Azerbaijani military doctors studying and working in the Turkish capital Ankara voluntarily joined last year the Second Karabakh War to treat wounded soldiers on the frontlines and they are now recalling the 44-day uneasy path leading to the long-awaited victory and the liberation of the occupied territories.
New clashes erupted on Sept. 27 last year, with the Armenian army attacking civilians and Azerbaijani forces and violating several humanitarian cease-fire agreements.
During the 44-day military conflict, also known as the Patriotic War, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and some 300 settlements and villages that were occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years. Prior to this, about 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory was under illegal occupation.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the occasion of Victory Day, the first anniversary of the liberation of the occupied Azerbaijani territories from the nearly three-decade occupation of Armenian forces, the physicians said it was a "pride and honor" for them to voluntarily join the last year's large-scale conflict, and cure the wounded soldiers and officers of the Azerbaijani army.
Amin Aliyev, a major at the Azerbaijani army's medical service, said that along with his physician colleagues, upon hearing the news on the start of a counter-offensive operation by Azerbaijan on Sept. 27, 2020, he couldn't "stay indifferent" and "absolutely" decided to apply to the relevant military and university authorities to join the army.
Aliyev, who continues his plastic surgery studies at the University of Health Sciences (SBU) of Gulhane Training and Research Hospital, said they received a positive response to their application and returned to Azerbaijan, where they were later relocated to the regions.
"It is very gratifying that I was appointed to the frontline," he said, adding that everyone was working "without exhaustion and with a fighting spirit."
Once receiving the wounded soldiers, the surgeries continued even until the morning, he added.
"We all were trying our best to save the lives of patients. Of course, we had difficulties. It was a war. Thankfully, there were no martyrs in the hospital I was appointed to. There was no unsuccessful operation at our hospital.
"I'm proud that I'm an officer of the Azerbaijani army, and we are very proud of our victory," he said.
Noting that there were shells falling down right at the front yard of the hospital, Aliyev said: "There very many nights we spent in the hospital basement due to the shelling, because our hospital was at a single shell distance from the enemies."
"But if there was an ongoing surgery, despite the shelling and the bomb alert alarm, everybody used to continue their operation," he asserted.
Recalling that there were 10 military doctors "martyred" at the war, Aliyev said one of them was a very close friend of him, and wished "Allah's mercy upon all those who lost lives in the war."
'Proud, happy, but also upset'
Javidan Aliyev, another Azerbaijani physician studying orthopedics at the SBU Gulhane Training and Research Hospital, said the voluntary doctors coming from Turkey were appointed in four different military hospitals based on their medical specializations.
"As the Azerbaijani army was advancing in the frontline, our mobile hospital was also following the army," he said, adding that it was done to save time on transportation of the wounded to the hospital.
"We were proud and happy, but at the same time, we were upset as we were receiving wounded soldiers. Everybody was doing their best to save the life of injured," he stressed.
Aliyev went on to say that he was a witness of the victory in Karabakh, "thanks to the blood and lives of patriotic sons."
"I can never forget one episode. There was a junior nurse at the same hospital with us. One soldier, who voluntarily joined the army amid war, was brought wounded to the hospital. He arrived with the traumatic amputation, and we took him immediately to the surgery room. I had to amputate his foot. And this soldier appeared to be the son of this nurse. There were indescribable moments there. But the only concern of that soldier was to eliminate his mother's sorrow."
Aliyev also thanked all those who "contributed" to the victory and wished fast recovery to the veterans.
'Fought shoulder-to-shoulder to save lives'
Fail Mammadov, a captain at the Azerbaijani army's medical service and studying at the SBU Gulhane Training and Research Hospital in Ankara, said it was a "necessity" for them to join the war and treat the wounded.
Although there was enough medical staff back in Azerbaijan, Mammadov said, they could not imagine themselves being far away from the conflict zone while other servicemen might be in need of their medical care.
"Together with other physicians, we fought shoulder-to-shoulder day and night to save lives and cure the wounded. This is our duty. If the homeland is the case, the rest doesn't matter," Mammadov said.
Mammadov highlighted that he is "proud" to be a part of a Turkic world, adding that his country's "hero army made a history."
"This victory is forever. We shall never let it go," he said.
The Second Karabakh War ended with a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020.
Two months later, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It also included the establishment of a trilateral working group on Karabakh.
Azerbaijan marks Victory Day on Nov. 8, the liberation day of Shusha, "the pearl of Karabakh," which played a crucial role in the fate of the Patriotic War, leading to the defeat of the Armenian side and the cessation of hostilities.