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Center for National and International Studies
“…The world should not keep silence!…”
The war continues to be the central topic on FB. People update news from the front, Armenia’s shelling of Nakhichevan region Ordubad, interests and behaviour of third parties, Russia’s rhetoric and her naval exercises on the sea, Armenia’s attempt to attract Russia to the war by targeting more towns, the shelling of Iranian territory populated by Azerbaijanis from Armenia, Ilham Aliyev’s latest speech, and the EU’s denouncement of the shelling of Ganja city. They support the continuing struggle of the Belarus people and discuss new quarantine rules due to the increase of COVID-19 cases.
Leading activists, journalists and bloggers share updated news from the front: civilian casualties of the Ganja shelling by ballistic rockets of the Armenian army in two quarters of the city, Suleyman Rahimov street and Mukhtar Haji street – 13 dead, including 16 month old Medina and her whole family, except for the 3 year-old sister; 52 wounded, with 20 houses destroyed. The language of some comments especially those FB users from Ganja in regards to Armenia reflects the shock: “the enemy of humanism”, “the net of terror”, “desperate, immoral and cunning acts of terrorism”. FB users post and share statements that “The world should not keep silence!” The human rights defenders stress that Ganja is not in the zone of fighting being at a distance of 100 km from it, but it was hit by SCUD ballistic rockets from the territory of Armenia. They qualify it as purposeful and indiscriminate rocket shelling of the peaceful citizens. This constitutes a military crime and act of terror, organized by Armenia. They share news of liberation of Fizuli city and 6 villages of the region. The attacks on the 16th and 17th October on Ganja were decried in a statement by the EU, who expressed its regret and appealed to the parties to implement the truce agreement of 10th October. FB users report Russian naval exercises in the Caspian, and how Hadrut was attacked 3 times by the Armenian army. The political and civil activists urge that Armenia should be held responsible for targeting civilians. They discuss the role of external actors in the conflict and express total unacceptability for the idea of Russian peacekeeping forces. Osmangizi TV interviews American analyst Paul Goble on this topic. Ali Karimli, the leader of the Popular Front Party argues that Turkey and EU should be represented in the Minsk group co-chairman’s mediation institute. He reiterates that the function of the Minsk group was to achieve the withdrawal of troops from the Azerbaijani territories and start peaceful negotiations, but they did not achieve their goal in 26 years, which resulted in total loss of confidence in the country. He argues that the continuation of the peace talks can be successful only if the mediators are non-partisan and respectful. He stresses that at the moment none of the mediators are objective. Russia is a military ally of Armenia, while Armenian diasporas are powerful both in the USA and France. He considers that Turkey and the EU should be included in the co-chairmanship, while the more active role of the US may become important in balancing Russia in the region and in the promotion of the principles of respect for the international borders and peaceful co-existence of the two peoples. The FB community reports that on 15th October at 10:44 the Armenian army shelled the Ordubad region of Nakhichevan from the occupied region Gubadli. At the same time the cemetery in Terter region was shelled during the burial ceremony resulting in four dead and four wounded. The shelling also reached Baharli village, where several were wounded. They share pictures of the 13th century Albanian monastery in poor condition near the liberated town Hadrut. They share emotional posts about liberation of the historical monument – old bridges of Khudaferin – which have been under occupation and recall the episode of president Elchibey who visited the front in 1992 in spite of the risks and threats only to be able to see these bridges. They report about success of the action- campaign Aid to the Front by collecting clothes, medical items, sweets, thermoses, as well as other medical or heating devices bought with funds raised by the population. They share and interpret the Armenian army’s shelling of Ordubad city in Nakhichevan from the occupied region Gubadli. A few activists ironically comment that it seems Armenia failed to attract Russia to military action and now they are trying to attract Turkey instead (hinting to the special status of Nakhichevan – subject of a Russia-Turkey agreement a century ago). They also argue that it shows how unwisely they use the geography and this way they attract attention to the essential status of the Megri region, which would provide the main security for Nakhichevan. They decry the coverage of the events by Radio Freedom as unbalanced, as it equalizes the behaviour of the Armenian army shelling the peace towns in the other country and the Azerbaijani army trying to liberate its own territories. The activists and journalists reiterate that the Geneva convention’s provisions about treatment of the adversary should be the main guidance for the Azerbaijan Army. The publisher Shahbaz Khuduoglu appeals to the society and army to express love and mercy to the defeated soldiers.
One of the leaders stresses that the country’s struggle for international law and justice should be continued even if the West imposes sanctions, or Russia gets involved in the war. The National Security Agency warns the population that there might be provocations in the cities and to be alert.
They discuss the main points of Ilham Aliyev’s recent speech, which are:
They further share the commentary by the correspondent of the Russian opposition channel Dojd Vasily Polonsky, who was discrediting the misinformation that “Syrian mercenaries” are fighting, moving in white jeeps, confirming that he saw Azerbaijani soldiers in these jeeps. The FB community also ironically comment, that in spite of Russia’s attempts to stir up the issue of minorities, including the Talysh, they are fighting in the Azerbaijani army and recently liberated, along with the rest, Hadrut town with the slogans “Astara, Garabagh, Azerbaijan!” Another comment on the criticism of Turkish-Israeli relations on Armenian sites, argues that “after the failed attempt to manipulate the relations with minorities- Lezgis, or Talysh, now Armenians quote Ali Ibn Abu Talib under the posts criticizing Israel (as if they had not opened an embassy there)”. FB users share a report of the protest rally against the bombing of civilians in Berlin, Toronto, and New York. The leader of the ADR, Gubad Ibadoglu, considers that the bombing of Ganja was a tactical objective of Armenia’s government to distract attention from the defeat in Karabagh, to provoke Azerbaijan into involvement (the attacks being undertaken from Armenia’s Vardenis region) 3) Cause panic among Azerbaijani population. He considers that there is an urgent need for Aliyev and Erdogan to come up with a joint statement for release of all political prisoners, for preparation of a plan of restoration of the Karabagh region and increase of support for the army. Other activists argue that Azerbaijanis do not want victory, they simply want the integrity of their homeland, so this cannot be not defined as “wanting victory”. The goal of Armenia in bombing Ganja is that by realizing the failure of the dream of Greater Armenia, instead of living as one of the other nations in the region -to expand its living space at the expense of others and by occupation under the disguise of “buffer” or “security” zones, create a new geography, making people refugees from their thousand year-old homelands, and – however strange it may sound – become happy. This, he concludes, reveals that the Armenian political elite does not have a statehood thinking – as their territorial claims prevents the process of their peaceful co-existence and development. For many years they have been living with the myth of Greater Armenia, raising their children with it. He argues that the liberation of Karabagh and other lands is important not only for Azerbaijan but for the whole region. The defence minister of Armenia recently said that they would return the buffer zone by occupying 5 more regions. The FB community shares information about the UNSC closed meeting on 19th October on the situation in Karabagh. Khadija Ismayil comments: “If you think that arrival to power via democratic election justifies Pashinian’s military crimes, you probably forgot the genocide of Rohingya committed in Myanmar under Aung San Suu Kyi.” Commenting on the statement of the neighbour’s minister of defence she wrote, that despite this, Armenia still plays the “role of victim”. The shelling of civilians and the reaction to it as reflected in FB also testifies the level of hatred cultivated in their society, she continues. She argues that herself and her colleagues permanently remind in their own society about Geneva conventions and humane treatment of the adversary. “I do not see any hope in Armenia”, she concludes. The young journalists comment that “The Azerbaijan army is not fighting Armenians, but the Armenian state. This war is not Turkish-Armenian or a Christian-Muslim war. The Republic of Azerbaijan simply is restoring its territory in the internationally recognized borders”. He says that if this was ethnic, confessional, he would be strongly against it. The Azerbaijan army, he claims, will bring peace and democracy to the region.
Osmangizi TV broadcast a discussion on the information war between the two parties. Are the views of civilian destruction perceived differently on opposite sides of the conflict? How can one watch it without global condemnation? FB users also attract attention to the difference in compensation to the families of the deceased soldiers in Armenia and Azerbaijan – for the Armenian poor with few resources, the compensation being two times higher than in Azerbaijan.
Regarding the activities of the Minsk group, one of the activists said that they repeat the same provisions of the Madrid principles like “ parrots”, without understanding that due to the regaining control over some regions formula “5 plus 2” has turned into “3 plus 2” , and it may become soon “0 plus 1”. They also discuss the statement by Pashinian that Yerevan will recognize Karabagh if Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, does not go back to negotiations. The investigative journalist, former political prisoner Afghan Mukhtarli, refutes the fake news by Nerses Mkrtchian – the latter posted a non-existent interview by Afghan Mukhtarli. Natig Jafarli comments that “we are living historical times”. Rufat Garagozlu posts on his timeline that current events are a reflection of the struggle of Azerbaijani people against 200 years of colonialism.
Reference to history. The historian Jamil Hasanli posts a historical note in response to the requests and questions of his followers about a history of Zangezur region, which is part of Armenia, but had substantial compactly living Azerbaijani population before they were expelled at the early stages of the conflict. He analyses the history of transfer of Zangezur region by Stalin to the Soviet Armenia, mainly to cut the border between Turkey and Azerbaijan, although he knew that the majority of population there was Azerbaijani and it was part of first Caspian — and since 1867 — Yelizavetpol (Ganja) counties. With the conquest of the Caucasus by Russia the number of Armenians there significantly increased at the expense of those who left Iran and the Ottoman empire, in the course of Russia’s settlement policies. Thus In 1897 the Azerbaijani population of Zangezur was 52.3% while the Armenian increased to 46.4%. In 1918 the region’s 40 villages were destroyed by the Armenian general Andranik, turning thousands of local Azerbaijanis into refugees. Only with the consensus of British, during the government of the ADR with the appointment of the governor of Karabagh and Zangezur Khosrov Pasha Sultanov the situation was stabilized. During this time Karabagh and Zangezur were part of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The idea of transferring Zangezur to Armenia came to agenda in November 1920 after Bolsheviks occupied the country. According to Ordjonikidze this step aimed at two objectives- to close land borders between Azerbaijan and Turkey, and to support the Armenian communists and strengthen their position in the country. Thus the old Azerbaijani lands were turned into a bargaining tool in Russian-Armenian relations and with the Sovetization of Azerbaijan started to play a role of donor of the lands for expansion of Armenia. The Russian-Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan has resulted in the loss of the main area of Zangezur. The central town of this region, Gorus, has been used by Russia over the last 30 years as a major platzdarm against Azerbaijan.
COVID 19. The civil and political leaders warn about increase of COVID statistics in both states — parties to the conflict- and that everyone should follow the rules of safe behaviour. They also discuss the 16th October decree on the imposition of strict quarantine in the country from the 19th October until the 2nd November, including stopping the functioning of metro and breaktimes in all educational institutions, reducing of the work time to 30%, with people over 65 obliged to stay home.
Relations with Turkey. The FB community discusses the telephone conversation of Erdogan with Putin. They refer to the information by the Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the recent violation of the ceasefire by Armenia and shelling of peaceful population as well as the cemetery during the burial ceremony in Terter was the subject of discussion. FB shares the reaction of Turkey to Armenia’s shelling – wide coverage of the events on TV, statements at all levels of the government and opposition by the ministry of defence, vice-president Fuat Oktay, Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin, foreign minister Movlut Chavushoglu, leader of the CHP Kamal Kilicdaroglu — all of whom decried the inhumane acts of targeting civilians and expressed their support for Azerbaijan. The FB community also shares information about the Turkish Parliament speaker’s Mustafa Shentop to Baku.
Relations with Russia. Russians can come to Azerbaijan only as tourists and guests, comments one activist. The report of the channel Dojd’s other correspondent that Armenians from Shusha had become refugees provoked a statement on their unprofessionalism, as before the conflict the city was populated by Azerbaijanis. On the other hand, they share with praise the commentaries by Russian commentator Maxim Shevchenko on Ekho Moskvi radio who was supporting the position of Azerbaijan.
Relations with Kirgizstan. The activists share the statement by the former president of Kirghizstan who resigned in response to the mass protests after 4 October parliamentary elections in the republic. He stated that he did not want to go down in history as a president who has caused the blood of his own people to spill. “For me the most important thing is the integrity of Kirgizstan, the unity of people and stability of society”.
Relations with the US. FB users continue to follow the reaction to the conflict in the US and statements of the officials and political leaders. They discussed the statement made by Joe Biden, that when he comes to power he will stop the involvement of Turkey in the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict.
Relations with Iran. The FB community shares the reports about another rally in Iranian Azerbaijan “Karabagh is ours”. They also report demand by the Iranian Azerbaijanis to close the Armenian-Iranian border and thank Tabriz for solidarity. “Nurduz should be closed” — has been the slogan at the rallies in Tabriz. (Nurduz is the border point). One journalist recalls that in his students’ times they were going to Nakhichevan near Khudaferin bridge, very close to which were Iranian border troops. One of the guys took a picture of Khudaferin bridge, but they confiscated his mobile phone and deported him. He has not been able to enter Iranian territory since then. Hopefully, from now on it will be permitted to take a picture of Khudaferin.
Relations with Pakistan. The FB community shares the wishes for success in liberating of the occupied territories expressed by Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan. They thank Pakistan for solidarity.
Developments in Belarus. Ali Karimli, the leader of the Popular Front Party, praised the courage of the Belarus people during the rally on Sunday 18th October. He comments that despite mass police violence and arrests, the Belarus people persist in their struggle.