(By Anastasia Lavrina in Baku, Azerbaijan) :-
“One thing is to hear about this conflict and quite another thing to see with own eyes”
News about the death of 2-year-old girl and her grandmother, as a result of the Armenian military provocation in the Alkhanli village of Azerbaijan’s Fuzuli district, horrified many people. The child who was just starting to live became the victim of the Armenian armed forces’ attack on the civilian population and civilian objects.
was prepared by the Assistant to the President of the International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF)Anastasia Lavrina, with the aim to provide objective information about the life in the frontline regions of Azerbaijan, where she has personally been several times. The article also contains statements of those participating in the two-day trip to the contact line, organized by the IEPF.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is known as one of the most serious and lasting conflicts of the late 1980s and early 1990s. For more than 25 years, the conflict has remained unresolved, despite four UN Security Council resolutions (No. 822, 853, 874 and 884), which reaffirm the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan and require the immediate release of the occupied territories. The Armenian armed forces are constantly shelling the villages located close to the frontline, destroying houses and killing civilians. According to the official statistics, there are about 1.2 million refugees and IDPs in Azerbaijan. It is one thing to hear about this, but a completely different feeling arises when you see all mentioned with your own eyes.
On June 17-18, International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF) organized a trip of 21 students and staff members of one of the leading universities in Azerbaijan, ADA University, to the war-affected regions of Azerbaijan. International participants predominated in the two-day trip. Since the first minute, they had been shocked and impressed by the reality. They filled with questions about everything they saw. Within 2 days we visited Ashagy Abdurakhmanly village of Fuzuli region, Jojug Marjanly village of Jabrail district, as well as the villages of Hasangaya and Shikharh of the Tartar region of Azerbaijan.
Participants of this event were able to see and understand the scale and horror of the tragedy, which Azerbaijani people have been facing for several years.
Reality of Armenian vandalism
The trip started with a visit to the Ashagy Abdurahmany village. On the way to the village, a horrible picture opened before our eyes. The area remains completely abandoned, where there is not a single intact house. It was very hard to get there, because the roads were completely unsuitable for cars. All vegetation consisted of several dry trees and shrubs.
I want to note that before the conflict began, this village was one of the most prosperous in Azerbaijan. People there were actively engaged in gardening and agriculture. Industry and agriculture were well developed. Today we see completely different picture: destroyed houses and school, the land is everywhere dug by rodents or by shells. What is happening there is a real ecological disaster.
With the help of military servants, who ensured our safe movement, we were able to visit the cemetery located just a few kilometers from the frontline. We saw the ruins of the cemetery,
tombstones, which were shot and destroyed by the Armenian bandit group. These barbaric acts of violence are simply horrifying.
Despite all this, people continue to come and visit relatives’ graves and even conduct funeral rites. IEPF President Umud Mirzayev told the participants of the trip how he personally buried his father in this cemetery in December last year, fulfilling his father’s last will. It happened only with the help of the military escorts. We ourselves even had occasion to visit this grave now. All this was very touching and exciting.
Ruined houses and monuments, shouted tombstones are not all examples of vandalism we saw there. During the visit to the Shikharkh village of the Tartar region of Azerbaijan, all the participants were shocked to see the barbaric actions in which the Armenians destroyed the monument ‘Maragha-150’ in 1988, with the aim to openly declare this land as historically Armenian. According to eyewitness accounts, at the very beginning of the conflict, in the time when hundreds and thousands of Azerbaijanis were expelled from their native lands, Armenians destroyed houses and monument in this village and made it uninhabitable. By doing this, they tried to ensure their own security by removing civilians as far as possible from the frontline.
“Unfortunately, because of lack of objective information, people cannot get truthful facts about the conflicts” Chief of Rector’s Office in ADA University Shafag Mehraliyeva said, who also joined us on this trip. “Today we came here, we look around and we see the reality, which is often distorted in the Internet” she added.
It should be noted that this monument was built by the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1978, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of their migration to Nagorno-Karabakh. The village is named after the first Armenian homeland in the Armenian village of Maragha in Iran.
Over the past half year, this is my third trip to the frontline regions of Azerbaijan. Twice I visited the ruined monument “Maragha-150”. This time, we all witnessed the ongoing restoration of the monument with the support of Azerbaijani government.
For all of us it was especially interesting to talk with soldiers who told us their personal stories and what they have to experience every day. “Our main goal is to return back the lands that are under the occupation of the Armenian Armed Forces and to allow people, internally displaced persons, to return back their homes,” they said. It’s hard to imagine that these soldiers have to experience day after day, being so close to the frontline, considering the fact that Armenians break ceasefire several times a day. Moreover, it is interesting to note that on Azerbaijani side, close to the frontline, there is still a peaceful population, while on Armenian side, close to the frontline, there is no any single civilian, only militants and snipers.
Jojug Marjanly without exaggeration
From the very beginning, all the participants of the trip were very interested in visiting Jojug Marjanli village of Jabrail district, which was completely restored within just some months. The village itself was occupied by the Armenians in 1993 and was under occupation only few months, however, it was enough for Armenians to destroy all the buildings and infrastructure there. In December 1993, Jojug Marjanli village was liberated from the occupation, but it was quite dangerous to live there, as the strategic Lele Tepe heights has been under Armenian occupation for over 23 years.
In April 2016, during the escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijani armed forces could liberate the Lele Tepe heights from Armenian occupation and make it possible to live in safety in Jojug Marjanli. At that time, the village was completely destroyed and absolutely unsuitable for life. There were no houses, no infrastructure. In January 2017, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev gave an order about immediate restoration of the village.
We were so surprised when we arrived in a completely restored village. Within only some months, Azerbaijani government managed to build 50 new houses, a school, a mosque like Shusha mosque, to build a new road, and all required infrastructure. Already now, displaced persons can return back to new homes.
“I have always dreamed to visit these places and see everything that is happening here. What we saw in Jojug Marjanli proved once again that our state cares for every internally displaced person,” Shabnam Hasanova said, a student of ADA University.
Afterwards, all the participants laid flowers on the monument raised in Goradiz, Fuzuli region, to honor of servicemen who died in the battles for Lele Tepe in April last year. We paid tribute the memory of all the victims bowing our heads in deep mourning.
Later, in one brief presentation, the participants of the trip were able to obtain reliable information about the demining work conducted in Jojug Marjanli as well as in other liberated regions. The representative of the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA), established in 1998, spoke about national mine action capacity capable of planning, coordinating and managing all mine/UXO related activities in the currently liberated areas, and enable it to expand into areas yet to be liberated.
Throughout the trip, President of the International Eurasia Press Fund Umud Mirzayev talked about the historical events happened in those regions, as well as about the current situation. Being an indigenous from Fuzuli region and one of the victims of the war, he was able to provide accurate information and answer all questions asked by students.
Work with refugees and IDPs is one of four key directions of the work of the International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF). The organization in General Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC in cooperation with different international structures, UN agencies are successfully implementing various projects in the war affected regions of Azerbaijan, such as Aghdam, Fuzuli, Barda and Tartar. Moreover, IEPF organizes trips to these regions for local and international guests in order to present them the reality of the conflict.
“Reality of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is often distorted. Depending on the interests of superpowers, the conflict is propagated in different ways, and many facts are hushed up or presented in a completely different light. Before the conflict began, people from both sides lived side by side without any thought of war. No one could imagine that the two nations would become enemies. One thing can be said with certainty – this conflict is not in the interests of any warring party. This conflict is primarily a conflict of the superpowers’ interests. As soon as they stay far away from the conflict, the parties themselves will find a way to resolve the conflict” IEPF President Umud Mirzaev said.
Meeting with refugees and internally displaced persons
June 18th, we went to Tatar region, where the IEPF Vocational Training Center is located. The road took almost 4 hours, given the fact that we stopped often to visit several historical monuments. Immediately upon arrival, we went to the Hasangaya village in Tatar region, where we met with refugees and IDPs who live there.
Despite the fact that it was not my first visit to this village, the meeting became very sentimental. Especially we were amazed by the meeting with young children who, despite their young age, already know all the realities of the war. Every day they have to live under the Armenian armed forces’ fire. Many of them lost their parents. Because of constant shelling, they do not have the opportunity to go to school regularly.
We also visited a house in which 16-year-old Turana Hasanova, who was an internally displace person from occupied Kalbajar district and who was residing in the Hasangaya village of Azerbaijan’s Tartar district, was killed in artillery shelling fired by Armenian armed forces on April 5, 2016. The shell completely destroyed the house where she used to live with her family.
Residents of 19 families who live there also suffer from a shortage of water, because the Armenians blocked their water supply.
Despite the fact that they live in very difficult conditions, the only thing they want is peace and the opportunity to return back their own homes that are currently under Armenian occupation. After hearing stories about the life difficulties of IDPs, Vice-Rector of ADA University Fariz Ismailzade, who also accompanied us in this trip, made a speech and said that ADA University supports the idea of organizing future trips to these villages. He also spoke about the possibility of organizing social educational program for children living here.
“We are proud of you and your courage. Upon our return, together with the whole team and students, we will think how to help you” he added.
Two-day trip ended with a discussion of initiatives and future plans. All participants had the opportunity to express their opinion and make proposals.
“I am very moved by the stories I have heard here. I am also moved by what IEPF is doing here. Moreover, it was incredible to hear about mine cleaning operations. Here every military man and every civilian speaks about peace, despite all the barbarous atrocities committed by the Armenian armed forces. It is very important to have a dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan directly. It is absolutely fundamental, if mention a lot of the crime committed by Armenians in this conflict. We all saw the evidence of that during this trip and Armenians have to face the responsibility for that. Here is one more reason why dialogue between two nations is important”, said Peter Turner, assistant professor in history at ADA University.
For his part, a specialist in Eastern European law, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Professor Thomas Kruessmann, shared his impressions about the trip and stressed the importance of establishing cooperation in working on projects aimed at the war affected regions. He suggested to think about joint projects that will help to organize more such trips in the future.
Vice-Rector of ADA University Fariz Ismailzade noted the need to establish long-term and diligent cooperation with the International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF) to provide further assistance and support to people living in the regions affected by the war. He thanked the IEPF President for organizing such an impressive and very important two-day trip.
This trip will keep all of us under impression for a long time. The meeting with refugees and internally displaced persons was very memorable. We have heard a lot about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but the two-day trip opened our eyes to all the realities and horror of the conflict, which remains unresolved for more than 25 year. We admire the courage of people who live so close to the frontline, who experience the horror of war, but who still believe in victory and peace.
This article, written specifically for Eurasia Diary (http://eurasiadiary.com/en/news/conflicts/160980-nagorno-karabakh-conflict),
(Anastasia Lavrina is Azerbaijan born independent geopolitical and foreign policy researcher. She is also an economics commentator on global finance, international development, energy and ecology. In 2014, she had the benefit of the double-degree Master program in International Relations and Contemporary Politics, validated by Coventry University in the UK and Lazarski University in Poland. In 2016, she obtained her second Master’s degree in Diplomacy and International Affairs from ADA University in Azerbaijan. Her main areas of expertise include the Russian Foreign Policy, the South Caucasus, Energy Geopolitics, Conflicts Resolution, and EU Studies. She has written several articles that were published in different online journals. Since 2016 she has been working as an Assistant to the President of the International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF), International NGO in General Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC, being actively involved in work with civil society, media, refugees and IDPs.
Views expressed are not of The London Post