By Aslan Aslanov
The Patriotic War, as the call in Baku the last 44-day armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan started on September 27 and ended with a decisive military victory for Azerbaijan.
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 driving out the invaders 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. Following Armenia’s defeat, President Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva traveled to the liberated districts, among them the city of Agdam which had been turned into a ghost town by Armenian armed forces. The president vowed to rebuild all territories ravaged by Armenian junta which controlled the area for three decades.
On 8 November, the day of the liberation of Shusha from the occupation, the victorious Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev visited the Alley of Honor, where he paid a tribute to the memory of Azerbaijan’s 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 will. 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 visits to other countries, meetings with heads of states and government officials, 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 efforts.
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 that’s it”. He said he would build a road to Jabrayil (one of formerly occupied districts of Azerbaijan). 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 launch a counteroffensive.
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.
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 December 1, 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.
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 November 8, 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…
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.
Aslan Aslanov is the Chairman of the Board of AZERTAC and Vice-President of OANA