Center for National and International Studies
The war remains central topic on FB. People circulate news from the front line, commemorate friends and relatives killed in battle, children who died in the shelling, share feelings about possibilities of returning to the liberated home towns and villages. They interpret the policies of the adversary, as well as the speech of its president, the possible ways of resolving the conflict, the role of Russia, approaching with suspicion the results of the closed meeting of the UNSC under her chairmanship and the visit of the Azerbaijan foreign minister to Moscow before his visit to the USA. They discuss what will be the next – and mention democracy-building as the primary objective.
The FB community engages in sharing news from the front line, seeks and exchanges interpretations of the war and policies of Armenia, as well as interests of regional and international actors. They report hard and intense fighting in all quarters. They share news about the advancement of the army and liberation of three more regions. They share news about families who lost sometimes 2 or 3 male members to the war, and orphans who died in the battles. The activists, journalists, and bloggers share stories of the IDPs who have hopes that they can return to the occupied territories. The old woman who kept the keys from her house for 27 years and has taken them out, or Rasul Alizade who escaped Kelbajar region in 1993 along with other villagers in a truck and has kept that truck at his place, hoping to return back home in the same truck. FB reports another protest rally in Prague against the shelling of Ganja. They share and analyse the statement by Pashinian that “at this stage there is no diplomatic solution to the Karabagh issue and will not be for a long time”, the statement by an Armenian MP, that Russia provides daily weapons for Armenia. They also comment on Pashinian’s statement that if there was no Karabagh, there would be no Armenia, and his statement together with that of Archbishop Pargev Martirosian, that whoever can should arm themselves and go to fight in Karabagh, in this way denies the diplomatic method of solution. They also analyse the issue of relations of Armenia and Karabagh – why the former does not recognize the latter, but only claims “Karabagh is Armenia” instead. One of the political leaders suggests that despite the absence of real perspective for recognition, the reasons behind continued lobbying for this are vested interests of the actors involved – for some- this is money, for others – electorate, for the third ones – political reputation. He reminds that there are 1,5 mln voters of Armenian origin in the USA. Another activist suggests that one of the reasons of the defeats of the Armenian party is a psychological factor, as it relied too much on Russia, international factors, but mainly because they underestimated the commitment of people to struggle and looked at them from above, thus paying the price. They also comment on the appeal of the Armenia’s president to create volunteer fighting groups in Armenia to fight in Karabagh. On the other hand, commentators note the change of his rhetoric – from militaristic to the opposite: “there is no military solution to the conflict”. They recall the appeals for compromise by the former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan to the Armenian people in 1997. The journalists, experts, and bloggers give various interpretations of Pashinian’s statements and policies – his sharing responsibility with the population in order to secure himself or trying to show the meaninglessness of the Karabagh issue for national interests. People note that in Armenia, banks will cancel debts of the families who lost their members at the front and urge Azerbaijan to do the same, as people who lost their members were reporting banks calling and requesting payments. They also suggest cancelling any debts of such families in the shops. FB users share information about an Armenian owner of the Anderson cafes in Baku, who is allegedly sending money to support Armenian army. With reference to the Russian sources, they report that the majority have fled Khankendi and Shusha leaving only old men remaining, who insist on defending their homeland with guns. They also share the quotation from the Armenian Minister of Defence, that the current retreat is not an ultimate one, that there were retreats in 1918, in 1941 and they all resulted in victories. There is mass campaigning to collect aid for the army within the Azerbaijani population, with FB users posting lists of necessary and urgent items.
One activist and academic criticizes Noam Chomski for repeating the fake cliché which is spread by Armenian party – that Karabagh was given to Azerbaijan by Stalin. He comments that – unlike others “you are an academic, an intellectual and should double-check every fact you are saying, but yet you behave as an ordinary politician”. The FB community reports that the Armenian foreign minister complained in Brussels to NATO about Turkey’s policies, as well as that from December 31st, the Armenian government will put an embargo on Turkish imports to the country.
Osmangizi TV with Joanne Lysoski interviews American analyst Rob Subhani and former official Mathew Bryza, who both stress the role of Russia. The former notes the interests of Russia and its both strategic political and economic interests – to keep the Caucasus under its influence, and undermine the importance and safety of Caspian gas resources.
Political leaders and analysts urge the society to be active and monitor the actions of the government. The leadership of the country, they argue, should consult with the grassroots of society before any step is undertaken in negotiations or official meetings. At the designated time, when the military operations are fulfilling their task in the liberation of their territories, the official meetings in Moscow or Washington DC should be transparent and the leadership should be accountable before the population. One political activist argues that at the moment the international community does not want the full defeat of Armenia due to various reasons, so Azerbaijan should be prepared for some hard battles: “We want peace, but the price of peace is the departure of the last Armenian occupant from our lands”, he concludes. The FB community speculates on Russia’s stance in the conflict. Some suggest that maybe this is because of the loss of market price of weapons – Azerbaijan does not buy, Armenia does not pay, why bother? They also share information contained in Aliyev’s interview with the TASS agency, that Azerbaijan issued a complaint to the ICAO on the illegal supply of Russian weapons to Armenia under the guise of humanitarian aid – arranged by Russian businessmen of Armenian origin, and that he possesses all the details of the flights and weapons which are sent in cooperation with banned international arms dealers. He also reported that the planes of the Russian Ministry of Emergency were used with this purpose.
Information and fake news. Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil points to the seven inconsistencies in the video which Bellingcat presented as proof of violations of the Geneva convention by the Azerbaijani delegation. She comments: “I call you to check this assumption: The first video is genuine. The second was staged. Armenian forces killed hostages for betrayal and then staged the execution as if it was perpetrated by Azerbaijani army. The sound on the second video could have been taken from any other combat video, ordering the sniper to aim at the head. Also, on a non-relevant topic: I ask you to organize training for Azerbaijani investigative journalists, as you kindly did for Armenian colleagues in their native language. PS. there was a video showing vandalism performed on bodies of soldiers in Azerbaijani uniforms by allegedly Armenian soldiers, but Bellingcat and other media representatives did not seem to care”.
Reaction of political leaders: Arif Hajili of Musavat stated there have been three major national objectives since the 1990s: 1) the achievement of independence 2) the preservation of the country’s integrity 3) the establishment of democracy. He mentions that the first one was achieved by people’s struggle with victims of the 20th January 1990, the second one is being achieved now- also at a high cost, and the third one will be achieved more easily, as it rests with the people’s will.
Panah Huseyn argues that there is a general consensus within the society on this war, as it is against the aggression and occupation of the country, keen for provision for the security of its population, so this is War over Homeland. This is not the government’s war, but the people’s desire to be finished with occupation and humiliation, where citizens of all confessions and ethnicity stand together. He stresses that the Karabagh conflict has been preventing the country from speedy development – first of all, of advancing political culture.
The deputy leader of the PFP party, Seymur Hezi, calls Pashinian’s appeal to create 30 battalions of wise volunteers in Armenia – “the state’s default signal”.
Ilkin Rustamzade, the youth movement leader, posts a statement on his timeline warning that 1) it would be an international crime to deport Armenians from Karabagh, after the war we should live in peace with them, 2) we do not have any claims to the territory of Armenia, 3) the POWs should be treated with humanitarianism and mercy, otherwise this is against humanity, 4) the massacre of Azerbaijanis in Khojali and other places is barbarism and international crime on the part of Armenia – but to intend to do the same is against humanity and finally that 5) this war is not one among series of others – this one will put an end to the wars in the Caucasus and establish peace, otherwise it will be for the worse.
Peace talks: Meydan TV posted the conditions of the allocation of international observers in the region which President Aliyev listed in his interview to the TASS agency on 19th October. “Armenia’s recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, commitment to basic principles, readiness to withdraw troops from the occupied territories – then we can discuss the issue of observers”.
Human rights and social issues. Activists, journalists and human rights defenders continue to monitor human rights and social issues in the country. An activist attracts attention to the living conditions of the general Colonel Zaur Jafarov, killed in the fighting, whose family with underage children live in a house without a water supply system. The activists, journalists and bloggers decry the FB user who made an insulting comment regarding the post in commemoration of the dead representative of the LGBT community. The economic experts note that of all donations to the army, the least amount is coming from the corrupt ministers/oligarchs.
Relations with Russia. FB discusses the meeting of the two foreign ministers Lavrov and Bayramov in Moscow and the subject of their talks: the urgent measures to strengthen the ceasefire agreement and to turn it into a more sustainable condition. The activists discuss with suspicion every visit of Azerbaijani officials to Moscow, especially before the meeting in the USA. They also analyse the last closed meeting of the UNSC under the chairmanship of Russia devoted to NK issue. They suspect that Russia is trying to get a special mandate of the UN to observe the situation in NK under the auspices of a OSCE mission. They hope that before that happens, the whole territory of Azerbaijan will be liberated, or if not, there is no way that Azerbaijan will allow foreign peacekeeping troops on its territory. People discuss the statement by Lavrov on the 19th October that the three countries will agree on mechanisms of support for the ceasefire. All parties as reported by Meydan TV expressed their satisfaction with the Moscow talks.
Relations with Turkey. The FB community discusses the visit to Ganja of the speaker of the Turkish parliament, Mustafa Shentop, and his statement of support for Azerbaijan. Natig Jafarli of REAL said that the visit of Mustafa Shentop seems to have brought luck, along with sending a subconscious message to the northern neighbour (Shentop is translated from Turkish as A Merry Gun). They also share the information about the telephone dialogue of foreign ministers Bayramov and Chavushoglu. Both sides discussed the current situation and reiterated that for the establishment of peace the occupation of Azerbaijani lands should be ended.
Relations with the UK. FB users report on a letter of support for Azerbaijan from Gerry Jones, the BP Regional president of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, sent to Azerbaijan’s prime minister Ali Asadov. According to the Cabinet of Ministers’ press service, he expressed his support to the Azerbaijani people in their struggle for restoration of territorial integrity.
Relations with the USA. Information about the upcoming meeting in the USA on October 23d between Mike Pompeo and the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan is another subject of discussion on FB. According to the POLITICO, Pompeo will first meet Bayramov, and after that Mnatsakanian.
Relations with Iran. The FB community widely shares the rallies of solidarity within Iranian Azerbaijan, which the police tried to disperse, with many participants detained. They inform about big meeting by the Araz River celebrating the liberation of the Jabrayil region and the Khudaferin bridges connecting these two regions of Azerbaijan.
COVID-19. FB reports on the increase in infected – up to 714, with 176 recovered and 7 deaths. The total number of infected from the beginning is 46,593, with 40,448 treated and recovered, and 642 deaths. The active cases are 5, 503. The number of tests 1,250,736. On 21st October 2020, a total of 9, 072 tests were conducted.
October 23, 2020