BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
On August 31, 2012, the world watched silently—with the exception of Armenians and some restrained condemnations from international leaders—as Ramil Safarov was set free and returned to Azerbaijan where he received a hero’s welcome and was glorified by none other than Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.
Safarov was the Azeri soldier who on February 19, 2004 picked up an axe and murdered Armenian soldier Gourgen Margaryan while he was sleeping in his bunker in Budapest, Hungary while both were attending a training program as part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace Program.
The muted outrage at the time of the murder, coupled with the muffled condemnation of Hungary’s decision to extradite a man who was convicted and sentenced serves as a reminder that the international community, especially the West, which has proclaimed itself the arbiter of human rights, is nothing but a farce and an accomplice in the gross breach of justice.
The Margaryan family was joined by the entire Armenian nation in mourning and in shock of the gruesome crime and were forced to re-live that horror when Hungary decided to extradite Safarov and his subsequent glorification when he returned to Azerbaijan.
For all intents and purposes, Margaryan’s murder remains an unpunished crime and, save for the intermittent reminders by the Armenian people, an all but forgotten chapter in the 20 years of peace negotiations to resolve the Karabakh conflict.
If anything, Margaryan’s murder and Azerbaijan’s vilification of the victim should have demonstrated Azerbaijan’s inherent and continued anti-Armenian policy that has festered in Baku since its post-Soviet independence (not to mention its short history as a nation). Yet this abhorrent act and its subsequent “resolution” should have prompted the international community, especially the co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minsk Group, to take a hard look at one of the entities occupying a seat at the negotiating table.
Until today, the international community’s brazen disregard for Azerbaijan’s actions continues to embolden Azerbaijan to continue its policies of hatred and military threats without any recourse or consequence, adding to the long list of crimes committed by Azerbaijan and gone unpunished.
Successive US administrations have successfully turned public opinion against such leaders as Vladimir Putin of Russia, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and more recently Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine, vilifying them for gross abuses of human rights and oppression of their respective populations.
If we use the US litmus test for Russia, Syria and Ukraine on Azerbaijan it will be extremely clear that the Baku regime fails—miserably—on all aspects.
Quashing dissent: check. Violating speech and press freedoms: check. Advocating hatred and xenophobia: check. Violating internationally established guidelines: check. Pocketing the national wealth: check… And the list goes on, including the centerpiece of America’s campaign against Putin and Russia—its treatment of the LGBT community, which has gotten the most traction in the US.
One wonders whether systematic pogroms of Armenians in Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabad, the reign of terror by Azeri forces against the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, an axe murder and subsequent glorification of its perpetrator and the continued violations of the cease-fire qualify for the US to take a hard look at its policies vis-à-vis Azerbaijan.
The 10th anniversary of Gourgen Margaryan’s death serves an opportunity to pose these questions, and once again, raise our voices for unconditional justice.