ISSN 2330-717X

Liberal Values Cannot Be Built Upon Occupation And Ethnic Cleansing – OpEd


On May 21, 2020, the Armenian occupation force held the so-called inauguration of a newly elected leader of the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. This was the result of illegal elections that took place in the occupied region of Azerbaijan between March 31 and April 14. These elections, condemned by most international actors and countries, constitute another futile attempt to legitimize an unrecognized political structure established in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan in defiance of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The timing of these elections was also widely criticized, as the local authorities disregarded the threat to the local community posed by the outbreak of coronavirus disease, which had been detected in the Karabakh region. This was, however, not the only issue that problematized the elections and drew criticism.

The elections were held in a region from which a significant part of the local community, namely the Azerbaijanis, has been expelled through violent ethnic cleansing. These people have, for the moment, no access to their homeland. This situation persists despite UNSC Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 of 1993, which call for the immediate withdrawal of occupation forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The international community has consistently demanded the implementation of these documents, as seen, for example, in the European Parliament’s resolution dated October 23, 2013.

The Azerbaijani government, referring to these documents, denounced the elections, reiterating that “Any election will be possible only after the withdrawal of the Armenian occupying forces, return of the expelled Azerbaijani population to their places of origin, and restoration of dialogue and cooperation between the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of the region.”

Prominent members of the international community, including the European Union (EU), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), NATO, OSCE, and others, have supported Azerbaijan’s concerns and declined to recognize the elections and their legal context. The European Union (EU), in its declaration concerning the elections, emphasized that it “does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework in which the so-called presidential and parliamentary elections are held.”

This position was also maintained by the OSCE’s Minsk Group, the main international institution established to mediate the settlement of the conflict. The Co-Chairs of this body stated that they “do not accept the results of these ‘elections’ as affecting the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

This rightful international reaction is, nevertheless, at odds with the expectations of some people, who have stated that “The European Union and the advocates of democracy around the globe have a natural and logical obligation to support any democratic movement [and] express firm solidarity.” Tellingly, not only do these people disregard the above-mentioned international documents, but they also demonstrate a clear ignorance to the principle of inclusive citizenship, one of the principles that enables a political system to become a democracy.

Having expelled the “unwanted” segment of the local community, namely, ethnic Azerbaijanis, the Armenians have denied them their fundamental rights and thus left no room for any sort of democracy in the region. As one scholar aptly stated recently, “The attempt to build democracy in the region under these circumstances resembles the dark pages of human history when human rights meant to privilege only one group of population based on race or ethnicity.”

The persistence of a narrative about Nagorno-Karabakh as a “third party” to the conflict is the result of a distortion of the notion of liberalism. This narrative is, unfortunately, occasionally promoted under the guise of inclusiveness by several international NGOs or media outlets. Overall, some Western experts have always manifested double standards in dealing with post-Soviet conflicts. Unequivocal support for the principle of territorial integrity, exhibited toward Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, faded away when those experts discussed the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Whether it was religious bias or Orientalist influence (in Edward Said’s sense), this approach has further alienated the public in Azerbaijan from the West and played into the hands of conservative-minded politicians.

Liberal values cannot be built upon illegal occupation, nor can they be consistent with the expulsion of the Azerbaijani community from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Until the international community and global experts revise their deeply flawed attitudes toward this and some of the other ethno-territorial conflicts, that is, seeking “neutrality” when a principled stance should prevail, peace will be very hard to achieve.

*Farid Shafiyev is Chairman of the Center of International Relations and Adjunct Lecturer at ADA University.

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5 thoughts on “Liberal Values Cannot Be Built Upon Occupation And Ethnic Cleansing – OpEd

  • May 21, 2020 at 10:33 am

    What a poor, one sided piece of text paid to be posted by Azerbaijani University lecturer. I’m sure your students will like it, and the rest of the world will get another evidence on “objectiveness” of this media source and its “review”. Nothing new, just a lot of money spent on spreading lies.

  • May 21, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    The occupant of Nagorno-Karabakh is its indigenous population. All other places across Azerbaijan had its Armenian minority killed, burnt alive, raped, tortured, and violently expelled. The only remaining Armenians defeated the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, its mercenaries, and in 1994 won the sovereignty they demonstrate daily in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

    It would be desirable if Nagorno-Karabakh’s election process were recognized, considering the region exhibits more democracy than Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s president and vice president are husband and wife – he appointed her!

    It is hypocritical for the same bodies and institutions that recognized Azerbaijan’s corrupt election process as legitimate recognize the elections in Nagorno-Karabakh.

    Mr. Shafiyev, keep your hypocrisy and land claims. Of significance is that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh run their own lives.

    Yerevan, Armenia

  • May 22, 2020 at 6:53 am

    Liberal values. How not to laugh, Mr Shafiyev?

    Maybe the author assume the readers don’t know about Azerbaijan? Because it takes a lot of guts to talk about liberal values when you are the mouthpiece of one of the worst dictature on earth, a country in which hate of Armenians is taught at school, where mentally retarded killer Ramil Safarov is considered national hero just because he killed an asleep Armenian with an axe, where officers are awarded medals for killing and mutilating (in that order) an octogenarian couple… just few exemples among many others.

    Staline who gave a mandate to Azerbaijan on the autonomous territory is long dead, so is USSR, Azerbaijan imperialist claims are groundless, both legally and morally, and NK Armenians naturally chose their fate and their choice is irresistible, there will be no coming back, and certainly not to a banana dictature where they are deeply hated.

  • May 24, 2020 at 4:30 am

    While the article accurately describes ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis from the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and the current state of affairs, it should also be noted that it is the fourth stage of ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis from their land by Armenia. The first three stages of ethnic cleansing happened to Azerbaijanis in the western part of Azerbaijan, called Zangezur, annexed to Armenia by Russia. The three stages of ethnic cleansing: 1905-1920 (First stage); 1948-1953 (Second stage) and 1988-1989 (Third stage). I personally lived through the third stage of ethnic cleansing. On December 2, 1989, my family and I were forced to leave our home in Urud (renamed as “Vorotan” by Armenia), historical Azerbaijani town in Zangezur, because of our nationality. Everyone can debate history, but the facts are not debatable.

  • May 24, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be separated from Azerbaijan, as its size and the population is not significant to be a state. Besides, It is bordered by only Azerbaijan (i.e., it’s inside Azerbaijan). So, legally, it cannot exist as an independent state. Plus, Armenians in Karabakh cannot claim that they are hays, which settled from the Middle East 300 hundred years ago. Armenian (Ermenler) are Christian Turks, i.e. brothers of Muslim Azerbaijani Turks. Therefore, Karabakhi community need to give DNT test to make sure that they are Azerbaijani Turks. Ex. their surnames are even of Turkic origin. Finally, Azerbaijan reserves the legal right to deploy its troops in Khahkendi at any time. Our State just waits for Armenians to grasp the military and economic capacity of Azerbaijan and at last obey the rule of law determined by the State of Azerbaijan


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