By Rachel Avraham
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Agdam together with former Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara and a couple of dozen other foreign experts from around the world, who spoke on a panel at the prestigious Ada University in Azerbaijan. For me, this was my third visit to Karabakh, after visiting the region together with the Honorable Kara last year and being part of a delegation of Israeli journalists and bloggers who covered the Shusha Food Festival last month.
However, even though I had been in Karabakh before, nothing prepared me for the devastation and destruction I witnessed in Agdam, Karabakh’s ghost city which is otherwise known as the Hiroshima of the Caucuses. There, we witnessed first-hand how a city of 100,000 people, with its theaters, cafes, restaurants, vibrant Azerbaijani tea houses, homes, places of worship, and even museums and historic monuments, was reduced to being nothing but rubble.
Together with Minister Kara, we went to the Ivarant Cemetery, which contained the graves of prominent members of the Karabakh Khanate, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The graves were gone and the beautiful Turkic architecture of the royal tombs lay in ruins, completely run down from the Armenians utilizing these historic tombs as pig pens. They treated this site like this, even though it was labeled a world heritage site.
According to a local guide, “The Armenians were taking stuff away from here and selling them to the Iranians.” In fact, for two hundred dollars, everything inside the homes of Agdam, whether refrigerators, washing machines, family heirlooms or raw construction materials torn from the homes, were sold to the Iranians, who were able to profit from the destruction of an entire city and the ethnic cleansing of the Karabakh region in the 1990’s. After they took everything, they burnt everything down, thus leaving many of the homes without roofs, as the roofs were made of wood.
The Imarat Cemetery was not the only historic place that they desecrated. In Agdam, the Armenians used a historic mosque dating from 1860 as a watch tower and pig pen. According to our local guide, “That was the only reason why this mosque was not completely desecrated. More than 60 mosques were totally ruined in the region.” For me, this had an uncanny resemblance to my graduate school trip to Spain, where I witnessed how the Spanish Inquisition transformed historic synagogues into pig pens and stables. I could not help but ask myself, am I living in the twenty-first century? How is it possible in our era to witness Christians desecrating holy places in such a manner, conducting themselves as if the Spanish Inquisition was still ongoing and never left us?
After that, I went to a local cemetery in Agdam, where I witnessed how all of the tombstones and gold teeth in the graves were gathered together and sold to the Iranians for profit, while the bones of the people who were buried there were thrown away in the trash. Since Azerbaijan reclaimed Agdam, relatives of these unfortunate souls have tried to rebuild the destroyed memorials to their loved ones by putting up fresh plaques with pictures, but the bones are gone. They are no longer proper graves.
What I saw there reminded me of what the Jordanians did to the Mount of Olives following the division of Jerusalem after Israel’s War of Independence. In that case, beautiful historic tombstones from the Mount of Olives were used by the Jordanians as construction material to build latrines and other unsavory things.
Then, we went to the historic Bread Museum. It used to house bread from the Second World War that was preserved by Soviet soldiers. However, that historic piece of bread was destroyed alongside all of the other exhibitions. The roof was also gone and the beautiful artistic mural was heavily desecrated. I could not help but wonder, where was the international community when all of this happened? Why was UNESCO silent? What ever happened to the phrase NEVER AGAIN?
Interestingly, the same House Democrats who support lifting sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, who assisted in the destruction of Agdam, are also very much supportive of the Armenians, who serve as nothing short of being Iran’s proxies, are the ones who ethnically cleansed Karabakh of Azerbaijanis.
In recent days, Senator Bob Menendez and Senator Adam Schiff denounced President Biden’s decision to waive Section 907 restrictions on US aid to Azerbaijan, at a time when Azerbaijan desperately needs this money in order to rebuild everything that Armenia destroyed. Interestingly, while both of these Democratic Senators routinely condemn Azerbaijan, they are deadly silent about what Armenia and Iran did to the city of Agdam and other areas of Karabakh.
Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working for the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, which is run by Mendi Safadi, a former Likud Candidate for the Knesset and a former chief of staff of former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara. Since 2012, she has been working as an Israel-based journalist and writer, covering Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and other developments in the greater Islamic world.
Her articles have appeared in the Washington Times, the Hill, Front Page Magazine, the Daily Wire, the Christian Post, the Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Ahval and many other publications across the globe. She received her MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She got her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.