Aghdam returns, with a hope of a new Azerbaijan rising from the rubble

By | Rachel Brooks

November 20, 2020

Above image source from social media circulation, fair use. Image shows destruction of the tea house mentioned within. 

As Armenia cedes Aghdam officially back into the hands of Azerbaijan, the road for rebuilding begins. Azerbaijan will pursue the road of recovery for its territories, despite the challenges presented by the international biases against the circumstances of Azerbaijani victory. The return of Aghdam was reported by both AzerNews and the Associated Press. 

AzerNews reported that, now that the 44-day conflict has passed, Azerbaijan will commence with its transnational projects in the region. The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline is being watched for the new opportunities it presents to the post-conflict South Caucasus nation. BP has optimistic views about the completion of the TAP. Now that all progress can commence without severe anticipated disruptions, the first delivery of gas from Azerbaijan to Europe is expected by the end of 2020, less than two full months from the date of this report. 

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline is part of the Southern Gas Corridor. BP states that the TAP is the final leg of the Southern Gas Corridor. The TAP will push oil from the refinery at the Shah Deniz II refinery in Azerbaijan to Europe. The TAP connects with the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline at the Greek-Turkish border, the TAP across Northern Greece, Albania, and the Adriatic Sea. From there, it comes ashore in Southern Italy and connects with the Italian natural gas network. This is citing the TAP At A Glance company page. 

The Associated Press reported that, while reclaiming Aghdam is a massive victory for Azerbaijani, a “searing anger” remains as the people return to the region to find its destruction. The Azerbaijani population was driven out of Aghdam in 1993. Aghdam is one of three districts that Armenia is required to cede to Azerbaijan by the end of the year. Aghdam was scheduled to be returned on November 20, Kalbajar followed it on November 25, and Lachin, a strategically vital area, will be returned by December 1. 

United in their furor of the treatment of Aghdam, Azerbaijan has launched an informal memorial campaign for the region, recalling how it was as opposed to how they found it today. Such sites include a tea house, built by Naik Sammadov in 1986, which has been reduced to virtual twigs as of the present. 

Another was the Aghdam Bread Museum, which opened in 1983. It was the second bread museum in the world and the first of its kind in the old USSR. It was destroyed in 1992. 

Another was the Aghdam Juma Mosque, which was built by Karbalayi Karbaghi from 1868-1870 and was brought to ruins by 1993.

Then there was the Shahbulag Castle, built upon the request of Panah Ali Khan from 1751-1752. It was later turned into an archaeological site, but the mosque on campus was itself destroyed. 

Scene after scene of the familiar and beloved Aghdam from memory has vanished along the warpath. Azerbaijan will be a new nation in its reclaimed territories by necessity. The old world is gone, and the new must be built on its ashes. 

With every scattered stone, the people of the new Azerbaijan count questions about the post-war days. Yet, the future looks a bit brighter, as the western world’s bias in previous rhetoric to the Armenian cause, begins to recognize the requirement for fair treatment under international law that the Azerbaijani people also have.

In its report, the Associated Press, at last, acknowledged that the mosques of Aghdam were used as cattle pens for swine in the days after the war. Through a slight change in pace for the western rhetoric, formally acknowledging the facts and not merely the Armenian opinion of the region, there is a shift toward greater hope in world diplomatic relations with the region. 

The Azerbaijani president and Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev toted “big plans” for Aghdam in the wake of its humiliation.

“We are interested in putting an end to enmity in the South Caucasus, and forging normal, businesslike relations,” tweeted Aliyev on November 20.

Aghdam stands like a skeleton prepared to be brought to life once again, with the repatriation of Azerbaijani and the flow of infrastructure and new economic projects in the region.