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“If Armenia does not want war, she should withdraw her troops from Azerbaijan…”
The ongoing military actions on the Karabagh front is the central topic of FB. Media outlets, online TV, personal posts of the FB users, political and civic leaders share news, discuss the “unfrozen conflict”, its consequences both for the fighting parties and the region as a whole, and the role of external actors. They share foreign reactions to the war, in particular critically assessing the resolution of the UNSC, denounce the position of France, but praising the solidarity of other countries such as Ukraine, or former Georgian president Saakashvili.
FB users share official information about the situation and losses at the front, such as the 2,300 military killed on the Armenian side since 27th September, 130 tanks and armored vehicles, more than 200 artillery and rocket systems, 25 air defence systems, 6 command-management centers, 5 weapons storages, 50 anti-tank devices, and 55 automotive vehicles. One S-300 rocket device was destroyed in the Khojali region’s Shushakend. The Armenian army has undertaken an attempted attack in the direction of Madagiz, so Azerbaijani troops were defending this direction.
In connection with poor internet services in the country during these days, some activists have transferred to the telegram. Ali Karimli, the leader of the Popular Front Party, states that the successful advances of the Azerbaijani army give hope that the occupied lands will eventually be liberated. For the Azerbaijani army this is a war over the motherland, while for the Armenian party — over occupation. Even the family of the political prisoner Mammad Ibrahim, who was arrested after the Karabagh rally on trumped-up charges, stated on their FB pages that Azerbaijan is liberating its occupied lands and that this is fully legal. The FB community shares the status of Jamil Hasanli and quotes him: “If Armenia does not want war, she should withdraw her troops from Azerbaijan.” Arif Hajili of Musavat spread statements in response to the slander campaign in the official media against the party, for allegedly not expressing clearly its attitude to the war. He argues that Musavat issued its statement on the 27th September and sent it to the 70 European political parties and international organizations. Panah Huseyn, the Popular Front government prime minister in 1992-3, condemns the campaign against major opposition parties in the official media. The latter criticises them for not signing a common statement, while Huseynov argues that this statement simply was not sent to these parties. One of the major topics is possible dangers caused by aggravation of the situation between the states, such as involving new actors. The FB community actively and critically discuss the position and statements from Russia, denounce the position of France, and appraise the stance of Turkey. Sevinj Osmangizi, the anchor of the popular critical e-TV, posted a status about her disappointment at the French President, who expressed disrespect to the sovereignty of Azerbaijan. She argues that it explains why the Minsk group was so ineffective, and that France should not be the co-chair any more.
FB users share the statement of the MFA of Azerbaijan, that this time the country will not stop half-way. The Azerbaijani party expressed its hope that Minsk group OSCE will at last understand the seriousness of Azerbaijan’s intentions and will demand the unconditional and full withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territory for the provision of peace. Until then Azerbaijan will continue legitimate military operations, states the MFA document. They discuss and praise the decision of the ECHR in response to the complaint of Armenia to apply rule 39, which calls both parties not to violate rights of civilians during the warfare. The popular political and civic leaders of the country share with bitterness the UN resolutions, or positions of world leaders, such as Joe Biden, where both parties are “equalized”. They also note that many Western leaders cannot even hide their antipathy to Turkey. They also mention the role of the November elections in the US, which affects the position of the presidential candidates. FB reports about Armenian community of Georgia blocking the cars and trucks arriving from Turkey across the Georgia border. In a similar way, comments one activist, the Iranian Azerbaijanis should not allow any transit of Russian weapons to Armenia via Iran. He also warns that Azerbaijanis in Georgia should be alerted to possible provocations of the Armenian community there. Journalists report that Iranian police detained its citizens from southern Azerbaijan who expressed their support to Azerbaijan in Ardabil city. There are voices calling for activisation of the Azerbaijani diaspora abroad, as the Armenian one has held a picket in front of Azerbaijani embassy in Paris. They share news that Azerbaijani professor of the North Carolina University, the Nobel prize winner Aziz Sanjar tweeted his support for Azerbaijan. They are particularly disappointed with the reaction of the UNSC, which “equalized” both parties, which many perceived as weak and not principled, commenting that if the Security Council had any self-respect, they would demand implementation of the previous 4 resolutions on NK. The FB community discusses the fake news and propaganda of the Armenian party, which justifies its failure in the war by the participation of Turkey. This fake news allegedly includes information that the Armenian SU-25 was hit by the Turkish F-16, or that Turks brought fighters from Syria to Karabagh, despite the fact that Armenians themselves are receiving weapons from Iran and Russia and benefit from their informational, economic, and political support. They also stress the importance of modern weapons such as unmanned aircraft, and that the time of outdated Russian weapons is over, that UAs bought in Israel are more relevant that Russian tanks. People share the tragic news about casualties and young people dying in the front, such as of a mother who lost two sons in the recent fighting, as well as deaths of civilians — such as the family of 5 including two underage children. The FB users blame Pashinian for the resumption of war, who “made changes in the army by buying the offensive weapons, stated that Karabagh is Armenia, danced yalli at the inauguration in Shusha, circulated a photo of his wife with a gun at military exercises …” Khadija Ismayil comments that in connection with all civilian casualties, including Armenian, the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan should open a criminal investigation.
People share the statement by Putin’s press secretary Peskov that Turkey did not officially declare its participation in the Karabagh conflict, which is why it is not correct to blame it in the support of Azerbaijan. On the other hand, information about Iran’s role in this conflict was also posted. It reports that the deputy governor of the Eastern Azerbaijan province, Aliyar Rastgu, has revealed the route of supply of weapons to Armenia. The company transported weapons including those from Russia in 640 Kamaz trucks from Enzeli port to Norduz city border. Allegedly they also hit an Azerbaijani drone on the border and appear to be concentrating troops on the border with Azerbaijan. People share the statement by former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who has expressed his support for Azerbaijan. Some are surprised against this background that the Muslim or Turkic states are not expressing their position and criticise the foreign policy of the president and diplomatic corps of the MFA. They also praise the reaction of the German MP Barbara Hendrix, who has supported the position of Azerbaijan. FB users interpret the events as Russia’s pressure on Pashinian, and connect Robert Kocharian’s visit to Karabagh with Pashinian’s possible removal. FB users solicitously share an appeal for blood donations for the wounded in battle. Many discuss the interviews of Aliyev and Pashinian on Russian TV-1, where the latter spoke about the “existential threat”. Some comment that peace cannot take place without justice and that those innocent people (IDPs) who were cleansed from the occupied territories should return home. They argue that for 30 years thousands of innocent lives were lost, and hatred cultivated for the sake of Russia’s interests. This game should finish, the Karabagh should be solved, and peace should come to the region, comments Rabiyya Mammadova. Activists are upset with the position of some Russian liberals, who have argued that Azerbaijan attacked Armenia (not even “Artsakh”) and that Russia should save Armenia. Young leaders comment on the drafting of their colleagues and friends, and express hopes that the sons of the oligarchs and ministers will also be drafted. The activists react with indignation to Pashinian’s fake information, that Azerbaijan brought mercenaries from Syria, who are attacking women in the villages and making them put on veils, etc. A “true Hollywood scenario”, comments one activist. FB regularly reports victims of the civilians — 13 on the Azerbaijani side, 5 on the Armenian. The youth leader is impressed by the flow of volunteers to the front (FB reports tens of thousands of volunteers), in spite of all the sufferings they are going through under this regime: “these are the guys, who are hardly making ends meet, who are beaten by the police … they might forgive you 100 times”, he addresses authorities, “but God will never forgive you !” They share the quotations from a FB user who lives in the UK, but is originally from the occupied territories and who describes her feelings about the occupation: “Imagine that one day, Armenian soldiers come to your house, kill all the family and burn down the house. Nobody is left — and no-one speaks about this horror !” FB users share the interview of British journalist Neil Watson in the Eurasia Diary, where he condemns the Armenian attack on civilians and Azerbaijan army. He also said that Armenia has repeatedly demonstrated neglect of international norms and human lives.
The other issue raised by FB users is the role of Turkey and Russia in this conflict and whether they are in conflict or cooperation. The experts also assess the tactics of military action on the Azerbaijani side. They argue that it targets the infrastructure and strategic objects, avoiding civilians, unlike the Armenian party, which is hitting civilian settlements. Gubad Ibadoglu, the leader of the ADR, reports the telephone conversation between the two foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Russia, where the latter expressed concern at the violation of the ceasefire and importance of its restoration. Azerbaijan foreign minsiter Jeyhun Bayramov in turn said that it is Armenia to blame for the instability of the region. Ibadoglu argues that it is important to stand for national interests and not to follow Russia’s instructions, as it was in April 2016. He also comments on the remarks of Emmanuel Macron, listing numerous important restoration projects of national culture in France with millions in Azerbaijani funding, along with shares in the best oil and gas contracts of Total – yet still taking a pro-Armenian position. The activists greet the Talysh minority’s solidarity in volunteering for the army, in spite of all attempts of the enemy to create a divide between Azerbaijani Turks and the Talysh people. The opposition activist comments with irony on the Russian foreign minister Lavrov’s words that “provocative and military rhetoric” is unacceptable. “He means that liberation of its occupied lands by Azerbaijan is unacceptable”, concludes the activist. The other opposition activist argues that Azerbaijan should consistently resist Russia’s pressure, because there is strong and wide public support for that.