AND IN OTHER NEWS: Dehumanization of Armenians Continues in Azerbaijan

The important Caucasus Heritage Watch project which used satellite imagery to demonstrate the essential and complete erasure of all Armenian culture heritage in Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan region, has now turned their lens on the Karabakh region, reviewing both Armenian and Azerbaijani cultural sites. Their report determined that half of Azerbaijani cemeteries, mausolea, and mosques were seriously damaged or destroyed over the past 30 years, while a similar number were left unchanged or only slightly damaged. Many of these sites fell victim to large-scale looting which took place in the years following the 1994 ceasefire, while cases of intentional vandalism seemed to increase after 2011:

“Armenian authorities failed to prevent widespread looting and acts of destruction. But there was no attempt to erase the material traces of Azerbaijani cultural life.” This is the first comprehensive study of the damage, which is important since the fate of cultural heritage has become such a prominent front of the conflict.

This report has confused Azerbaijani propagandists. Many had attacked the Caucasus Heritage Watch group of scholars when it reported on the destruction of Armenian heritage and because they believe there was more destruction of Azerbaijani sites than the scientific research actually found. They have, however, accepted the other half of the findings about what was damaged and incorporated it into their propaganda.

The latest incursion into Armenia by Azerbaijani forces took place at Tegh, which is on the border where the closed Lachin road meets Armenia. Even though video evidence demonstrated the firefight was the result of an Azerbaijani advance, the Azerbaijanis blamed Armenians for it, with a senior Azerbaijani official disturbingly (and absurdly) commenting that they intend to “force [Armenians] to peace”.

A tempest of bad publicity followed for Armenia. Multiple groups of Azerbaijani soldiers infiltrated covertly into Armenia while it was focused on hosting an international weightlifting championship, to which Azerbaijan was invited to attend with safety guarantees. Two of the infiltrators were captured, both by civilians. One was treated well but another received a kick in the face- Huseyn Akhundov who not only filmed himself bragging that his group had “beheaded 400 to 500 Armenians” but has also been accused of murdering a mining plant security guard Hayrapet Meliksetyan.

Then at the weightlifting ceremony, a noted designer Aram Nikolyan rushed the stage and attempted to burn the Azerbaijani flag (without too much luck). The news hit Reuters and other outlets and received hundreds of thousands of views, while there’s been almost no reporting on the blockade for four months. After months of their own very bad publicity, Azerbaijanis have seized this opportunity to decry Armenia to the world, and have blown the incident out of proportion. Many in Armenian social media were disappointed with the attempted burning and spoke out against it, while others were sympathetic seeing it as a sort of moral victory after all that Azerbaijan has inflicted upon Armenians over the past years and months. They also point out flag burning, while distasteful to many, is an example of free speech, something banned in Azerbaijan.

One has to wonder how it was so easy to gain a headline using the quote of Armenians being “barbaric”, a cornerstone of Azerbaijan’s dehumanization campaign, after over a year of Azerbaijani murders of Armenians and a brutal blockade. Somehow that didn’t get the same “barbaric” tagline. It’s also worth noting how among all the replies of Twitter users calling Armenians “barbaric”, many have non-Azerbaijani names but are new accounts with almost no followers. It is likely they are manufactured bots attempting to blow up the story. This same period also saw an article in the New York Times calling out Armenia for alleged financial dealings with Russia, and yet nothing has been reported about the many ways Azerbaijan has been assisting Russia in fields such as gas and oil transport.

There were nice moments from the contest as well though, such as this emotional one of 19-year old Gor Sahakyan becoming European champion at home.

Another scene that also garnered a lot of attention.

For a real-time example of the Azerbaijani bot army at work, this account mocking Swedish journalist Rasmus Canback who has earned the ire of Aliyev officials and loyalists for his reporting on corruption in the country, went from 100 followers to over 25,000 within a couple of hours, and just days later is at 70,000. Many of the followers are newly-made accounts and have no other activity. Even more telling, despite that huge following, the account’s tweets usually only get one or two likes, clear evidence there’s nobody real behind them.

Canback also drew attention to an attempt by the Swedish Foreign Ministry to prevent MPs from taking part in the Parliament’s Swedish-Armenian Friendship Group’s genocide commemoration. The Chair of the group, Björn Söder, confirmed: “We have been internally urged within our parties not to carry out a ceremony in the parliament this year.” Both Finland and Sweden have requested to join NATO in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however Turkey has been holding up the process for Sweden demanding a number of concessions, including handing over of Kurdish dissidents in the country. Attempts to silence the Armenian Genocide is just one more manifestation of this. Meanwhile the situation in the United States is now much different, where numerous members of Congress attended the annual Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide commemoration, including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi. For example:

The former Speaker reminisced about her visit last year to Yerevan and called attention to how “Azerbaijan’s use of force in NK threatens to drag the region into a dark and deadly chasm and called for accountability as to why US funding is going to Azerbaijan and what exactly it is being used for. She referred to support for Armenia as a matter of supporting democracy against autocracy.

A lot is riding on the outcome of the presidential election in Turkey next month, and has extreme significance for Armenia as well. Thus it is worth mentioning this tweet from presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who disclosed on Twitter that he is an Alevi, a large minority in Turkey who follow a sect which is closer to Shiism compared to the dominant Sunni faith. Alevis faced their own massacres at the hand of the Turkish state and discrimination by society, which was reflected in some of the responses this tweet received. Most Alevis are ethnically Turkish, about one-fifth though are Kurdish, and some are even believed to be left behind Armenians in the region of Dersim. With this announcement, Kılıçdaroğlu broke the taboo about the personal fact of his origins, one which Erdogan uses against him, and called on voters to move beyond sectarian debates. Within just a few days, it already had over one hundred million views. Jew denying Holocaust

Last round-up we introduced Ezra Friedlander, one of Azerbaijan’s paid lobbyists in DC (to the tune of $166,000 a month). He claimed that Armenian organizations have been targeting him because he is Jewish. This statement deserves some unpacking. First, anti-Semitic statements are not OK, nor are the thousands of other racist insults anonymous accounts like that post on Twitter daily. Second, Friedlander seems to be saying whatever he does for work should be out of bounds for criticism, which is convenient because in his job as a lobbyist he has chosen to accept money from two of the most corrupt regimes in the world, Turkey and Azerbaijan. However, as a descendant of the Holocaust who gets paid to lobby Congress on behalf of Turkey why the Armenian Genocide should not be taught, certainly he has the personal experience to understand why that’s immoral. He could continue to be a lobbyist in his “professional capacity” without having Aliyev and Erdogan as clients, so the choice is on him.

Speaking of racism, Friedlander’s client President Aliyev has given master classes in it for years, as part of a continuing campaign of dehumanization against Armenians. Just in the past weeks he first called the Armenian diaspora a “cancerous tumor”, and now considers Armenians to be “humanoid creatures”. While Azerbaijani mouthpieces strongly deny there is any anti-Armenianism coming from the Azerbaijani government, it doesn’t get much clearer than this. This rhetoric has already done so much damage and it is frightening to think where it could lead.

A Yahoo! story on the fate of Diyarbakir’s Armenians, a community which was beginning a revival when it became caught between the Erdogan regime’s campaign against the Kurds. The government destroyed almost all of old Diyarbakir, and it has been replaced with cheap, modern buildings. The city has an official Armenian population of about 50, but many more “hidden” Armenians have attended events. “The [Armenian] church represents a link to the lost Diyarbakir and that goes for all the inhabitants, Christians or Muslims,” said Silva Ozyerli, an Armenian from Diyarbakir who travelled from Istanbul to celebrate Easter. “We can breathe here,” she said, admitting: “I avoid the reconstructed areas because I want to preserve the memory of the quarter where I spent my childhood.”

Ever heard of the show “Persia’s Got Talent”? This clip from it made the rounds on social media when an Iranian judge (pop singer Ebi) greeted an ethnic Armenian contestant in Armenian.

Could we see the head coach of the Armenian national basketball team also helming an NBA team??

American political pundit Matthew J. Dowd often marks a significant anniversary for a poet or writer by tweeting a bit of their work, and marked Daniel Varoujan’s birthday on April 20th with part of his poem “Tilling”. Unfortunately it is very close to the anniversary of his arrest on April 24. In a stirring coincidence, Varoujan happened to be executed in prison on the same day that, halfway across Turkey, his wife gave birth to their son.

Eurovision fever is heating up as it takes place in just a few weeks in Liverpool, England. There’s big hopes behind Armenia’s competitor Brunette (Elen Yeremyan) and excitement about her song, but it seems some are talking more about her hair. This tweet has gone viral and stirred up a lot of discussion about the notion of “cultural appropriation” and how it can be taken too far due to ignorance of other cultures and traditions.

leave a reply