Here is the text of the speech I gave at Chelsea Town Hall, London, on 5 November 2021, to commemorate the fallen heroes of Azerbaijan and celebrate the Liberation of Karabakh. The Gala event, including a great range of musical talent from Azerbaijan, was organised by the Azerbaijanis in the UK.
Axsaminiz xeyir hormetli xanimlar ve cenablar. Devetiniza gore cox sag olun. Bu axsam sizinla danismaqdan seref duyuram.
It gives me great pleasure to be here tonight, among friends, to celebrate with you Karabakh’s liberation from Armenian occupation. I was in Azerbaijan last week, talking to many people and visiting various places. I had been to Baku many times before the war. But this time I noticed the transformation that had taken place since the great victory. There was a different atmosphere in the city. I could sense the spirit of a risen people.
Although Azerbaijan was a vibrant and developing country prior to November 2020 there was a dark shadow that hung over the nation. There was a strong feeling of victimhood in the people.
That was hardly surprising considering what had happened: Nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijan lay under foreign occupation; over 800,000 people had become refugees in their own land; around 15,000 people had been tragically lost, many of them butchered on freezing mountains by cruel and heartless assassins; large parts of the country had been laid waste, with fine cities like Aghdam resembling Hiroshima after the Atom Bomb. The beautiful land of Karabakh and surrounding districts had been turned into a wasteland with its great cultural capital of Shusha vandalised and desecrated by the occupiers.
The sense of victimhood had been compounded by the fact that Azerbaijan had been badly let down by the international community. Four UN Security Council resolutions, and international law and justice had all been relegated to mere debating points. The world seemed impotent before flagrant Armenian aggression and probably just wanted Azerbaijan to lie down and accept its fate, as an unfortunate victim of past events. Very few thought Azerbaijan itself capable of righting the wrongs it had suffered.
But Azerbaijan did not accept its fate. It did not want to remain another victim of history. And it was blessed with the right leadership at the vital moment. The state and economy were rescued and rebuilt by Heydar Aliyev. And when the great man died the reins of state were taken up by his son, President Ilham Aliyev.
In spite of building a strong, professional and well-trained army equipped with the latest weaponry and technology, Azerbaijan, for nearly 3 decades, tried to find a resolution to the conflict through peaceful means. However, Armenia was never seriously interested in the negotiation process. And when Nikol Pashinyan brought the war on through his senseless political and military provocations in mid-2020 we all knew that this meant the end of the prospect of a negotiated settlement. So when Armenia launched another attack on Azerbaijan’s military and civilians on 27 September last year, the Azerbaijani army was ready and waiting to counter-attack, knowing what it had to do and how to do it.
The long-prepared Armenian defences were breached in the first days of the war, during the last few days of September, and Fuzuli, Hadrut, Jabrayil, Zangilan and Qubadli were liberated over the following weeks. In only 44 days Shusha was retaken, and the occupiers defeated, and forced into surrender. The War was won. Bloodshed was kept to a minimum and Armenian civilians left unmolested in their cars, so differently than was the fate of the Azerbaijanis who perished in terrible massacres during the first war.
When I was in Baku last week I visited the monument to Albert Agarunov, who died heroically in the defence of Shusha, in those dark days. I went up to Şəhidlər Xiyabani, as I always do when I visit Baku, to pay my respects to the fallen. The şəhidlər who lie there sadly now have the company of 3,000 more comrades. Their families mourn their loss and suffer the consequences of the sacrifice of their most beloved for their country. I hope these martyrs can now smile down upon their nation, resting finally in peace, seeing their lives’ work done at last.
They unselfishly gave their young lives for the cause they held dear, and which you all hold dear in your hearts. In their great sacrifice, Azerbaijan has been transformed by the victory they helped win on November 8th 2020. They have given you all a future which is now about the return of the people to their homes, reconstruction, rejuvenation, and hopefully peace, in which future generations no longer have to die for territory. The past is another country; the future they have placed in your hands. The tribute to your fallen heroes will be the laughter of your children playing safely one day in Kalbajar, Laçin and Khankendi. InshAllah!
I started this speech with a little Azerbaijani. I thank you and will finish now with a couple of words you all know very well: “Qarabag Azerbaycandir!”