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“… And now I am not a refugee any more! …”
The FB community continues to share news from the frontline, to mourn soldier- friends and relatives, to report more civilian victims, telling the stories of each. They discuss the meeting of the foreign ministers in Washington DC with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and their agreement for a truce, analyse and decry the unbalanced coverage of the conflict abroad, especially in France, the statement by Trump, Putin’s speech in Valdai mentioning 5000 victims, the conflict between Turkey and France, share the letter of intersectional feminists from Iranian Azerbaijani feminists to Noam Chomski, and the address of Ilham Aliyev to the people.
FB’s major topic is war and the new truce agreement. The activists, bloggers and journalists discuss the news from the front line — mourning lost friends and relatives, and new civilian victims — two children wounded as a result of the shelling of Ganja, who died in hospital: 13 year-old Artur Malakov, who visited his aunt in Ganja from Russia, and 16 year-old Orkhan Ismayilzade during the shelling of Terter. The FB community also commemorates the first woman soldier killed in battle, Arasta Bakhshiyeva. The IDPs, who were expelled from the occupied regions in 1993-1994 report that they have often been looking at their abandoned houses via Google Earth, and have seen the destruction of the houses they locked before they left, as well as of the whole village. Many mourn the death of the colonel Shahid Hamidov, who himself was an IDP from the occupied Gubadli region. At the same time, they cheer the liberation of more villages and towns, widely sharing their lists. Some prominent journalists and activists who are IDPs from Gubadli region greet the news about its liberation. Well-known journalist Nurlan Libre exclaimed: “And now I am not a refugee any more!” People comment on how strong the feelings of refugees are, who say that they are ready to go back to their liberated home villages and towns on foot.
Some pro-government personalities defend the president from the critique of the activists. The media reports that the official information on the website of the Defence Ministry about the head of Military Headquarters Najmaddin Sadikhov has been deleted. FB users share the information about the letter by the Californian Armenian diaspora to Pashinian to agree to the 5 plus 2 formula suggested by Azerbaijan. They comment that this is a belated proposal. Jamil Hasanli connects it to the death of 20 fighters of Armenian origin from California in the war in Azerbaijan, the participation in which is considered as international terrorism. The other reason is gradual awareness of the international community of the real situation in the conflict, more balanced positions and statements of the international organizations and leaders, so even the draft suggested by France and Russia at the closed meeting of the UNSC was not adopted. Also, according to him there is a greater awareness that so-called self-determination is more an excuse for annexation of the territory, and even the NATO secretary general reiterated the importance of territorial integrity. The attempt to play on the religious basis also failed as the world saw that the main protector of the Christian nation is the Islamic Republic of Iran. The myth of Syrian mercenaries brought up by Turkey also failed as there was not a single fact so far presented to prove it. While the opposite is true – the BBC Russian correspondent (Marina Katayeva) showed evidence of the presence of 300 settlers from Lebanon and Syria funded by Armenia on occupied territories, presenting it as an act of humanitarianism. The e-media also reports the increase of consumer prices on food products in Armenia. An activist suggests that maybe after this war, the other side will stop dreaming about “historical lands” and will become more realistic and adequate in its foreign policy behaviour. FB reports on the award given to the team of tank-72 of the Azerbaijan Jewish community who are fighting in the front, with the naming of the tank after the National hero Jewish Azerbaijani Albert Agarunov, who died in the first Karabagh war in the 1990s. Meydan TV tells the story of “The last wedding in Khojali” of Azerbaijanis Durdane Mammadova and Vasif Gafarov. Many participants of that wedding were either killed or missing. Those who survived became handicapped or remained with lifelong trauma, because 39 days after that the Khojali massacre took place.
FB users share information about the humanitarian ceasefire and joint statement of foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and US State Secretary Mike Pompeo about the truce in force from Oct 26th at 8 am. They also agreed to meet again on 29th October. The US State Department’s website also placed the joint statement of the co-chairmen of the Minsk group of OSCE, Igor Popov of Russia, Stephane Visconti of France and Andrew Schofer of the USA who met with two foreign ministers in Washington DC on Oct 24th. It says that to identify the parameters of the ceasefire and to discuss the necessary steps for peaceful resolution of the Karabagh conflict they would meet again on the 29th. Khadija Ismayil, along with other journalists and activists, reports the violation of the ceasefire by 8.00am in two directions — at 8:04 the Armenian army started shelling Terter, and at 8:05 the division of the Armenian army in Lachin started shelling Azerbaijan army positions in the village Safian. She comments that she would be surprised if Russia would let the US achieve success as a peacemaker.
Meydan TV also reports on clashes between the two diasporas in Poland with Armenians using weapons against Azerbaijanis, continuing Azerbaijani rallies in a number of foreign states, and the number of COVID-19 deaths on the 26th October reaching 946.
FB reports the following major quotations from the president Aliyev’s address to the people;
“Come and see where the F-16 is, in the air or on land. Everyone knows it is on land and arrived for training since the beginning of the war. Turkey has sent it as a sign of moral support. However, if we are attacked by the other country, they will see it in action” … “They should give us a specific timetable of how many days it will take for Armenia to withdraw its troops, because we have precise information that they are going to use the humanitarian ceasefire for re-grouping and counterattack and conduct the occupation policies”… “Azerbaijan does not take any step beyond the international law. It does not move in Armenia’s territory. We are simply restoring our internationally recognized territory. If the Minsk group failed to do it, they should not create obstacles and should step aside. We, unlike Armenia, are not seeking anybody’s help. But they should not play with the patience of our people. Tomorrow this war will be over”. The activists note with irony that at the Armenian rally in Paris with demands to recognize the independence of Karabagh, they played the national music Kochari (Azerbaijani folk dance). One comments: “Could not they find any Armenian name for this dance?”. The other comments that 74 year-old Trump and 78 year-old Biden want to become US presidents for 4 years, whereas — “in our country the banks do not even give people of this age 6 months’ bank credit”.
The opposition political leaders discuss what to expect from the truce in Washington DC. One concludes from the president’s address that 1) Mainly Russia, but also the other two co-chairmen (less the US who is involved in elections) — do not want the ultimate solution to the Karabagh issue: if it stays unresolved, it will remain a tool of pressure 2) The de-facto alliances do work 3) The Madrid principles 5 plus 2 are not relevant anymore due to the changes in the military status quo, so a new formula is now needed — however the Minsk group is not ready to accept that yet, thinking that Armenia still can change the military balance back by counterattack 4) The messages to Russia were more open, the alliance of Armenia with Russia was stressed also and this is an influence of the de-facto alliances 5) That the Armenian and Russian policies represent a threat to the energy infrastructure 6) Yes, we want peace, but the cost of it should be the departure of the last Armenian soldier from our territory. The other opposition activist stresses that one should not expect that the US will succeed in achieving any gain in the Caucasus, which even Russia failed to do. He also stresses that of 16 signed ceasefire agreements, only two of them worked in 1994 and 2016 after April war in both cases Azerbaijan has unilaterally stopped fighting, in all other cases Armenia was violating it. Erdogan stated that Turkey is not afraid of US sanctions due to its support for Azerbaijan, concluding that the pressure on Ankara “is caused by the growing influence of Turkey”.
Human rights and social issues. The FB community shares photos of the poor living conditions of the families of the soldiers, with the article entitled: “Why are the houses of the dead at the front in such a condition in this country?” They share the appeal of an activist to leave the opposition, who in spite of the difficult conditions of living, is at the forefront of protecting the country, alone. The activists, intellectuals, and journalists warn the public against sharing photos or videos from the front – those with violent content or the credibility of which are not confirmed. The human rights defenders urge the government to release all political prisoners accused on the trumped-up charges, including the OMON group in prison since 1996, claiming it would have a positive symbolic meaning.
E-media reports that bank credits and interest debts for the families who lost their members in the war would be cancelled; for bank employees who lost their lives, one year’s salary to be deposited to their accounts; for those wounded – 3 months’ salary. The academic and politician Gubad Ibadoglu criticises such an approach which does not cover any soldier, but only dead or wounded, and calls it illogical. He also reports and decries plans of the Azersun company to increase prices of food products in the country. The opposition leader Ali Karimli reports and commemorates the death at the front of the soldier, who is brother of the political prisoner of the July Karabagh rally Elnur Hasanov.
Relations with Turkey. The media reports with reference to the Anadolu Agency that Erdogan stressed Turkey should be a participant both at the negotiating table and in the provision of border security. In his statement the Turkish prime minister refers to the interest expressed by Azerbaijan — that if Armenia wants Russia, Azerbaijan suggests Turkey. He also stated that Russia did not issue any statements rejecting this opportunity.
Relations with NATO. FB users share reports about the request for a meeting of the Armenian president with the NATO general secretary Stoltenberg at NATO, as well as the latter’s statement on the Karabagh conflict. He stressed that both Armenia and Azerbaijan are valuable partners, reminding that NATO is not party to the conflict and Turkey is NATO’s valuable ally. He expressed his deep concern at the ongoing conflict in Karabagh and around it; the civilian victims. That is why NATO calls both countries for de-escalation and for a viable ceasefire agreement, as well as supporting a political solution to the conflict.
Relations with the US. The FB community shares news about the meeting of two foreign ministers with Pompeo in DC, as well as a statement of Trump, that he would solve the issue of Karabagh the same way the US did in the Balkans. They widely shared the Armenian Foreign Minister’s CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, where he was asked tough questions and where he reports 90 thousand refugees who arrived in Armenia from Nagorno Karabagh. They also share the story about the hacking of the twitter account of Trump by Victor Gevers from the Netherlands who guessed his password: “maga2020” (Make America Great Again). The FB community is shocked by the warning of the US Embassy to its citizens to be cautious regarding possible terrorist acts. Women share the letter of Azerbaijani intersectional feminists in Iran and in exile to Noam Chomski: «Call for Sustainable Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh«. The letter says:
“The contemporary history of Azerbaijan is on the one hand filled with repression and tyranny and on the other hand with the struggle of its people for freedom and democracy. While the people of Azerbaijan had the opportunity to opt for self-determination in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country faced the consequences of two hundred years of Russian colonization, coup d’etat, domestic tyranny, and the military conflict with Armenia in 1988. The occupation of 20% of the Azerbaijani lands including Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 surrounding cities (Aghdam, Kalbajar, Lachin, Jabrail, Fuzuli, Ghobadli and Zangilan) resulted in human genocide in Khojali and displacement of one million Azerbaijanis. The thirty-year-long continued occupation of these areas and the silence of the international community despite the UN resolutions, demonstrates how politics continues to serve the discourse of war. The recent statement written by a group of well-known academics such as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Noam Chomsky, Cornell West, Tariq Ali, Judith Herman, Sila Binhabib, and Wicken Berberian (https://lareviewofbooks.org/…/lasting-peace-nagorno…/), reminded us that knowledge can be used as a tool to suppress the voices of the underprivileged, while concomitantly cementing unequal relations and the hegemony of the regional powers and the world economy in the unsteady geography of the Caucasus and the Middle East. Rethinking the binary between oppressed and oppressor obligates us to reconceptualize power more broadly. Given that postcolonial studies emphasize the role of power relations in knowledge production, the publication of such a one-dimensional statement by thinkers with a central role in the production and dissemination of critical knowledge indeed struck us as surprising. Most importantly, the international call of this statement, under the cover of nonviolence, demonstrates the self-conceit of Western academia. The thirty-year period of military standstill in Nagorno-Karabakh certainly has more complex reasons than the ideas of one single person or a secondary state’s politics. The reductionist approach of the recent statement combined with its implicit role in inducing Turcophobic sentiments, in fact are questioning the bases of the knowledge, through which we aspire to change the situation in the world.
Opting for peace and bringing an end to hostilities must go hand in hand with ensuing justice for all involved parties –otherwise any peace has little prospects of proving viable. Violence, war, and weapons are essential for the perpetuation of a patriarchal system; a system that, in interaction with other systems of domination and discrimination, suppresses women and questions their dignity and equal rights. The recent statement without reference to UN resolutions of 822, 853, 874, and 884 in 1993 on Nagorno-Karabakh, and ignoring the bombing of non-militant areas a few days ago in the city Ganja causing death of dozens of Azerbaijani civilians, including women and children, are not only signs of the death of humanity, it paves the way for the reproduction of the discourse of violence. It is a reaffirmation of the fact that in academic community of the West, and even among its postcolonial and feminist scholars, «the subaltern can still not speak.» We, a group of Azerbaijani intersectional feminists, express our deepest regret and sorrow at this statement, and our opposition to any occupation, violence, militarization, and internal tyranny. We also emphasize the need for a democratic system based on human rights, guaranteeing the rights of all minority groups in the territory of Azerbaijan. We condemn the war and call for the implementation of UN resolutions by the Armenian government and an end to the occupation.
1.Azam Ahmadi, Ph.D. in Political Science, Zanjan
2.Elnaz Sardarnia, Ph.D.Student in Turkish Folklore, Tabriz
3.Faeze Bahadori, Poet, Writer, Marand
4.Faranak Farid, Poet, Writer, Feminist Activist, Tabriz
5.Fatemeh Nasirpour, M.A. inInformation Technology, Marand
6.Fatemeh Dehghan Ph.D. in International Relations, Salmas
7.Giti Adalati,Ph.D.in Sociology andSocial Psychology, Hamburg
8.Hajar Kabiri, Ph.D. Student in Sociology, Khoy
9.Mahdie Ahani, Managing Editor of Ban Magazine, Tabriz
10.Maryam Gholizade, Ph.D.Student in Area Studies, Tabriz
11.Mina Ajalli, Carpet Designer, Mianeh
12.Rahime Mohammadfard, Poet, Writer, Tabriz
13.Robabeh Taghizadezonouz, Ph.D.Student in Linguistics, Zonuz
Relations with Russia. The speech of Vladimir Putin in Valdai, where he expresses hope that the US will help Russia to establish peace in the region, is widely commented on. A lot of attention is especially given to the number killed in the war — 5,000. He insists that nobody wants peace more than Russia, noting that the fact that there was no agreement reached in 30 years did not mean that one can violate the ceasefire. He also gave a reminder that there were heavy crimes committed towards the Armenian nation in Sumgayit, Nagorno Karabagh, but that the lost territories of Azerbaijan could not be tolerated forever. He stated that while their positions on Karabagh with Turkey do not synchronise, the trade turnover with Turkey is $20b and to conduct free foreign policy and cooperation with such a partner is both welcomed and is reliable. One of the activists makes the following conclusions: “ Putin is not ready yet to intervene in the conflict, as he did not reach the objective yet, he will not try to prevent the liberation of 7 regions, but does not seem to wish Azerbaijan’s full control over NK”. FB users share the photos of the Lithuanian photojournalist Vidmantas Balkunas for delfi.ru which shows military equipment located in the civilian quarters in Shusha and Khankendi. They also share the photos of the destroyed house of the citizen of Barda, who lost his wife in the shelling.
Relations with Iran. FB users report the liberation of the occupied territories – half of the Zangelan region — and full restoration of the borders with Iran, accompanying it by ironic comments about possible regret on the side of the Iranian “mullahs”. People share information about the continuing detention of Iranian Azerbaijanis expressing their solidarity with Azerbaijan and protesting at Iran’s support for Armenia (allowing transit of weapons through its territory). After the rally in Tabriz, one of the detained tells the VOA that they were beating him for two days, keeping him without food and water, before releasing him on bail of 100m tumans. He confirmed that there were more than 30 in total, among them young and underage children, with ten women.
Relations with France. One of the journalists analyses the narrative of the French mainstream coverage of the Karabagh conflict. The civilized Armenians are subjects of aggression of the savage Azerbaijanis, the Christian Armenians are victims of Muslim Azerbaijanis, Turkey has joined Azerbaijan and attacks little sister of France, Karabagh belongs to Armenia and Azerbaijan tries to take it away.