Speech of the Acting President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, chairman of the Supreme Soviet Heydar Aliyev at the Republican Conference in Baku – August 24, 1993

The Republic of Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani citizens are experiencing hard days. The reasons are obvious. Azerbaijan is in the state of war. Because of the mistakes and faults in the war, we face defeats, lose people and territories, our compatriots are driven out of their homes – these cases have become common place in Azerbaijan. Some people remain indifferent, some pretend to get accustomed to this situation. But whally taken our people suffer hardships. 

The measures taken and the works done in this field are still ineffective. Lack of defense ability of Azerbaijan, insufficient level of the army, even absence of the army in the recent years, existence of separate forces within the government are among the main reasons. Some of them call themselves political forces, some are mafia gangs. Each of them worsens and sabotages the situation in Azerbaijan for their personal goals. I don`t want to analyze these issues in depth. But great subversive actions are carried out in the frontline of Azerbaijan. Especially, in the recent periods, they have further expanded subversive operations as there is a political tension in the government, separate forces confront one another and some people and groups have been disclosed. They are not only ready to betray our country, but they are actually doing this. 

I hope that our country will evaluate the present situation one day and each person regardless of his post or political adherence, will answer before people. History will evaluate everyone. The Azerbaijanis are a great nation. The Azerbaijani people, our prominent and intelligentsia, who are the loyal sons and daughters of this people, will unite and rescue our country from this hard situation. 

The saboteurs, who want to benefit from the hard situation of Azerbaijan for their personal goals must know that they will not achieve their goals. As I repeated several times, the Azerbaijani people have experienced complicated periods throughout the history. Nevertheless, our people have overcome all the historical obstacles and maintained their national identity, dignity, religion. 

I am sure that the hardships will not last long and our people will soon see bright days. All we need is to unite and wisely use the potential of our people. One of the gravest events of the recent period, which aggravates the situation in Azerbaijan, is the processes ongoing in Lankaran, Astara, Lerik, Masalli, Yardimli, Jalilabad and Bilasuvar. The gangs of Alikram Humbatov and other people supported by internal and external forces have been betraying their country and committing illegal and criminal actions. 

If their actions had been confined to crime and illegality only in that region, it would have been probably not influenced the present situation of Azerbaijan so negatively. However, the criminal groups, Alikram Humbatov and his supporters, prevent a part of the army to go to the front. A great portion of military equipment and weapons of our army and weapons is also in their hands. When separate divisions and detachments from that military unit fight in the war, they are called Alikram Humbatov`s battalions. It means that those forces must withdraw, go forward and leave the frontline only by his instruction. 

Such cases have already become common and even some high officials of the republic also think that it is possible. Because, unfortunately, in the recent years the defense of Azerbaijan has not been at the disposal of the army, it has been instructed by separate armed and gangster groups. Some call them voluntary groups, some – individual groups. Such groups seek for their benefits instead of defending the motherland. They have dragged Azerbaijan into a terrible situation which is obvious now.

That`s why the anxiety of the Azerbaijani society, authorities – both the Supreme Soviet and other government institutions, couldn`t remain indifferent to the processes in Lankaran and adjoining districts was natural. However, we lost much time by accepting the proposal of some people for solution of this issue via negotiations. During this period some people persuded us that the issue would be resolved peacefully through negotiations. However, it created opportunities for Alikram Humbatov and his supporters to become more violent, to commit their crimes. They also proclaimed the so-called Talysh-Mughan Republic in order to split Azerbaijan, to confront the Azerbaijani citizens of the Talysh origin with other citizens of the Republic. You are aware of it. Finally, on August 16-17 these issues were discussed in the parliament, and a respective decision was adopted. At present, everything and everybody related to these processes – sources, outbreak, leading forces, supporters, traitors, criminals are all known. Some names have been disclosed, others will be publicized later. Their names are known to you therefore I don`t want to waste your time. As a result of the two-day discussions, the parliament expressed its approach to the events in Lankaran, criminality of Alikram Humbatov and his gang, and adopted a respective resolution on August 17. The decision is already known. Prime Minister Suret Huseinov was assigned to implement the resolution into live within three days. 

Unfortunately, this resolution was not done. After its adoption the people in and around Lankaran rose to defend their rights and protested against the criminal and illegal actions. It means that the first effect of our resolution was quite positive. Alikram Humbatov and his followers realized the uselessness fighting against government or people. They destroyed the framework of their activity. If our resolution was implemented decisively by the responsible persons, it could have been more effective for ending the crimes and illegal actions and securing stability in the region.

Unfortunately, it was not done though. On August 19, Prime minister Surat Huseynov had a meeting in Ganja. Alikram Humbatov was also invited and to the meeting. He took part there. Upon his return to Lankaran, he and his launched propagation on television and claimed that they had been supported in Ganja. It led to the revival among his followers, and their aggression against the population strengthened.

We still were cautious and patient towards these issues. We tried to explain those people that their illegal, unconstitutional actions did not promise anything good. But in vain. However, the population of Lankaran, Astara, Masalli, Jalilabad, Yardimli, Bilasuvar, Lerik stood up and tried to defend their rights. The local people protested against the illegal actions of Alikram Humbatov and launched rallies. A big rally took place in Lankaran yesterday. I have already informed about it during my recent address to the nation. Thousands of the participants of the rally called Alikram Humbatov a traitor and criminal. He wanted to use arms against the people, but could not. Thus, people`s pressure proved that no matter how many supporters, weapons Alikram Humbatov has, he cannot resist the people. Although he and his gang realized it, they still wanted to use arms against the population.

We appreciated the people`s action. We have no choice as these processes have been continuing for several months now. Unfortunately, the former government, including President Abulfaz Elchibey, the parliament, the Cabinet did not properly assess the actions of Alikram Humbatov and Rahim Gaziyev, maintaining reconciliatory or passive position.

Later, Prime Minister Surat Huseynov took over the issue and tried to solve the problem peacefully due to his close relationship with Alikram Humbatov. As a bloody war and difficult domestic processes were going on in Azerbaijan, we trusted him and avoided bloodshed. The Prime Minister promised to solve this problem; let him do. However, his visit to Lankaran on August 3 did not give any results either. Our negotiations with Alikram Humbatov on August 12 also failed. Neither did our broad meeting on August 13. Finally, we raised this question in the Parlament on August 16.

The Azerbaijani authorities remained indifferent to the situation until June. Since late June we have also maintained some reconciliatory position because of promises of the Prime Minister Surat Huseynov, thus, losing time. Taking the advantage Alikram Humabtov and his supporters expanded the scope of their criminal actions and promoted the problem into an ethnic conflict with the aim to create the so-called Talysh-Mugan Republic.

During our meeting both in the Parlament and on August 13, we were criticized that the unknown position of the Azerbaijani authorities has led to public confusion. Probably, this criticism is here, and we are ready to acknowledge our faults. But know realize that these faults are not so big when I explain the ongoing processes, their phases. We had a two-day discussions in the parliament and adopted a serious decision. Later it was agreed to delay announcing the decision as additional negotiations would be conducted with Alikram Humbatov. The negotiations held in Ganja not only gave positive results, but led to even more negative cases. When the people of Lankaran rose two days ago, Alikram Humbatov attempted to use force again. By showing their will, the people in Lankaran and adjacent stricts, however, declared that they would no longer tolerate the illegal actions and crimes.

The situation has further deteriorated since yesterday morning when we received information on the protest of the population of Lankaran against Alikram Humbatov. The people demanded he stop his actions, put down his weapons. Thousands of people gathered there brought Dilruba Jamalova, whom we had appointed head of the administration of the district. Unable to stand the popular pressure, Alikram Humbatov escaped, but continued his crimes. By opening fire at unarmed civilians gathered in the square, he tried to intimidate the population, but the latter was not scared at all. Yesterday the situation turned into a crisis. Therefore, we sent Minister of National Security Nariman Imranov, Interior Minister Vagif Novruzov, as well as a group of employees from the ministries of internal affairs and national security authorities to Lankaran by helicopters.

Since the situation is very tense there, I addressed to the nation yesterday. The telephone calls, telegrams, public opinion show that the population had long been waiting it. Warmly welcomed by the people, the address generated revival and hope in the population. Everyone now believes that the Azerbaijani authorities are effectively working and able to maintain our statehood in this difficult period. I thank all the people, who have positively reacted to my address since yesterday. Their solidarity adds to our pour strengthens our will. I want to assure everyone that we will do our best to protect the Azerbaijani statehood and not allow the split of the country.

Yesterday`s processes in Lankaran ended in tragedy. When the population rose against the criminal band, Alikram Humbadov fled and hid. He was searched. Some claimed that he had escaped to the forest. Our delegates visiting the region informed that Alikram Humbatov had taken control of the headquarters of the division of the former Soviet Army. It happened because of the activities of treacherous Azerbaijani politicians, including the ex-Minister of Defense Rahim Gaziyev. Alikram Humbatov is hiding in the headquarters that is surrounded by a tall fence. The armed criminals inside do not let anyone approach.

The population has surrounded the headquarters all night. I would like to give you some information on the deputy defense minister Vahid Musayev. On the early days of my tenure, Rahim Gaziyev insistently offered to appoint him defense minister. During my talks with Alikram Humbatov, he also proposed Vahid Musayev`s candidacy. The next day after my meeting with Alikram Humbatov, Prime Minister Surat Huseynov presented Vahid Musayev to the part of defence minister although he had no authority to do it. We were forced to refute it. Later Surat Huseynov explained to me that Vahid Musayev is a close friend of Alikram Humbatov and will help disarm Alikram Humbatov`s gangs.

Of course, I could not accept such an unsteady action. I did not allow it. Vahid Musayev asked some people to help him be received by me. When I received him, he spoke negatively about both Rahim Gaziyev and Surat Huseynov, while claiming that he himself was quite innocent and honest. As it did not interest me, I told him to reveal the reason why he wanted to see me. I also said that I knew about his closeness with Alikram Humbatov, and he should have used this chance to stop the crimes of Alikram Humbatov`s gangs. We don`t want this conflict to deepen. We need to solve it. I told him to resolve the issue. He said that he would. Yesterday Vahid Musayev was sent to the region by the Ministry of Defense. Unfortunately, he arrived too late. When our ministers of interior and national security reached the region by helicopter, they looked for him for several hours. Later we learnt that Vahid Musayev had been to Alikram Humbatov`s hiding place and negotiated with him, allegedly trying to convince him to stop the conflict. However, the attempts failed.

These processes lasted until morning. The population has been awake and active all day, all night in the squares, around that military unit. These actions did not give any result either. However, a tragedy happened when Alikram Humbatov instructed his forces to open fire at unarmed population of Lankaran. Three people were killed, five wounded. Of course, one could not expect anything else from villains, criminals and traitors. But it is not attributed to Alikram Humbatov only. This is the result of combined criminal activities of Alikram Humbatov, Rahim Gaziyev, Ayaz Mutallibov, who sent emissaries to Alikram Humbatov. What is going on is terrible.

For five years the Azerbaijani people have been suffering from war that costs many lives. Our people was also a target of the military aggression on January 20, 1990, when we mourned for our first martyrs. The place of tragedy, the Martyrs Avenue, has also become a shrine for us. We have martyrs almost every day as a result of the aggression of the Armenian armed forces that invaded our territory. Every martyrs is a pain and mourning for us. Our people faced both the aggression of the Communist Party on January 20 and the military invasion of the Armenian armed forces. On January 20, we had martyrs when protecting our national honor and pride. Now we lose our men and women in frontline defendin our territory. A tragedy now happens in Lankaran because of the traitors; some of them have been mentioned, the names of others will also be disclosed. A part of the Azerbaijanis shot the other part, who lives far away from the frontline. Three people have been killed because of their criminal intentions.

All what is happening is terrible. Alikram Humbatov, Rahim Gaziyev, Ayaz Mutallibov and others who support them are responsible for the murdered sons of the Azerbaijani people. Today I proclaim the mentioned people traitors of the Azerbaijani people. The court of justice will certainly judge them. As an Azerbaijani citizen, as a simple mourning person, as acting head of the state of Azerbaijan, I give my moral and political appreciation regarding this case. I believe those sons of ours perished for protecting Azerbaijan`s statehood, sovereignty, independence, bright future.

Here is the information on the victims - Sultan Nemat oglu Bayramov (b. 1936), resident of Lankaran, has a family, children. He worked as an X-ray technician, in the military hospital. Etibar Boyukagha oglu Aliyev (b. 1953), a carpenter, resident of Lankaran, has three children. Pasha Gurban oglu Tahmazov (b. 1946), an employee of social service office, resident of Lankaran, has a family and children.

I ask a minute of silence to pay tribute to those who died for the integrity and independence of Azerbaijan. Rest in peace.

Today the burial ceremony of the martyrs will take place in Lankaran. We have sent our delegation, which will represent the Azerbaijani government. Yesterday we decided to mark the heroism of our martyrs. As Acting President of Azerbaijan, I hereby declare Sultan Bayramov, Etibar Aliyev and Pasha Tahmazov National Heroes of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani state will certainly take care of their families, and our people will never forget their bravery. Their memory will live in our hearts forever.

Five people were wounded there. They are now undergoing medical treatment. Necessary measures are being taken for their treatment. The wounded and their families will receive all necessary care. The Azerbaijani people will never forget heroism of those who perished for the independence and integrity of our country. They will live in people`s memory forever. In spite of this tragedy, our administrative bodies working there could not come to any conclusion. According to the information given to us, Vahid Musayev visited Alikram Humbatov`s headquarters and contacted our ministers from there, requesting Alikram Humbatov`s safe passage from there. However, the population continued the siege till the morning. Some claimed that Alikram Humbatov would surrender. However, he deceived. Three cars, which were supposedly under the control, left the headquarters in the morning. Alikram Humbatov and his close aides were in one of the car and are now hiding in forests in Lankaran. Their whereabouts are now being searched.

All armed units subordinate to Alikra Humbatov have surrendered and handed over their weapons, his men have left him. A small group, however, has escaped with him. I believe that our law enforcement bodies will find them, and they will have to answer before court of justice. Not only Alikram Humbatov, but also those, who have patronized him, Ayaz Mutallibov, Rahim Gaziyev, will have to answer for their deeds. No one should doubt that.

Yesterday some people tried to terrify us with the information that some battalions stationed in Aghjabadi left the battle zone by Alikram Humbatov`s instruction. It is a deception. All soldiers remain in the battle zone and do not act with Alikram Humbatov`s instruction.

It means that Alikram Humbatov is not a serious person, but a tool in the hands of different groups. In my TV address last night I stated that he wanted to go to Iran. I warned the Iranian government, which answered to me not to worry as no one would accept him on the Iranian side. But there are rumors claiming he is supported by either Russia or Iran. These are not true. As I have said, neither Russia nor Iran cannot maintain any contact with a bandit.

But men like Rahim Gaziyev and Ayaz Mutallibov needed to create panic in the public. As I mentioned it in my yesterday`s address, this panic aims to put pressure on me to prevent my efforts to ensure domestic stability and improve the situation in the front. No one can put pressure on me though. Based on my will, which reflects the will of the people, I will work hard to stabilize the situation in Azerbaijan, and nobody can frighten me.

For two months some people have been fooling and frightening the population using Alikram Humbatov. Nothing happened. Yes, three people were killed. However, protection of motherland needs some bloodshed sometimes. those that need to shed blood, while maintaining homeland. Those three people became martyrs while protecting our statehood from domestic enemies.

I emphasize once more that we will implement the adopted resolution. With a strong will we are going to ensure the stability in Azerbaijan. Anyone who will hinder us is our enemy. I hope that these processes will be ended nowadays. The myth created around Alikram Humbatov has already collapsed as the population demonstrated its attitude towards him. The head of administration of Lankaran Dilruba Jamalova works in her post. As a woman she proved to be braver than thousands of men. New heads of administrations of other districts, including Astara, Jalilabad, Bilasuvar have already been appointed as well. The other districts will receive their heads of administration very soon. The legal government in those districts has been and will be restored. No one can prevent us to restore our statehood in all the regions of the country.

But we don`t think that it will be easy. There will be opposition. The criminal gangs that appeared recently commit illegal actions in various areas of Azerbaijan. For instance, a gang created in Yevlakh assaulted Balakan twice and artificially caused conflicts between the Azerbaijanis and the Avars. The mastermind of the group is also known. However, the Azerbaijanis and the Avars will never confront each other. No one can cause any ethnic conflict in Azerbaijan. We have a strong solidarity inside Azerbaijan. We shall ultimately overcome this difficult situation.

The situation has been very difficult in Fuzuli and Jabrail in the recent days. I briefly mentioned it in my address yesterday. Day and night we are taking necessary measures, which I don`t want to disclose now. According to the information, the main traitors, who betrayed Fuzuli and Jabrail were various mafia groups and heads of administrations of the mentioned districts. Those people panic the local population even without the assault of the Armenian armed forces, steal an escape.

I negotiated with Armenian leaders yesterday. Our officials were forced to talk with the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities as well. We had negotiations with Russia, too.

The situation is very hard and critical. Therefore, today, we sent a special plane. I have invited Vladimir Nikolayevich Kazimirov, officer in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Envoy for Special Assignments. Together with our officials he will visit Fuzuli and Jabrail today to study

the situation on site. Reporters and other delegates will also accompany him. I think that we will end this difficult situation.

Regrettably, our units leave the region without fighting back. Yesterday I contacted both Yerevan and Moscow, our officials negotiated with Khankendi. They say that both the military unit and the local population have fled their places. An Armenian intelligence group

discovered an abandoned tank, two armored vehicles, several cars at Garakhanbeyli. Of course, they decided to take all those vehicles.

I don`t want to share the facts that shouldn`t be disclosed. But we are aware of them. The situation is critical. One battalion serves Rahim Gaziyev, the other – Popular Front. There are provocations frequently. The Azerbaijani people are distinguished with their moral values throughout centuries. I cannot relate the provocations to our people. Therefore, it is very painful to see some Azerbaijanis being corrupt and betraying their country. Because of them we feel ashamed when the Armenians say that the Azerbaijanis escape before the Armenians arrive.

Fuzuli and Jabrail are lost. I don`t want to talk about how many people perished there. We have been dealing with these issues until 4 am. We want to take measures to regain those districts and return the IDPs. Today our delegation will visit the region with the Russian envoy by helicopter. I have invited representatives of foreign embassies, as well as reporters. I think that we will stabilize the situation in the region in a few days.

Finally, I would like to touch on another issue. Members of the Parliament, ministers, chairs of committees, high-ranking officials, heads of administrations have been invited to this meeting. Some of the heads of administrations have been serving for a long time, some have been appointed by some gangs amid this chaos. The rest have been appointed by my decree. However, if they are real patriots and think of Azerbaijan, they must work honestly and serve our state. I ask you to put aside your personal ambitions as our statehood is under threat. Azerbaijan is recognized as an independent state by the world. But our independence and territorial integrity is under threat. You must think of your responsibility. You are responsible before your people, your family, your relatives, your children, your ancestors, the independent Azerbaijan. Therefore, each of you must serve in your posts honestly and with responsibility.

Now there are two tasks before us. The first one is to stop the Armenian aggression, to return our occupied territories, the save our people from massacre. Secondly, we need to ensure the stability within Azerbaijan, to stop the chaos and suffering. In order to fulfill these tasks, I appeal to the entire Azerbaijani people: Think, Understand, Wake Up. The Azerbaijani people not only must overcome these difficulties, but also become stronger and more developed. Azerbaijan is a newly independent state. It must strengthen and develop by using the inner potential to be inherited by the next generations so that they can live in a free, independent country. Please, think about it. Our successes depend on your activities in every sphere. In case of failures, we should keep our solidarity, too. I address the nation to demonstrate its inner potential and strength.

Our people are taking a great test, which we must pass with honor. Every Azerbaijani must serve his country now. I hope that everyone assembled here also thinks so and will work in this direction.

In this respect, we face a political problem. A national vote of confidence in President Abulfaz Elchibey will be held on the 29th. Everyone knows that he left Baku on June 18 and has been living in Kalaki village of Ordubad, Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. We are not responsible for Elchibey`s actions, however, a person elected by the people should not have preferred his egoism over the national interests. On my phone conversation with Elchibey, I told him to be with the people, if he indeed wanted to serve the people. Even if he had perished, that would have been a heroic death. But remaining the head of state after escaping to a village and still claiming to be President is impossible.

Of course, the people should express its own will. But everyone must realize that the President has been out of office for nearly two months. The crisis in our country, the poor conditions of our army are caused by mistakes and faults during his presidency; Thus, he is responsible alongwith Rahim Gaziyev for such a situation in Azerbaijan. So is the former president. Therefore, the referendum should solve some problems.

The majority of MPs have repeatedly suggested that the parliament has a right to remove Abulfaz Elchibey from his post for failing to perform his duties in accordance with Article 121.6-7 of the Azerbaijani Constitution. The parliament has indeed this authority. So thus, those suggestions are grounded proposals. However, I didn`t accept them as I wanted these processes to be determined by the people in a democratic way. On June 7, 1992, Abulfaz Elchibey was elected President of Azerbaijan.

On June 17, 1992, in this very hall, he took the oath on Koran and the Azerbaijani Constitution to perform his duties honestly. Exactly one year later, on June 17, 1993, he left Baku for Kalaki.

Now it is the turn for our people to say its opinion: What should we do? What should happen next? The population should choose how it wants to live. I don`t want to influence anyone with my words. I am simply explaining the situation: the President is out of his office for two months. I work as the chairman of the Azerbaijani parliament, as well as Acting President. Despite the difficulty in two offices at the same time, I will serve as long as the Azerbaijani people trust me. But we have no more right to maintain such a situation in Azerbaijan because of the ambitions and egoism of some people. If the population needs Elchibey, then he should reassume his office. If not, then the people should express their opinion as Elchibey has failed during his one-year tenure.

But all these processes must be democratic. We have invited observers from foreign countries. The election commissions should work properly. The heads of administrations, chairs of city and district election commissions, representatives of public organizations, political parties, administrative bodies have also been invited. The referendum will be fully democratic and transparent. At the same time, one thing must be above all for everyone: the current difficult situation, present and future of Azerbaijan, overcoming the hardships. Therefore, I ask all the involved people, heads of administrations, city and rayon officials, high-ranking officials, members of election commissions to organize everything properly despite the lack of time and other emerging issues. In the August 29 referendum the people will decide their future. Their fate is in their hands. I want you to organize the referendum fairly, on a high level based on democratic principles, to realize that a new stage will open for Azerbaijan on August 29. Past two months have been extremely difficult for us. However, things can go worse if we cannot act correctly and democratically on August 29.

Despite the hard situation of our country, a lot has been done: half a billion rubles have been spent for the referendum, lots of people both in Baku and regions are involved in commissions. As the chairman of the parliament, I approved these actions to organize the referendum in a democratic manner. But if Abulfaz Elchibey had really served the interests of Azerbaijan, he would have never let this situation. His one-year presidency led to this situation. Perhaps Abulfaz Elchibey is also hearing my words now. I have always respected him, but his ambitions should not have led our country to this situation.

The referendum must be held. We have done much work. Today is August 24. In five days people will express their will and choose their future. Finally, by giving you all this information, I state once again: Azerbaijan is able to overcome these obstacles. The Azerbaijani statehood, citizens` rights will be protected. We, I and people around me, are able to overcome this situation.We will take serious steps, stabilize the domestic situation, intensify our fight against the criminal groups. You can be sure. The solidarity I received from people after my yesterday`s address gives me more power. Believe me, my strength has increased, and I will spend all of it to overcome this situation. We will overcome the situation and ensure stability in our country.

Some forces did not want us to take decisive steps. Once taken, these steps yielded results and broke the myths created in Lankaran. We lost three people. We have had many martyrs for the independence and integrity of Azerbaijan. I am also ready to sacrifice my life to protect my country. But I promise that together we will be able to cope with this situation.

I have said all what I wanted. Is there a need for discussion or speeches? (From audience: No) If the issues and tasks are clear, then let us not waste time. Nariman Imranov left Lankaran early in the morning. I delayed the meeting hoping that he can give more thorough information. But I explained to you the overall situation based on the information I had received. Our meeting is broadcast live for the population is being informed. Additional information will also be provided on television. Therefore, let us finish this meeting. As an acting head of the state I now cherish my hopes in all of you. The future of our country depends on our solidarity and will. I wish you successes. Thank you.