Led by President and Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the glorious victory of Azerbaijani army in the Patriotic War has finally put the lid on the long-lasting conflict with Armenia, one of the most tragic in the history of the last decades.

The 44-day war, which was raging in September-November 2020, resulted in Azerbaijani Forces smashing Armenian occupants, sending them into disarray and effectively destroying them.

Armenia's capitulation was a logical consequence of the aggressive policy it had pursued for almost 30 years towards Azerbaijan by seizing 20 percent of its lands.
Visit of President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva to liberated Fizuli, Zangilan, Lachin and Jabrayil districts in February 2021.

Armenian Territorial Claims As a Step Towards War
It was ungrounded Armenian claims to historical lands of Azerbaijan that triggered the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Starting late 1980s, the weakening Union's central government enabled Armenian SSR leadership, Armenian community representatives in the Soviet government, and Armenian diaspora overseas to start the action to break Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) away from the Azerbaijan SSR and incorporate it with the Armenian SSR.

In late 1987, another deportation of Azerbaijanis began in Armenia, the third time in the 20th century. They were expelled from the very Armenia that had been set up on historical lands of Azerbaijani Khanate of Irevan. This expulsion was especially relentless, with over 250 thousand Azerbaijani people driven away from Armenia.

Armenians held the first rally on 13 February 1988 in NKAO center, the town of Khankendi (then Stepanakert), demanding Karabakh be taken away from the Azerbaijan SSR and incorporated with the Armenian SSR.
Armenian MPs in the NKAO Soviet of People's Deputies voted on 20 February 1988 for NKAO's incorporation with the Armenian SSR. That session was held in the absence of Azerbaijani and other national minority members. A day later, on 21 February, the CPSU Central Committee adopted the Resolution "On Events in Nagorno-Karabakh", branding the regional Soviet's resolution "a coup instigated by nationalistic elements".

The events took a tragic turn on 22 February, when Armenians fired at peaceful Azerbaijanis who rallied against the above Soviet's resolution along the Khankendi-Agdam highway, in vicinity of the town of Askeran. Two young Azerbaijanis were killed as a result.

March 1988 saw the Karabakh and Krunk movements originating respectively in the capital of Armenia, the historical Azerbaijani town of Irevan, and in Khankendi. These associations looked to nothing but annexing Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

The Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR adopted on 14 June the resolution to "incorporate" NKAO. Protesting this decision, the Azerbaijan SSR Supreme Soviet issued a statement on 17 June, reconfirming NKAO's affiliation with Azerbaijan. And on 18 July, the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium adopted the decree that stated it was not possible to revise national and territorial division of any of Azerbaijan SSR or Armenian SSR. Guided by the respective provision of the USSR Constitution, it thereby demonstrated its commitment to the republican territorial integrity principle.

As the overall Soviet structure collapsed, the region plunged in chaos.

Armenia would stop at nothing to seize a part of Azerbaijan's lands; it employed nationalist groups and Armenia's government agencies to boost its territorial claims to Azerbaijan. Armenian aggressive policies clearly reflect the decrees adopted by the Armenian SSR Supreme Soviet; the 1 December 1989 decree prescribed "the reunification of the Armenian SSR and Nagorno-Karabakh", and the one dated 9 January 1990 included "NKAO social and economic development plan into Armenian SSR's 1990 plan".

A new political reality that emerged after August 1991 events was a clear sign of Soviet power collapse. The so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" was self-declared on 2 September 1991, which encompassed NKAO and Shaumyan (countryside) district of Azerbaijan SSR, and the pseudo-referendum was held on 10 December.

To counter these activities, the Azerbaijan SSR Supreme Soviet stripped Nagorno-Karabakh of its autonomous status on 26 November 1991.

Hitherto putting forward outright territorial claims, Armenia launched military operations against Azerbaijan without declaring a war. The conflict entered a new "hot" phase.

War and Hardships in 1990s
During the war, Armenian militants never bothered distinguishing combatants from civilians; they mercilessly murdered peaceful Azerbaijan people, razing their homes to the ground. With their lands taken by occupants, unarmed villagers fell victims to nothing short of genocide; Armenia's military-political leaders were striving to crumple up the opponent and cleanse the region from Azerbaijani people. They showed unprecedented cruelty to break Azerbaijani spirit and gain psychological edge in the warfare.

Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan culminated in a bloody massacre in Khojaly. Openly backed by 366th infantry regiment of the former Soviet army and illegal militants, Armenian forces captured the town on the night from 25 to 26 February 1992 and drowned it in blood.

Armenians deployed 10 tanks, 16 APCs, and 9 IFV for the assault on Khojaly. When it began, nearly 2500 dwellers, who were still in the town, were trying to flee for their life. They did not make it, though: they were shot by Armenian patrols or taken captive. Those who tried to cross the mountains, mostly women and children, froze to death. Only a few managed to reach the closest Azerbaijan-controlled area, the town of Agdam.
The bloody massacre claimed lives of 613 people, including:

- 63 children;

- 106 women;

- 70 elders.
Outcomes of the massacre:

- 8 families were wiped out to the last man;

- 56 people were brutally murdered;

- 27 families had only 1 person left;

- 26 children lost both parents;

- 130 children lost one of the parents;

- 230 families lost a bread winner;

- 487 people became disabled (including 76 children);

- 1275 people were taken captive;

- 1165 hostages were freed;

- 150 people went missing.
Serzh Sargsyan, the would-be President of Armenia, was chairing the Self-Defense Forces Committee of separatists in the times of Khojaly Massacre, so his recollections represent one of critical evidences of military crimes committed by Armenian side.
Asked by the journalist whether he had any regrets about the deaths of thousands of people, Mr. Sargsyan answered quite unabashedly: "Our cultures are not compatible. We can live side by side but not within each other."

Not only are such words from the mouth of a man from the highest political and military echelons of Armenia self-explanatory, but they nullify any attempts to deny Armenia's responsibility for crimes it committed against peaceful Azerbaijani people during the standoff.
"Before Khojaly, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We were able to break that [stereotype]. And that's what happened." *

* From interview with British journalist Thomas de Waal.

Serzh Sargsyan
The Khojaly Massacre is one of the most heinous crimes in the history of humanity, but, alas, by far not the only large-scale and bloody episode in Armenia's military aggression against Azerbaijan.

Another crime against humanity was committed on 28 August 1992, when Armenian militants brutally murdered 24 peaceful Azerbaijanis in Balligaya village (Goranboy district), including a 93-year-old woman and six little children, a half-year infant among them. Some of the bodies were burned to ash. 3 little children were orphaned as a result.

Armenians also committed atrocities in many other Azerbaijani villages, such as Jamilli, Mesheli, Kerkijahan, Malibayli, Garadaghli, Agdaban etc.

Salvation of People
The then political situation in Azerbaijan made matters even worse; short of a strong political leader, the republic plunged into chaos, lawlessness, and anarchy. A paralyzed government, economic crisis, and a threat of civil war put the country on the brink of disintegration.
Soldiers of the Azerbaijani army in the early 90s
As he was alienated from political processes at that time, a prominent statesman and Azerbaijan's national leader Heydar Aliyev was unable to alleviate the conflict, which in turn was giving the upper hand to the Armenian side.

With its inherent wisdom, Azerbaijani nation in that critical moment saw its salvation in its great son Heydar Aliyev. It became crystal clear that no-one but Heydar Aliyev could save the nation from a fate worse than death, and the nation bestowed him with a historical mission and entrusted him with charting its course.
Return of National Leader Heydar Aliyev to Baku
When it happened, all illegal armed formations in Azerbaijan were disarmed and a civil war thwarted as a result. The country enjoyed a period of stability and prosperity; crucial decisions were made that prompted political and economic reforms. A strategic objective was set to develop Azerbaijan as a democratic republic; the Constitution of independent Azerbaijan was adopted and an ideological foundation of the state was laid. The economic sector also underwent large-scale reforms with market-based economy assumed as its governing principle.

Azerbaijan managed to break through the media-induced walls of silence and join reputable international organizations, which subsequently made critical decisions and adopted resolutions that unequivocally supported Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and demanded Armenian forces withdraw from its occupied lands.
National leader Heydar Aliyev and Ilham Aliyev with IDPs.
The national leader always cherished a dream of liberating Karabakh from the foes and restoring Azerbaijan's integrity. He was convinced that Azerbaijan could only achieve fair resolution of the conflict if strong, truly independent, and highly recognized on a global scale. Many years have passed since Heydar Aliyev sagely said: "We are going to resolve the Karabakh issue. We need time. No-one can take Azerbaijan's lands away. Our occupied lands will be surely taken back, whatever the cost."

The Great Victory
The great leader's wish has come true under his worthy successor, President and Commander-in-Chief of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev; the brave Azerbaijani army under his command liberated our lands from Armenian occupation.
President Ilham Aliyev, during his visit to the Vagif mausoleum in Azerbaijani city of Shusha, demonstrates a photograph of National Leader Heydar Aliyev, taken in the same building several decades earlier.
Azerbaijan therefore resolved the issue on its own, restoring its territorial integrity and completely changing the regional geopolitical picture. This resolution came in place of years-long peace talks, which proved inefficient through Armenia's unconstructive position – it was definitely looking to freeze the conflict – and an ambiguous approach displayed by international mediators in person of the OSCE Minsk Group and its co-chairs, the US, Russia, and France.

Gaining strength over years, Azerbaijan proved its unquestionable superiority on the battlefield in April 2016, when Armenia launched a large-scale offensive against our country, killing 6 civilians (including 1 child) and wounding 26. Azerbaijani military forces counterattacked, liberating a portion of occupied lands.
With a power change in Armenia, when Kocharyan-Sargsyan's junta was "thrown into the dustbin of history", certain hopes for constructive talks rose anew in 2018. But statements and actions of the new government in person of Prime Minister Nikol Pashnyan left little doubt that Armenia would stick to the territorial status quo and even work to finally annex the occupied lands.

While previous leadership had still appreciated international political and legal responsibility for their military occupation policy and annexation and tried to camouflage it in statements along the lines of "self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenian population", the new PM, deliberately disrupting the format and essence of peace talks, openly demonstrated Armenia's true intentions to the world.

The negotiation process suffered a serious blow when he suggested including the puppet regime in the talks and relocating the so-called parliament of the breakaway entity from Khankendi to the ancient Azerbaijani town of Shusha, or threatened Azerbaijan by a "new war for new territories", and, finally, uttered his signature line "Karabakh is Armenia, full stop".

Azerbaijani leader gave a clear response to these slurs. Speaking during the annual session of Valdai Discussion Club on 3 October 2019, President said: "The entire world recognizes Karabakh, whether upper or lower, as an integral part of Azerbaijan. Even Armenia does not recognize this illegal entity. Karabakh is a historically native Azerbaijani land. So Karabakh is Azerbaijan, exclamation mark."
President Ilham Aliyev dealt another crushing blow to PM Nikol Pashinyan in a discussion during the Munich Security Conference (15 February 2020), once more demonstrating Azerbaijan's unconditional superiority over Armenia.

His brilliant eloquence, exquisite debating skills, profound knowledge of history and issue under discussion, confidence in every move, and subtle irony resulted in a decisive checkmate that shattered the policy of lies Yerevan had built for decades. Even Armenian communities recognized Aliyev's triumph and Pashinyan's bitter defeat in those debates.
However brilliant, Azerbaijan's victory in the diplomatic field could not sober up Armenian leadership.

Armenia engaged in a military provocation once again, this time on the state border with Azerbaijan. Their artillery shelled on 12 July 2020 Tovuz District, killing several Azerbaijani soldiers and a 76-year old civilian and seriously damaging civil infrastructure facilities. Their intention was to escalate tensions and drag other countries into the conflict. Azerbaijan's retaliation was swift; Armenia suffered a military defeat, effectively recognized by seeking military support with the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

That, however, did not teach them a lesson. Using various warfare (including heavy artillery), Armenian forces shelled settlements and military positions of Azerbaijan on 27 September 2020. Azerbaijani government had no other option but to answer the opponent in kind; the enemy assault was stopped and it was dealt a number of devastating blows, having to accept the defeat.

From the first days of war, Azerbaijan faced a slander campaign that threw dirt at the nation's sacred liberation cause. Both Armenia's and other countries' media were regularly posting fake news along the lines of "Turkish military and foreign mercenaries fighting for Azerbaijan".

These false accusations were also repeated by senior politicians in some other countries as well, although not justified with a single fact.

On the other hand, nobody ever denounced Armenia, which committed crimes against humanity in the days of war by subjecting peaceful towns and villages of Azerbaijan to heavy rocket shelling. Affected were not only those close to the frontline, but also those far away from it. Armenia intentionally struck non-combatants and civilian structures in Azerbaijani towns of Ganja, Barda, Terter, Naftalan, Mingachevir, and Aghjabadi.

Not unlike military crimes they committed during the first Karabakh war, this was a tactic of deterrence and terror, only this time peaceful Azerbaijani people were wiped out using the warfare and missile launchers of great destructive force, including those prohibited by international conventions.

That the Armenian side had used Scud missiles and Smerch rockets against both combatants and civil population of Azerbaijan was branded by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty İnternational "cruel and reckless". It is also noteworthy that Amnesty International has registered ballistic missle strikes on civilian population in Ganja and the use of cluster munitions against Barda District.

Ganja, Azerbaijan's second-most populous city with half a million people, sustained several Scud ballistic missile strikes on 4, 11, and 17 October 2020, killing 32 civilians and injuring 143. The Smerch rocket barrage on 28 October 2020 killed 21 civilians and wounded 70 in the town of Barda, located outside the conflict zone. The shelling of Terter, Aghjabadi, and Goranboy district centers continued throughout the 44-day war, with the Armenian side frequently using the banned and extremely dangerous cluster munitions.

Consequences of the missile attacks of the Armenian armed forces on the peaceful cities of Azerbaijan.
According to the General Prosecutor's Office of Azerbaijan, Armenian military forces' crimes committed against Azerbaijan's peaceful population between 27 September and 16 November 2020 resulted in 94 civilian casualties; 414 people were wounded. Besides, 3410 residential houses, 120 apartment buildings, and 512 civil structures were damaged beyond repair.

It must be emphasized that Azerbaijani army never targeted the peaceful Armenian population.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly touched upon that matter.

For instance, he highlighted the civilian casualties minimization issue as he responded to Ukrainian Inter TV channel's question during the press conference he gave to local and foreign media on 26 February 2021.

"This was one of the main directives that I as Commander-in-Chief gave when we carried out the liberation operation. If you look at statistics, according to our data, the losses among the civilian population of the opposite side were minimal.

According to the most conservative estimates, this is less than 40 people, given that losses among their servicemen were somewhere between 6,500-7,000 people. Also, taking into account our observations and facts, most of the so-called civilian population of the opposite side died while they were carrying out actions related to military operations: they were there near artillery weapons and provided ammunition, so when we destroyed these weapons, they were affected.

Therefore, the Armenian civilian population did not suffer in the war. Unfortunately, the Armenian side, on the contrary, sought to inflict maximum damage on the civilian population, and the bombing of Ganja, Barda, Tartar and other cities with ballistic missiles is evidence of that", said the Azerbaijani leader.

President said in each interview that Azerbaijani side has in its disposal irrefutable proof of Armenia involving mercenaries from France, USA, Greece, and other countries, as well as fighters from PKK, a terrorist organization recognized as such by many countries and the European Union alike.

He underscored that Azerbaijan has no need whatsoever to engage mythical "fighters" in the warfare.

- We have a strong regular army, and each time we dominate on the battlefield, busting the myth of "invincible Armenian army"

- It is Armenia that has a need of mercenaries, as it turned terror into one of the main pillars of its ideology

- It is Armenia that, using cluster and phosphorus munitions, has committed war crimes, which led to numerous casualties among dwellers of villages and towns of Azerbaijan far away from the combat zone and were reported by international human rights organizations

- Turkey and other countries have supported us – only politically and morally – and thereby have boosted our morale…

Broadcasted by the world's leading TV channels and cited by influential media, these clear messages from the mouth of Azerbaijani President brought the true realities of war to the public around the globe.

Each day of the Patriotic War, the entire Azerbaijani nation within and outside the country was sticking to their screens, hearts pounding, as Commander-in-Chief delivered his address, or happily reading his triumphal tweets.
Visit of President Ilham Aliyev to liberated Zangilan and Gubadli districts in December 2020.
Consistently ending with the line "Karabakh is ours! Karabakh is Azerbaijan!", each and every news of liberation of our villages and towns was met with tears and filled the hearts of millions of our compatriots with joy and happiness.

Azerbaijani nation demonstrated an unmatched solidarity and rallied around Commander-in-Chief and the national army, standing together under the banner of liberation of lands.

This unmatched strength of togetherness filled the hearts of Azerbaijani soldiers with courage and terrified the enemy.

Showing unprecedented heroism, brave Azerbaijani soldiers climbed steep rocks and moved through deep woods and ravines; sometimes armed only with light weapons, they were cleaning our lands from the enemy, losing the comrades they fought side by side. Martyrs' blood did not spill in vain; as Armenia capitulated on 10 November 2020, Azerbaijan restored the historical wrong and freed its lands from the enemy. The sacred Victory will go down in the annals of nation's history as a supreme fulfillment.
Speech by President Ilham Aliyev dedicated to the liberation of Azerbaijani city of Shusha.

Victors are Back!
The work is humming on liberated lands today, as the new stage of creation has begun. Prioritizing the restoration of liberated lands, President Ilham Aliyev has personally visited each district, town, village, where he has given instructions and followed up on them. Considering terrible consequences of Armenian vandalism – once blossoming villages have been razed to the ground, beautiful towns that used to bustle with life are but mere ghosts of their former self – a lot of complicated work needs to be done.
Visit of President Ilham Aliyev to liberated Zangilan and Gubadli districts demonstrated the colossal scale of the destruction committed by the Armenian aggressors.
The process has already commenced; our liberated districts enjoy large-scale infrastructure projects that look in the first place to secure safe, stable, and prosperous living for those who were expelled from their homes during the First Karabakh War and are now ready to come back home thanks to the Patriotic War that has put an end to Armenian occupation.

One may see how critical this work is by looking at President's decrees and instructions related to the development and endorsement of government-led liberated territories restoration programs, as well as at the Presidential Decree "On the Establishment of Karabakh Revival Fund" and "The Great Return" concept included in top five national social and economic development priorities in the document "Azerbaijan-2030".
President Ilham Aliyev laying the foundation for the airport, as well as the Fizuli-Shusha road in Fizuli region in January 2021.
These activities have built on the concept of "smart and clean" towns and villages of the future, construction of roads and utilities, and implementation of energy-saving processes. Each aspect is crucial, as the economy under restoration must be designed to satisfy people's needs, for those who will soon return to their native lands shall live their life in good conditions and have all they need.

It is not just economic aspect Azerbaijani leader commits to; a high importance is attached to human capital as the top condition to achieve high performance and improve quality of life.

"We have returned to these lands. We have returned as a heroic people, as a victorious state. We drove the enemy out of our native lands. We will rebuild all the destroyed cities and villages, life will return here, people will return here, and we will again show the world the greatness of our people. New period begins in our lives – a period of creation, development, and restoration of our lands", says Azerbaijani leader.
President Ilham Aliyev's address to the Azerbaijani people during his visit to city of Shusha in March 2021 dedicated to the celebration of Novruz Bayram.
…Today our nation has returned to our dear lands as a victor; it builds up and restores, and puts material resources and its very heart and soul into bringing life back to these places, where it is meant to be.

To us, it is a matter of honor!

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