“What have we done to them that they have destroyed our houses like this?”. The Reportage of the German political magazine “Der Spiegel” with this shocking title claimed, according to its own statements, to “illuminate the other side of the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh”. For this reason, the Reporter travelled to the formerly particularly lively, pretty town of Agdam at the foot of Nagorno-Karabakh. He was accompanied by the Novruzova siblings from this village, as well as by security officers, but only for the sake of his safety. The Spiegel correspondent was not the first nor the only representative of Western media to venture the arduous journey from Baku to distant Agdam.
“Guided tours” to Agdam
Since Azerbaijan and Armenia signed the armistice initiated by Russia on 10 November 2020, Ilham Aliyev’s Regime has been happy to present Agdam to the world’s public and – even on paid press trips – has journalists from all over the world accompany them there. Thanks to the Petrodollars, which still flow abundantly into Baku’s coffers, his well-oiled propaganda apparatus can afford such costs.
Agdam seems to be ideally suited for Baku’s purposes: during the first war for Nagorno-Karabakh on July 23, 1993, the city fell into the hands of Armenian fighters, who immediately mercilessly expelled its approximately 27,000 inhabitants, almost exclusively Azerbaijanis. Those who come to the deserted town today will find scattered piles of stones, or so Der Spiegel, “a field of destruction”: “I did not think that Armenians hate other people so much”, quotes the reporter Humay Novruzova. His family had also been brutally expelled from their ancestral homeland in 1993. After the last war for Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended with the armistice on 10 November, the Novruzova brothers were allowed to return to Agdam for the first time, albeit briefly. This war, which from their point of view “liberated” Agdam and large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, could, in theory, also enable most Azerbaijani displaced persons to return permanently to their tortured Homeland.
No Chance for Armenia
“The technologically inferior Armenian army had no Chance against its highly equipped opponent,” the Spiegel correspondent notes. Whether he comes to this conclusion out of admiration for the newly strengthened military power of Azerbaijan or out of sheer horror remains unclear. With its almost three million inhabitants, Armenia is the smallest and poorest Republic in the South Caucasus. Armenia had little to oppose the concentrated power of Azerbaijan and Turkey, which supported Baku with drones, countless military advisers and last but not least with jihadists from Syria and paid for by Ankara. Without the active support of its" protective power " Russia, it was condemned from the beginning to a humiliating defeat. The ruler of Baku, Ilham Aliyev, also felt certain that" the war always pays off for the stronger " when he gave his troops the signal for the war of aggression at the end of September. The Karabakh War has shown that even in the 21st century “military violence as a means of redrawing political maps has not been exhausted”, commented the NZZ recently.
… and the world is watching
The world community has not been able to prevent the last war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Rather, she indifferently took note of the blatant use of brute force, or at most expressed verbal concern. This strengthened the backs of potentates such as Erdogan and Aliyev and encouraged them to continue. The armistice effectively meant the total, humiliating capitulation of Armenia. But this alone is not enough for the ruler in Baku. He now seeks moral victory over Armenia. For this, Armenia is to be taken to the International Court of justice in The Hague for" crimes against humanity". International human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch mostly accuse Azerbaijan’s armed forces of serious human rights violations. For the time being, however, Baku’s priority seems to be to present Agdam to representatives of the Western media.
“What have we done to them that they have destroyed our houses like this?”, the siblings asked Novruzova at the sight of their once so beautiful city. The unanswered question in the report suggests that Azerbaijan is, or has always been, the “victim of Armenian Aggression.” And it allows at least the conclusion that the Armenians are nevertheless “to blame” for their plight. It suggests that they are the aggressive offenders.
History explains why: pogroms on Armenians
Every war has the characteristic of developing a kind of centrifugal force that hurls the parties involved – and very often also the media representatives on the ground – on one side or the other. In the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a simple look into the recent history of the region could have given any journalist at least sketchy answers to these open questions of the Novruzona siblings.
For example, about the Pogrom in the industrial city of Sumgait on the Caspian Sea. In February 1988, an angry mob of Azerbaijanis marched through the Armenian neighborhoods of Sumgait, raping women and destroying schools, shops and houses. It was the reaction to the desire of the Karabakh Armenians to secede from the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. Baku watched the Pogrom idly for days. When the army finally intervened, the completely intimidated Armenian minority without resistance approved their expulsion from their ancestral homeland. Sumgait remained henceforth an Armenian-free city.
The history of the region could also have provided insight into the pogrom of January 1990, this time in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. At that time, Azerbaijani demonstrators, armed with sticks and Poles, marched through the Armenian quarters of the capital, chanting, as they had done two years earlier in Sumgait, “death to the Armenians” and “we will exterminate you.” Countless homes were looted, women raped, schools, and churches destroyed. At the time of the pogrom in 1990, the Armenian minority of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan numbered around 400,000 members, of whom around 300,000 lived in Baku. Today hardly an Armenian can be found in Azerbaijan.
Agdam is tragic final act in the Karabakh conflict
During the first war for Nagorno-Karabakh, both opponents of the war got rid of their respective “others”. Hardly noticed by the world public at the beginning of the 1990s, more than one Million people moved disenfranchised, uprooted and without prospects to the outskirts of the big cities, to forgotten refugee camps and to cities destroyed by war. About half of them were Armenians.
“We have always treated Armenians well,” the Mirror quotes Humay Novruzova. That neither you, nor your brother Novruz, a Journalist of the newspaper “Movque.az” to have known nothing of the endless series of purges in his country seems unlikely even to non-connoisseurs.
Apropos: if one believes eyewitnesses of that era of violence, such as the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, then the first war for Nagorno-Karabakh was started, as is now the last of Azerbaijan.
From this point of view, Agdam is not the origin, but the provisionally tragic final act in the Karabakh conflict, in which on the one hand stands the deep desire of the native Armenian population for self-government and on the other hand the determination of a state to defend its territorial sovereignty by all means.
Akram aylisli was celebrated for decades as the greatest living Azerbaijani author. Until he dealt with the extermination of former Armenian places, such as his homeland Aylis by the Young Turks and their Azerbaijani accomplices, in his novel Steinträume (stone dreams). “This novel would probably never have been published had it not been for the incitement by the rulers of a more raging, aggressively anti-Armenian, misanthropic Propaganda that not only disregarded all moral and humanitarian principles, but also did not leave the slightest Chance for a future reconciliation,” he wrote in an “open letter to my readers.” Since then, the eighty-year-old author has been despised, disenfranchised and persecuted by the leadership of his homeland.