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.
Once celebrated Aghdam is a collection of ruins
“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 is situated 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 was negotiated by Russia and ended six weeks of fierce fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which turned out worse for the former.
Certainly hundreds of people on both sides were killed, but there may even be 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 areas handed over to Azerbaijan. They often set their houses on fire as a farewell gesture.
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 looking 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 as a stable for cows and pigs for years, to the anger of the Azeris.