President Ilham Aliyev Delivers A Triumphant Speech Outside the Liberated Aghdam Mosque
On November 23, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Ilham Aliyev and First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva visited the city of Aghdam, recently liberated from Armenian occupation after 27 years, according to ‘Azerbaijan in Focus’, reporting Trend News.
Whilst driving on the way to Aghdam, President Ilham Aliyev commented:
“Look at the enemy’s line of defence – the enemy had several lines of defence all the way to the city of Aghdam.
“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 defeated the enemy on the battlefield and forced them to withdraw from the Aghdam district.
“Here is another line of defence. 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, the savages we were facing, and what savages we have defeated. The whole world should see this.
“There is not a single safe building here. They have destroyed our houses and villages, and exploited our lands. The enemy will be held accountable for all war crimes. We will invite journalists to Aghdam, including foreign journalists and representatives of the diplomatic corps. Let them come and see.
President Aliyev then raised the Azerbaijani tricolour flag in Aghdam and visited the Aghdam mosque. This mosque, with two minarets, became a place of hope and refuge for the survivors of the Khojaly Genocide in 1992. However, the Armenians deliberately destroyed it.
President Ilham Aliyev presented the Holy Quran he brought from Mecca to the Aghdam mosque.
The Azerbaijani President and the First Vice-President prayed in the mosque.
The President then delivered a speech in front of the Aghdam mosque:
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, and particularly 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 flag there. We have returned to Aghdam.
I would like to reiterate my congratulations to 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 almost 30 years, and during the Second Karabakh War, when they waited for Aghdam to be liberated from occupation. We have fulfilled our historic mission and liberated the occupied territories from the enemy. The victory on the battlefield made it possible to liberate Aghdam district, together with the 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 become stronger, 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. Our lack of strength was the reason why Azerbaijani lands were occupied in the early 1990s. We were gaining strength and becoming stronger. I have always said that all Azerbaijani citizens should seek to bring this Holy Day of Victory closer with their hard work and devotion to the Motherland.
We have done a great job at the international level, and I have informed the people about this in my speeches. Today, after the war and even during the war, the whole world and 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 the international organisations adopt decisions and resolutions that recognise and reflect justice and international law. Four UN Security Council resolutions, condemning the Armenian occupation, were adopted in 1993, but then we created a solid legal basis for resolving the conflict by having the UN General Assembly, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), the Non-Aligned Movement, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopt decisions and resolutions.
All these important steps have been taken since 2003, and we have got the upper hand in the political arena. Simultaneously, the Partnership Priorities document initialled between the European Union and Azerbaijan two years ago contains clear statements about Azerbaijani sovereignty, territorial integrity and the inviolability of our borders. This is our great success, because we could not achieve this for many years. Some international organisations did not want to name the aggressor and others 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, making reference to ‘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 Armenian–Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, its historical realities and the current situation to all my colleagues. The conflict has a special place in virtually all of my bilateral international contacts. Over the past 17 years, I have expressed my views on this issue in almost all of my speeches to the international world community.
Unfortunately, in the early 1990s, the world did not have a full picture of the conflict and the Armenian lobby circulated distorted information. 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 recognised 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 and it is possible to say that the Justice for Khojaly campaign and the recognition of the Khojaly Genocide as such by more than 10 countries has created a picture reflecting the realities of the conflict to the international community.
During our chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement, the second largest institution after the UN, we have kept this issue firmly in the spotlight. This organisation brings together 120 countries and a summit was held last year. During the Second Karabakh War, there were attempts at the UN and in the UN Security Council to adopt a new resolution. If that had been adopted, it would not have stopped us, of course, but it would have created an incorrect understanding of the conflict. The countries of the Non-Aligned Movement prevented the adoption of that resolution and supported us. I thanked them, and said that they stood behind us like men, even though great powers were exerting tremendous pressure on them. Most members of the Non-Aligned Movement recognise Azerbaijan as an independent, strong country ready to defend them.
We have provided humanitarian financial assistance to over 30 countries during the pandemic, including special assistance to the Non-Aligned Movement through the World Health Organisation (WHO). All this work has paid off. We were able to get the necessary international support in the Armenian–Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh issue, which is the key issue for us.
Today, we chair not only the Non-Aligned Movement, but also the Co-operation Council of Turkic-Speaking States. Our international authority is elevated, and has played a special role in having this conflict resolved.
Over the past 17 years, I have always said that we must give a strong impetus to the economic sector, ensuring economic independence. Today, we do not depend economically on any other country or financial organisation. If we were, we could come under pressure, but the economic factor could not be used against us. On the contrary, we are a donor country and lend money to others. Our strong economic potential and financial resources have enabled us to fully ensure economic independence. This has also played a special role in our victory. I reiterate – if we were not economically independent, we would be unable to achieve political independence. Without that, we could not liberate our lands from the enemy, which has great powers behind it, due to the influence of the Armenian lobby.
These factors 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 was of primary importance. It is no coincidence that, during my presidency, our military expenditure was in first place amongst budget expenditures. I have said or explained to our people that we have many other issues and there are problems that need to be addressed, but our main problem is that our lands are under occupation. We bought the necessary equipment and weaponry and demonstrated this in the numerous parades on Azadlig Square. We bought weapons that would give us an advantage, and the Second Karabakh War showed that.
Today, 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 a short period. On my way here, I saw at least three lines of defence. According to the information given to me by our military, there were five lines of defence here and in Fuzuli. Thanks to the heroism and professionalism of our soldiers and officers, we have crushed these lines of defence. We are technically equipped with the most modern weaponry, and the Second Karabakh War showed that. The videos are now being studied in many countries and will be included in the military strategy texts of the 21st century.
Simultaneously, we were strengthening the combat capability of our army because it was clear that weapons alone could not achieve our victory. It is a soldier and an officer who raises the flag on the enemy’s positions on our 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 strength! 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 during 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 reiterate that the people of Aghdam have been waiting for this day for almost 30 years. They were waiting for victory 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 Aghdam probably wondered why Aghdam was not being liberated.
I wanted to communicate the following information to the people of Aghdam in some form, but it was impossible to do so during the war. There were five lines of defence here and the enemy was waiting for us. 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. Following 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 has already admitted that if they had not accepted my conditions to leave our lands, they would have died here.
It is too early to reveal all the secrets of the war. Very interesting issues will emerge in the future. I can say with full confidence today that the Aghdam operation was part of our plans. We would have taken Aghdam anyway, but there would have been a great many casualties. Therefore, after liberating Shusha and more than 70 of our villages on 9 November, we broke the enemy’s back and 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 appeals to the Armenian people to give a timetable for leaving the occupied territories. I said this to Pashinyan, who was fired after this defeat – not his Foreign Minister or Defence Minister. I told him to give us a timetable and I succeeded in forcing him to do so.
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. They thought that all their supporters would come and fight against us, instead of them. They made a big mistake. After the liberation of most of Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Hadrut, Zangilan, Gubadli, Shusha, Sugovushan and the 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 from 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 true warriors. 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 over 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. Those who invested so much and built so many fortifications here and in Fuzuli and Jabrayil wanted this.
There were several days of fierce battles for the Soltanli village of the Jabrayil district. They built fortifications there that may not have existed anywhere else in the world. Why? They did not want to leave. They thought that they would live there forever. They wanted to Armenianise 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 come and live here. Everything is mined. They were wrong. Over all these years, we have been living with one desire and one wish – to return to these lands, and we have done so. We have destroyed the Armenian army and it is almost non-existent. 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, and have brought this place and all the occupied lands, to this situation. 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 off your scrap metal medals; they have no value. You are wearing orders of heroes on your chest, but they are false. I am standing here, in front of the mosque you have destroyed, in the city of Aghdam that you destroyed and 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 the internal political opposition. The West remains silent about this, it is silent, and has water in its mouth. Can’t they see what is going on? War criminals and Khojaly executioners, we have destroyed you. Azerbaijani soldiers have destroyed you. It serves you right!
Today, it is very painful to see the city of Aghdam destroyed. A few years ago, when I was in this area, in our trenches, I looked at this mosque through binoculars and it is difficult to express my emotions. It was so painful to look at our city, on our own lands, and to see this mosque from afar, yet be unable to visit. Many times when I was on the ‘contact line’, in the trenches, I thought that one day we would return and 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 return 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 mobilised 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, particularly 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 churches 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, 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.
Secondly, all the churches in our territory are our historic buildings. 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 OIC cites the attitude towards Islam in Azerbaijan as an exemplar. During his visit to Baku, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill praised the work undertaken in this regard in in Azerbaijan and visited Orthodox churches. In his official speech during his visit to Baku, Pope Francis spoke about religious tolerance and multiculturalism in Azerbaijan. Who can criticise us? Those who shut down mosques? Can those throwing the heads of slaughtered 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, whilst a third church has already been repaired.
During the war, the Christian church of our Udi brothers was repaired and put into operation by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Our Caucasian Albanian churches are our national treasure, as are the Georgian churches and 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 and in the Jabrayil mosque.
We work very closely with UNESCO. If they want to visit Christian churches, they should come here. They should see what the savage Armenians have done. Also, a few years ago, the ambassadors of the OSCE 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, destroyed and used to house cows and pigs? If 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, despite of the efforts of all those countries, have shed blood and are standing on our land. Let all others 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. 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 return from Aghdam, President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva viewed 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!