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Center for National and International Studies
“…The Azerbaijan-Armenia war is a litmus test on the attitudes of observers …”
The war continues to be the central topic of FB. The FB community decries and mourns the shelling of Barda by the Armenian army, resulting in 90 civilian victims, which has amplified the emotional tone and intensity of the postings, put pressure on peacemakers, and provoked the perception of some Western observers as being one-sided. The FB community shares and discusses news from the Armenian side, president Ilham Aliyev’s interview to the Italian RAI channel, shares the news about political prisoners, decries continued court hearings declaring sentences.
The name of the adversary now more often appears in combination in the expression “the Net of Terror Armenia” Gultakin Hajibeyli, the political leader, stated that Armenia continues to commit military crimes against Azerbaijan unprecedented in scale. She reported 21 people killed and 70 heavily injured and that this barbarian act would not be forgotten. FB users also share information that few high-level military officials in Armenia were arrested due to the disclosure of the illegal transfer of the weapons from the occupied territory to Armenia proper. The FB users also discredit the fake information about Azerbaijan shelling the maternity hospital in Khankendi (Stepanakert) by the quotation from the Armenian sources that the construction of this hospital is planned to be completed only by the end of October. The escalation of fighting and new civilian victims makes voices of peace more marginalized, with peace activists complaining about insults and strong language on FB. Osmangizi TV discusses with experts the statement of Aliyev that “there is no force which can divert it from its chosen path”. The activists and leaders stress the consolidation of national determination vis-à-vis increasing its neighbour’s aggression. One activist comments that it seems like Pashinian is working in favour of Azerbaijan, as by his actions he has managed to mobilize the whole Azerbaijani nation in defence of its lands. Khadija Ismayil quotes the PACE resolution of 2016 with reference to the immediate withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the region of the Sarsang water reservoir, as it deprives people of the access to the water supply and may accuse the ecological catastrophe. Armenia ignored it, so Azerbaijani army liberated this region in October 2020. Now hundreds thousands of Azerbaijanis have an access to water, the government plans restoration works, but the Armenian army continues to attack the region, trying to get the control over the dam. One of the journalists speculates that if the weak Armenia committed Khojali massacre, what would it do if it was as big as Azerbaijan and had its resources. They also share reports that prime minister Pashinian appealed to the Muslim and Arab states to help to stop” Azerbaijan aggression”. The youth leader commented that the issue of mercenaries has gone too far and is over the top – now even Putin called Erdogan and expressed his concern about mercenaries fighting in Karabagh. One commentator joked under the posting that there are paid fighters in the war but they are not from Syria, but from Nakhichevan (playing on the regional nepotism of the current power).
Some youth leaders conclude that this war has made them become disappointed in Western organizations that were endlessly trusted in matters of democratic support, but have lost Azerbaijani society’s trust in this war context, and caused serious harm to the democratic forces promoting integration in the West.
FB users observe that the news from the other side is reminiscent of the spirit of the 90s. – the Karabagh clan has reactivated, the voices of its generals are louder
and they predict the appearance of their own “Suret Huseynov” (the colonel who headed the rebellion to oust the democratic government of Elchibey—L.A.). FB shares screenshots of the telegram postings in Armenia urging Kurds with Turkish passports to fight in Karabagh. They also quote the Azerbaijan’s president’s assistant who informed that Armenia has not agreed yet to the transfer of dead bodies of the soldiers by Azerbaijan. FB reports that Azerbaijani hackers obtained access to a list of 5.436 dead soldiers of the Armenian army.
The FB community shares information that the ex-premier of Armenia, Vazgen Manukian, suggested the following way out of the crisis in the country: either the government resigns, and the power passes to the military, or the military takes over the power and creates a common defence committee. They report on the resignation of the chief of the counter-intelligence department of the Armenian National Security Agency, gen-major H. Karumian, as well as on the neutralization of NK’s “defence minister” Jalal Arutyunian. FB also reports that Armenian sources have confirmed that Azerbaijani hackers are taking control over street and shop cameras in Armenia. FB shares and comments on the negative reaction in the Armenian parliament to the alleged statement of Pashinian, that “we should be prepared for painful concessions”. Natig Jafarli of REAL comments that Armenia and her defenders try to cover the fact of occupation under the disguise of the Muslim— Christian confrontation, but he also warns the national media not to get into this trap themselves, as the occupation does not have a religion. He also considers that while political expression of protests to France is justified, but from an economic point of view boycotting French products in Turkey or in Azerbaijan does not make any sense. Meydan TV analyses the Armenian army targeting the hydropower station and water reservoir in Mingechevir, emphasizing the effect which the 2018 explosion had on the city, ecology and water supply of the country. It also recalls that Armenian officials have repeatedly threatened by hitting and destroying it. Some sources report rebellion in the 3rd corps of the Armenian army.
The popular political commentator Ramis Yunus, who lives in the US, called the Armenian-Azerbaijani war a litmus test on the attitudes of many observers. He strongly criticized the British expert of the Carnegie Foundation, Tom de Waal, “for his anti-Azerbaijan rhetoric”.
Reaction of the political parties. The Musavat party spread a statement in which it declares that the actions of the national army in restoring the territorial integrity of the country is in full compliance with international law and UNSC resolutions. The attempts of the co-chairmen to stop these actions is an attempt to support the aggressive policies of Armenia. The US, France and Russia should stay non-partisan as mediators, otherwise they should forfeit their function.
It also demands that Russia and Iran give explanations for the illegal weapons supply to Armenia. The opposition parties reacted to the shelling of civilians in Barda. The other statement of Musavat calls for the urgent sending of the UN commission to investigate the crimes against humanity in the cities of Barda, Terter, and Ganja, in addition to calling for their denunciation by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House. The leader of the Popular Front Party Ali Karimli, decries the shelling of Barda city and states that having lost the battlefields, the Armenian army is targeting civilians. He urges the international community “to hold Armenian terrorists responsible”for the killing of children and other peaceful citizens.
Human rights and social issues. Human rights defenders urge the international organizations to investigate the rocket shelling of civilian targets in Barda with the usage of prohibited cluster bombs. The FB community shares news about the sentence of 4 years 6 months in prison given by the Binagadi district court on Oct 27th to the member of the Muslim Unity Movement, Shamil Hasanov, who is the father of 3 children and has a brain tumour. The activists, journalists and bloggers decry continued court proceedings against the opposition activists — their sentencing, in spite of the war, and presence behind bars of government critics. The youth activist Ilkin Rustamzade appeals to society to be tolerant towards the diversity of opinions presented by media, such as Meydan TV, and to preserve pluralism in times of war. The civil activist Shahla Ismayil, coordinator of the National Platform of the EAP CSF, expressed her indignation at the one-sided report of the Human Rights Watch, which makes reference to the absence of access to information covering violations of human rights in the war only on the Azerbaijani side. She criticises the organization for not approaching alternative sources of information, such as independent NGOs and journalists, who are in possession of numerous facts and evidence of the application of cluster bombs to civilian targets — killing children, destroying houses, mutilating the dead bodies of soldiers. She notes that this month the ambassadors who visited Ganja and Mingachavir, which are beyond the fighting zone, saw clear proof of the deployment of cluster bombs on civilians. She expressed her regret at the decision of Human Rights Watch to publish such a biased report and stresses that it creates more harm than benefit, as it contributes to stirring the conflict. Nigar Hezi posts on her timeline a reminder of her father Tofg Yagublu’s case at the Court of Appeal hearing on October 29th.
Relations with Turkey. The FB community shares Meydan TV’s report on the speech of Erdogan at his party meeting. He positively assessed his meeting with Putin where they agreed to cooperate and finish the problem of Karabagh, reporting that they also discussed the red lines in this conflict. He commented on the spreading of information that Turkey brought the mercenaries from Syria, that currently Armenia pays a salary of $600 to 2000 PKK fighters in Karabagh who previously fought in Syria. He mentioned that Putin responded that he was not aware of it, but Erdogan expressed hope that he will point Pashinian towards it, otherwise they will have to undertake measures. He also expressed the hope that soon all the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan will be restored. FB reports that in Demirtash in Turkey, a park named after Polad Hashimov, the general killed in the July 2020 flare up, was recently opened. The opposition party leaders congratulate Turkey on the 97th anniversary of the creation by Ataturk of the Republic of Turkey. FB users comment on the recent terrorist explosions in Turkey and Pakistan as not accidental in the context of the war with Armenia (both sell weapons to Azerbaijan and expressed political support to its position).
Relations with Russia. In his interview given to the channel RAI, president Aliyev for the first time mentioned the role of Russia in transferring military aid: weapons, equipment and planes. Some activists argue that Russia, through Armenia, targets civilians with the prohibited cluster bombs, such as in the recent shelling of Barda.
Relations with Iran. The activists comment on Iran’s loyalty to Armenia, noting that it has done nothing while the border was under the occupation of Armenia, but once it was liberated by Azerbaijan, Iran started military exercises and installing fortifications.