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News Opinion Readers Respond

Pro-Azerbaijani letter is an outrage

In his letter "The U.S. should back off its criticism of Azerbaijan's handling of the Safarov case" (Sept. 10), Emil Israfilbek displays very concerning signs of lack of compassion and understanding for human rights, by writing that he is unable to understand why Armenians would be (rightfully) insulted by the Hungarian government's decision to extradite convicted murderer Ramil Safarov back to his home country after having served a mere fraction of his sentence, despite international condemnation of the event. Furthermore, his letter tries to masquerade a blatant incident of racism as a call for non-interventionism.

To clarify: The Nagorno-Karabakh War was sparked by a vote in the historically Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh (which had been detached from Armenia, and transferred to the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic as part of a Stalin-era ploy to foster relations with Azerbaijan's powerful ethnically related neighbor, Turkey) for reintegration into the Armenian SSR. This caused violent backlash in Baku, culminating in the Baku and Sumgait pogroms in which dozens of Armenians were systematically sought out and murdered by their Azeri neighbors in a blood-bath that lasted until the Soviet Army intervened (which the Azeris cynically now commemorate as "black Friday").

These barbarous acts, as well as similar acts of intolerance toward other minority groups in the former Soviet republic, solidified the resolve of the ethnic-Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh to declare its independence, in line with the Soviet Constitution. This, in turn, triggered a full-fledged invasion of the territory by the Azerbaijani Army, which was defeated after a bloody four-year conflict. This humiliating defeat for Azerbaijan has been manipulated by the country's ruling elite in order to foster blind hatred against the Armenian people in what many analysts consider to be an attempt at distraction by a kleptocratic ruling family to hold on to power.

One of he more perturbing aspects about Mr. Israfilbek's letter is the fact that he tries to justify a particularly heinous murder by saying that condemnation of the murderer's actions is uncalled for, because Mr. Safarov was simply retaliating for childhood war trauma. In other words, in Mr. Israfilbek's mind, the rest of the world should not concern itself, because killing any Armenian around the world is OK. His letter describes "a deadly fight," when in reality Mr. Safarov murdered a fellow officer at a Partnership for Peace conference in his sleep. Mr. Israfilbek treats this as something akin to a commendable act because Azerbaijan found itself on the losing side of a post-Soviet secessionist conflict, even though this man was rightfully convicted of murder.

Mr. Israfilbek conveniently omits the fact that every single ethnic Armenian family living within the NK enclave lost family members in the war as well, some through well documented war crimes, and yet, by contrast, none of them have shown similar contempt for the lives of Azeris, or glorified arbitrary murderers. Furthermore, none of the 8 million or so descendants of Armenian genocide survivors have shown a similar attitude toward Turks. Why does Mr. Israfilbek believe that the law shouldn't apply when an Azeri kills an Armenian, and yet, in the same breath call for the U.S. Congress to condemn the Nagorno-Karabakh struggle for independence as a "genocide" of Azerbaijanis?

For once, the U.S. government policy toward the region can be qualified as commendable, since the president was able to uphold American values of human rights and justice instead of strategic interests which have been sustaining Azerbaijan's power-elite (namely, its vast oil reserves).

Raffi Elliott

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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