Journalistic reflections: forty-four moments of a sunny autumn
Mighty commander and wise President Ilham Aliyev turned us into a victorious nation and created new realities in the region
Baku, December 3, AZERTAC
The Patriotic War, which broke out on a fine autumn night, lasted 44 days – as if nature itself favored us as well, warming us with its soothing breath. There has never been such an autumn in my lifetime – one that understandably tamed the dashing temper and delayed the rains and winds until later. Otherwise, the fighting in the mountains would have a real test of strength.
Every moment, every sunny day, which became the embodiment of true heroism, brought us closer to the cherished goal – the liberation of Karabakh. Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev and Azerbaijani soldiers expelling the invader from our lands day after day, and the Azerbaijani people rallying into a mighty fist created a truly heroic epic.
These 44 days irrevocably changed the 30-year-old sorrowful destiny of Karabakh, forever removing the label of forced migrants from the fates of a million people. They made us a victorious nation and created new realities in the region...
Prayers accepted in a God’s home
Aghdam, 23 November. President Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva kiss the wall of the Aghdam mosque, take off their shoes at the entrance and walk along the flooring of a dilapidated building covered with sand and dust. You should go over this footage too, dear readers (https://video.azertag.az/en/video/107757). Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, kissing the holy Quran, extends it to President Ilham Aliyev. The head of state, touching the holy book with his lips, puts it on the table. The President and the first lady perform a prayer.
It will transpire later that Ilham Aliyev presented the Aghdam mosque with the Koran he had brought from Mecca. Talking about his pilgrimage to Muslim shrines, President Ilham Aliyev noted that he had been to Mecca four times – once with his father, national leader Heydar Aliyev, and three times as head of state. “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.”
Listening to the President's historic speech in front of the Aghdam mosque, the lines from Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva’s prayer in the first days of the Patriotic War come to mind: “May the Almighty God protect the Azerbaijani people in their sacred struggle! May the Almighty grant every Azerbaijani the opportunity to kiss the sacred land of Karabakh!”
One can’t but recall the pilgrimage of national leader Heydar Aliyev to Mecca. When journalists asked him what he was praying for, he said, “I prayed for Karabakh, Azerbaijan and our people,” Heydar Aliyev replied.
For the past 30 years, every Azerbaijani regardless of where they live prayed for the same. And the Almighty heeded our prayers. With God's help, thanks to the unbending resolve of our President and the valiant army, we brought the sworn enemy to its knees. We had the opportunity to kiss the sacred Karabakh land...
A mighty commander who fulfilled his father's covenant
On 8 November, the day of the liberation of Shusha from the occupation, Victorious Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev visited the Alley of Honor, where he paid a tribute of respect to the blessed memory of national leader Heydar Aliyev. On the same day, in his address to the people from the Alley of Martyrs, the head of state uttered words that moved our hearts: “... I am happy because I have fulfilled my father's covenant. We have liberated Shusha! This is a great victory! The souls of our martyrs and the national leader are rejoicing today! Congratulations to Azerbaijan! I congratulate Azerbaijanis all over the world!”
Listening to this historic address, I recalled the tireless efforts of the national leader to resolve the Karabakh conflict, the tense days and shocks he went through. I personally witnessed this as a journalist who had the honor of covering the state activities of Heydar Aliyev, his foreign visits, meetings with heads of state and government, and numerous negotiations to resolve the conflict. At first, Heydar Aliyev always took a map on his foreign visits and patiently explained to a wide audience during his meetings who Karabakh belonged to. At that time, many countries of the world and politicians, having fallen under the influence of the Armenian lobby, had been misguided. The national leader took every opportunity to convey the truth about Karabakh to the world. Already in his advanced years and in spite of health problems, he covered great distances and flew across the oceans. I remember his visit to France on 5 March 2001 quite vividly. Less than a month later, on 3 April, Heydar Aliyev left for distant America. In Paris and Key West, he held difficult and tense negotiations that lasted for days. Every time the process was drawing to a close, an invisible obstacle arose that nullified all the previous effort.
War or peace? This question haunted Heydar Aliyev. Looking through my archives, I came across his speech of many years ago, in which he voiced some truly visionary phrases that echo with the present day: “...We will resolve this issue, it just takes time. No-one can take our land away from us. Our occupied territories will definitely be returned. At any cost.”
The national leader expressed his firm conviction for a return of the occupied lands at a difficult time for our country, when Azerbaijan had just gained independence and got on its feet. At that time, we did not have a full-fledged army and the equipment necessary to return the occupied lands by force. The time Heydar Aliyev spoke about came almost 20 years later. In the 17 years of his presidency, the son of the national leader, Ilham Aliyev, created a mighty Azerbaijan, established a strong army, which is now considered one of world’s top 50 most powerful armies. Our army has the most advanced weapons in its arsenal many countries can envy. It was this army that chased the invaders from our lands like dogs acting on the order of its Commander-in-Chief. Azerbaijani soldiers put an end to 30-year occupation at the cost of their lives.
At any cost
Anyone who looks over the history of the last 17 years will understand that Ilham Aliyev did not want war. He wanted the liberation of our lands without sacrifice and bloodshed. From year to year, the head of our state continued peace negotiations, hoping that the OSCE Minsk Group would take effective steps to resolve the conflict. The President showed remarkable patience, put forward his own conditions, warned that Azerbaijan would not allow a second Armenian state to be created on its territory. Ilham Aliyev was stressing that Azerbaijan would liberate its lands at any cost. This meant that if negotiations are were not successful, there would be no other option but to resort to a forceful settlement of the conflict.
Minsk Group co-chair countries, international organizations and leaders of major power centers kept repeating the same thing: the conflict must be resolved peacefully and there is no military solution. The president of Azerbaijan stated in return – if necessary, we will resort to a military solution and war should never be discounted. In one of his speeches, Ilham Aliyev said: “At various stages in the negotiations, we were repeatedly offered to abandon the use of force. I never agreed to that. I was even accused of wanting to start a war. I said that I want to resolve the issue peacefully, but the issue must be resolved. What did Armenia want? It wanted to maintain the status quo, make it eternal. They believed that if they achieved what they wanted for 26-27 years, they would continue to achieve that.”
Sooner or later, patience runs out. The actions of Armenia’s presumptuous prime minister Pashinyan, his absurd statements crossed out everything that had been achieved in the course of the peace process and became the last straw that overflowed the cup of patience of our people and the President. Pashinyan said: “Karabakh is Armenia and full stop”. He said he would build a road to Jabrayil. He held a swearing-in ceremony in Shusha, danced in a drunken stupor on Jidir Duzu in Shusha, talked about plans to move the parliament to Shusha, start a “new war for new territories”. He threatened to start a war and get to Baku. This was followed by a treacherous attack in the Tovuz direction of the border. An Armenian sabotage group tried to enter the territory of Azerbaijan. Finally, in the early hours of 27 September, the Armenians resorted to a military provocation in Karabakh, after which the Commander-in-Chief ordered to start a counteroffensive.
Everyone knows what happened after that. AZERTAC kept a chronicle of the triumphant march of the Azerbaijani army in Karabakh. Reports of the successes achieved was circulated in eight languages. Readers can familiarize themselves with our summaries from the combat zone in the sections CƏBHƏ XƏBƏRLƏRİ; НОВОСТИ С ФРОНТА; FRONTLINE NEWS; NACHRİCHTEN VON DER FRON; NOUVELLES DE LA LİGNE DE FRONT; NOTICIAS DE FRONTERA; أخبار من خط الجبهة; 前线新闻 on the official website of our news agency.
The Azerbaijani army took 44 days to crush the enemy forces with an iron fist, to plant the national flag in Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, Murovdag, Sugovushan, Hadrut, Shusha – in a total of five cities, four settlements and 286 villages, forcing the enemy to surrender.
In terms of its pace, use of modern technology, especially drones, a skillful conduct of combat operations, the combat capability of officers and soldiers, as well as other parameters, the second Karabakh war entered the world’s military history as a war of the 21st century. Along with the Azerbaijani model of development in the international arena, the world is already talking about the Azerbaijani model of war.
21st century war
We will leave the analysis and assessment of the Patriotic War, crowned with the Great Victory of the Azerbaijan Army, as well as the examination of the tactics of warfare to the judgment of military experts and specialists. This war, which lasted 44 days, will be talked about after 44 years. I just want to share my thoughts and observations on this matter.
For 30 years, Armenia, with the active participation of its patrons, including the military engineers of France, was erecting three, four and sometimes even five defense lines along the entire front, creating deeply echeloned defense systems, insurmountable fortifications and obstacles. The main strategic heights were in the hands of the enemy. Difficult terrain, mountains and gorges created additional advantages for the enemy forces. In addition, armaments worth at least $2-3 billion were donated to Armenia.
Obviously, the occupying army relied on engineering fortifications, countless defensive and offensive weapons in its arsenal. Apparently also counting on this, Pashinyan was voicing threats with foam at his mouth. Suffice it to mention the names of some of the weapons donated to Armenia to get an idea of the scale of support for the invader: S-300, S-125, Osa, Cube, Tor, Krug, Tochka-U antiaircraft weapons system, Elbrus tactical missile system, Acacia, Carnation, Smerch, Grad, Uragan self-propelled artillery mounts, as well as Su-25 attack aircraft, drones, anti-tank weapons, radar stations, ballistic missiles and more...
Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev, in his address to the people in connection with the liberation of Lachin district on 1 December, published a list of the enemy equipment destroyed and captured as spoils of war. It turned out to be a long list. Specialists are well aware of the power and cost of this military equipment.
The second Karabakh war showed that the Azerbaijani army is equipped with the most advanced weapons. Thanks to the high-precision strikes of Turkish “Bayraktar” and Israeli drones, hundreds of units of the enemy’s military equipment were neutralized and thousands of enemy soldiers were destroyed in the first days of hostilities. For the first time in the 21st century, such impressive results of hostilities were achieved in a short time. The footage circulated by the Ministry of Defense is already being scrupulously studied in many countries. This information is likely to be included in textbooks on military affairs.
But it is not only about the arsenal. The President has repeatedly emphasized the invaluable merits of the brave Azerbaijani soldiers who planted our flag on the liberated lands. Our soldiers and officers fought like lions. The heroism and professionalism of the Azerbaijani army crushed the defensive lines of the enemy forces, crowning the battles in Shusha with a brilliant victory...
Operation in Shusha, unprecedented in modern military history
The details of the Patriotic War have not yet been fully disclosed, but we can confidently state that the operation to liberate Shusha will go down in history forever.
It was impossible to approach Shusha, considered the crown and heart of Karabakh, with tanks. There were two options for taking the impregnable fortified city. The first of these consisted of the use of air strikes and cannons, but the command rejected this idea because bombing would entail great destruction. Hand-to-hand combat was suggested as an alternative. The heroic soldiers and officers of the Azerbaijani army armed with firearms made their way through dense forests and deep gorges, climbed mountains and slopes, clashing with the enemy in a hand-to-hand combat and destroying it.
A foreign journalist who visited Khankandi during the battles for Shusha described the helpless state of the Armenians as follows: “The defenders of Shusha have been defeated. Piled on top of each other in the bodies of military vehicles, dozens of them are being taken to the Khankandi hospital. The rest descend from the mountains – tired and throwing off their military gear on the go. Ambulances carrying wounded soldiers zip one after another. The wounds soldiers have received testify to hand-to-hand fighting.” Another report circulated by Le Monde in those days said that the defeated Armenian army personnel were leaving Shusha and fleeing to Khankandi.
On 8 November, Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev conveyed to the people the great news of the liberation of Shusha. This victory actually predetermined the outcome of the war. The next day, the liberation of more than 70 settlements was reported, and then Pashinyan, accepting the conditions of the President of Azerbaijan, was forced to sign an act of surrender. As a result, Aghdam district was liberated without a single shot or casualties on 20 November, Kalbajar district on 25 November and Lachin district of Azerbaijan on 1 December.
The Azerbaijani army is an army of warriors-liberators, while the Armenian army is an army of occupiers. Azerbaijani soldiers fought on their own lands, while Armenians fought in foreign territory. This was our moral superiority. The fighting spirit and patriotism of our servicemen played no less important role than the weaponry. Armenian soldiers deserted from their military units en masse, not wanting to fight. In fact, footage of an Armenian serviceman chained to his position were circulated during the war. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani soldiers who had not yet recovered from their wounds were eager to go back to the frontline. Armenians resorted to all sorts of tricks to evade military service, while in Azerbaijan people queued up in front of military enlistment offices to go to the front.
The Patriotic War and its heroic episode, the operation in Shusha, clearly showed who is who. This battle debunked the myth of “an invincible Armenian army”, demonstrated our strength to the enemy and indeed the whole world, becoming a triumph of justice...
Struggle on three fronts and a crushing victory
Weapons are not the only determinants of the outcome of modern wars. The final victory is achieved on the battlefield, in the information space and in the diplomatic plane. A clear confirmation of this is the crushing victory of Azerbaijan in the Patriotic War, which was the result of many years of building an army, focused foreign policy and tireless diplomatic efforts.
In this regard, numerous interviews of the head of our state with foreign media during the active phase of hostilities in Karabakh are worthy of special attention. Thanks to his in-depth knowledge and irrefutable arguments, President Ilham Aliyev managed to neutralize the slanderous campaign launched by pro-Armenian media and single-handedly broke through the information front. Some Western journalists, apparently having received a specific assignment and leaving aside the essence of the matter, referred to fake information and put forward unfounded accusations against the Azerbaijani side. Questions were persistently repeated about Turkey's participation in the conflict, the use of F-16, the involvement of mercenaries from Syria and Libya, the violation of the ceasefire and many others. The President, patiently and without succumbing to provocations, denied the accusations with facts and arguments, talked about the history of Karabakh and the reasons for the conflict. In a word, using the opportunity, he communicated the true state of affairs to the world.
I would like to dwell on Ilham Aliyev’s interview with German ARD TV channel.
Question: When we were there, on that territory, we wondered why Karabakh is so important for Azerbaijan? Are there resources there or does it represent some kind of a symbolic meaning?
Answer: Are Alsace and Lorraine important to you? Is Bavaria important to you? Or Rhine-Westphalia? This is our land, our internationally recognized territory. This is not a matter of resources. The main resources are here in Baku. It is a matter of justice, a matter of national pride and international law.
The answer is short and concise. At the same time, it is so deep and effective that hardly any Western correspondent will dare to ask our President a similar question again.
Looking back over the past 17 years, we can see that President Ilham Aliyev did everything possible to keep the Nagorno-Karabakh issue on the agenda. The head of state raised this issue at meetings, during his speeches, spoke about it from the stands of international organizations and in interviews. Ilham Aliyev tried to convey the realities to the world community, explaining who is the aggressor in this conflict and who is the victim. Everyone knows that now. And this is one of the main factors that determined the triumph of Azerbaijan in the Patriotic War.
Azerbaijan's victory on the battlefield is eloquently characterized by two striking pictures: the victorious and proudly towering Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev and the head of the defeated Armenian army Pashinyan. The Azerbaijani people proudly carried a portrait of the head of state over their heads, while in Armenia Pashinyan became an object of ridicule and a character of anecdotes.
“Pashinyan, you were supposed to build a road to Jabrayil? So? Where is that road? You were supposed to erect a parliament building in Shusha, so? Everything went to hell,” President Ilham Aliyev exclaimed mockingly speaking about the Armenian prime minister’s silly bravado. The words of the head of state have firmly entered the everyday life of Azerbaijanis, becoming a catch phrase. Those who let their words go down the drain are embarrassed with the words Ilham Aliyev said to the Armenian prime minister: “So, Pashinyan?”...
Incinerated land and the future of Karabakh
In the past, a scorched earth tactic was used in wars. Retreating, the invaders sowed destruction after themselves, plundered and carried away everything they could, and set the rest on fire. This was done so that the local population, the true owner of the land, could not settle in its original lands. In 1977, Article 54 of Protocol No. 1 of the Geneva Convention prohibited the scorched earth tactics. Such actions are regarded as war crimes.
In the 21st century, Armenians are using this barbaric tactic in front of the entire civilized world. As the President of Azerbaijan rightly noted, there is a feeling that a barbarian tribe has swept through these lands. Images of the cities and villages liberated from the occupation are filled with pain. Armenian savages left behind lifeless ruins ... They cut down trees, burned forests, made the land useless. Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan are like a desert. Aghdam covered with ruins has turned into a ghost town.
And this is not all the war crimes committed by the Armenians. The Armenian armed forces twice bombed Ganja with ballistic missiles and dropped cluster bombs on Barda. A myriad of shells were fired at Tartar, Aghdam and Goranboy. Civilians – children, women, the elderly – became victims of Armenian fascism; thousands of houses, buildings and infrastructure were destroyed. I can't list everything. Photos, videos, reports and news, reflecting the atrocious crimes of Armenians are provided in the “The world must see Armenian fascism” section on the official website of AZERTAC in seven languages (#Russian, #English, #German, #French, #Spanish, #Arabic, #Chinese). Let the world see the barbaric essence of the Armenians, let it finally realize who we have to deal with. We have not only crushed the Armenian occupiers, but also rid the world of Armenian fascism, which poses a serious threat to all mankind.
On the President’s instruction, trips of representatives of the diplomatic corps are being organized to the regions of Azerbaijan liberated from occupation. Thus, foreign diplomats have the opportunity to see Armenian savagery firsthand. The monstrous destruction committed by the Armenian vandals will be documented and submitted to the international court. This time, the Armenian fascists will not get away with it.
The enemy believed that the destruction would scare away the Azerbaijanis and dispel the desire to return to these lands. But they were wrong. For 30 years, the Azerbaijani people have been living with the dream of returning to their native lands, cherishing the dream of Karabakh. During a trip to Fuzuli and Aghdam liberated from occupation, President Ilham Aliyev announced plans for the future of Karabakh. The head of state said that all cities and villages would be restored in accordance with the master plan. The state will provide assistance to citizens returning to their native lands. A road from Fuzuli to Shusha is already under construction. Historical roads leading to the villages of Sugovushan and Talish are being restored.
The second Karabakh war has created a new reality in the region. Our picturesque Karabakh, where thunderstorms once raged over its head, now looks to the future with great hope. In Shusha and in the Aghdam mosque, the adhan is heard again after 27 years, the famous “Karabakh shikastasi” is sung on Karabakh land again. Almost 30 years later on, life returns to these lands...
A new reality in the region or an epilogue
The successful end of the Patriotic War changed the balance of powers in the region and created a new reality. We are not alone. Fraternal Turkey is next to us. Turkish soldiers will also control the ceasefire in Karabakh. Words of support for Azerbaijan continue to be heard from Ankara at the highest level. This political and moral support gives us strength and warns the patrons of Armenians against interference.
The presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey call each other brothers and our flags fly side by side. This causes pride in the hearts of our friends and envy in the hearts of ill-wishers.
The status quo, which had lasted for nearly 30 years, has sunk into oblivion. The question of status will never be raised again. From now on, the agenda is the restoration of the destroyed cities and villages of Karabakh.
The fight is not over yet. It is not ruled out that Armenia and its patrons may be hatching new plans and resort to provocations. A clear example of this is the biased resolution of the French Senate on Karabakh. This means that, as is the case in the lands liberated from occupation, everything is covered with invisible mines the political arena too. Underwater currents are still raging there. So the struggle continues.
If we look at the numerous conflicts and wars in the world, we can see that it is the stronger side that always has the final say. The most recent example of this is the 44-day Patriotic War of the Azerbaijani people for Karabakh. Over the past 17 years, we have accumulated strength and finally crushed the enemy with an iron fist. The end of the 30 years of occupation and injustice was put in a matter of 44 days. Our strength was demonstrated not only to the enemy. The whole world saw it. Of course, the winner Azerbaijan will grow stronger every day and every year. Its wise President and Victorious Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev will confidently lead our people from one victory to another.
Chairman of the Board of AZERTAC,
Vice-President of OANA