Monday, September 3, 2012

Playing the Patriot

Let's first enumerate a few simple, incontestable facts: in 2004, during a NATO seminar in Budapest, Ramil Safarov, a lieutenant in the armed forces of Azerbaijan, hacks a sleeping Armenian co-student to death, with a hatchet.  In 2006, he is condemned to a minimum of 35 years in jail by a Hungarian court.  In August 2012, he is handed over to Azerbaijan, under a European treaty that allows signatories' citizens to sit out their sentences in their home countries.  Despite assurances to the contrary, once in Baku, he is given a hero's welcome, pardoned, and promoted to the rank of major by the Aliyev regime.  Armenia promptly cuts off its diplomatic relations with Hungary; its president, Serj Sargsyan, issues an uncharacteristically blunt statement a few days later, asserting Armenia's readiness for war.  The plot thickens  when, almost simultaneously, it is revealed cash-strapped Budapest could be the recipient of a token of oil-rich Azerbaijan's generosity in the form of a multi-billion dollar loan.



As usual when base nationalist passions come into play, reactions in Azerbaijan and Armenia were depressingly predictable.  In Baku, the media and an army of regime sycophants praised president Aliyev for a diplomatic coup, unapologetically raising Safarov's racist hatchet-job to those of a national hero.    Armenia's zealots were all too happy to latch on to these actions as proof of the "innate barbarism" of Azerbaijanis, their supposed blood-lust, originating somewhere in the steppes of medieval Central Asia.  Lost somewhere in between were the voices of reason, questioning the Azeri government's actions or calling for moderation, and promptly eliciting familiar accusations of 'treason' and 'prostitution' from nationalist and regime trolls. Ethnic antagonisms require two to tango, and the Armenian-Azeri dance of mutual hatred was once again a spectacle to behold.

Lost in this cacophony of triumphalism and recrimination was also a simple fact: of a corrupt and authoritarian regime using and abusing nationalist emotion to camouflage its utter contempt for democracy and the rule of law.  The government in Baku ranks among the planet's great kleptocracies; thanks to its country's immense oil wealth, the Aliyev clan has been able to amass fabulous riches, according to several courageous exposés by Azeri investigative journalists.  This regime falsifies elections, censors its media, frames opposition members, jails activists for the most trivial offences.  Laws - as to economic propriety, civil rights and political-judicial procedure - are there to be broken at the dictator's and his cabal's whim: in that sense, the Safarov case was nothing exceptional.

In the absence of a democratic mandate, or an ability/willingness to uphold the rule of law, the Aliyev regime latches onto the basest form of 'Ersatz' legitimacy: feigned patriotism.  A search for this 'Ersatz' legitimacy is what drove the Argentine generals into invading the Falklands/Malvinas.  It is what underlies the Assad regime's commitment to the Palestinian cause.  It is what drove the Greek colonels towards their attempted 'enosis' with Cyprus, in 1974.  In short, Aliyev must play up his patriotic credentials in order to dissimulate his (quite unpatriotic) corruption and authoritarianism.  Forget your stolen billions. Forget your trampled civil rights. Think of Safarov and don't forget how our dear leader led him to liberty.


The sous-texte in all of this is, of course, that, just as the Aliyev regime delivered Safarov, it will deliver Nagorno-Karabakh: to the current president, this would be the holy grail of fake legitimacies - Ilham Aliyev, 'liberator' of Daglik Qarabag, saviour of the nation.  In that sense, the glorification of a murderer acquires a much more sinister meaning.  If the government in Baku is serious about ever regaining control over Nagorno-Karabakh and its Armenian population, how exactly is that population to accept its authority when it lionises those who perform hatchet-jobs on sleeping Armenians? Or does the regime in Baku simply not care because it wants the enclave without its current population?  Policymakers in Yerevan and Stepanakert will no doubt make the worst-case assumption and answer the last question in the affirmative.

Suffice it to say that peace processes seldom survive the combination of nationalist posturing and worst-case scenarios.

11 comments:

Vachagan said...

In perpetual pursuit of "staying objective/non-partisan" at any cost you managed to find something to blame Armenians in thus inherently one-sides story.

As a fairly pragmatic person I'd love to find other explanation than "innate barbarism of Azerbaijanis" in glorifying a confirmed murderer (an officer!) who bought an axe and patiently waited for his victim to fall asleep to sneak into his bedroom and kill him in cold blood. I didn't find it in your post though? What does make a coward axe-murderer a national hero? Myself, I cannot imagine - I repeat I cannot imagine - the same occurring in Armenia if the situation were reverse. Can you?

BTW, the fact that Baku wants the "enclave without its current population" is absolutely clear to anybody with an IQ of a squid who was following not only the government policy (including all Aliyev junior's predecessors) but also the public mood in Azerbaijan in the last 20+ years. Safarov's pardon and promotion - enthusiastically supported by majority of population - is just the latest and one of the most vivid manifestation of that simple fact. In case there were any doubters (were you?) - they shouldn't be anymore.

Anonymous said...

You're trying to engender parity where none exists. As for the Armenians considering the Azeris barbaric, please be advised that following Safarov's murder of Margaryan, thousands of Azeri women named their new-born babies after him. Forget about the Armenian women - in what other population in the world would you find thousands of women blissfully naming their own infant after an axe murderer?

Hasan J. said...

1) Vachagan as i see you dont have any idea regarding your terror history. as you wrote: "Myself, I cannot imagine - I repeat I cannot imagine - the same occurring in Armenia if the situation were reverse. Can you? " Yes we can image and you can imagine also. Below there are some facts that how you wellcomed terrorist that killed many many people:

The facts that we all need to know my friends!

1921 - Germany has pardoned and released the Armenian terrorist S. Teyleryan, who had murdered the former minister of foreign affairs of the Ottoman Empire. The act occured in Berlin, was labeled as purely ethnical. International reaction: nothing.

1921 - United Kingdom releases the Armenian terrorist M. Torlakyan who murdered the ex-chief of the ministry of internal affairs of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Ethnical targeting. International reaction - nothing.

1984 - United States of America releases to freedom the Armenian murderer and terrorist Guren Yanikyan, who was sentenced to a life-long imprisonment for his murder of Turkey's Chief Ambassador M. Baydar and Council B. Demir in Los Angeles. Double ethnical, ruthless killing. International reaction - nothing.

1989 - France releases the Armenian terrorist M. Melkonyan who organized the attack on the Turkish consulate in Paris. The attack led to a heavy injury of the council, K. Inal, and death of a security guard D. Ozen. Mass terrorism, targeted at ethinic warfare. International reaction - nothing.

2001 - France releases the famous Armenian terrorost Varujan Karapetyan, organizer of the terrible explosion at the Paris-Orly airport Turkish Airlines. International reaction - nothing

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