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Italian Minister Recalls Scale of Armenian Vandalism in Aghdam

By Ilham Karimli February 14, 2023


Aghdam State Drama Theatre before (in the photo) and after the Armenian occupation / Wikimedia Commons

Adolfo Urso, Italy’s Minister of Enterprises and Made in Italy, has recalled his visit to the liberated lands of Azerbaijan shortly after the 44-day war, again focusing on the outcomes of the Armenian vandalism against Azerbaijan.

During a meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on Monday, Urso said he took pictures from the minaret of the (Juma) mosque in Azerbaijan’s Aghdam city while he was there.

“I showed them to Italian news channels. This trip gave me great feelings. No one could even imagine the level of devastation,” he said, referring to what he saw in Aghdam after nearly three decades of Armenian occupation.

President Aliyev, for his part, said the destructions seen by Minister Urso are now being restored in a mass reconstruction campaign also involving companies from Italy.

“[…] In many liberated cities, Victory and Occupation museums are being created by Italian companies. In Shusha, the cultural capital of Azerbaijan, three destroyed mosques and one new mosque are being restored and built by Italian companies,” President Aliyev said.

Aghdam, located 362 kilometers west of the capital Baku, was the center of the district of the same name and one of the major cities of heavy, light, and food industries, as well as agriculture of Azerbaijan until the district lost a larger part of its territory to the Armenian invasion. Armenian forces occupied a significant part of the Aghdam district, including the city of Aghdam and 89 villages, in the 1990s during the First Karabakh (Garabagh) War. About 6,000 residents of the district have been killed and 126,000 have been forcibly displaced. Only 10 villages of the district remained under Azerbaijan’s control.

Aghdam has been dubbed the “Hiroshima of Caucasus” by local and international media due to the scale of the destruction in the city. Armenians turned it into the largest “home depot on the planet” as they stripped all the buildings clean to use as building supplies. The city has also suffered a “mine terror” by the Armenian forces. 

The occupation of Aghdam ended in 2020 following the 44-day bloody war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

Hostilities between the two countries began after Armenia's forces deployed in the once-occupied lands of Azerbaijan shelled the Azerbaijani military positions and civilian settlements. Azerbaijani military took immediate counter-attack measures and successfully pushed back the offensive. As a result, the Azerbaijani army liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended in a tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020 by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Under the agreement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan. Aghdam was the first Azerbaijani district that was liberated in post-war non-combat conditions set by the document.

Shortly after the war, the Azerbaijani government launched a large-scale reconstruction project in Aghdam. Restoration efforts come as part of the ongoing massive reconstruction campaign in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Aghdam will reportedly regain its original view and see its residents back after the reconstruction.

As part of the reconstruction campaign, the government of Azerbaijan launched construction of the Aghdam Industrial Park in August 2022, on a territory measuring 190 hectares (470 acres). Twelve enterprises have already been granted residency status at the park. The priority areas of the park are the production of construction materials, packaging of agricultural products, canned fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products, production and processing of feed and fertilizers, as well as refrigeration, storage, and other services. Residents are expected to invest a total of nearly $35 million in the park.

According to Khazin Hidayatov, Head of the Economic Zones Development Agency of Azerbaijan, many residents have already started construction works within the Aghdam Industrial Park. In addition, non-residential status was granted to three companies.