Conflicts & War

‘Karabakh is Azerbaijan,’ Baku’s war cry

By Farid Gajramanov

Baku, Oct 12 (efe-epa).- The words “Karabakh is Azerbaijan” have become ubiquitous in Baku, whether on social media, in shops or on the bus stops. What was a nightmare 30 years ago has become a dream once again — Azerbaijan wants to recapture the territory.

“I’ve been dreaming of my homeland for 28 years,” Ali Medzhidov, a pensioner in the Azerbaijani capital, told Efe. “I had already assumed we’d be leaving the problem to the next generations.”

The shame of the defeat in the conflict against Armenian forces in the 1990s has haunted Azerbaijan ever since, especially those who fought in the war, were expelled from their land or who lost relatives to ethnic cleansing.

The rolling coverage of the fresh conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, located just 300 kilometers from Baku, has restored a national sense of nostalgia for the enclave, a majority Armenian territory that has been de facto governed by Armenian separatists since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“I’m filled with pride for our Army, and each day I’m closer to going home to the already-liberated Jabrayil. My city is free!” Medzhidov adds.

He said he was forced to abandon Jabrayil in 1992. Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev announced its recapture in a TV broadcast.

Medzhidov added that his happiness would be complete when Azerbaijan’s soldiers stepped foot in the city of Shusha.

Sevda Mamedova, a nurse, fled Shusha during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war. Last week Azerbaijani forces shelled the city again, causing severe damage to the 19th century Armenian Ghazanchetsots cathedral.

“I was seven when I had to leave Shusha. But I remember the beauty of our land, the crystal clean air, the picturesque mountains,” she said.

She said she was unaware whether her childhood home had been destroyed or not.

“The important thing is we recover our homeland,” she added. “The progress of our troops gives us hope.”

Nowadays in Baku, where a curfew is in place due to the conflict, the traditional greeting of “Salaam” has been replaced by questions about the war — “what has been liberated today?”

Conversations about the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh also fill the tea rooms and the streets of the Azerbaijani capital, which sits on the shore of the Caspian Sea.

Not everyone in the city welcomed the news of a ceasefire agreement on Saturday.

“It helps the Armenians,” Sadij Mahmudov, a driver, said.

The nationalist fervor in Azerbaijan is plain to see in the Azeri and Turkish flags adorning balconies and shopping centers in the capital.

Turkey has lent its support to Azerbaijan in its quest to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh.

Scores of civilians and hundreds of soldiers on both sides of the conflict have died since fighting erupted over the de facto independent enclave late last month, according to United Nations estimates.

The complex conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh emerged as the Soviet Union crumbled when the region’s parliament voted in favor of integrating with the rest of Armenia.

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