President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Victorious Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva visited the liberated from occupation city of Aghdam, November 23.
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 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 whole world should see this.
There is not a single safe building here. Everything is destroyed. 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 Azerbaijani tricolor flag in Aghdam. The national flag of Azerbaijan is now flying proudly in Aghdam, which was 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 Azerbaijani President and first lady prayed in the mosque.
The head of state made a speech in front of the Aghdam mosque.
Speech of President Ilham Aliyev
-Dear fellow countrymen.
As you know, the occupied city of Aghdam and Aghdam district were liberated on 20 November. 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 the Azerbaijani state flag there. We have returned to Aghdam. I would like to once again congratulate 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 it possible to liberate Aghdam district, as well as Kalbajar and Lachin districts, without firing a single shot and without anyone becoming a martyr.
We have returned to these lands at the expense 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 said to the people that we must be stronger 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 strength 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 was saying that every citizen of Azerbaijan should bring this holy day, this day of victory closer with their work, with their hard work and devotion to the Motherland.
We have done a great job at the international level, and I inform the people about this in my speeches. Today, after the war and even during the war, the whole world, all the people of Azerbaijan saw how important this was. If we had not created the necessary legal framework for resolving the conflict, we could have faced 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, but 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 decisions and resolutions. All these important steps have been taken since 2003, and we have got the upper hand in the political arena. At the same time, the “Partnership Priorities” document initialed between the European Union and Azerbaijan two years ago contains clear statements about Azerbaijan's sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of our borders. This 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 reveal the identity of 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 basis for resolving the conflict over the past 17 years. In all of my international contacts, I communicated Azerbaijan's position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, its historical realities and the current situation to all my colleagues. The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has a special place in almost all of my bilateral international contacts. It is enough to look at my speeches. Over the past 17 years, I have expressed my views on this issue in almost all of my speeches, informing the world 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 American Congress would not have passed the notorious Section 907 while our lands were occupied. Azerbaijani lands were under occupation, but the US Congress recognized Azerbaijan as an aggressor and deprived us of humanitarian aid. The Armenian lobby achieved this at the time. Azerbaijani diplomacy simply 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 10 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 presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, the second largest institution 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 been adopted, it would not have stopped us, of course, but it could have created an unnecessary picture. It was countries of the Non-Aligned Movement that prevented the adoption of that resolution and supported us. I also thanked them and said that they stood behind us like men even though great powers were putting great 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 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 Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh issue, which is a key issue for us.
Today we chair not only the Non-Aligned Movement, but also the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States. Our international authority is quite high, and it has played a special role in having this conflict resolved.
During these 17 years, I have always said that we must give a strong impetus to the economic sector, ensure economic independence, and we did that. Today we do not depend on anyone economically. If we were, we could come under pressure. There was pressure anyone, but to no avail. Because it is pointless to use the economic factor against us. We do not depend on anyone, we do not depend on any country, on any 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 fully ensure economic independence. This has also played a special role in our victory. Because 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 strength and paved the way for our victory. The number one issue is our military strength. I have repeatedly said that building up our military capacity is the first issue for us. It is no coincidence that during my presidency, our military expenditures were in first place among budget expenditures every year. I have said or explained to our people that we do have many other issues, there are problems that need to be addressed, but our main problem is that our lands are under occupation. This is why military expenditures come first among others. We bought the necessary equipment. We demonstrated this equipment and modern weapons in the numerous parades on Azadlig Square. We adopted the most advanced trends in the development of our army. We bought weapons that would give us an advantage, and the Second Karabakh War showed that.
Today, many countries, many developed countries are studying our experience. Many experts dealing with this issue are noting that Azerbaijan waged a war of the 21st century. For the first time in the 21st century, historic achievements of this scale and effect have been made in such a short period of 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. In Fuzuli as well. Thanks to the heroism and professionalism of our soldiers and officers, we have crushed these lines of defense. We are technically equipped with the most modern weapons, and the Second Karabakh War showed that, there are videos. They are now being studied, they will be studied in many countries and will be included in military books.
At the same time, we were strengthening the combat capability of our army 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 God have mercy on all our martyrs! May God grant their parents patience! We have wounded servicemen, and they are recovering. Many of them have already recovered. May God send healing to them! We have won this war at the expense of our heroic soldiers and officers. I am sure that the operation to liberate Shusha from occupation 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 liberated Shusha, the crown of Karabakh.
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, 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 information 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 waiting for 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 stay here and not go 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 issued that the next direction was Aghdam. The enemy also knows and already admits that if they had not accepted my conditions to leave our lands, they would have died here. Because we were coming to Aghdam.
It is too early to reveal all the secrets of the war. Very interesting issues 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 anyway, but there would have been casualties, a great number of casualties. Therefore, after liberating Shusha and more than 70 of our villages on 9 November, 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 was saying in my numerous interviews and appeals to the people – all this can be seen, everything is documented – 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 bad situation now. I am fully convinced that we would have liberated our occupied lands anyway. The enemy thought that someone would help them out. They thought that all their supporters would come and fight with us instead of them. They made a big 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 is 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 their 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 carried out the planned operation in Aghdam, thousands of Armenian servicemen would either fled or died. We have shown that it is the people of Azerbaijan who are truly warlike. We have shown that we will never put up with this occupation. Let them look at my speeches. I have said perhaps a thousand times in the last 17 years that we will not come to terms with this occupation. They thought that they could keep our lands under occupation forever. Because those who invested so much and built so many fortifications here, in Fuzuli, in Jabrayil wanted this. There were several days of fierce battles for Soltanli village of Jabrayil district. They built fortifications there that may not have existed in the world. Why? They did not want to leave. They thought that they would live there forever. They wanted to Armenianize our lands. The whole city of Aghdam has been destroyed. They demolished it in the 1990s so that if a peace agreement was signed, the Azerbaijani people would not be able to come and live here. Everything is mined. Most of the mines are here. But they were wrong. For 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 the Armenian army. The Armenian army is almost non-existent now. We have destroyed war criminals. We have destroyed their scum. I said this in Fuzuli and I want to say again 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 is necessary. 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 hid 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 orders of heroes on your chest. They you false heroes. Look, 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 life with a mark of defeat and cowardice. Why are you hiding there like mice? Kocharyan and Sargsyan, I am telling you. Pashinyan is nobody. His only concern now is to stay in power. Therefore, he is imprisoning captures all the opposition. The West remains silent about this, it is silent, it has water in its mouth. Can't they see what's going on there? War criminals and Khojaly executioners, we have destroyed you. Azerbaijani soldiers, Azerbaijani officers have destroyed you. And it serves you right!
Today, it is very painful to see the city of Aghdam destroyed. But a few years ago, when I was in this area, in our trenches, I looked at that building through binoculars. It is difficult to express these feelings in words, it is impossible. It was so painful to look at our city on our own lands, to see that building from afar through binoculars and not to 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 God to give me the strength to liberate our lands from the occupiers, to give us this happiness and to return to the land of our ancestors.
Today, in front of the mosque destroyed by vandals, I am saying that I am a happy man. I thank God again for hearing my prayers and giving me this strength. We are living through these historic days having mobilized all our forces. These are truly historic days. Perhaps there have never been such glorious and proud days in the centuries-old 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 one day.
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, resolve and strength. Today, after the end of the war, some leaders from Western circles are raising the question of what will happen to Christian temples in the liberated lands under the control of Azerbaijan. They express these concerns both during conversations with me and in their official statements. No-one should worry, especially the leaders of Western countries which ignite Islamophobic sentiments, those who have turned a blind eye to the insults of Islam and even justified those who insulting it. They have no right to talk about it. This is first. Second, all the temples in our territory are our historical assets. Azerbaijan hosts the Baku Humanitarian Forum or the Forum on Intercultural Dialogue every year. Azerbaijan hosts summits of leaders of world religions. Look and see what is being said 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 done in this area 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 killed pigs into Muslim mosques teach us a lesson and express concern? They do not need to express any concerns. All our historical sites are protected by the state. On my instruction and at the expense of the state, two Orthodox churches are being repaired, while the third church has already been repaired. An office building is under construction built. During the war, the church of our Udi brothers was repaired and put into operation by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Our Caucasian Albanian churches are our national treasure. Our Georgian churches, the Armenian church. 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 wants to come and visit Christian temples, they should come here. Come and tell what the wild 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 insulted, cows and pigs can be kept and destroyed? If so, let them say so, let them deal with the problems in their countries and not interfere in our work. Let no-one interfere in our work. We have come here ourselves. We have come here in spite of the efforts of all those countries, we have come in spite of all the provocations, we have shed blood and we are standing on our land. Let everyone mind their own business. We have given and will give the answer 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 a lot of 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 chasing the enemy with an iron fist, and now we are standing on our own land.
Long live the people of Azerbaijan! Long live the Azerbaijani soldiers and Azerbaijani officers! Aghdam is ours! Karabakh is Azerbaijan!
On their way back from Aghdam, President Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva watched the destroyed city from a car.
Mehriban Aliyeva: There is not a single building that has not been demolished.
President Ilham Aliyev: The flag I have raised. Kudos!