25th anniversary of occupation of Aghdam city by Armenia

By Efsane Elesgerli  

My native city is known as ghost city in the world

25th anniversary of occupation of Aghdam city by Armenia

“… I sat down in the train from Baku onthe night of July 22wishing to return to my native city Aghdam. When the shelling became intensive my father had sent me back to Baku, to my relatives’. I decided to return to our house, because I wanted to be with my family, on my birthday. After moving a lot, our train was stopped in the middle way, it was prohibited to move rather, it was stopped near the place which was called Tekchinar. I didn’t understand what was happening.Then I knew  thatAghdam was already seized by Armenians. I was so sad, because I had no information whether my family were alive or not. So, July 23is the saddest day for me…”

Azerbaijani civilian Nail Bashir ogluHuseynovwas just a 15 year-old schoolboy   studying at school N3 in Aghdam when Azerbaijani cultural city Aghdamwas seized by Armenian forces on July 23 1993, he said.  According to him, the war damaged his childhood and he can’t forget terrible days till that time. “If I can return to my village, I can find our house even closing my eyes. Because every corner is familiar to me. I often search our street and house on Google earth map. I become very sad that Aghdamwas destroyed totally, our home was destroyed,Aghdam is known as a ghost city now.”— noted  NailHuseynov born on July 23  in 1978 in Muradbeyli village of Aghdam district.

Everywhere is full of ruins, the damaged  walls of  the abandoned  houses and  some green bushes can be seen among ruins in the city. The only one of the twin minarets of the Jumamosgue raises in Azerbaijani city Aghdam–a ghost city which became symbol of ghost city and it is called “Caucasian Hiroshima” after occupation of the city by Armenian forces on July 23 1993.

In 2008, Lonely Planet magazine labelledAghdam the “Hiroshima of the Caucasus”.  Azerbaijani city Aghdam was added to the list of “Ghost Cities” by the online version of Al Jazeera in 2010. The minarets are only survived ones after Armenian shelling Aghdam  in 1993 and everywherecan be seen — ruins of buildings, damaged walls of houses, where Azerbaijani inhabitants lived,  from the top of the mosque minaret as it is the highest point in a ghost city.

The ancient and historical mosque built by the architect KarbalayiSafikhanKarabakhi from 1868 to 1870, was one of the important religious centres in the city. This mosque also witnessed the tragical moments during Karabakh war, as the corpses of Azerbaijani civilians and soldiers who were killed during the war, were placed and prepared for funeral ceremony, the akhund of Juma mosque Barat Bagirov, remembers these sad days in the 25th eve of anniversary of occupation of Aghdam  every year. “After military operations, the condition in Aghdam became tense,  the martyrs were brought to mosque everyday. I organized their funeral process according to Islam rules and helped to send them to their families.

On July 22, 18 corpses were brought to Juma mosque. They were terrible days. Till the midnight I shroud them and did funeral pray for their souls. There were only 4 corpses left. 2 of them were civilians, another 2 were soldiers with uniform. It was  July 23 morning, when I  returned to mosque for their funeral ceremony. At this time one BTR tank approached to mosque full of soldiers. One of them knew me and said that “Barat, you helped a lot of soldiers, and habitants. The Armenians invade the district. You have to leave it. It was a very sad moment for me to leave Aghdam. I had a lot of religious books, holy Quran in myprivate  library at home. I could take none of them.  If  I could return to my house…”

Akhund BaratBaghirovcould take only the keys from the Juma mosque door, he says. “These keys are valuable for me, because it reminds me Aghdam. Because I opened and closed the mosque I prayed with these keys since 1978 till the occupation of the city.” Juma mosque in Aghdam was one of the mosques which accepted a lot of martyrs during Karabakh war. After Khojaly genocide was committed by Armenian militaries with support of the 366th  infantry guards regiment of the USSR in 26 February, a lot of corpses were brought to AghdamJuma mosque.

Reza Deghati,  aworld-renowned  photographer, the author of a lot of photos in Karabakh, especially in Aghdam, who covered the civilians tried to find their relatives between  the corpses brought to Aghdam mosque says that he visited Karabakh after the Khojaly massacre happened in 1992, February 26. “The families  fled from Khojaly in 1992 and gathered in Aghdamcentre, desparately, waiting for any news from their families. Sometimes international Red Cross representatives brought the corpses of the civilians who were killed trying to flee from massacre “-he noted. While taking photos whitnessing human tragedy were difficult moments, photographer Reza Deghati says. “These were very tough moments. Because you  see how the families gathering around the corpses try  to find their family members in Agdam mosque”—world renowned photographer noted.

Nail’s childhood memories about Aghdam full of sound of bullets

Nail Huseynov says that he still remembers the sounds of shell in Aghdam.”We were children and didn’t understand what happens, but we whitnessed the sounds of shell every day and it was difficult to determine where the shell would fell in. We were usually so excited in these moments. Our life was in danger any time. We could only lie down and pray to Allah (God) in such moments with frightened whispers“ —he said looking at photos of Aghdam. But he has good memories too, he talks about it while meeting with his schoolmates. “I always remember my  best days and memories in Aghdam and I can never forget my native village. I usually meet my schoolmates and friends and our topic is Aghdam and our memories about it, we remember our childhood in Aghdam every year, though it is difficult to recall it after the occupation of the city.”  Nail Huseynov is one of the fans of “Karabakh” football team of Aghdam city and supports his team as most of other Azerbaijani fans as he did it in Aghdam city: ““Imaret” stadium in Aghdam was favorite place for  me in my childhood. I usually spent most of my time there. I used to go to the stadium with my schoolmate ElnurShirinov and supported the “Karabakh” football team in every match. Now we are without Aghdam, but our team is our dream and voice to the world.”

Impressions about “Caucasus Hiroshima”

The impressions of  a lot of foreign journalists, bloggers and etc. cover the real tragic situation of the city, who  visited the occupied lands of Azerbaijan, especially Aghdam after occupation of the city. “The floor in the mosque is entirely dirtied with manure of cattle, which wanders on the ruins of Agdam in daytime.”  —  AndreiGalafeyev, a photographer who visited the mosque in 2007, reported about his visit to the ghost city. His photographs showed that mosque is used as a cowshed.

British journalist Tomas de Waal wrote about Aghdam in his book “Black Garden:  Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war”, what he saw in a ghost city :“It was a lucid spring day and view was clear all the way to the magnificent white peaks of the Caucasus, sixty miles to the north. But instead my eyes were drown to what was a small Hiroshima lying below. Aghdam used to be fifty thousand inhabitants. Now its completely empty. After the Armenians captured the town in 1993, they slowly stripped every street and house. Thistles and brambles swarmed over the wrecked houses. Looking out from the minaret into the devastation, I puzzled again over the reasons for this apocalypse.”

Former US diplomat,  former United States Ambassador to Azerbaijan and former US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group MetthewBrayza said in one of his interviews about what he whitnessed in the occupied lands: “What I have seen in Aghdam horrified me. A big city has been turned to ruins. I am a pole. Occupation of Agdam reminded me of the fate that Warsaw had encountered after World War II. That time the fascists destroyed Warsaw.”

“The mosque seemed to be the only building left standing in Aghdam. Its two minarets, decorated with blue mosaics, can be seen from a long way off. When we climbed to the top of a minaret, a shiver went down our spines: as far as the eye could see were ruins”—ArtyomRefimov, Russian journalist noted in his article “Pomegranates from Aghdam”, with the subheading “How I was thrown out of Karabakh” published in lenta.ru in 2010.

The Armenians invaded most of Aghdam`s territory on July 23, 1993. They occupied 882 sq. km. of the 1,094 sq. km. territory of Aghdam, including one city and 80 villages. Some 128,000 people became internally displaced persons. Over 6,000 people died during the fighting in Aghdam. About 130,000 displaced persons from Aghdam are settled in 875 settlements of 59 regions across Azerbaijan.

Pakistan is one of the first countries which recognized Azerbaijan’s independence in December 13 1991. It has not established diplomatic relations with Armenia so far due to the fact that it has occupied Azerbaijani territories. Besides, The Pakistani Senate adopted a resolution which condemns the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenians and the genocide committed by Armenian armed forces in Khojaly in February 1992. Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and the occupied lands of Azerbaijan by Armenia  arealways one of the main topics, as Pakistan supports Azerbaijan’s position during the meetings between the two countries’ officials.

Azerbaijan and Pakistan show resolute position in supporting each other`s fair stance on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Kashmir problem. These issues were emphasized in one-on-one meeting of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan IlhamAliyev and President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain  in 2015 in Baku.

The writer is a free lance journalist of Azerbaijan

 

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