The first female journalist martyred by Azerbaijan: Salatin Asgarova

January 11, 2022 17:38 (UTC + 04: 00)


By Sabina Mammadli

Thirty-one years have passed since the tragic death of Salatin Asgarova, Azerbaijan’s first female journalist, martyred in Karabakh.

The relentless young journalist, famous for her bravery, dedication, passion for her art and patriotism, was gunned down by Armenian terrorists on the Lachin-Shusha highway in Azerbaijan. The murderers were arrested and then extradited to Armenia, where they were released soon after.

The 29-year-old journalist left behind a little boy, her son, Jeyhun Asgarov.


Salatin Asgarova was born on December 16, 1961 in Baku in a family of intellectuals. In 1979, she graduated with honors from Baku Secondary School No.18. In the same year, she entered the Azerbaijani Institute of Petroleum and Chemistry. Holder of an engineering degree, her passion for literature led her to the world of journalism. She first tried herself as a freelance journalist. In 1984 she started working for the Baku newspaper and four years later she joined the Youth of Azerbaijan newspaper as a special envoy.

Journalistic mission in Karabakh

Before the outbreak of the First Karabakh War in the early 1990s, Salatin wrote about mundane social issues. However, after the outbreak of war, she frequently went to the front lines and provided media coverage of hot spots. Her articles were full of sincerity, compassion and objectivity, which earned her the respect of her colleagues and readers.

Sparing no effort and her health, she held meetings with local residents, gathered information, prepared articles in a touching hope of somehow trying to stop the Armenian chaos.

A woman in a male-dominated newsroom, a mother, with a young child at home, you’d think she’d be the last to leave, but Salatin was always the one who volunteered to go to the front lines. The editorial staff were very worried about Salatina and each time, on her return to Baku, they tried in vain to persuade her not to travel to dangerous areas, which were slowly but inevitably becoming frontline territories. To which she always answered in the same way: “If it is not me, then who?”

These were extremely difficult times. This was not the first case of an armed ambush organized by Armenians; however, this was the first murder case of a journalist on duty in Nagorno-Karabakh.

On the morning of January 9, 1991, the reporter went to Shusha on a reporter assignment for the newspaper. She shared a military vehicle with soldiers from the border unit – Russian Lt. Col. Larionov, Maj Ivanov, Sergeant Goyek. Oleg Larionov, from Taishet, Siberia, commanded the battalion for more than five years. A reward of 10,000 rand has been promised for Larionov’s head.

At the sixth kilometer of the Lachin-Shusha highway, next to the village of Boyuk Galadarasi, the vehicle in which they were driving was shot dead by Armenian militants firing at point blank range with machine guns and sniper rifles. Investigators counted 113 bullet holes in the vehicle: such was the intensity of enemy fire. As a result of the attack, Asgarova and two other people died instantly. The wounded battalion commander Larionov managed to jump out of the vehicle that had lost control and took up the defense: there were only ten rounds left. He was killed shortly after.

National hero

By presidential decree of November 6, 1992, Asgarova was posthumously awarded the title of National Hero of Azerbaijan for her journalistic courage. Salatin was buried in the Alley of Martyrs in Baku.

After her death, she was awarded the title of laureate of the International Confederation of Journalists.

A street in Baku and a village in Karabakh bear his name.

The attackers – Arno Mkrtchian, Hrachik Petrossian, Mongasagian and Garik Arustamian – have been identified and arrested. They were then released and handed over to Armenia on May 8, 1996.

Asgarova’s son was the whole world to her, and even though she devoted so much time to her job, she was still a good mother to her son, Jeyhun, who became a journalist on behalf of his mother.

“For some, she’s a National Hero, for others, she’s a talented journalist, but for me, she was first and foremost a mother. When I grew up I realized that she was one of the top journalists who is hard to win. Not all journalists have the will to do what my mother did. She loved her homeland very much and was ready to do anything for it, ”he said.

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