Karabakh – the moment of truth
As the struggle for the liberation of occupied territories gears up, enemies of Azerbaijan around the world are mobilising.
This war has already crashed illusions, torn off masks and revealed truths many in Azerbaijan weren’t aware of, or were loath to admit. Here are some observations:
1. The OSCE Minsk Group process has failed completely and is now pretty much over. In addition to being ineffectual, its co-chairs can no longer pretend to be neutral, especially in light of French President Macron’s open support for Armenia. The format is defunct and the Group has lost all credibility in the eyes of the majority of Azerbaijanis. It needs to be replaced by a realistic alternative, and Azerbaijan must have an open champion amongst the mediators. How about just one?
2. Western standing, image and reputation in Azerbaijan have suffered significant damage. It'll be difficult for any of us to argue in favour of greater integration with the West given US/EU hostility towards Baku. Pro-Western/pro-EU/pro-NATO organisations and politicians in Azerbaijan are in a real difficulty. It is now unlikely that the Azerbaijan-EU partnership agreement will be signed any time soon. The whole episode will only add to growing Euroscepticism in the Republic.
3. Anti-Azerbaijani bias in the coverage of the conflict isn’t new. What is shocking this time around is the virulence of it, caused probably by Azerbaijani successes on the battlefield. It will have long-term repercussions for the way many Azerbaijanis perceive and engage with international media and civil society.
Previously respected organs like the Guardian and the BBC have been spreading anti-Azerbaijani fake news about the conflict, and made no attempt to provide balanced reporting. For example, I challenge the reader to find a single BBC reference to UN Security Council resolutions against Armenia or the European Court of Human Rights judgement on Armenian occupation of Karabakh. Anywhere, online or any other platform, or in the recent archives?
You can try but you won’t find it. Nor will you find any reference to more than 600,000 ethnically cleansed Azerbaijanis. According to the BBC, “ethnic Azeris” simply “fled”. Leaving aside such ignorant terminology, it is as if the massacres didn’t take place… As if Khojaly never happened… As if Aghdam never burned… As if Shusha was never sacked… Azerbaijani suffering and trauma have been written out of the Western discourses around Karabakh. Azerbaijanis are aware of this now like never before.
According to the Western media, West Bank is occupied, Abkhazia is occupied, South Ossetia is occupied, Crimea is occupied but Karabakh is “disputed”. The hypocrisy and double standards are breathtaking. By the way, BBC did send a correspondent to the occupied territories without seeking Azerbaijan’s permission, in other word - illegally. Azerbaijani authorities should not let this slide…
4. The “human rights industry” in the West had always remained toothless and lukewarm on the violations of human rights of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis expelled from their homes in the war of the 1990s. Meanwhile, scores of Azerbaijani civilians near the frontlines have been killed by Armenian shelling in recent days. As Armenian missiles explode over Ganja, Barda, Mingechevir, many are asking what is it about Armenian civilians that their lives are valued so much more than those of their Azerbaijani counterparts now and throughout recent history?
5. The so-called "conflict resolution" industry has also lost all credibility. The masks have slipped off the armies of overpaid "experts”, many of whom had built entire careers out of Karabakh, or “NK” as they prefer to call it. It is clear that talking-shops like International Crisis Group and Institute for War and Peace Reporting are there simply to help maintain the status quo, to provide cover of legitimacy for continued Armenian occupation.
Their funding (and therefore political direction) comes from dubious and highly partisan sources, complicit in fomenting instability across Eastern Europe. President Ilham Aliyev was right in a recent TV interview when he pointed out to the nature and origins of the Pashinyan regime in Yerevan. Let’s not forget that the Armenian warmonger PM and his Kalashnikov-toting wife had emerged from the very same Open Society Foundation cesspool as many of these self-declared peaceniks, “conflict-resolution”, “confidence-building” demagogues. Those in Azerbaijan who were previously prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt, will no longer do so.
Anna Hakobyan, the wife of the Armenian Prime Minister, brandishing Kalashnikov assault rifle at training exercises in the occupied Karabakh, August 2020.
6. Religion matters – to Armenians and their friends and allies worldwide. Azerbaijan is rightly proud of its robust secularism and modernist pedigree. Armenia, however, is a deeply religious, highly homogeneous state and society. For some over there Christianity comes with a capital C – crusades, martyrdom, holy this and holy that, and such like. Theirs is a faith of the sword. Their Christianity is that of the Cross and the Kalashnikov. Azerbaijanis never truly understood this fundamentalism and the racism, supremacism and territorial expansionism at the heart of Armenian national politics.
It is right, of course, to reject such medieval barbarism. Religion is simply not a factor for Azerbaijanis – theirs is a multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan, multi-confessional nation, and one of the most secular in the word. Israel is Baku’s closest partner and friend, just behind Turkey and followed by Pakistan, by Orthodox Christian Georgia, then Ukraine, Moldova, Hungary... Britain is the single largest foreign investor in Azerbaijan. Russian is the second most commonly spoken language in Baku, English is the third.
It is worth remembering, however, that Armenians and their sympathisers will and do use the “clash of civilisations” thesis to promote their agenda in the West and in Russia. It’s no surprise that the European far-right rushed to support Yerevan, with the neo-fascist Geert Wilders leading the charge. What should give pause for thought in Baku is that so many mainstream Western politicians and media jumped on the same band-wagon. Cultural identities matter, civilizational loyalties matter. They’re not the most important factor but they matter. Azerbaijan needs to be aware of the sectarian logic that informs much of Armenia’s international support.
Notwithstanding the above, Azerbaijani army is advancing and the glorious tricolour is being raised over towns and villages in the liberated territories. This is a reminder of the enormous courage, heroism and martial prowess of Azerbaijani soldiers. In the end, they are the ones making and writing this history. Karabakh was, is and will always be Azerbaijan.
“Faith and Power!” From the official Armenian Foreign Ministry Twitter account, 27 September, 2020.