Azerbaijani forces entered the ruined and largely abandoned city of Aghdam near the disputed Nagorno-Karrabach enclave on Friday. It was captured by Armenian forces in 1994 and is back in Azerbaijani hands under the terms of a recent ceasefire.
“Today, with a sense of endless pride, I inform my people about the liberation of Aghdam,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in a speech, reported. AP. “Aghdam is ours!”
The city and the region of the same name in which it lies are the first areas in a circle around Nagorno-Karabakh to be transferred to Azerbaijan. After a separatist war, not only that enclave, which is completely surrounded by Azerbaijan, but also surrounding regions came into Armenian hands.
The ceasefire came about at the mediation of Russia and ended six weeks of heavy fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which turned out worse for the former.
Certainly hundreds of people on both sides were killed, but possibly thousands of fatalities.
In Azerbaijan, the ceasefire counts as a victory, while many Armenians regard it as a bitter defeat. After the peace deal was announced, mass demonstrations took place in the Armenian capital Yerevan.
Many ethnic Armenians are moving out of the areas handed over to Azerbaijan. They often set their homes on fire as a farewell gesture.
Once celebrated Aghdam is a collection of ruins
For Azerbaijanis, regaining Aghdam doesn’t just taste sweet either: the city once had a population of 50,000 and was known for its historic white houses and a three-story tea house, but Aghdam is so dilapidated that it is described by some as the ‘Hiroshima of the Caucasus’.
After the city’s population was displaced by war violence in 1993, Aghdam was looted by Armenians who searched for loot and building materials. The only building in the city that is almost completely standing is the mosque. The interior is completely dilapidated: the prayer house was used by the Armenians for years as a stable for cows and pigs, to the anger of the Azeris.