BY HRANT APOVIAN
“If a single candle were lighted
for every murdered Armenian,
the light from these candles would be
brighter than that of the moon.”
When the world starts to expose and vilify the State of Azerbaijan as a country rife with human rights abuses, as a promoter of massacres in its country, as an aggressor, and a warmonger, a state that imprisons opposition members and journalists, then one can finally believe that decency in foreign policy takes a front seat to considerations for Azeri oil.
The latest chapter involving human rights abuses and creating popular turmoil in Azerbaijan involves an Azeri writer who was stripped of his honorary title as “the Peoples Writer” awarded in 1998. He is being harassed and vilified for writing a book where he reveals Azeri massacres of Armenians. He had the courage to write that “This nation – Armenia – was tired and exhausted from the violence but they never stopped building their churches, writing their books and raising arms to heaven appealing to their God.”
Transgressions by Azerbaijan date back to and started when Stalin awarded Azerbaijan Nagorno Karabakh, an Armenian enclave for centuries. During the years of occupation the people of Nagorno Karabakh were subjected to abuses, massacres, and a policy of extermination and depopulation to rid the enclave of its ethnic population.
This policy culminated in a series of Armenian massacres within Azerbaijan, notably in Sumgait, when the people of Nagorno Karabakh opted for independence during the fall of the Soviet Union.
The massacres in Sumgait and other cities in Azerbaijan, which the world chose to ignore were followed by a protracted war against the people of Nagorno Karabakh and which was started by a fierce aerial bombardment of population centers.
Four years later, after mass destruction and the infliction of 30,000 lives lost, Azerbaijan lost the war that it started. The OSCE (Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe) Minsk Group comprised of the USA, Russia, and France is trying to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict based on the right of self determination of the people of Nagorno Karabakh. Azerbaijan is actively sabotaging and blocking any peaceful resolution, becoming more and more intransigent during the negotiations.
This is evidently a ploy by Azerbaijan to buy time, in the mistaken belief that with time, it will gain legitimacy in the quest to reconquer Nagorno Karabakh.
This is based on an Azerbaijani government sanctioned grand design to:
First: Rearm, spending a large portion of its oil revenue building a better military machine. Azerbaijan is buying billions worth of armaments from Russia, The USA, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey, and Israel, outspending Armenia five to one.
Second: Instilling hatred towards Armenians worldwide in its people. Extraditing Sapharov, an Azeri officer who had murdered an Armenian officer in cold blood during a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) training event, and welcoming him as a national hero.
Third: Mounting a massive diplomatic campaign against Armenia, accusing it of occupying Azeri lands, massacring Azeris in Khochalu, where its inhabitants were granted safe passage out by Armenian forces before attacking it. Azerbaijani propaganda is depicting the conflict as a Muslim – Christian strife. This resulted last month, in an anti-Armenian declaration by the Islamic Conference in Cairo, Egypt.
Fourth: Constantly violating the cease fire agreement across the Azerbaijan – Nagorno Karabakh front, as well as the Azerbaijan – Armenia front and refusing to remove snipers and initiating border incursions that have so far killed many Armenian defense soldiers and civilians.
Fifth: Targeting the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh as well as the Armenian Diaspora worldwide, by vilifying our nation as the aggressor and occupier with a systematic misinformation campaign. This includes promoting anti Armenian sentiments and presenting the conflict as an infringement on Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. An anti-Armenian White House petition was linked to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, a project headed by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliev’s multibillionaire wife, Mehriban Aliyeva.
Sixth: Conditioning a thaw in Armenia – Turkey relations and lifting of an embargo on Armenia by Turkey on a favorable resolution for Azerbaijan on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. This is one major reason Turkey reneged on its commitment on the ill fated Armenia – Turkey Protocol agreement.
Seventh: Threatening to down civilian passenger aircraft if the airport in Nagorno Karabakh is put into operation, to forcibly halt planned commercial flights to Nagorno Karabakh.
Eighth: Trying to organize the Azeri Diaspora and spending millions with public relation firms to legitimize and propagate an official misinformation campaign worldwide orchestrated and funded by the government of Azerbaijan.
Unfortunately, the threat of war is having an effect on the civilian population of Nagorno Karabakh, which is trying to rebuild a war ravaged country and has established a viable democratic government. Belligerent declarations threatening war by both Azeri civilian and military officials are constant. However, the West is reluctant to chastise the government of Azerbaijan, and is exercising a policy of appeasement. This emboldens the Azeri government to be more intransigent and to test the will and physical resilience of Nagorno Karabakh defense forces.
Furthermore, the world does not realize and the governing clique in Azerbaijan cannot conceive, that this is a very dangerous course that it is following. If Azeri forces were to attack, the push-back by Nagorno Karabakh and Armenian forces would result in enormous loss of life, destruction of the oil industry, turmoil in the Caucasus, and can conceivably result in more territorial losses for Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh have to take Azeri threats very seriously. To rely on the West to restrain Azerbaijan is futile. If Azerbaijan continues in its present course of action, blocking a peaceful resolution of the conflict by grossly miscalculating the success of the military option, Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh should seriously consider pulling out of the negotiations and more actively pursue the recognition of Nagorno Karabakh as an independent nation.
After all, time may be on the side of Azerbaijan. Its massive military buildup is becoming seriously ominous to a dangerous extent. The millions spent on its propaganda machine are beginning to have an effect, by distorting historical precedent. This should remind us that the West will not always side with the righteous and can at any time abandon the people of Nagorno Karabakh to their fate.