By Vafa Ismayilova
Azerbaijan marks Victory Day on November 8, when Shusha, known as the crown of Karabakh, was liberated after almost three-decade Armenian occupation.
In November 2020, Armenia accepted its defeat and Azerbaijan’s historic victory ended six weeks of fighting in Karabakh.
Given the liberation of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, Shusha, five settlements, about 300 villages, strategic heights, as well as Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin, every step of the nation’s path to victory, which began on September 27, can be seen as a page of pride.
In all, 2,908 Azerbaijani soldiers got martyred in the war and six servicemen are still missing. During the legendary battle of Shusha, highly trained and skilled Azerbaijani special forces servicemen scaled cliffs and liberated Shusha from a brutal occupation.
As a result of the successful continuation of the victory march, the state flag of Azerbaijan was hoisted on November 8 in Shusha for the first time in 28 years. Despite efforts to Armenianize Shusha, the latter protected its dignity and the national spirit of Azerbaijan. Shusha was waiting for Azerbaijanis to come.
With the victory, a new period began in the life of every liberated city, settlement, and village. The country created a completely new reality in the South Caucasus region.
President Ilham Aliyev repeatedly described Azerbaijan’s victory as the beginning of a new era in the country’s and region’s development.
“Azerbaijan's victory in the Patriotic War has created new realities in our region. Our historic victory is the beginning of a new era in the development of both our country and the region as a whole,” he said.
Immediately after the signing of a ceasefire deal along with the Russian and Armenian leaders on November 10, 2020, President Aliyev started regularly visiting the liberated regions.
Aliyev, who took control of military and political issues during the war, now personally leads the post-war reconstruction in the East Zangazur and Karabakh regions.
The grand reconstruction is being implemented on the basis of the latest technologies in Azerbaijan. Despite the short time, the work done is obvious. All can witness Azerbaijan's rapid and intensive reconstruction of completely destroyed settlements in just a few months after the war.
It is noteworthy that all these processes are taking place against the background of economic difficulties created by the pandemic. However, Azerbaijan continues to move towards its goal without the help of any country or international institution.
The country's economic and financial capabilities provide a basis for achieving all goals in a timely manner and at a high level.
The master plans of Shusha, Aghdam, Fuzuli, and Jabrayil have already been presented to the Azerbaijani public. The preparation of the master plans of Zangilan, Gubadli, Kalbajar, and Lachin has started.
The main task is to restore all cities and villages in the most modern way and to reflect these regions' historical past in the master plans. Karabakh's transport infrastructure is being renovated.
Fuzuli International Airport, which is already considered the gateway to Karabakh, was opened on October 26. Zangilan International Airport is expected to open next year. Another airport is to be built in Lachin.
On October 26, Aliyev and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan laid the foundation for the Zangazur corridor - the Horadiz-Jabrayil-Zangilan-Aghband highway.
As part of the 2020-22 National Action Plan, Azerbaijan presented the first pilot “smart village” project aimed at liberated territories. Thus, the project covers Zangilan’s Aghali I, II, III villages. It will be implemented mainly on five components - housing sector, production sector, social services, smart agriculture and alternative energy.
Moreover, modern schools, kindergartens, clinics and electronic control centers will be built in these villages, and tourism infrastructure will be formed. All residential houses, social facilities, administrative and catering buildings, processing and production of agricultural products will be provided with alternative energy sources.
Aliyev said during his visit to Zangilan on October 20 that the work is already underway in the areas of tourism, agriculture, transport, logistics, environmental protection and creation of sustainable conditions for people.
Armenia's aggression and illegal occupation caused irreparable damages to Azerbaijan's cultural heritage, which includes thousands of cultural values, including monuments of the world and national importance, mosques, temples, mausoleums, museums, art galleries, sites of archaeological excavations, libraries and rare manuscripts.
Sixty-four of 67 mosques and Islamic religious sites were destroyed, greatly damaged, and desecrated.
More than 900 cemeteries were destroyed and vandalized. The evidence of illegal "archaeological excavations" and so-called "restoration work" was found on the liberated Azerbaijani territories, confirming previous reports of Armenia's attempts to hide and falsify cultural, historical and scientific evidence.
A modern workshop for the production of "ancient" khachkars - Armenian cross-stones, which was discovered in liberated Kalbajar, were oxidized and vinegar was used in the process of artificial aging and then they were buried as "indisputable evidence" of "centuries-old Armenian roots" in this region.
Hundreds of cultural institutions, 927 libraries with a book fund of 4.6 million, 22 museums and museum branches with more than 100,000 exhibits, 4 art galleries, 8 culture, and recreation parks, as well as one of the oldest settlements in the world in Fuzuli region - Azykh (Azikh) Cave, the Shusha State Historical and Architectural Reserve had become victims of the Armenian vandalism.
Occupied by Armenian forces in 1993, Aghdam is known as the Hiroshima of the Caucasus for the level of destruction.
In 2020, 100 Azerbaijani civilians, including 12 children were killed and over 400 were wounded in Armenia's targeted missile attacks on Azerbaijani cities outside the war zone (Ganja, Barda, Tartar, and others). International human rights watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also verified the use of banned cluster bombs and rockets by Armenia in its attacks against Azerbaijani cities.
Armenia extensively damaged the ecosystem, wildlife and natural resources in and around occupied Karabakh.
Azerbaijan sets example
Against the background of Armenia's destructive policy on the liberated territories, Azerbaijan sets an example with its creative mission.
All the work done conveys to the world the message that the Azerbaijanis are constructive people.
Along with the ongoing rapid reconstruction of the liberated territories, Azerbaijan offers ample opportunities for neighboring countries to live in peace and tranquility and achieve economic revival. Thus, new opportunities emerged to ensure lasting peace and security in the region.
Azerbaijan achieved its highest goal, liberated its lands from occupation and ensured its territorial integrity.
Armenia, which has been under an economic blockade for many years due to its aggressive policy, has finally got an opportunity to break out of this isolation and establish normal relations with neighboring countries, including Azerbaijan.
The proper assessment of Azerbaijan's peace proposal is now seen as a historic chance for Armenia, which must declare its recognition of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.
This country, which ruthlessly destroyed and vandalized Azerbaijani territories for about 30 years, must once and for all forget its territorial claims against Azerbaijan and Turkey and try to establish normal relations with its neighbors, respect all the provisions of international law, show sincere will and recognize that the policy of aggression does not benefit any nation.
Subsequently, Armenia should amend its constitution and military doctrine to include the said provisions.