The Story of the Headscarf - A Symbol of The Karabakh War

Author: Aynur Elgunesh

‘The Hero of Socialist Labor’, deputy of the Supreme Soviet, three-time awardee of the USSR's highest award ‘the Lenin Medal’, and the Medal of the October Revolution and the medal of honour....

During the Soviet era, she was known for these accomplishments. However, before introducing her name, and listing all her honors, everyone knows that all these conversations are about the chairman of the ‘kolxoz” - (a collective farm) named after Lenin in Agdam -  Khuraman Abbasova. After Azerbaijan gained its independence, she remained with her headscarf in everyone's memory.  This headscarf became the symbol of the Karabakh war ...

 Testing of will

In reality, the case of the headscarf is not the first legendary case about Khuraman Abbasova. Earlier, before this case, the tragedy she faced as a mother, in which she showed her strong character, turned into a legend among the people of Karabakh. Thus, Khuraman Abbasova, on the day of her daughter 's wedding, recieved news about the death of her son and did not show her agony in front of the guests; she sent the body of her son to her husband's house. The next day, the tent where the wedding was celebrated turned into a mourning tent.  

This case already opens her strong character to the reader. But she was not only a mother, she was a woman-chairman of "kolxoz" (a collective farm), a deputy , and the owner of many significant medals during the Soviet era.

In an interview , Khuraman Qasimova's daughter, Aida Qasimova, a professor of Baku State University, describes her mother in another light:

"From one side, my mother was fearless and strong-willed, selfless and brave, and on the other hand, she was unbelievebly soft and compassionate; a hard-working woman who cared so much about her children. She would not feel comfortable if she saw even a tiny amount of sadness on our faces. Our house was always full of guests, she cooked barbecue herself and was good at making plov".

'A Communist till the marrow'

It is difficult to say anything definite about Khuraman Abbasova, because haughtiness and the attitute toward the workers in "kolkhoz" was not always pleasant. It is even said that for the labor medal, she exploited people. In other words, in order to be elected as the chairman of the collective farm, she made her employyees work days and nights. It is clearly possible to see it from the films about her, which were made during the Soviet era.

Asaf Quliyev, a journalist originally from Agdam, says that Khuraman Abbasova was an official, formated by the Soviet Regime. He adds, "The power given to her by the authories turned her into a political figure. In the fact, she was not a real politician, she was purely a bureaucrat official. Imagine, when everybody threw away their "partbilet" (a membership card used during Soviet Union) she was the only one whose "partbilet" remained. Some groups of people positevely apreciated it, as she was one who was faithful to her beliefs. However, another group of people think that she was afraid to lose what she had. In my opinion, she was a typicial soviet person, and she could not imagine that one day the Soviet Union would collapse and her "partbilet" ( a membership card") would turn into a useless piece of paper. She had a strong character."

The First Sparks of the Karabakh War


The beginning of the Karabakh war introduced Khuraman Abbasova to society from another perspective. Her "promotion" started from her headscarf. As a result, she turned into a hero for peacekeepers and a target of criticism for the nationalists.  

Some people claim that Khuraman Abbasova never wore headscarves and always had a hat on her head. For instance, in her interview  to “Həftə içi”  newspaper, the head of the cultural department of Agdam, Chimnaz Aliyeva, a former MP, denies this fact, saying " I am not in agreement with all this. It is true that Khuraman was there, but she never wore a headscarf, it was winter and she had a hat".


In Asaf Quliyev's film about the first martyrs, Sadiq Murtuzayev, who worked as the first secretary of the Party Committee of Aghdam region, confirmed the fact that Khuraman Abbasova threw her headscarf to the young attackers' feet. "On February, 22 the youth of the city gathered in maidan. The president of the country advised to go away. However, unarmed people kept their way not to people's homes but to Khankendi. It was impossible to stop it. The crowd moved up around 11 km.”


“There was 2 km left until Asgeran. The army appeared in front of us. A general, who was commander of the 366th regiment, said that there was a decision and we could open a fire against civilians. The number of people who were on the way to Khankendi was uncounted. People from neighboring districts joined the protest with flags. The secretaries of the Central Committee, Telman Orujov and Hasan Hasanov came. They tried to prevent the crowd. When we tried to prevent the people, 100-150 people crossed over the Qarqar river and left. The news came from Askaran that from each window 2 gunpoints came out, and other people were being unarmed. However, we could not stop those who passed over the river. When they entered Askgeran, they were under fire, 55 people were injured and 2 - Ali and Bakhtiyar died.


After this case people realised the essence of the problem and returned back. Now they tell that Khuraman threw her headscarf there. Truly, we took a headscarf from one woman and gave to her, and then she threw it in order to stop the people. If we did not do that, we would have probably have 10 thousands of corpses. It would be a terrible tragedy, worse than Khojaly".

"There was a hat on Khuraman's head"


The day before that incident, on February 21st, Asaf Quliyev, who participated in that meeting in the centre of Agdam, says that Khuraman Abbasova was not covered in a headscarf. From the video clip of that meeting, it is seen that Khuraman was in a hat. Asaf Quliyev also confirms that the headscarf was thrown under protesters' feet but it did not help:

"On February 21 there was a meeting in Agdam. In general, these meetings in Nagorno Karabakh started from the 12th of February. And the meeting in Agdam was a kind of response to Azerbaijani Leadership. This rally was allowed from Baku and Khuraman Abbasova was very active there, and made a speech from tribune. But the morning event was not planned, or allowed. In the February 21st meeting, Eldar Samadov made a speech from the tribune and told whether the government will reconcile it or go and sort out the affairs with Armenians the following day. This was not in scenarium. This was the initiative of people and this initiative should be prevented because Baku gave an order to prevent it. On February 22nd, the youth gathered. The city council told them to go away (disperse). Part of the people left. Another part of people went to Asgeran. When the city council knew about it, they used all tools in order to stop the people. At that time, Hasan Hasanov and Telman Orucov were in Agdam. They brought the most famous person of Karabakh, Seyid Lazim Aga, who was originally from Agdam. Sadiq Murtuzaev, went down on his knees to beg people not to go. Khuraman Abbasova also came and at that time, she had a hat on her head. For changing the situation, they gave her the headscarf to throw it and make them stop. I was not a witness of that case. But people who were there at that moment told that it affected on people for several minutes- and only for the moment, when the headscarf fell. People stopped and then left, using other ways, however they did not trample it down. Now, they turned this case into a peacekeeping case. At that time, there was a purpose - to perform the tasks given by Baku."

According to Asaf Quliyev's words, Eldar Samadov, who called the youth to stand up, were under pressure from the government. This person later on joined to the army and was one of the active participants of the war.


"I was a witness of the Kalagayi (headscarf) incident"


A veteran of the Karabakh war, Firudin Mammadov, was a participant of the February 21st rally. He says that one of the active participants was a teacher and sambo coach named Nazim Safarov. Firudin Mammadov, at that time, was 18 and he joined his teachers as well:

"We were doing what Nazim told to us. He always wanted to make peace. We participated in the February 21st meeting. At that time, I studied at the specialised school N50. On February 22, around 9 AM, while I was going to school, I saw trucks crowded by people going toward the city. In the cars, there were slogans and banners.

At that time, young people gathered in the city's center. We joind them and moved toward Asgeran. One rider arrived and told that the Armenians in Khojali took 7 people near the hayfield and want to burn them. Around 100-150 people went with the rider. And we went after them. Ali was near me. When we approached Asgeran, the police stopped us. We started stoning them. At this time, they opened the fire into the sky. The panic started and everybody started to turn back. Ali fell down. Initially, I thought he slipped down. When I approached I saw the bullet hit him. The police shot him. I screamed and called people who were in front. People came back and took him. The bullet hit his heart and his mouth was full of blood. The case with Ali made the situation tense. People started to move toward Asgerana. The city administration, officials, and Aga Seyid was there".

Speaking about the kalagayi incident (the headscarf) a veteran of the Karabakh war says that at some point there was a kalagayi sindrom: "The buses that came from Askeran to Martuni were stoned. At that time, one woman took off her headscarf and waved from the window telling, there are no Armenians in the bus, don’t stone it. Even one of the rally protestors angrily and nervously took the headscarf and told, "what is it? All of you take off the headscarf? Take away the headscarf", he said. People started to scream at that man, that no words must be said to the kalagayi (the headscarf).

Khuraman Abbasova came with a hat on her head, but there was an expensive in-fashion scarf on her shoulders. She came out on the top of "Jiquli" (a soviet car) car and threw this scarf to the men's feet. Sure, people did not trample it, but continued the direction toward Asgeran from different directions."


"The help sent to the first national battalion"


Even during the Karabakh war, Khuraman Abbasova was doing her best. Her daughter, Aida, says that her mother helped the soldiers and brought weapons to them. Even the warehouses were full of weapons. Furudin Mammadov says he won’t forget the good things done by Khuraman:

"The first national battalion named by Shirin Mirzayev was created. I was fighting in this battalion  We even did not have military uniforms. Our first military costumes were bought by Khuraman. She bought 500 uniforms out of her own money. There were other, more wealthy people than she, but they did not do anything. Khuraman Abbasova gave us great support."

Asaf Quliyev also supports Khuraman Abbasova, "During the war, everyone, in any position, helped on the frontline. There were very few people whom we can say that did not help at all. Just Khuraman Abbasova had respect and connections from the Soviet Regime, and they trusted her. I dont want to exagerate. Many people say that our warehouses were full of weapons but if we had that amount of weapons, no any Armenians would exist in Karabakh now. Maybe there were just 3-5 guns, even not machine guns avaliable. She would help with food, but with weapons, I don’t believe that. After January 20th in 1990, the late Eldar Baghirov said to bring back all the weapons".


Heydar Aliyev’s Representative


Khuraman Abbasova was considered to be a representative of Heydar Aliyev. But for some reason, when Aliyev came to power for the second time, Khuraman Abbasova was not in the foreground. The reason is unknown. However, Asaf Quliyev links it with the political activities.

"Khuraman Abbasova was a hero of Socialist Labor, a deputy of the Supreme Soviet, and awarded with Lenin's medal three times. All these formed her political views. Not every person can be awarded with so many awards and ‘names’. Her word was powerful, not only in Baku, but in Moscow, too. Heydar Aliyev played a big role in her life. Let's say all her heroic chronicles were during the period of Heydar Aliyev. Sure, without Heydar Aliyev's blessings, she would not achieve anything.

In the end of 1989 and early ‘90s, an unpleasant incident occured in Agdam. The government changed. The first secretary was replaced. Definetely, one of the 'authors" of this scenario was Khuraman Abbasova.

As if with the request of the "National Front" party, Aydin Quliyev, was fired. In reality, it was a deal of Khuraman Abbasova and a key political figure Sayyaf Verdiyev. Sayyaf Verdiyev took the seat of First secretary. And Khuraman Abbasova replaced him as a chairman on the Executive Committee. Nothing changed for Agdam, nor for the war. These people thought that they could take Agdam back and everything would go on. But the prosess evolved in a different direction.

Khuraman Abbasova could not hold the pulse of the transition period, because The National Front came to power and the relations changed. During Ayaz Mutalibov, the government institutions were created and Khuraman Abbasova's position was not demanded anymore. As a result, when Heydar Aliyev came to power, the position of Khuraman was left out, and she was not needed anymore. If she could have taken a right political way, then she would have taken some posiitons and successfully performed it, because she had a great will and ability to work"

Khuraman Abbasov died on January 26, 1998 and was buried in the Alley of Honor.



This material may contain terms, which are not favored by all the parties of the dispute/conflict. Terms used in a material belong to the author and not Chai-Khana. 


Generation of the 1990s


Chai-khana Survay