Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Transmission

Deep Dive: Filling In The Gaps -- Reading The Ramil Safarov Case In Azerbaijan

Ramil Safarov
Ramil Safarov
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On August 31, Hungary extradited convicted killer Ramil Safarov back to his native Azerbaijan -- where he was promptly pardoned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. A former army officer, Safarov was in jail for violently murdering an Armenian serviceman in Hungary eight years ago. The pardon has inflamed passions in both countries. In Azerbaijan, Safarov has been greeted as a hero, while Armenians all over the world have protested.

In a guest post for RFE/RL, Katy Pearce, an assistant professor in the University of Washington's Department of Communications, looks at how, since the murder in 2004, the Azerbaijani media has framed the case and constructed a narrative around the killing that is sometimes at odds with the facts presented at the trial.

 
What happens when a state-controlled media sets an agenda and frames an issue in a particular way? In Azerbaijan, credulity -- a state of willingness to believe in something in the absence of reasonable proof or knowledge -- wins.
 
In a media environment controlled by the government like Azerbaijan’s, as my colleague Sarah Kendzior masterfully argues about Uzbekistan, all potential information is taken seriously. And, in the case of the Safarov affair in Azerbaijan, the government's elaborate framing of what occurred, without any evidence whatsoever, has created a well-believed narrative. This narrative, originating in 2004, is the basis for much Azerbaijani justification in 2012.
 
The murder of Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan in 2004 by Azerbaijani Senior Lieutenant Ramil Safarov took place 10 years after a cease-fire agreement was brokered between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Ironically, the two military officers were participating in a NATO Partnership for Peace English-language course.
 
All governments, to different degrees, use the media to sway the public. They do this through agenda setting and framing. Agenda setting is the “public awareness” of a set of issues while framing is when an aspect of a perceived reality is made more salient in a communication context to promote a particular problem, definition, interpretation, or evaluation with cognitive schema for understanding. By following the media reports about the incident, it is possible to piece together the agenda setting and framing strategies.

WATCH: Azerbaijanis react to the Safarov extradition and pardon:
What Do Azerbaijanis Think Of Freed Killer Ramil Safarov?i
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September 05, 2012
Azerbaijan has pardoned Ramil Safarov, an army lieutenant convicted in the 2004 ax murder of an Armenian soldier for allegedly "insulting" the Azerbaijani flag. Safarov had been jailed for life in Hungary, where the murder took place. But he was handed over to Azerbaijan last week and given a hero's welcome. RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service asked people in Baku how they regard Safarov.
 
All news content that included the name Ramil Safarov and was translated into English by the BBC Monitoring Service from 2004-2011 was analyzed. (The search was conducted through infoweb.newsbank.com and LexisNexis.) Though these results do not include every possible mention of the Safarov affair, it can be considered fairly representative of news in the countries it covers. The full text of media coverage is available here.
 
The first reports of the murder were published on the same day as the event and placed Safarov as the sole suspect. The Associated Press quoted the Budapest police major saying: “[W]e suspect Ramil S. of having committed murder with unusual cruelty…a number of knife wounds…the victim’s head was practically severed from his body.” The Armenian media also reported the murder on the day that it occurred, based on a statement from the Armenian Defense Ministry. The initial framing of the murder by the ministry placed Safarov as a representative of the Azerbaijani government, with claims that the crime was “a direct consequence of the policy of aggression, hatred, and animosity towards the people of Armenia.”
 
Azerbaijani ATV television news responded to the Armenian Defense Ministry's statement with a “clarification” from the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry that Safarov’s mental state must be considered. This is the beginning of the dominant Azerbaijani framing of “Safarov was driven to do this because the Armenians made him suffer.” In this report, Safarov’s status as an internally displaced person (IDP) was highlighted -- his family was from an Armenian-occupied region and his family “was living in a Baku hostel in deplorable conditions,” although the statement did not note for how long this had occurred. The Azerbaijani ministry spokesman also noted that “many” of Safarov’s relatives were killed by Armenians during the war, although later reports vary in the number of relatives killed. Thus, Safarov-as-victim was the first introduction to the story for the Azerbaijani audience, a completely different framing than the Armenian narrative.
 
The day after the murder, AFP published quotes from a statement by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, again framing the issue as Safarov-as-victim-of-Armenian-aggression and focusing on his IDP status, saying that “[A]ll this could not have failed to have an effect on Ramil Safarov‘s emotional state.” The AFP article was the introduction of what would become the understood straw that broke the camel’s back: Margaryan insulting Safarov. AFP quoted Azerbaijani officials claiming that Margaryan “impugning [Safarov’s] honor as an officer and Azeri citizen and insulting the memory of victims of the Armenian aggression,” but without any attribution for this information.
 
At this point, no Azerbaijani officials had been allowed to speak to Safarov. The only possible source would be one of the other students at the English-language program. But how would Azerbaijani officials be able to speak to the other students within 24 hours of the event? It is likely that as witnesses, they were instructed by police to not speak to anyone about what had occurred. Moreover, as military officers, these men have had operations security ingrained into their psyches. Information disclosure is not something that they would take lightly. Nonetheless, there was a second Azerbaijani officer, Anar Aliyev, on the program who may have spoken to someone about insults, but it is impossible to know if this occurred or if the insult argument originated from Baku.
 
The insult incident also conflicts with statements from the program’s Hungarian rector, quoted in Hungarian media, that the Armenian and Azerbaijani officers were on good terms and often joked with one another.
 
A week after the murder, the kindling of the insult incident began to ignite. A representative of the Karabakh War Veterans’ organization held -- for no apparent reason -- a press conference on the Safarov case and said that it “did not rule out that the Armenian officer had made insulting remarks in his relations with Safarov, which brought about the incident in the end.”
 
Then the insult turned into “systematically and purposefully exerted psychological pressure” from Margaryan to Safarov, according to Bilik news on February 25. Similarly, Azerbaijani Space TV also reported on February 25 that “It turned out that a week before the incident, the killed man and another Armenian officer insulted Safarov in a dormitory. The tension was defused through the intervention of other officers. However, as Safarov did not produce a strong reaction, the Armenian officers regarded this as his cowardice and cruelly insulted him. When they learnt that Safarov was from the currently occupied Cabrayil District, the Armenian officers started insulting him in a crueler way and exasperated him.”
 
It would be logical to inquire about the source of this information, yet none exists. Azerbaijani news agency Turan said that the information originated from “unofficial sources” on March 3, but in the same report: “[A]sked what was known about the reasons for the incident that led to the killing of an Armenian officer, the [Defense Ministry] spokesman said the investigation into the incident was still under way and that the Hungarian side was not disclosing any information in the interests of the investigation.”
 
On February 27, the Azerbaijani ombudsman added more twists to the insult: “Not only did he [Armenian officer] play a tape with the voices of suffering Azerbaijani women and girls, but he also cleaned his shoes with an Azerbaijani flag in front of Ramil [Safarov]. At that moment Ramil defended his national honor and responded immediately and correctly to this. I think that the world community should accept this.”
 
How did the ombudsman learn that a tape of suffering Azerbaijanis was played? And how did Margaryan, age 16 in 1994 during the last possible time any such tape could have been created, have such a tape 10 years later? And why did he bring this tape to Budapest with him? Similarly, how did the ombudsman learn that about a shoe cleaning incident?
 
Finally, on March 9, there is a third-hand report of repeated insults. Azerbaijani Space TV reported that Safarov’s father met with Safarov and was told about the repeated insults. What seems strange is that it is a reasonable assumption that Safarov’s attorneys instructed him to not admit guilt or discuss possible motives with anyone, even his father. Nonetheless, Safarov’s attorney also spoke to Space TV and said the incident had occurred because of the Armenian officer’s “unethical behavior.” After this, the news about the Safarov case quieted down for a while, but in May, the ombudsman and Safarov’s attorney met with Safarov. The attorney reported that only 10 people had been questioned as witnesses and three forensic examinations had been carried out and that Attorney Ismayilov had not been allowed to closely familiarize himself with the case. Given this, the claims over what occurred during the murder are even stranger.
 
The trial began in November 2004, but was postponed until February 2005. In March, the Azerbaijani Organization of Karabakh Liberation and other NGOs published a document making the insult argument to the Hungarian parliament, media, and the court itself to no avail. The trial finished in April 2006 during which Safarov was found guilty of both the murder of Margaryan and the intended murder of the other Armenian officer. The sentence was upheld in February 2007. In August of 2012, Safarov returned to Azerbaijan and was immediately pardoned and promoted as a hero.
 
In the days following the pardon, the Azerbaijani social media discussion frequently cited the insult incident as fact and the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry mentioned it in a letter to Hungary (it is unclear for whom the letter is intended).
 
It is impossible to know if, in fact, Margaryan or the other Armenian officers insulted Safarov, played a tape of suffering Azerbaijanis, or cleaned his shoes with the Azerbaijani flag. However, no witness came forward in the media or the trial to support any of these claims. Non-Armenian or Azerbaijani witnesses have no motivation to not testify to what they saw. Despite the absence of evidence, the vast majority of Azerbaijanis seem to believe that Margaryan insulted Safarov.
 
What role does evidence play in Azerbaijan? The media has to promote the state’s line and does so by engaging in kompromat (from the Russian abbreviation of compromising materials). Traditionally mudslinging about political figures, kompromat "often employs somewhat dubious facts and figures, sometimes with a grain of truth and sometimes essentially groundless." Thus, for the media, evidence does not matter.
 
But why are Azerbaijani citizens willing to believe stories without evidence? First, the psychological state of Azerbaijani citizens is marked by a “pervasive bitterness and growing sense of deprivation,”  a general sense of apathy and fear, and a lack of trust in others.
 
Second, the Azerbaijani public trusts the state run media. Nearly half of Azerbaijanis (in an early 2012 survey conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Center) cite ANS television as the most trusted TV channel, and a quarter named Khazar. Moreover, nearly three-quarters of Azerbaijanis believe that TV channels provide unbiased news coverage. Third, the narrative presented by the Azerbaijani media fed into nationalistic and anti-Armenian attitudes already predominant amongst Azerbaijanis.
 
This leads to a low willingness to question media reports or express beliefs contrary to the dominant government narrative. An Azerbaijani citizen criticizing this story could experience attacks like blogger Arzu Geybullayeva or anonymous blogger Scary Azeri have. These two live outside of Azerbaijan and have less to fear than Azerbaijani citizens inside.
 
Even critics of the government are reluctant to question the government’s position on the Safarov affair. Emin Milli, a known opposition figure, recently blogged that there are Azerbaijanis who disagree with “the disgusting government propaganda,” although he too seems to believe that the insults occurred. And while it may indeed be the case that some Azerbaijanis deviate from the government, it is not realistic or safe for them to speak out.
 
Will credulity win in Azerbaijan? It certainly appears to be the case.

-- Katy Pearce

Editor's note: Anyone interested in submitting a counter-argument to Pearce's analysis is free to do so. Submissions should be in English, run no more than 1000 words, and be exclusive to RFE/RL. Email submissions to Zach Peterson: petersonz[AT]rferl[DOT]org. Or leave a comment below.
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Comment Sorting
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by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
September 10, 2012 21:03
Congratulations,Katy Pearce,on a very welcome objective report,after all the mud-slinging on armenians,featured prominently on RFE/RL,who seem to be afraid of critical comments to the point of no including comment sections on many items of their reporting on the issue.Azeri reactions may be explained very easily by the nature of their eastern `1001` nights mindset-the azeris have wilfully turned themselves into present day Harun-al-Rashids,believing every loony blah blah blahs their azeri kgb Goebbelses dish them day and night.Most azeris easily identify themselves with the current Ali Babalyiev and his much bigger than 40 gang of azeri kurdish kgb thieves,pardon.politicians.The azeri `parliament` recently put the super `man` above any azeri `jurisdiction`,next they will pronounce him the Sun king of our time.Back in the 20`s the turkic allahtans had coined a theory about the origins of the turkic`peoples`-they had come to this earth from the sun and are creators of all human civilization-billions of $$$ and rivers of blood have been spent and shed to prove it-and millions of armenians,assyrians,arabs,bulgarians,greeks,kurds and their own turkic civilian victims of Turkic genocide can testify to that,so the present azeri reactions are no surprise to anyone in the region.One can wonder only what would be the reaction of world community if the victim of Safarov`s heroism was ,say jewish???Will credulity win in azeri Ilhamistan???Judging by the world`s reaction to the current events,the answer seems to be:Yes,it will-on the 12th of never!!!

by: Musa from: Baku
September 10, 2012 21:42
Katy, you have so many flaws in this report!!! First, Margaryan did not have to have cassette in his pocket from 1995! There is youtube and it contains 10s of videos Armenians insulting Azerbaijani captives. As a journalist you could have just googled it! Second, alleged insults went on for 3 months before the murder happened. Ramil, or any other participant of the program would have told to their Azerbaijani supervisors, friends or parents about the insults way before the murder. So your conclusions that all those claims were wrong because there was no time to meet Safarov after the murder are simply ungrounded! “Often joked with one another” – one need to educate herself a bit more about Armenian use of abusive language called ‘jokes’ against Azerbaijanis before writing this article. Go check several Armenian forums and see what kind of names they constantly call Azeris and how insulting they are towards Azerbaijanis. Joke in your interpretation is the insult! Calling someone ‘baran’ (sheep) term used by Armenians against Azeris is a simple joke but also deeply insulting. You need to learn how Russians used those ‘jokes’ to insult, undermine, and break the pride of other nations in the region in order to assimilate them. The pride and dignity of every Azerbaijani has been insulted when they could not protect their women being raped by Armenians in Karabakh and children being murdered. Even slightest mention of those events, especially by a military officer is already an insult! You also need to understand a bit about Azerbaijani culture! In Azerbaijan, for a man to protect an honor of his mother and sister is the biggest task in life! Failing to protect is meant suicide for a man for centuries. Just one mention expressed by the Armenian officer for example, ‘I raped your sister in Karabakh’ is enough for every Azerbaijani man to lose control!
In Response

by: Miko from: Yerevan
September 11, 2012 10:40
Musa, how you see the Karabakh conflict resolution if you are still talking about your women being raped during the war. What you think, Azeries didn't rape Armenians during the war? You didn't kill our children? You did, and if we quantify the victims, believe me, Azeries killed much more Armenians than vice versa. But this is not my point, the point is that if we all wanna overcome all those awful memories and we want peace in the region we gotta change our nation's mentalities. Ordinary people in our countries should understand that the war in the region is profitable only for big and powerful countries like US, Russia and Turkey as a tool to better control our countries. In this context Azerbaijani people should treat Safarov as an ordinary murderer, and even though your leader gave him a pardon, people should realize that heroization of Safarov is not in support to Azerbaijani people as a "Nation".
In Response

by: Musa from: Baku
September 11, 2012 21:28
Miko, My point was about the problems in Katy's article! If you are talking about reconciliation between the two nations! I have a blue print for you:
1. We develop democracy in both countries.
2. We create a joint commission to investigate Armenian and Azerbaijan claims about rape, torture and abuse
3. We arrest and try whose responsible for Sumgayit (most, if not all, have already been scented to death and executed) then Kohjaly, Agdam etc.
4. Then, you return seven districts occupied
5. then we decide Karabakh's status where both Armenians and Azeris live. You can not ethnically cleanse 800, 000 people and then start talking about reconciliation without accepting your fault.

If can not start any reconciliation with the Azerbiajani people, until Armenia (or others) undo injustice happen to Azeri nation. Azeri pride has been humiliated and is being humiliated by Armenians before and now by Aliyev's regime! This nation will stand up one day! if that happens, then neither Aliyev nor Armenia will stop it! Armenia can not live next to Turks (Azerbaijan, Turkey and million Azeris in Iran) and preach anti-turk propaganda! So, if you want anything better start changing own government and people!
In Response

by: Miko from: Yerevan
September 12, 2012 06:19
See, this is exactly what I am talking about. There can't be any peace talk with the mind set you have. And this mind set is common for the majority of Azerbaijani people. I can provide you with a long-long Armenian version of a blue print starting from 1915. But if we wanna have peace in the region we have to be strong enough to overcome the history and start from the beginning. I'm not talking about the details of the official peace talks (who is giving to whom and what) I'm talking about about the mind set we should try to change for both nations. And Musa you should start from yourself as you don't look convinced that the peace is the only guarantee of the prosperity for both our countries.
In Response

by: Musa from: Baku
September 12, 2012 18:25
Miko, you are making assumptions about my mindset and you are wrong! I think Armenia first of all need to overcome history and try to build bridges with Turkey and Azerbaijan. For us, Karabakh is not history but present! The 100s of raped women in Karabakh are still alive and tortured children yet to heal from their wounds. Until Armenia acknowledges this and brigs those who responsible to the justice (including president Sarkisyan) and returns Azeri lands, Azeri wounds will not heal. If Armenia does not, then one day Azeri nation will do it for you! You guys should love Aliyev! He is the only reason, this problem is not solved yet.
In Response

by: Mikayel Koshkaryan from: Yerevan
September 13, 2012 13:10
I don't wanna argue with you anymore. You look to be 100% under influence of anti-Armenian propaganda and changing it is not my priority. It is also obvious that you are speaking in a language of ultimatums and the result of that can be the war. You have already proved how bad you are in warfare and if you wanna try again, go ahead and do it. But keep in mind that it would be your choice and afterwards you should blame only yourself for the possible implications.

by: ZZ
September 10, 2012 23:26
But why so much outrage in Armenia over this case? After all, in Armenia and the Armenian diaspora assassins are also treated like heroes. For example, Gurgen Yanikian, who shot and killed 2 Turkish diplomats in California was revered as a hero in the Armenian diaspora, who managed to set him free. How about Varoujan Garabedian, who set off a bomb in Orly airport in Paris, killing 8 people, most of them French citizens? He was freed from the French prison and deported to Armenia, where he was met as a hero, and was greeted by the Armenian prime-minister. However no one outside of the region cared about the warm welcome a terrorist like Garabedian received in Armenia.

by: EL from: Los Angeles
September 11, 2012 01:49
If Safarov was a MAN and was truly overcome with anger over the insult, he would have killed Margaryan right then and there, not wait for him to go to sleep, like a scared coward.

That is the thing THERE WAS NO INSULT. No witnesses ever corroborated Safarov's claim, Safarov himself said in his confession that the two Armenian men he tried to kill would say hello to him and HE WOULD IGNORE THEM.



In Response

by: Musa from: Baku
September 11, 2012 21:35
until the court documents are released, we can not tell the details and understand the extent of insult! My question is why did not Safarov kill another Armenian officer sleeping in the same room with the Margaryan and told him not to worry for his life (based on his testimony in the court). If Safarov did it based on hate towards all Armenians it should not have mattered which Armenian he is killing? Do not you think?
In Response

by: alina from: usa
September 14, 2012 16:23
You got your facts wrong the man sleeping with Margarian was NOT ARMENIAN. How can you consider someone a "HERO" who kills someone in his sleep...I really doubt that he is a MAN....CHICKENNNNNNNNNN! You can't change the history by lying, look at the fact.
In Response

by: greg from: virginia
September 17, 2012 19:19
i have to second what alina said, musa. Margaryan's roomate was not armenian - that is in the court record. And the court room testimony has been made public. Ramil and other witnesses testified that when he was done with Margaryan, he began wandering the halls of the Nato dormitory looking for other armenians, and calling on some other program attendees with turkic backgrounds to join him in finding the other armenian attendees and killing them. that is from the court testimony. And THAT is what the government in Baku has awarded him for.

by: Vazgen from: Paris
September 11, 2012 02:30

Without the help of the Armenian diaspora Ilham would never free Ramil.

by: Deep Speculation from: BP
September 11, 2012 09:38
The myth about Safarov killing sleeping Markaryan became a story that everyone seemingly accepts without question. Noone has cared to look at the proceedings.

by: Bart from: USA
September 11, 2012 17:13
While Armenia celebrates with great fanfare the victory of the Armenian Chess team for winning the gold medal at the 2012 Chess Olympiad, the Azeri nation is celebrating and glorifying the accomplishment of a degenerate sadist, a.k.a. Safarov for bludgeoning to death an innocent fellow human being while being a sleep for merely being Armenian. Is there something wrong with this picture? This is a dichotomy not just between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also between the civilized and the barbaric, the intellectual vs. the crass, and the moral vs. evil.

by: Anonymous from: USA
September 11, 2012 22:05
"It is impossible to know if, in fact, Margaryan or the other Armenian officers insulted Safarov, played a tape of suffering Azerbaijanis, or cleaned his shoes with the Azerbaijani flag."

It is actually possible to know, and the answer is no, there was no insult.

The fact that a sentence like "according to Azerbaijani so and so, he was insulted" is printed in most media shows the success of Azerbaijani propaganda, as by narrowing the "insult" down and down and giving more flight to their imagination, they created the possiblity there could have been an insult. This is pure conjunction fallacy used by Azerbaijani media: Believing a lie presented with specifics is easier than a plain lie.

Here's why there was no insult:

1. Not only no witness confirmed that in court, the descriptions they gave suggested just the contrary.
2. The only mention of anything resembling an insult in Safarov's initial interrogation is the following, which he later retracted after meeting his lawyers:
"In addition I feel sorry that I haven’t killed any Armenian. My army sent me to this training and being here I have to face the fact that two Armenian were learning with me and I have to say that because of personal effectiveness the feeling of animosity grow up in me. In the beginning we were greeting each other, rather to say they said hi to me, but I didn’t accept it and curiosity in the whole thing was that when they walked close to me they were mumbled something in Armenian and laughed at me. That was the time when I decided that I will kill these two persons, the Armenians, I will cut their head off."
3. If Margaryan had in fact insulted Safarov, would he be sleeping without locking his door? This behavior in itself shows the kind of trust Margaryan had in this environment, and the good faith he was assuming in everyone.

Even in engineering they hardly consider something possible if the probability is much lower than one percent. In court, it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that was no such "insult".

Any media playing the credulity game by introducing unreasonable doubt in their reporting is playing right in the hands of Azerbaijani propaganda.

by: Grigg from: USA
September 12, 2012 06:29
Well guys, I follow your debate and want to bring in 3 points:
1. we live in 21st centuary, there are systems, there is infrustructure, juridical structure to facilisate the processes. If one (be it an enemy or not) insults national identity, uses national flags to polish shoes etc...these are things that can be managed in more civilised way. Through the same court, administration of event etc...
2. the mental status of the Azeri guy was already investigated by the court and the ruling said he is sane...let`s say someone was raped when he/she was a child, grows up and starts killing all who remind him of the repist/his family etc...the revange explains perhaps but does not justify.
3. let`s pretend we do not live in 21st centuary, that we live in a mob...and non of us can guarantee he/she will not appear in this situation. But if I am badly insulted (somoene urinates on my flag as few claim Ruben Margarian did and Safarov witnessed, or somone polishes his shoes with my flag etc) perhaps mob mentality would prevail in me too. But I would not wait till nite to chop the head of unarmed sleeping offender.
I like the article, it just shows how we are all screwed up with manipulative information, that it all serves to grow hatred in people.

by: Ahmadov from: Baku
September 12, 2012 06:30
If anyone wants to get an unbiased view of the conflict then I would suggest the prominent book written by Tom de Wall "Black Garden". In that book, incumbant Armenian president Sargsyan admits that they killed civilians, children and the elderly in Khojaly, Karabakh. The book also testimonies that first killings started by Armenians which triggered bigger clashes later. The book also says the first people to be evicted from their homes were Azeris in Kafan district of Armenia.

As for Safarov, of course, most people would not consider him a hero in Azerbaijan, but we widely believe he was treated unfairly at the court by the circumstances of the killing not being taken into account. These feelings of people would not change even if the media was as free as in Western Europe because about 1 million internally displaced Azeris still hope to return to their homes currently under Armenian occupation. Ramil Safarov and his relatives are among these million people. Most of these people witnessed Armenian atrocities while they were living in Karabakh and adjacent districts, hense so much hatred against Armenians.

The future of these two nations lies on obedience to international law, Armenians recognizing Azerbaijan's legal borders and liberating the occupied 20% of the internationally recognized territories of this country. Otherwise, no peace in sight in the region .
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
September 12, 2012 16:36
Thomas de Waal is a journalist, not a scholar. And not even unbiased IMHO, but that's besides the point. Let's talk facts.

As Thomas de Waal also mentons, there were massacres of Armenians in Baku in 1905 and 1918, as well as massacres in Shushi in 1920. Despite all this, Stalin assigned ethnically Armenian Karabakh as an autonomous oblast to be under the administration of Azerbaijan SSR, without taking the will and wishes of its inhabitants into consideration. Azerbaijan SSR tried various policies and resettlement programs to reverse the demographics of Karabakh to eliminate any possibility of future reclaim of Karabakh with limited success.

In 1988, the Karabakh movement asking for the autonomous oblast to be under Armenian administration started a peaceful movement, asking for a referendum. As for the first killings, those happened when a mob of Azerbaijanis, what de Wall calls "crowd of angry young men" started their way from Aghdam to Stepanakert, who were stopped at the Armenian village of Askeran in the interethnic clash, two Azerbaijanis were killed. Who started the angry march? Azerbaijanis. Does that explain the atrocities that Azerbaijanis committed in Sumgait right after, killing and injuring hundreds of Armenian civilians, which is what effectively started the war?

And what Sargsyan says should not be taken out of context. What he was saying was that before Khojali, it was Turks and Azerbaijanis that would kill civilians, and they knew that Armenians would not reciprocate in kind. In Khojali, Azerbaijanis tried to use this to their advantage by using their own civilians as human shield, whom they had not evacuated till the day of the clash despite having had constant warning and several days to do so. In what ensued, many Azerbaijani civilians were tragically killed in cross fire. What Sargsyan is saying is that it was at this point that Azerbaijanis understood that they can't gain an upper hand by using their own civilians as human shield. The questions you should be asking your leadership is why were the Khojali civilans they not evacuated after all the warnings and time allowed and left that to the last moment when the clash started? Why were there armed Azerbaijani soldiers that engaged in cross-fire among the civilians that were being evacuated *after* the clash started?

And you forget that right to self-determination is also part of international law. Given the kind of endorsement Azerbaijan gives to ax-murderers of Armenians, there would be no other choice than Karabakh's independence even if that were not the case.
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