[lg policy] Azerbaijan: Baku Presses Genocide Recognition Campaign for Khojaly

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 1 16:35:44 UTC 2012

    Azerbaijan: Baku Presses Genocide Recognition Campaign for Khojaly

Several thousand Azeris, including President Ilham Aliyev and his
family, gather in Baku on Feb. 26 to commemorate the 20th anniversary
of the massacre in Khojaly. The government wants other countries to
recognize the 1992 slaughter in the breakaway region of Nagorno
Karabakh as an act of genocide. (Photo: Azerbaijani Presidential Press

There were full-page newspaper ads in New York City, films in Paris,
and commemorations and marches from Argentina to Latvia. Twenty years
after a massacre of ethnic Azeri residents in the Nagorno-Karabakh
village of Khojaly, Azerbaijan is pressing a campaign to have the 1992
slaughter recognized as an act of genocide.

The tragedy occurred February 25-26, 1992, during the height of the
armed struggle between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces for control of
Karabakh. Baku maintains that Armenian armed forces, along with
members of the Russian army’s 360th regiment, carried out an attack on
Khojaly that left 613 ethnic Azeri civilians dead, and forced over
5,300 residents to flee. Armenian leaders steadfastly deny that
civilians were targeted in Khojaly.

Azerbaijani officials have not explained why they have stepped up
efforts now to have the Khojaly tragedy recognized as genocide. The
driving force behind the campaign is the semi-official Heydar Aliyev
Foundation, which is headed by First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, the
daughter-in-law of the deceased former president.

Some Baku observers believe there is a connection between the Khojaly
push and a diplomatic tussle between France and Turkey over a French
bill that would have criminalized the denial of Ottoman Turkey’s 1915
slaughter of ethnic Armenians as genocide. France’s two houses of
parliament approved the bill in January, but on February 28, the
country’s Constitutional Council ruled that it was unconstitutional.

Turkey, with which Azerbaijan shares close cultural ties, easily ranks
as Baku’s closest ally. While Baku often is willing to assist Ankara
diplomatically, the timing of the Khojaly campaign has helped Baku
score points of its own, some Azerbaijani observers note.

"There are many people and politicians who support the Turkish
position, and it definitely helped Azerbaijan in campaigning about the
Khojaly tragedy," asserted political analyst Togrul Juvarly.

Initiatives to build international awareness about the Khojaly tragedy
began in 2009. But until this year, those efforts remained relatively

Measures passed by the Pakistani and Mexican parliaments in late 2011
that recognized the Khojaly events as genocide “would have been close
to impossible” to secure without the international controversy over
the French legislation, Juvarly said.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly tragedy, about 80,000
people, including former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza,
attended a rally in Istanbul. The Turkish parliament is soon expected
to consider a draft resolution on Khojaly. Little opposition to the
measure is anticipated.

In France, where the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has strong ties,
Diaspora activists and several sympathetic French senators and MPs
participated in a one-day Khojaly conference on February 27. Along
with the handout of flyers, a film festival was also staged.

In Germany, where the Bundestag is considering a proposal similar to
the French bill, a small demonstration condemning the Khojaly massacre
occurred in Berlin. Meanwhile, members of the leftist MP faction Die
Linke (The Left) characterized the Khojaly tragedy as a “military

Some observers say the Khojaly campaign helps Azerbaijan’s chances of
regaining control of Karabkah by denting what they describe as
Armenia’s international image as a “victim.”

“It strengthens the position of the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno
Karabakh in the peace process . . . in terms of demanding the right to
return to their lands,” commented Erkin Gadirli, co-chairperson of the
Respublikaci Alternative opposition group. “Baku demonstrates that it
is not going to interfere with the historical question of the 1915
events [in Turkey], but that it has its own claim against Armenia
concerning the massacre of civilians.”

What direction the Khojaly campaign will take next remains open to
debate. While some see the initiative as linked to the outcome of
France’s genocide denial bill, Azerbaijan appears to have its own
alliances in mind.

A February 22 statement by an Israeli parliamentary committee
condemning the Khojali killings as “one of the biggest tragedies of
the 20th century” is widely seen as the fruit of growing tensions
between Israel and Iran, an Armenian ally, and Tel Aviv’s growing
friendship with Azerbaijan, which recently agreed to purchase $1.6
billion worth of Israeli military equipment.

For now, government officials remain reticent when it comes to
discussing the Khojaly campaign. But it’s clear it enjoys broad
domestic support. Thirty-four-year-old Aybeniz Mammadli, an Internally
Displaced Person from Karabakh who now works for a Baku insurance
company, believes that the Khojaly campaign is one instance when the
government has spent money appropriately.

“Armenians successfully promote their so-called ‘genocide’ around the
world,” she said in reference to the 1915 massacre in Ottoman Turkey.
“And we should be active and inform the world about what [Armenians]
did with civilians in 1992.”

reposted from http://www.eurasianet.org/node/65060?utm_source=Weekly+Digest&utm_campaign=db7f1175c1-my_google_analytics_key&utm_medium=email

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