Azerbaijan commemorates two decades since Agdam occupation

Press Release: The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) highlights the fact that 23 July marks 20 years since the occupation of the majority of the Agdam district by Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

During the invasion, the Armenian forces seized 882km2 of territory, including one city and 80 villages, with the military incursion costing the lives of 6,000 people. The Armenian occupation of the Agdam region also resulted in 128,000 Azerbaijanis becoming Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

On 29 July 1993, the UN Security Council passed resolution 853 that: “Demands the immediate cessation of all hostilities and the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces involved from the district of Agdam and all other recently-occupied areas of the Azerbaijani Republic.” This, together with three other UN Security Council resolutions, currently remains unimplemented.

Ulfat Hajiyev, who is interning at TEAS Belgium, remembers those fateful days: “As a young Azerbaijani from Agdam, currently studying in Brussels in the ‘heart of Europe’, I am constantly amazed by the lack of awareness of the occupation and the heartache this has caused for my family and the Azerbaijani population. We fled to Sumgait with the view that one day we would be able to return home to a city reunified, yet after 20 years we are still waiting. I hope that the EU will finally play its rightful role in resolving this open sore on Europe’s border before it is too late. I remain hopeful that my own and future generations will live peacefully, once again, alongside our Armenian neighbours following the restoration of Azerbaijani territorial integrity.”

Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS, said: “In 20 years, a whole new generation has grown up experiencing exile in their own country. It is time for the international community to ensure that these people are able to return to their homes in the occupied part of Agdam.”

Despite the establishment of a ceasefire in 1994, casualties near the ‘contact line’ between Azerbaijan and the occupied territories are frequent. Two years ago, an Armenian sniper shot Fariz Badalov, a nine-year-old Azerbaijani boy, as he played near his home in Orta Garvand in the unoccupied part of the Agdam district.

It has been estimated that the damage to Agdam equates to around £4bn.