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“… Shusha is a matter of identity and spirit for Azerbaijanis …”
The news from the frontline of the liberation of the historical city of Shusha and the heroism of the soldiers are widely shared on FB, along with the videos and photos of people celebrating in the streets of the capital and mutual congratulations, they share news about another shelling of Barda by theArmenian army, and the tragic death of a teenager.
The damage to the occupied territories, in particular illegal mining, and as a result of the shelling of civilian settlements, suspect Russia’s covert involvement in Karabagh and praise Turkey’s support and solidarity. They comment on election results in the US, debating the possible outcome of the election of Biden for the region.
The main topic of FB remains war. The FB community shares news of official sites of the country, reports by national and foreign newspapers about the course of the battles. President Aliyev announced the official liberation of Shusha on 8th November (Shusha was occupied on 8 May 1992). The prominent author, historian and politician Jamil Hasanli writes: “Shusha is a matter of identity and spirit for Azerbaijanis … Today, the Azerbaijani soldier is writing a new history of Shusha at the expense of his blood and soul, today the Azerbaijani army is creating a new history of Shusha with its bravery, today Azerbaijani soldiers are deciding the fate of Shusha with their determination. And once and for all, forever!” He reminds everyone that this city was built by Panahali Khan in 1752 as the center of the Karabagh khanate and consisted of 17 quarters (mahalles) and was a nucleus of the prominent and unique literary, musical, and architectural Azerbaijani culture.
The photos and videos of people celebrating in the streets in Baku were widely shared. The FB community celebrates the liberation of Shusha, an important cultural and historical city of Azerbaijan, as well as photos of Armenian cars leaving Nagorno-Karabagh through the humanitarian corridor. There are numerous posts about the significance of Shusha for Azerbaijan culture — special type of music, rugs, silk, poetry, architecture etc., prominent poets, as well as necessity of restoration of rights of tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis — Shusha citizens, who were expelled from the city at the end of the 1980s. They express regret that the prominent human rights defender a lawyer Elton Guliyev and journalist Ibrahim Bayandurlu – both from Karabagh — did not see the day of liberation of Shusha. They also commemorate the Azerbaijani Jew Albert Agarunov, who died as a hero while defending Shusha in 1992. The Ministry of Defence reports a new shelling by the Armenian army of civilians in Barda, resulting in the death of 16 year-old Rahimov Shahmali. The media reports the transfer of captured soldiers to the Armenian side by the International Red Cross with reference to its press representative Ilaha Huseynova. FB users report the defeat of the Armenian mercenaries group (called “Hayrenik/ Homeland”) fighting in Karabagh. They also share news that in Armenia one more person was arrested on charges of espionage in favour of Azerbaijan. They discuss the last meeting of the “Cabinet of Ministers” of Nagorno-Karabagh and their escape to Armenia, except for the Ombudsman Artak Beglarian who resigned in order to stay and fight. They suggest (based on the circulated photos) that most of the Armenian soldiers are forcibly drafted and sent to the war. The activist reports the vigils of Armenian women and children in front of the embassies of Germany, Russia, and the US in Yerevan with the demand to recognize the independence of Karabagh. While at the doors of German Embassy they made parallels of Hitler and Turkish leadership, and threatened that “Hitler” will come to their doorstep again. The FB community discusses with foreign FB users the statement of president Aliyev, that “we will kick them out of Karabagh” and whether this was said about all the population or just the army. While Azerbaijani users insist that was about the army only, some foreigners consider it to be a dangerous statement. A renowned economist comments that “the world is hostage to Armenian propaganda and money. At the same time, the number of politicians who are using the values of the West for their own benefit and private interests is simply amazing”.
Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reports the results of aid for the army campaign and citizen donations, which are now joined by those of enterprises and companies. The Azadlyq newspaper reports the arrival of the Russian airspace forces carrier IL-76 plane at Yerevan airport with a secret load. The route of the plane N 78847 was intercepted — it left Mozdok and flew over the Caspian via Iran to Yerevan. FB circulates news that one of the main perpetrators of Khojali massacre, Ohanian, was seriously injured during the battles over Shusha. They also report on documents discovered in the liberated Zangilan region of the Syrian Armenians who were illegally settled there (60 people of 19 families) by the Armenia state, as well as passports of other Syrian citizens. Meydan TV reports that civilians who live in proximity to the frontline regions Terter, Agdam, and Fizuli, are trying to stay at a distance from the shrapnel and shelling. Some of them left the war zone and were accommodated in Baku dormitories. People share news that separatisrs from Abkhazia, Ossetia, Crimea and Javakhetia joined the Karabaghi forces in resisting the Azerbaijan army. FB users share photos of Pashinian’s wife, who is depicted in military uniform ready to go to the battlefields. One of the youth activists comments on the clips dedicated to “Armenian propaganda” by a popular Western pop group System of a Down of Armenian origin and regrets that although there are talented musicians in the country few of them have access to the world arena in rock and pop. People share information that Unibank will support the family of their colleague killed at the front, whose wife was pregnant, and help to raise her the child. The activist of Musavat Yadigar Sadyghli commented with irony on Pashinian’s statement in his interview to the Swiss radio saying that the international community had failed. He notes that the international community failed when they could not make the small country implement the UN resolutions for 27 years. Meydan TV reports on the Armenian community living in Azerbaijan and even the sister of the former defence minister of Armenia Arutiunian lives in Baku. The activist from the Musavat party comments with regret: “You have stolen 30 years both from us and yourselves, what did you earn? Although you lived in the best places of Baku, Mingechavir, Ganja, Sumgayit … The director of the best school in Lankaran was an Armenian, who testifies when he was in NKAO in 1988 serving in the army he noticed that all the posters, boards, public inscriptions etc. were only in two languages – Russia and Armenian, even the cigarettes in the shops were from Armenia. There was no any presence of Azerbaijanis felt there, until one raises to Shusha city. You have stolen 30 years… Thousands of lives- both ours and your own. Although it is hard to find such a tolerant people as Azerbaijanis … and how are you going to live from now on? By trying again to steal the lives and years of others, or by eventually starting to live in peace?”
The FB community shares the news that 17 parties in Armenia have called on Pashinian to resign. Ganimad Zahid, the ex-editor-in-chief of the Azadlyg newspaper, writes about the main pillars of Armenian propaganda of which only one is true. He lists those pillars: 1. That these lands have belonged to Armenians since the time of the Neanderthals — not confirmed. 2. Azerbaijanis — as a Turkic group — dream of cutting us in pieces and has an ethnic hatred towards us — not confirmed, 3. This is a Christian-Muslim conflict – not confirmed and 4. Azerbaijan is non-democratic — this is true and we should democratise as soon as possible.
Economic and social issues. The economist and leader of ADR movement praises the “Decree of the president on the plan for measures of assessment of the damage to civilians and state property as a result of the aggression of Armenia which began on Sept 27th of and their restoration “, but stresses some shortcomings. He suggests that the plan should cover not only damage on 27th but throughout the war period. He also urges the inclusion of damage to the business of people and enterprises due to interruption resulting in lost opportunities, as well as including in this commission representatives of the Ministries of Culture and Ministry of Agriculture for assessing damage to historical monuments and agriculture, plus academic and research institutions. He further presents as an example the experience of restoration of the damage to Kuwaiti objects after Iraqi occupation, on the basis of the UNDP’s estimation and suggests close cooperation with the UNDP in Baku. The latter assessed the damage by Armenia to Azerbaijan as 54,4 bn dollars in the 2000 report. He concludes that there should be active applications to the court not only from the side of the state, but also civilians and private businesses. He lists the illegal business on the occupied territories, with the investment of one of the founders of the watch firm “Frank Muller Group” Vartan Sirmakes 1) the gold and copper mining company working in Zangilan region’s Vejneli village (the reserves of gold – 6,5 tons , copper — 3000 tons), 2) the illegally built hydro power stations on Kelbajar and Lachin regions, 3) illegal metal ( Zod field) and gold mining (reserves of more than 13 tons) in Agduzdag and Tutxun of Kelbajar region, 4) the factory of Black Caviar “Golden Fish” with planned 40-50 tons of caviar for export per year in Agdere. The company Frank Muller Group was a shareholder in the banks operating on the occupied territories — Artsakhbank (66,3% of shares), Armswissbank – 20%. ArtsakhKHEK – 52,1%. He concludes that Vartan Sirmakes should be held accountable as a citizen of Switzerland. He also reports the decline of the Turkish lira’s value and suggests that the treatment of Russia and Turkey should not differ in trade. While Russia’s commodities are free from customs, preservation of these taxes on Turkish imports undermines its position in the market of the country. The economist Natig Jafarli stresses that the cost of one day of war for Armenia is $50m and because of their policy of occupation their economic development is lagging. Otherwise, it will have direct communication with Azerbaijan, not via Georgia, and financial support of Karabagh would not be a burden, as it is now.
Peace activities The call for compromise, as reflected in the letter by the prominent peace activist from Armenia, Georgi Vanian, to prime minister Pashinian was widely circulated in Azerbaijani FB with appraisal of the activist’s appeal. He is quoted as saying that Armenian state has long ago crossed the red line of the crime against its citizens, it should stop celebrating the victory over its neighbour, one does not take over one’s neighbour, does not eliminate the neighbour, but talk, talk and talk until there is a mutual understanding. He calls on readers to forget lies of saving power of the “strategic ally” and stop looking for such allies, as well as shameful hopes for the international community to recognize any“genocide”. “In 30 years there could be only one ally of Armenia – and this is Azerbaijan, say it without fear looking in the eyes of your partner”, concludes Vanian.
Human Rights. Azadlyq newspaper reports return of the prominent human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev, who was hit by a car a year ago after months of treatment in the hospital in Turkey to Baku. He earlier refused the treatment funding by the Heydar Aliyev foundation and decided to return to the country due to the unjustified delay of investigation of the accident. The first court hearing has been scheduled on the 13 November at 10 am. Khadija Ismayil warns against any violation of rights and safety of the civilians during the military operations.
Paris in the end of the 19th century. He and his French colleague were late for the connection train in Berlin, but were helped by a German civilian, a representative of non-governmental initiative, to catch the next train. Agayev brings it as an example of the civil society’s role in reconciliation efforts between the two nations who were in the relations of enmity in post Napoleon period. Geyushov concludes that the Karabagh war proved that neither in Armenia, nor in Azerbaijan the civil society was not formed in these 30 years.
Reaction of political leaders. Ali Karimli of PFP praises the spirit of the Azerbaijani people, mothers, who in spite of losing their sons to the war, keep strong and send empowering messages to the people. Isa Gambar of Musavat gave an interview to the Turkish media about the war, commenting on the difference between the old French philosophers and the current French politicians. He argues, that the old philosophers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu were promoting freedom of speech, conscience and thought, based on religious Christian sources, while current French politicians are using the freedom of speech etc. as an excuse to humiliate Islam and Muslims. An activist of the youth movement shares his photos of the young draftees of Armenia with lost expressions on their faces and comments that he is horrified and the pictures are a proof of the horrors of wars, and advocates stopping sending young guys to the front: Armenia should learn a hard lesson, as well as Azerbaijan and keep itself strong to deter its neighbour.
COVID-19. Meydan TV reports on the second wave of the pandemic with increasing cases of infected reaching 1000 per day and more. It also informs about launch of the quarantine regime from 7 to 23 November in a number of cities (Shaki and Lankaran cities; Gax, Zagatala, Bilasuvar, Jalilabad, Masalli, Ismayilli, Guba, Hachmaz regions). The respective government structures were instructed to render state aid of 190 manats to those of low income and self-employed citizens, whose income was affected by the lockdown.
Elections in the US. FB users and the media follow closely the elections in the US and its outcome, discussing the implications of the results — the victory of Biden — for the Karabagh conflict. Based on Trump’s statement about falsifications, they predict a conflict caused by the election results. The former political prisoner Bakhtiyar Hajiyev recalls that after his criticism of last year’s parliamentary elections he was warned by the Azerbaijani official that Trump will be re-elected for another 4 years and “if you are arrested, there won’t be any Clinton to save you from there”. (Bakhtiyar Hajiyev was released from prison in 2012 thanks to the pressure of Hillary Clinton – L.A.) He also explains that Biden is not pro-Armenian because every politician in the US needs during the period of elections the voices of Armenian voters. He assesses him positively as a politician in previous roles and in addition lists his age as an advantage in not being afraid of undertaking unpopular, but important, policy steps as he would not be interested in the election for a second term. He also comments, that while Trump was entertaining with his tweets, his term in office had reached its limits and that the presidency of Biden will be beneficial both for the country and for the world. He praises Kamala Harris as a vice-president, as this could potentially “turn into a presidential position.”
Relations with Iran. An activist stresses that not only state is separated from religion, but also the religion is separated from politics He stresses that such a frequent critique of Iranian policies in conflict is in no way related to the attitude to the people of belief either in Iran or Azerbaijan. This criticism is purely related to the policies of the Iranian state.
Relations with Russia. FB users analyse Lavrov’s persistent topic of “mercenaries-terrorists” and have concluded that this is because they encountered unexpected professionalism within the Azerbaijan army, and that the Armenian side should somehow justify its own defeats. They share information provided by Sputnik Armenia with reference to Russian intelligence that a Russian helicopter was hit allegedly from the Sadarak region, on the border of Armenia with Nakhichevan, and fell on Armenian territory. They also quote the BBC Russia report of the vice-speaker of the Ulyanovsk region that the 31st Russian brigade is sent to Karabagh, and that “this is one of the best in Russia”.
Relations with the UK. The FB community shares the statement by the British MP Bob Blackman, that the UK should press Russia, as Armenia has Russian bases on its territory and that pressure would ease the return of the occupied lands to Azerbaijan.
Relations with Turkey. News about a telephone conversation between Erdogan and Aliyev and the words of support of the former to the latter was widely shared on FB. The Baku Oil High School of Azerbaijan has cancelled dormitory fees for the students from Turkey and Pakistan and from now on will be covered by BHOSA. Meydan TV reports Erdogan’s speech, where he calls Azerbaijanis brothers and congratulates them with liberating Shusha, as well as calling mutual support a confirmation of the slogan “one nation, two states”. He also quotes the founder of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic M.E. Rasulzade that “the flag once raised, will never be taken down!”, and hopes that soon the Lachin and Kelbajar regions will be liberated too. President Aliyev said, that “We have asked all the states who are not neighbours to stay away from this conflict. We are fighting to restore our internationally recognized borders. Which means that there is no need for Turkey’s involvement. We have an old agreement about defence with Turkey in case of aggression, so we have a similar legal basis of cooperation to the one between Armenia and Russia. In case Azerbaijan is the subject of aggression on the part of a third country, then we will consider the option of Turkish military involvement.” The FB community, political parties, and civil leaders share information that leading political parties of Turkey – AKP, CHP, MHO, IYI — have congratulated Azerbaijan with the liberating of Shusha, and that there will be an official celebration of this event at state level.