadova, who teaches veterinary sciences at the Agricultural University of Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city, recorded the exact time on October 5 when her own former school, Secondary School No. 4, was damaged: 2:37 a.m.

The artillery rocket that hit the street opposite the school’s back entrance was a 'Smerch', according to the national de-mining agency: 7.6 meters long, carrying 258 kilograms of high explosive. The explosion blew out windows and doors on the school’s back wing, tore through classrooms, and smashed the windows on the opposite side of the inner courtyard. The school had 3,200 students enrolled, a guard said.

On October 8 at 11 a.m., another 'Smerch' rocket hit the yard of Secondary School No. 5 in Barda, the third largest city in Azerbaijan, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. The school was closed to its 1,500 students, but was sheltering 300 people displaced from their homes by the fighting, and 15 teachers and other staff were also present, said the school director, Teymur Hamidov. Five people were injured. The rocket had apparently released its deadly warhead before hitting the ground, and was half-buried, with its tail fins “sticking up three meters in the air,” Hamidov said.

On October 14 at 10 a.m., two heavy artillery shells hit the yard of the village school in Duyarli, two kilometers southeast of Tartar city. A third shell hit the roof, blasting through five classrooms and setting the building on fire. Teacher Arzu Guliyeva, 57, was at home across the road, the report said. Fragments from the shells perforated her roof. Her husband tried to call the fire department, but the phone had been cut as a result of the attack, “so he shouted at a car that was passing by to tell the firefighters to come,” she said.

Namig Suleymanov, 44, whose wife is a teacher at the school, showed the organization two small impact craters on the school grounds where we found fragments of artillery shells. Behind the school the representatives of the Human Rights Watch saw an L-shaped trench in the ground - it was a bomb shelter, Suleymanov said, dug as part of a plan to use the school as a base for civilian firefighters during the fighting, so they would be protected from incoming shelling. The plan was scrapped due to the attack.

On October 17 at around 1:30 a.m., two 'Scud-B' ballistic missiles hit Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, Ganja, killing 21 people. The blast from one missile flattened homes in the Mukhtar Hajiev neighborhood and ripped through both Kindergarten No. 10 and Secondary School No. 29, 250 meters away. It even shattered windows at School No.18, 850 meters from the impact point.

The attack killed ten civilians in their homes, four of them children who had been students at School No. 29: Orkhan, 11, and his sister Maryam, 6, as well as their sister and mother; Arthur, 13, whose grandmother had adopted him; and Nigar, 14, who was killed along with four other family members.

The school’s courtyard was littered with shards of glass, splintered wooden window frames and a few smashed chairs and desks. A school administrator, who was surveying the damage, told us that the school had lost contact with students whose homes were destroyed, “and it’s been impossible to trace where they are, so we can’t provide them with distance learning,” as staff were trying to do for other students.

Leaving the areas, which were liberated by Azerbaijan under the terms of the ceasefire, in some towns the residents burned houses and other infrastructure. The Armenian military and local authorities were apparently also involved in the burnings.