Azerbaijan remembers occupation of Zangilan by Armenia

By: Sara Rajabova

October 29 marks the 22nd anniversary of the invasion of Zangilan, one of Azerbaijan’s oldest territories, by the Armenian Armed Forces.

The end of the 20th century is known as a period of tragedies for Azerbaijanis. Like other regions in Azerbaijan, Zangilan fell victim to betrayal during this time. Zangilan, which was the last region of Azerbaijan to be occupied by Armenians, didn’t bow down to the enemy from 1988 until November 1993 and resisted attacks, losing hundreds of residents in the fierce fighting.

The Armenian forces completed the occupation of the region on October 29, 1993.

The region, one of the most remote in the country, was bordered on one side by the occupied Jabrayil and Gubadli regions and on the other side by Iran and Armenia.

Zangilan has a 157 mile border with Armenia. The region had a significant place in the gradual increase in tensions in the region from 1988 at the start of Armenia’s open hostile actions aimed at claiming Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Since then, the area began to receive thousands of Azerbaijani refugees from the neighboring historical Azerbaijani regions.

Prior to the invasion, 35,000 people lived in the Zangilan region, which covers an area of 707 sq. km. Its economy was based on agriculture and included the production of wine and tobacco, as well as breeding livestock.

In 1993, the population of Zangilan, having been surrounded after the occupation of the Gubadli and Jabrayil regions, saw a way out by crossing the Araz River to get to Iranian territory. Otherwise, they could have been subjected to horrors similar to those that the residents of Khojaly suffered in February 1992.

During the Karabakh war, Zangilan lost over 200 people. So far, the region’s 44 residents are among those missing in the aftermath of the bitter conflict with Armenia.

The region is of strategic importance as it is located along the Baku-Nakhchivan-Julfa railway. The Minjivan station, which is a stop along the Baku-Minjivan-Gafan railway, was completely destroyed after the occupation.

The Zangilan region, which included a city, a settlement and 83 villages, had 9 preschool institutions, 19 primary and 15 secondary schools, one vocational school, one music school, 35 libraries, eight cultural centers, 23 club-houses and 22 film projector facilities.

The largest plane forest in Europe was also located in the region. Unfortunately, the Armenians are now cutting down these plane trees and selling them to foreign countries. Molybdenum, marble, gold, granite and other mineral resources are also being plundered by the Armenians from the region.

There are reports that the Basitcay State Nature Reserve, established in 1974 in Zangilan, is in a deplorable state. The Armenians were reported to have cut down its valuable trees and use them in the furniture industry.

Zangilan’s territory is also rich in archaeological and architectural monuments, the largest of which is the ruins of a medieval city known as Shahri Sharifam.

Unfortunately, after the occupation, Armenians plundered or falsified attribution of the region’s ancient historical monuments.

The Armenians are continuing their environmental terror in Zangilan. As a result of the wave of arsons by Armenians, a great part of the region’s territory has burnt down, and valuable trees and preserves have been destroyed.

After Zangilan’s occupation, more than 35,000 local residents had to be resettled in 52 settlements across the country.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, for over two decades have been locked in conflict, which emerged over Armenian territorial claims. Since the 1990s war, Armenian armed forces have occupied over 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions. The UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions on Armenian withdrawal, but they have not been enforced to this day.