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President Ilham Aliyev viewed conditions created in administrative building of Western Azerbaijan Community VIDEO

Baku, December 24, AZERTAC

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has viewed conditions created in an administrative building of the Western Azerbaijan Community, and met with a group of intellectuals from Western Azerbaijan.

The head of state was informed about the conditions created in the building.

President Ilham Aliyev then met with a group of intellectuals from Western Azerbaijan.

The head of state made an opening speech at the meeting.

Opening speech by President Ilham Aliyev

- This is my second time in this building. I attended the opening of the building 12 years ago. Let me also note that this building was constructed on my instructions and was intended for the then IDPs. The organization of IDPs from Karabakh was based in this building. This is the second time I am here, and now the building houses the Western Azerbaijan Community. We are celebrating the handover of this building to the Western Azerbaijan Community today.

As you may know, the Azerbaijan Refugee Society was turned into the Western Azerbaijan Community in August, and I thought that this building was the most appropriate place, the most appropriate headquarters for it. Not only because it is a beautiful building which has four floors and all the necessary facilities, but also because it is located almost opposite the Heydar Aliyev Center. The main reason is that the IDP community of Karabakh, which was once settled here, is now going back to its lands. I am sure that there will come a time when our compatriots from Western Azerbaijan, their relatives, children and grandchildren will return to our historical land, to Western Azerbaijan. I am sure that this day will come. I am sure that the Western Azerbaijanis will return to their native lands with a great desire and enthusiasm.

There are many reasons for that. Perhaps the most important of them is the historical memory of our people. Today, the example of Aghali village of Zangilan district gives reason to say this. Today, the vast majority of the people living in Aghali village of Zangilan district, including children and young people, had never seen their native lands before. It is their longing for the land and love of the Motherland that compelled them to go there. There are quite a few people among them who have gone there from Baku and Sumgayit. In other words, this is a typical trait of our people – the land always draws people to itself. I am sure that Western Azerbaijanis also live with this idea and dream.

Western Azerbaijan is our historical land, which is confirmed by a number of historical documents, historical maps and our history itself. Unfortunately, the Armenians razed all our historical and religious monuments in Western Azerbaijan to the ground, as they did in Karabakh. They wanted to erase the historical heritage of the Azerbaijani people, but they could not achieve their goals. Because there is history, there are documents and there are maps. The map displayed in this building, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, once again shows that Western Azerbaijan is the historical land of Azerbaijan. The names of cities and villages are of Azerbaijani origin, and we know perfectly well that the Azerbaijani people have lived in the territory of the present-day Armenia throughout history. The main task now is to let the whole world know about that. Work in this direction has already started, but I am sure that the community will do this work in a more focused and result-oriented manner.

For centuries, our people have made great sacrifices to protect their rights and to live on their historical lands. Despite this, however, our people were deprived of their native lands at various times in history. The 20th century was associated with great tragedies for our people in this regard. In one of its early decisions, the newly established Azerbaijan democratic Republic practically presented our historical city, the city of Iravan, to Armenia in 1918. It was an unforgivable step, it was treachery and it was a crime. We all know this very well, and our people should know it too. We must never give way to the distortion of our history.

There have been glorious pages in our history, but, unfortunately, there have been dark pages as well. I have repeatedly expressed my views on the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and its short-term activities. I have given a high assessment to the activities of the founding fathers of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. It was indeed the first republic in the Muslim world on a global scale, although it only existed for two years. At the same time, we should not forget the black pages of our history, we should not cover them up. First of all, historical truth should not be presented in a distorted manner. Secondly, that tragic event should serve as a lesson for all of us.

At that time, there were people who tried to justify that decision with various reasons, and there are still such people now. But I think that no explanation is acceptable, because the Armenians were not content with that. If anyone at all believed that Armenia and the Armenians would be content with depriving the people living in Iravan of their native land unbeknownst to them, they were making a huge mistake, and subsequent history showed that again. In 1920, by a decision of the Soviet government and on the insistence of Armenian nationalists, Zangazur, another historical land of ours, was severed from Azerbaijan and annexed to Armenia. This was yet another crime against our people. And the goal behind this was quite clear. First, Armenian nationalists were holding important positions in the Soviet government. On the other hand, it was a step taken to separate Azerbaijan from Nakhchivan and Turkiye from a geographical point of view.

In other words, just notice how many tragedies were unleashed on our people in a matter of two years. If anyone believed that by handing over Iravan to Armenia in 1918 we could have insured ourselves against bigger problems, the handover of Zangazur to Armenia shows again that it was an erroneous and wrong act and, as I said, an act of treason. You should never step back, you should always protect your rights, especially your native land, even in the face of someone stronger than you.

The tragedies of Western Azerbaijanis did not end at that. We all know very well that our people were subjected to yet another act of deportation in 1948-1953. This was yet another crime committed by the Soviet government against Western Azerbaijanis and the people of Azerbaijan as a whole. It was also a great injustice and dishonesty because World War Two had ended only three years ago. The people of Azerbaijan had shown tremendous sacrifice. A total of 300,000 people from Soviet Azerbaijan alone were killed in the war. Tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis who lived in Soviet Armenia at the time were also killed in the war. Azerbaijan played an exceptional role in the victory over fascism in World War Two. If it hadn’t been for Azerbaijani oil, the Soviet state could never have won the war. Everyone knows that. These figures have been voiced a number of times. About 70, 80 or 90 percent of gasoline, lubricants and oil were supplied from Azerbaijan. Despite all this, the perpetration of yet another crime against our people was, let me say this again, a great act of dishonesty. Our people were subjected to further deportation under a false pretext.

Finally, in the late 1980s, the Soviet government committed another crime against our people. This time, both Armenian nationalists and their patrons in the Soviet government took advantage of the resignation of Great Leader Heydar Aliyev and immediately sprang into action. Two weeks after Heydar Aliyev had been removed from all positions in November 1987, Armenian nationalists raised their heads. The Soviet government supported them and another crime was orchestrated against our people both in Karabakh and in the former Republic of Armenia. Azerbaijanis were deported from their historical lands in Western Azerbaijan. We all know and remember that history well. We also know the number of places where Azerbaijanis lived – more than 170 villages were populated only by Azerbaijanis. I am talking about Armenia, the Republic of Armenia. The Azerbaijanis accounted for the majority of about 90 villages. In general, Azerbaijanis lived in more than 300 towns and villages. All of them were forced out of Armenia over the course of three years. They were expelled, many of them were killed and tortured. All these crimes were taking place with the connivance of the Soviet government. Our last village, Nuvedi, was subjected to deportation in August 1991. As if that wasn’t enough, a crime was committed against our people in Karabakh too.

The occupation of Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur was another tragedy for us. So notice how many tragedies our people were faced with in the 20th century alone. But we did not break, we did not bend, we did not lose faith, we gathered strength and eventually achieved what we wanted. Two years ago, we fulfilled our historical mission with dignity, restored justice, expelled the enemy from our lands and restored the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Today, we live in the liberated lands. We are building and creating there, removing the ruins and trying to tell the world to come and have a look. Open your eyes, it is your beloved Armenian people who have committed these atrocities. These crimes were committed not by someone from an alien planet, but by your beloved and protected Armenian people, who have destroyed mosques, historical sites and graves, and who have committed unspeakable atrocities. They did the same in Western Azerbaijan. Simply, the world community does not see or does not want to see them. Armenian atrocities in Karabakh were not evidenced by anyone either. Although two OSCE fact-finding missions were sent to the occupied lands, we can see double standards in their reports.

On the one hand, they had to acknowledge those atrocities, destruction and illegal settlement, but on the other, they put the occupier and the victim of occupation on the same level, taking a balanced approach. Therefore, the devastation committed by the Armenians in Western Azerbaijan must be communicated to the rest of the world. I am sure that the West Azerbaijan Community will do it with the support of the Azerbaijan state.

In general, it is necessary to provide the world community with more information about the suffering and deprivation of our people in the 20th century. We always tell the truth. The tens of thousands of foreign visitors to the liberated lands can see with their own eyes what atrocities our people have been subjected to. The large-scale construction work going on there today shows the resolve of our people again. Again, we see the historical memory of our people in the example of Aghali village. Because the kids and young people who had never seen these lands have returned there. I am sure that we will see the same in Western Azerbaijan.

This year is coming to an end. Many important events have taken place during the year. We had to carry out a military operation on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. As a result of this military operation, the historically Azerbaijani cities are now visible to us. We are already on the shores of Bala Goycha now. We can already see Lake Goycha without binoculars. First of all, I think it is only fair. Secondly, the September clashes will insure us against major problems in the future. Because revanchist forces are emerging in Armenia – it doesn’t matter to us whether they are in the government or in the opposition. Because the consciousness of Armenian society has been poisoned so badly and Azerbaijanophobia has become so widespread there that there is hardly anyone left there capable of thinking soberly – I am talking about the political area. This is why they are cherishing the idea of revenge. They are still hoping that someone will come and fight with us instead of them, while they, as always, will hide behind some patron to carry out their insidious plans against us. In order to insure ourselves against this, we definitely had to secure more favorable positions in the direction of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, and we achieved that.

Even the mountains of Nakhchivan are visible from the heights we are based at today. So this is a truly historic achievement. The liberation of Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur on the battlefield is a historic event and will remain in the history of Azerbaijan for as long as Azerbaijan stands. Both our military and political successes achieved this year have laid the groundwork for the future. It was good for our return, for our security, and it served as a lesson for those who don't want to accept Azerbaijan as a strong state. It showed once again that no-one and nothing can stop us. I have already said this several times and want to say it again today. The events taking place on the Lachin road today have caused yet another anti-Azerbaijani hysteria. It is not so much Armenia here, but their foreign patrons, the states standing behind them that have started a smear campaign against Azerbaijan. And as we are meeting here today, another provocation is being prepared against us at the UN. For several days now, some particularly zealous countries have been determined to carry out their dirty plans against us. But they have been unable to achieve anything for several days now. They will continue their efforts next week. The developments on the Lachin road are clear as day. This is our legitimate right. Our natural resources are being exploited and our natural resources are being transported. Those exploiting our natural resources are criminals according to any international legal norm. This is our territory recognized by the international community, and we have a legitimate demand for our public representatives, first of all, representatives of state bodies, to be able to conduct monitoring there. They should see what is going on there and demand that all illegal activity be stopped. This is our legitimate demand. However, this situation is being presented in a completely distorted manner. There are lies again, there is slander again, and we all know who is doing that. Let me say again that the state of Armenia is not in the foreground here. But this will not deter us from anything. We have already proven this many times – the second Karabakh war and the two years after the war have shown this. No-one can influence us. There may be calls, there may be some statements, but we don't need to pay attention to them. We answer these calls simply out of political courtesy, but this will not change our position in the slightest.

I think that it is very important for all of us that the Western Azerbaijan Community should function in a more organized manner – it is important both for the people from Western Azerbaijan and for all our people in general. I believe that we should now do this work in a more consistent manner. In other words, the organization has been established, the community is there, and state bodies have provided and will continue to provide their support. I will issue further instructions. Therefore, I believe that the community should continue its work in several directions. Of course, the activity of this community should be more visible in the country. The activity of this community can prove very important for Azerbaijan.

At the same time, I think that the Community should have an international agenda that would be equally important. Because we must communicate these realities to the world community, just as we done with Karabakh. We have actually been able to completely reverse the distorted perception of the Karabakh conflict that was shaped in the early 1990s. The information war and the second Karabakh war showed that it is not an unimportant issue. Therefore, the activity of the Community abroad is of special importance here. Exhibitions, presentations and international conferences should be organized. Actions should be held together with Azerbaijani diaspora organizations. We have diaspora organizations in many countries, and this year we held a historic congress of Azerbaijani diaspora organizations in Shusha. Contacts should be established with political circles, media and legislative bodies of different countries. In other words, we should seek respect for our legitimate rights. This is a right enshrined in all international conventions.

Western Azerbaijanis are a community that has been illegally deported many times. Their rights must be restored and they must be able to return to their native lands. When I say this, I can foresee another hysteria in Armenia about Azerbaijan coming and invading them. No! We want to do it peacefully. We want to secure our rights through peaceful means. And let me say again, all conventions recognize this right. Therefore, in order to achieve this, we must also be more active at the international level. I believe that the Community should have a reliable digital platform, a domain. It should contain information about historical facts, our historical sites, palaces, mosques and cities destroyed by the Armenians, facts related to Azerbaijan's historical heritage erased by the Armenians. For example, people in the world are beginning to know this. And they are asking – we asked this question, the representatives of Azerbaijan did, the people dealing with this issue did – show us where the historical center of Iravan is. Where is the historical center of Iravan? If you are saying that it is supposedly the oldest city in the world, where is its historical center?

Look at other countries of the South Caucasus – Azerbaijan, Georgia, our cities, most of our cities have historical sites and historical centers – whether it is Baku, Ganja, Nakhchivan, Sheki, Gabala or any other city. How can it be possible that there is no historical center in Iravan? Let them answer this straightforward question. The answer is clear as day. This historical center was the historical heritage of the Azerbaijani people, which they have destroyed. Under the guise of urban development, they have destroyed all our historical buildings, including the Iravan Castle and the Sardar Palace. So all this should be exposed. In other words, apart from the political and legal side of any issue, the historical side of it is also important. Therefore, our work should be based on this history.

As for the legal side, we should think together and international lawyers should be involved. The state of Azerbaijan will help here as well. They will show us at the international level how we could realize this desire and right of return.

Of course, our history books should be updated. Books were published in a certain period, including a book reflecting the names of our historical cities and villages. You are the author of that book. I have seen it. But have many people seen it in Azerbaijan? No. I don't know what print-run it had. You did it on your own initiative and to the best of your abilities. But we have to do it at state level. That brochure should be translated into all languages. It should also have an electronic carrier. It should be translated into foreign languages. So this promotion work is absolutely necessary.

I believe that an international conference on Western Azerbaijan should be held in Baku once a year or every two years. We will invite scientists, archaeologists and historians from the countries we consider our friends, so that we could hold a prestigious international conference. In other words, a number of steps need to be taken so that this topic stays on the agenda, so that it is even included on the international agenda. Because Armenia today is a mono-ethnic state. When we say this, we are rightly telling the world community that this is unacceptable. What other country of the Eurasian continent and the region we are located in is mono-ethnic? The question is why it is specifically Armenia that is a mono-ethnic state? The answer is clear – they did not allow other nations to live there. They have expelled all ethnicities from there in every possible way, killed some, threatened others, and burned people’s houses. They have expelled all other nations from there and established a state for themselves in someone else's land. Armenia was never present in this region before. The present-day Armenia is our land. When I repeatedly said this before, they tried to object to me and claim that I have territorial claims. I am saying this as a historical fact. If someone can substantiate a different theory, let them come forward.

When were the Armenian people transferred to our lands? We all know this perfectly well. When were they transferred to Karabakh? When were they transferred to Zangazur? Who were they transferred by? How and for what purpose? We know all this very well. They never had a state in this territory, in the South Caucasus. If it ever happened – and it is not yet clear whose state they want to claim to be their own – it happened somewhere else. Therefore, we must present them in a focused and organized manner, in a correct form. And I am sure we will achieve that.

In parallel with this, I believe that we should also work on a concept of return to Western Azerbaijan together. Now that the Karabakh conflict has been resolved, this is the issue on our agenda. Of course, it was probably premature to talk about it before the Karabakh conflict was resolved. But I think we should not waste any time now. A Concept of Return should be developed. Again, it should be a peaceful concept, as they say. We should proceed from the provisions of all international conventions that are acceptable to us and seek our rights on the basis of that. There must be a Concept of Return. Many, the vast majority of our historical dwelling sites are now empty. We know that. We know our past well. Every person from Western Azerbaijan knows the places where their great-grandfathers lived. This information can be obtained in different ways these days. Nobody lives in most of the places where Azerbaijanis used to live. Armenia as a whole is now going through a period of depopulation. People are leaving it. There is no natural growth, but at the same time, the intolerable political situation, repressions, actual dictatorship and economic difficulties make them leave. Our villages are being destroyed. We can't tolerate that. This is why we have to work on the Concept of Return. This should be an authoritative document. Of course, there will definitely be other offers. I simply wanted to share my thoughts on your future activities during this meeting today.

Of course, I will wait for your suggestions. The community should attach great importance to this work both within its own capabilities and with the support of the Azerbaijani state. I am sure that we will achieve it.

I must say once again that this place was not chosen for the community by accident. It has a symbolic meaning. The natives of Karabakh who used to occupy this building have either returned to Karabakh or are preparing to do so. The Western Azerbaijanis living here will also return, Inshallah.

x x x

Other speakers at the event included Chairman of the Board of the Western Azerbaijan Community, MP of the Milli Majlis Aziz Alakbarov, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Director of the Institute of Mathematics and Mechanics, corresponding Member of ANAS Misir Mardanov, Chairperson of the Women's Council, MP Malahat Ibrahimgizi, Chairman of the Council of Elders, MP, Academician Ahliman Amiraslanov, Member of the Supervisory Board, Rector of Azerbaijan University of Architecture and Construction, Professor Gulchohra Mammadova and Member of the Supervisory Board, People's Poet Vahid Aziz.

x x x

The head of state then made a closing speech.

Closing speech by President Ilham Aliyev 

- Thank you very much. Of course, all of the suggestions made here will be extensively analyzed. In fact, I will also wait for the suggestions that have not been expressed today. Let me also note that I think this activity should be more targeted. For example, the newspapers and public associations working individually today should now join their forces. This was the case when the Western Azerbaijan Community was created. There were separate institutions, public and non-governmental organizations, but on our recommendation, all this was brought together, which will lead to a more focused activity. All information resources such as newspapers and domains, as I said, should have a digital platform. Work should be done in a focused manner and within the framework of a single concept and policy. And the main goal of this is our return. Now the Great Return Program for Karabakh is being implemented. Inshallah, there will come a time when we will develop a second Great Return Program.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much for all the kind words about me. In the past, I usually spent December 24 with the IDPs. I never celebrate my birthday, I only celebrate it with my family. And I think today is no exception and I am celebrating it with my family.

When I turned 50, I visited the IDPs in Aghjabadi. And I told them that the day would come when they would welcome me to their native land, I would visit their land, and that day has come. Nine years after that day, we were in Shusha, and our flag was flying in Shusha today. I celebrated my 60th birthday on the Jidir Duzu. Before that, I attended the opening of a military unit in liberated Hadrut. I certainly had some ideas for December 24 of this year. This should also have a symbolic meaning. So I thought that the most appropriate event would be this meeting today.

I have to say one other thing. When the Karabakh lands were under occupation, a certain mood of pessimism had spread in the society over the years, primarily among the internally displaced persons. In other words, the manifestations of that were already visible. I have had dozens of meetings with displaced people and in recent years, I had been seeing that their hopes were running low, and this was natural. I thought it was quite natural. Of course, I could not tell them when, how and what would happen. I tried to convince them that the day would come. But it was natural, because 30 years of longing for the homeland inevitably have a negative impact on anyone. However, we have been living as a victorious nation for two years now. I want to say again today that the key thing is not to lose faith. We believed that we would return. I had not lost that faith for a single day. We must believe, work and be active to bring this holy day closer. Then we will achieve what we want.

During the years of occupation, I often thought that there was no justice in the world. I am sure that the absolute majority of the Azerbaijani people shared this view. Because it was hard to imagine such injustice. In other words, although we were right, it was completely incomprehensible that we were treated so unfairly. But confidence and faith in justice is in people's own hands. We have restored justice with our own strength, at the cost of the blood of our martyrs, thanks to the sacrifice of our ghazis, thanks to the unity of our entire people and our Army. We have restored justice and set an extraordinary example on a global scale. Today, our military operation is studied in the world's leading military schools. The determination, perseverance and unbending spirit of our people have become bywords.

During these more than two years since the second Karabakh war, I have had many meetings with my foreign colleagues, and I can say that most of them wondered how we made it happen, how we had achieved this Victory. And I told them in order to explain this, you should live our life, live these 30 years. How can I describe it? Confidence, unity, faith in justice, faith in strength! Therefore, as a people who have won this historic Victory, we have really created a completely new situation on a global scale. Those who lost their faith also believe now, they want to be like us, they want to act like us, they consult with us.

This is why I want to say again, while celebrating December 24 together with you, that we and Western Azerbaijanis should never lose faith. We have to believe and, at the same time, we have to take steps, we have to be active, we have to work hard. The day will come when we will have such a wonderful meeting in Western Azerbaijan and we will remember this day. Thank you.

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