BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
When President Ilham Aliyev arrives in Paris on Sept. 18, thousands of French-Armenians should greet Azerbaijan’s leader with posters depicting him as the “Hatchet Man-in-Chief”—Bash Baltaji—holding a bloody axe. Interestingly, in all three languages—Azeri, Hungarian, and Turkish—balta means hatchet or axe.
During the protest, French-Armenians should not waste their energy yelling out meaningless slogans, such as “Shame on Baku” or “Shame on Hungary.” Instead, they should deliver the crucial message that Artsakh (Karabagh) be recognized as an independent state, because its Armenian population cannot survive under a despotic regime that glorifies axe-wielding murderers.
Inadvertently, Hungary and Azerbaijan have done a huge favor for Armenians in extraditing and pardoning Lieutenant Ramil Safarov, who bludgeoned to death his sleeping Armenian classmate at a 2004 NATO course in Budapest. Numerous countries and international organizations have condemned Hungary and Azerbaijan for their unsavory actions. Armenians should capitalize on this sordid affair by holding demonstrations in every major city around the world, raising it in every international meeting, and filing lawsuits in European courts against Hungary, Azerbaijan, and NATO. Now that the axe-man’s release has generated worldwide sympathy for Armenians, and clear antipathy for Azerbaijanis, Armenia should take advantage of this narrow and fleeting window of opportunity to recognize Artsakh’s independence and urge others to follow suit. A Google search reveals that thousands of articles were written on this subject in the last 10 days, the overwhelming majority favoring Armenia and criticizing Azerbaijan.
Armenians should explain to the world the futility of holding peace negotiations with Azeri leaders who treat international agreements as toilet paper! The most recent example is the Aug. 15 letter by Azerbaijan’s deputy justice minister to his Hungarian counterpart, assuring him that Safarov would not be released if extradited to Baku. Two weeks later, the axe-man was not only freed, but promoted and rewarded by the Chief Baltaji, who is taking his cues from Turkish leaders on glorifying criminals and treating protocols as meaningless pieces of paper!
Turkish officials, however, are not too anxious to link their names to the odious behavior of Aliyev Jr. A spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement claiming that Turkey had nothing to do with Safarov’s extradition from Hungary, despite the murderer’s expression of gratitude for Turkey’s support after his arrival in Baku. Independent of its accuracy, the Turkish statement does confirm that Azerbaijan is isolated from the rest of the world and abandoned by the major powers—the United States, Russia, and France—all of which have condemned Safarov’s release.
In desperation, Azerbaijan’s intelligence services concocted a fake ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia) letter that threatens Azeri officials, so that Aliyev could regain the sympathy of world public opinion. The forged letter included statements that no Armenian would make, claiming, for example, that only 600,000 Armenians were killed during the Armenian Genocide—a false figure circulated only by denialist Turks and Azeris. No Armenian would ever minimize the enormous death toll from 1.5 million to 600,000! In response to this forgery, ASALA issued a statement rejecting the authenticity of the letter. Such fraudulent Azeri actions give credibility to rumors that Azerbaijan may consider “eliminating Safarov,” its “national hero,” in order to blame Armenians for his murder!
Ironically, Armenia defeated Hungary last Sunday to win the World Chess Championship held in Istanbul. Azerbaijan was in 10th place, while Turkey came in 48th. Armenians should be genuinely proud of this incredible accomplishment (for the third time!), but they should refrain from making disparaging remarks about people in other countries. There are good and bad individuals in every nation. Rather than harbor ill feelings toward the people of Hungary, Azerbaijan, or Turkey, Armenians should confront those who deny the Armenian Genocide, extradite a convicted criminal, or glorify an axe-murderer.
Tomris Azeri, the president of the Azerbaijan Society of America and co-founder of Pax Turcica Institute, suggested in an interview posted on News.az that rather than criticize Turkey, I should help resolve the Artsakh conflict! Mr. Azeri stated: “I sincerely wish that before authoring another Turcophobic ode, Mr. Harut Sassounian analyzes what can be done to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.” My advice to Mr. Azeri is to not deny past crimes and to not commit new ones—with or without an axe—and then pursue peaceful solutions, instead of whipping up racist anti-Armenian mass hysteria by the Bash Baltaji and his cohorts.