Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva visited liberated from occupation Aghdam city
As reported earlier, on November 23, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Victorious Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva visited the city of Aghdam, liberated from occupation.
Driving the car on the way to Aghdam, President Ilham Aliyev said:
– Look at the enemy’s line of defense. The enemy had several lines of defense, all the way to the city of Aghdam, look at that.
Now we are driving into the liberated lands. The destination is the city of Aghdam. We have liberated the city of Aghdam and the occupied lands of Aghdam district without firing a single shot. We have defeated the enemy on the battlefield and forced them to withdraw from the Aghdam district.
Look, here is another line of defense. On the right are the houses of Azerbaijani citizens destroyed by the enemy. Let the whole world see what the savage enemy has done to our villages, what savages we were facing, what savages we have defeated. The entire world should see this.
There is not a single safe building here. Everything is devastated. They have destroyed our houses and villages; they exploited our lands. The enemy will be held accountable for all the war crimes. We will also invite journalists to Aghdam, including foreign journalists and representatives of the diplomatic corps. Let them come and see.
The head of state raised Azerbaijan’s tricolor flag in Aghdam. The national flag of Azerbaijan is now flying proudly in Aghdam, liberated from occupation after 27 years. Every Azerbaijani watches this with pride and great joy.
The head of state and first lady then visited the Aghdam mosque. The mosque with two minarets, which became a place of hope and refuge for the survivors of the Khojaly genocide, was also savagely destroyed by the enemy.
President Ilham Aliyev presented the Holy Quran he brought from Mecca to the Aghdam mosque.
The President and First Lady prayed in the mosque.
The head of state delivered remarks in front of the Aghdam mosque.
Remarks by President Ilham Aliyev
– Dear fellow countrymen.
As you know, the occupied city of Aghdam and Aghdam district were liberated on November 20. I have congratulated the people of Azerbaijan, the people of Aghdam on this occasion. Today I am here, in the city of Aghdam. I visited the Aghdam mosque and raised Azerbaijan’s state flag there. We have returned to Aghdam. I want to congratulate once again all the people of Aghdam on this historic event. I know that the people of Aghdam have been looking forward to this day for many years. Both during the occupation, for about 30 years, and during the Second Karabakh War – the Patriotic War, they waited for Aghdam to be liberated from occupation. We have honorably fulfilled our historic mission and liberated the occupied territories from the enemy. The Victory on the battlefield made the liberation of Aghdam district, as well as Kalbajar and Lachin districts possible, without firing a single shot and without sacrificing a martyr.
We have returned to these lands at the cost of the lives and blood of the Azerbaijani people, our martyrs, and the courage of our heroes. We had to gather strength, and we did that. Over the past 17 years, I have repeatedly told the people that we must be more vigorous and build a stronger army. The factor of strength plays a decisive role in the world today. Justice is on our side, international law is on our side, and power should be on our side too. It was because we weren’t strong enough that Azerbaijani lands were occupied in the early 1990s. We were gaining strength and becoming stronger. I said that every Azerbaijani citizen should bring this sacred day, this Victory day, closer through their work, hard work, and dedication to the Motherland.
We have done a great deal at the international level, and I have informed the people about that in my speeches. Today, after the war and even during the war, the whole world, all the people of Azerbaijan, saw how important that was. If we had not created the necessary legal framework for resolving the conflict, we could have encountered problems today. We have had all international organizations adopt decisions and resolutions that recognize and reflect justice and international law. Four UN Security Council resolutions were adopted in 1993. Then we created a solid legal basis for resolving the conflict by having the UN General Assembly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopt respective decisions and resolutions.
All these critical steps have been taken since 2003, and we have got the upper hand in the political arena. Simultaneously, the “Partnership Priorities” document initialled between Azerbaijan the European Union two years ago contains clear statements about Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of our borders. It is our great success because we could not achieve this for many years. Some international organizations did not want to call the aggressor by its name. Some international organizations did not want to expose the occupier in the documents adopted in connection with the occupation. Even four UN Security Council resolutions did not mention Armenia as an aggressor state and referred to it as “Armenian forces”.
We have created a legal ground for resolving the conflict over the past 17 years. I communicated Azerbaijan’s position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, its historical realities, and the current situation to all my colleagues in all of my international contacts. The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has a special place in almost all of my bilateral international contacts. It is enough to go through my speeches. Over the past 17 years, I have expressed my views on this issue in almost all of my addresses, informing the international community about it. Unfortunately, in the early 1990s, the world did not have a full picture of the conflict, and there was distorted information. There was information circulated by the Armenian lobby. Otherwise, the U.S. Congress would not have passed the notorious Section 907 while our lands were occupied. Azerbaijan’s lands were under occupation, but the U.S. Congress recognized Azerbaijan as an aggressor and deprived us of humanitarian aid. The Armenian lobby achieved this at the time. Azerbaijan’s diplomacy failed to take adequate steps to counter them.
We have won the information war. We have fully informed the world about the Khojaly genocide. There was no information about the Khojaly genocide in the world. It is possible to say that the “Justice for Khojaly!” campaign and the recognition of the Khojaly genocide by more than ten countries as an act of genocide created a picture reflecting the realities of the conflict and conveyed it to the world community.
We, the country chairing the Non-Aligned Movement, have kept this issue in the spotlight during our chairmanship in the Non-Aligned Movement, the second-largest international body after the United Nations. Today, Azerbaijan chairs the organization, which brings together 120 countries. A summit was held last year. The people of Azerbaijan saw again how important this was because, during the Second Karabakh War, there were attempts at the UN, the UN Security Council to adopt a new resolution. If that resolution had passed, it would not have stopped us, of course, but it could have entailed undesirable circumstances. It was countries of the Non-Aligned Movement that prevented that resolution’s adoption and supported us. I also thanked them and said that they stood behind us like true gentlemen, even though big powers exerted enormous pressure on them. Many members of the Non-Aligned Movement recognize Azerbaijan as an independent and strong country ready to defend them. We have provided humanitarian and financial assistance to more than 30 countries during the pandemic, including special assistance to the Non-Aligned Movement through the World Health Organization. All this work has paid off. We were able to get the necessary international support in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh issue, which is a crucial issue for us.
Today we chair not only the Non-Aligned Movement but also the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States. Our international relevance is high, and it has played a notable role in having this conflict resolved.
During these 17 years, I have always said that we must provide a strong impetus to the economic sector, ensure economic independence, and we did exactly that. Today we do not depend on anyone economically. If we were, we could come under pressure. The pressure was still there, but to no avail, due to the pointlessness of using the economic factor against us. We do not depend on anyone, on any country or international financial institution.
On the contrary, we are a donor country now. We lend money to others. Our strong economic potential and financial resources have allowed us the opportunity to ensure economic independence fully. It has also played a unique role in our Victory. If we were not economically independent, we would not be able to achieve political independence. Without political independence, we could not liberate our lands from the enemy, an enemy with great powers behind it, with very influential circles of those powers, Armenian lobby organizations.
These factors have increased our prowess and paved the way for our Victory. The number one issue is our military might. I have repeatedly said that building up our military capacity is the primary issue for us. It is no coincidence that during my presidency, our military expenditures topped other budget expenditures every year. I have said and explained to our people that we have many other issues, some problems need to be addressed, but our primary concern is that our lands are under occupation. That is why military expenditures come first among others. We bought the necessary military hardware. We demonstrated that equipment and modern weapons during numerous parades on Azadlig Square. We adopted the most advanced trends in the development of our Army. We acquired weapons that would give us an advantage, and the Second Karabakh War demonstrated that.
Today, many countries, many developed countries are studying our experience. Many experts in this area note that Azerbaijan waged 21st-century warfare. For the first time in the 21st century, historic achievements of this scale and magnitude have been made in such a short time. On my way here, I saw at least three lines of defense. But according to the information given to me by the military, there were five lines of defense here. The same goes for Fuzuli. Thanks to our soldiers and officers’ heroism and professionalism, we have crushed these lines of defense. We are technically equipped with the most modern weapons, and the Second Karabakh War revealed that, and there are videos available. They are now being studied; they will be reviewed in many countries and included in military books.
Simultaneously, we were strengthening our Army’s combat capability because it was clear that Victory could not be won by weapons alone. It is a soldier and an officer who raises the flag, raises the flag on the enemy’s positions, raises it on liberated lands. Our soldiers and officers fought like lions. We gave martyrs. May Allah have mercy on all our martyrs! May Allah grant their parents patience! We have wounded servicemen, and they are recovering. Many of them have already recovered. May Allah send healing to them! We have won this war thanks to our heroic soldiers and officers. I am sure that the operation to liberate Shusha will forever go down in history. We have destroyed the enemy in an almost hand-to-hand battle, crossing ravines, forests and mountains with light weapons, and ultimately liberated Shusha – Karabakh’s crown jewel.
All these factors have preconditioned our Victory. I want to emphasize again that the people of Agdam have been waiting for this day for many years – for almost 30 years. At the same time, they were waiting during the Second Karabakh War. I know and feel that as our cities, districts and villages were liberated from occupation, the people of Aghdam also looked forward to when their villages and the city of Aghdam would be liberated. Jabrayil was liberated, Fizuli was liberated, Hadrut was liberated, Zangilan, Gubadli, Sugovushan, and Shusha were liberated, and the people of Agdam probably wondered why Agdam was not being liberated.
I can say that now. I wanted to communicate this message to the people of Aghdam in some form, but they should also understand that I could not do that during the war. There were five lines of defense here. The enemy was expecting us here. We could not afford to attack where the enemy was waiting. We kept a large military contingent in this direction so that the enemy’s military forces would remain engaged and not be deployed elsewhere. After the liberation of Fuzuli, Hadrut, most of Khojavand district and Shusha, of course, we already intended to move towards the city of Aghdam. The order was given that the next direction was Aghdam. The enemy also knows and already admits that if they had not accepted my conditions to vacate our lands, they would have died here. We were on our way to Aghdam.
It is too premature to disclose all the secrets of the war. Fascinating matters will emerge in the future. But I can say with full confidence today that the Agdam operation was part of our plans. We would have taken Aghdam one way or another, but there would have been casualties, a significant number of casualties. Therefore, after liberating Shusha and more than 70 of our villages on November 9, we broke the enemy’s back; they surrendered, raised a white flag, agreed to my terms and admitted their defeat.
Almost from the first days of the war, I said in my numerous interviews and nationwide addresses – everything is documented – I said give us a timetable. I said, Pashinyan, you personally, not your foreign minister or defense minister, who were fired after this defeat, but you, Pashinyan, must give us a timetable, you must do it yourself, and I succeeded.
If he had listened to me, he would not be in such a miserable situation now. I am fully convinced that we would have liberated our occupied lands. The enemy thought that someone would help them out. They thought that all their supporters would come and fight against us on their behalf. They made a grave mistake. After the liberation of most of Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Hadrut, Zangilan, Gubadli, Shusha, Sugovushan, Khojavand districts on the battlefield, the enemy fell to its knees and remains on its knees today. We have broken the enemy’s back. We have won a glorious Victory. We have proved to the whole world that Armenians’ legends and myths are all nonsense. There are more than 10,000 deserters in the Armenian Army, and there would have been more. If we executed the planned operation in Aghdam, thousands of Armenian servicemen would have either fled or died.
We have shown that it is the people of Azerbaijan who are true warriors. We have shown that we will never put up with this occupation. Let them look up my speeches. I have said perhaps a thousand times in the last 17 years that we would not put up with this occupation. They thought that they could keep our lands under occupation forever. Those who invested so much and built so many fortifications here, in Fuzuli, in Jabrayil wanted precisely that. There were several days of fierce battles for Soltanli village of Jabrayil district. They built fortifications there that are second to none in the world. Why? They did not want to vacate those lands. They thought that they would live there forever. They tried to Armenianize our lands. The whole city of Aghdam has been destroyed. They demolished it in the 1990s so that if a peace agreement were signed, the Azerbaijani people would not be able to return and live here. Everything is mined. Most of the mines are here. But they were wrong. All these years, we have been living with one desire, with one wish – to return to these lands, and we have returned. We have destroyed Armenia’s Army. Armenia’s Army is almost non-existent now. We have crushed the war criminals. We have annihilated their scum. I said this in Fuzuli, and I want to repeat that we have destroyed Kocharyan’s and Sargsyan’s Army. We have shown our strength against Kocharyan and Sargsyan. We have defeated them. Who is Pashinyan?
I do not want to talk about him now. I have already said what was needed. Kocharyan and Sargsyan, you have knelt before us. You have brought this place, all the occupied lands, to this plight. You have destroyed this mosque. They fled and went into hiding during the Second Karabakh War. They could not even stick their noses into the battle zone. So, where is your heroism? I said to them – take out this metal scrap; it has no value. You are wearing hero medals on your chest. They are fake heroes.
Look, at me – I am standing here, in front of the mosque you have destroyed, in the city of Aghdam which you destroyed. I came here with my Army. I came here as a winner, while you will live the rest of your pathetic lives with a mark of defeat and cowardice. Why are you hiding there like mice? Kocharyan and Sargsyan, I am talking to you. Pashinyan is nobody. His only concern now is to cling to power. Therefore, he is imprisoning the entire opposition. The West remains silent about this. Why is there a deafening silence? Can’t they see what’s going on there? War criminals and Khojaly executioners, we have obliterated you. Azerbaijani soldiers, Azerbaijani officers have destroyed you. And it serves you right!
Today, it is excruciating to see the city of Aghdam destroyed. But a few years ago, when I was in this area, I looked at that building through binoculars in our trenches. It is difficult to express these feelings in words. It is impossible. It was so painful to look at our city on our lands, see that building from afar through binoculars, and not be able to come here. Many times when I was on the line of contact, in the trenches, I thought that one day we would return; we would restore our territorial integrity.
Today, I presented the Holy Quran I brought from Mecca to the Aghdam Mosque. I am happy to have visited Mecca four times – once with my late father and three times as President. I am happy that I prayed with my family inside the Holy Kaaba. I have the same feelings in my heart as everyone else. My first prayer was for the liberation of our lands from occupation. I asked Allah to give me the strength to liberate our lands from the invaders, provide us with this happiness, and return to our ancestors’ land.
Today, in front of the mosque destroyed by vandals, I am saying that I am fortunate. I praise Allah for answering my prayers and giving me this strength. We are living through these historic days, having mobilized our prowess. These are truly historic days. Perhaps there have never been such glorious and proud days in the centuries-long history of Azerbaijan. We have achieved this thanks to our unity and our strength. Nobody helped us. On the contrary, they only wanted to hamper us. I will talk about this in detail due time.
It was the Republic of Turkey that supported us morally and politically for 44 days, my brother President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and leaders of several other Muslim and non-Muslim countries. We have achieved this Victory through unity, determination, strong will and strength. Today, after the end of the war, some leaders from Western countries are raising the issue of Christian shrines in the liberated lands under Azerbaijan’s control. They express these concerns both during conversations with me and in their official statements. No-one should worry, especially the leaders of Western countries that ignite Islamophobic sentiments, those who have turned a blind eye to the insults of Islam and even justified those who were insulting it. They have no right to talk about it. This is the first. Second, all the shrines across our territory are our historical heritage.
Azerbaijan hosts the Baku Humanitarian Forum or the Forum on Intercultural Dialogue every year. Azerbaijan hosts summits of leaders of world religions. Go and see what they say about us. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation cites the attitude towards Islam in Azerbaijan as an example. During his visit to Baku, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill praised the work in this sphere in Azerbaijan and visited Orthodox churches. In his official speech during his visit to Baku, Pope Francis spoke about tolerance, religious tolerance and multiculturalism in Azerbaijan. Who can criticize us? Those who shut down mosques? Can those throwing the heads of slaughtered pigs into Muslim mosques lecture us and express concern? They do not need to voice any concerns. The state protects all our historical sites. On my instruction and at the government’s expense, two Orthodox churches are being repaired, while the third church has already been restored, with an auxiliary premise also completed. During the war, our Udi brothers’ church was repaired and put into operation by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Our Caucasian Albanian churches are our national treasure. The same goes for our Georgian churches, the Armenian сhurch. The savage enemy kept cows and pigs in this mosque. These pictures are available on the internet. They kept pigs in the liberated Zangilan mosque, in the Jabrayil mosque.
We work very closely with UNESCO. But if they want to come and visit Christian shrines, they should come here. Come and tell what savage Armenians have done here. Also, a few years ago, the ambassadors of Minsk Group co-chair countries visited this mosque. They conducted fact-finding missions twice and told me that they had visited the Aghdam mosque. Why didn’t they raise this issue? Why didn’t certain Western leaders express their concern? Does this mean that Muslim mosques can be desecrated and destroyed; cows and pigs kept here? Let them say so, let them deal with their countries’ problems and not interfere in our work. Let no-one meddle with our work. We have made it here ourselves. We have come here despite all those countries’ efforts, we have come regardless of all the provocations, we have shed blood, and we are standing on our land. Let every one mind their own business. We have, and we will respond to those who want to interfere in our work.
It is a historic day today. We are celebrating our glorious Victory. The ruined city of Aghdam is a witness to Armenian atrocities. We will restore the city of Aghdam and all the villages. Let no-one ever doubt that. It will be a difficult task. Of course, it will take much effort. But just as we have shown unity for 44 days, I am confident that we will show unity and determination in the restoration of our liberated lands. We will restore all our cities and built even more beautiful cities. We will restore the remaining historical sites in our cities and show our strength once again.
We have won our Victory by driving the enemy out with an iron fist, and now we are standing on our land.
Long live the people of Azerbaijan! Long live the Azerbaijani soldiers and Azerbaijani officers! Aghdam is ours! Karabakh is Azerbaijan!