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Nagorno-Karabakh: Is The Conflict Between Armenia And Azerbaijan Religiously Motivated? – OpEd

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Heavy fighting broke out again on the July 12, 2020 at the interstate border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which has been relatively dormant since April 2016. The Armenian armed attacks happened against military sites and civilian areas in the North West Tovuz region (Towus) in the Republic of Azerbaijan coming from the North East Tavush district in the Republic of Armenia.

Eleven Azerbaijani and five Armenian military personnel have already been killed during these battles. Since the first day of the conflict, I have been carefully watching the German media to assess their reporting. In my view, it was largely balanced for the first few days. In the past week, however, I have been very disappointed with the reporting of this regional security crisis. Therefore I wonder whether every journalist simply copies the news from other sources, or whether there is only one kind of reporting in Germany to which everyone absolutely has to abide to. 

What exactly is this case about?

Almost every German online newspaper or magazine speaks of a “Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan” in relation to the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh. I have no doubt on the readers’ geographic knowledge. You were probably taught in school that there was once a Soviet Union that had 15 Soviet republics. You are probably also informed that after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, separatist movements or civil wars broke out in the various newly founded republics.

As a result, we have the subsequent conflicts in the Post-Soviet area today: in Georgia there is the separatist secession movement in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which has been officially considered a conflict between Russia and Georgia since 2008. We have the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh; the unresolved conflict in the Moldavian region around Transnistria, and since 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea, a new conflict erupted between Russian Federation and Ukraine, the population in the aforementioned cases is mostly Christian, in comparison to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, so it would make no sense to define the conflict as solely religious. Interestingly enough; Russia, Georgia and Ukraine are even largely orthodox countries.

Despite all these aspects, they are in conflict. They are in combat despite of the same religious beliefs. Now I would like to ask you, dear journalists: What is the difference between all the conflicts mentioned? I can tell you: nothing. Nothing at all, from all these listed conflicts, whether it be Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Ukraine, or Transnistria, these are similar cases. These are separatist secession movements in which a portion of the population of a country fights against the central government with weapons and arms and receives external support.

The frequent recurrence of the statement about this conflict “between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan” urges me to think that German journalism does just that to emphasize a European, anti-Islamic rhetoric. Many of you may have never been to Azerbaijan, do not know the country, its peace-loving people or culture, but report about the country, completely carelessly. You are probably uninformed about the fact that Azerbaijan is primarily a secular country.

The American opinion research institute Gallup regularly conducts surveys about the religiousness of the states. Interestingly, the results regarding this very religiosity show that Armenia (> 90% Christian) is much more religious than Azerbaijan (> 30% Muslim). As an Azerbaijani, should I forget the fact that in the struggles for Azerbaijan, and the people who died came from different religious and cultural backgrounds? They did not fight for their religion, they fought for their country which they were born and grew up in.

It is a fact that in Azerbaijan the word “martyr” is not defined from an Islamic perspective. Be it the president, a spiritual leader, or a scientist – the word martyr defines those who fell for her / his country, home, and family – not for his religion. At this point I would like to draw your attention to two examples: I was born in a Russian village in Azerbaijan. I knew from school that my village was also home to a Russian martyr of Molocan religious origin. His name was Belyakov Vasiliy Nikolaevič (1969-1993). Last year I was in Azerbaijan at the “Red Settlement”, in northern Azerbaijan, where Azerbaijani mountain Jews live in a confined space. During my trip I noticed a memorial plaque for Albert Agarunov.

In the wake of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Agarunov fell while defending the city of Shusha in Azerbaijan. He was posthumously awarded a national hero of the Republic of Azerbaijan. During the war he gave an interview in which he proudly emphasized: “I am fighting for the country in which I was born”.

For me it makes no difference what the background stories of the martyrs are. All Azerbaijanis who fell for their country are heroes to me because they saved us from the Armenian aggression. However, 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territories are still under Armenian occupation and over a million Azerbaijanis are still not allowed to visit the graves of their deceased families and ancestors.

In the case of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, it is solely a political-territorial conflict that is in fact a non-religious matter.

6 thoughts on “Nagorno-Karabakh: Is The Conflict Between Armenia And Azerbaijan Religiously Motivated? – OpEd

  • Avatar
    July 24, 2020 at 4:52 pm
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    Perhaps this azerb. “author” can explain how it was possible when the ax murder Ramil Safarov, who axed Armenian solder in its sleep, is Azerbaijani hero in this county school books. Many isis terrorists from Azerbaijan chanting “Allahu Akbar”, “Kill Christians”. Maybe this “author” means destruction of Armenian, Christian evidences in its country. Sanct Sophia cathedral is in Turkish -Azer namaz now. The list is to long to show azeri-turkish barbaric actions agenst Armenian, Christian ancient civilization.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      July 25, 2020 at 7:21 pm
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      It is a pity that the comments to the author’s article, which attempts to explain the true reasons for the confrontation and to avoid the religious component of the confrontation, are of such a tendentious nature. No school books in Azerbaijan glorify any criminal situations that arose as a result of the tragic events of the 90s in Azerbaijan. Speaking of this, the commentator could cite at least one fact of such a textbook. It is extremely immoral to draw parallels to this conflict with ISIS terrorists, in which participants from Azerbaijan are convicted and can be counted on one hand (unlike European and other regional countries). Regardinf Armenian evidience in Azerbaijan – the Armenian Church is not destroyed in Baku – it is intact! At the same time several Christian churches and Jewish synagogues continue to serve in Azerbaijan!
      As for Aya Sophia Mosque, this is an internal matter of Turkey and Azerbaijan has nothing to do with it. By the way, there are a number of former Muslim mosques in Spain that have been converted into Christian churches: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_former_mosques_in_Spain

      Reply
  • Avatar
    July 24, 2020 at 6:42 pm
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    The war is not religious in nature.

    Karabagh/Artsakh is an ancient Armenian entity, always populated by Armenians.

    Azerbaijan is not ancient at all.

    It was started only in 1918 and lasted until 1920 when, like Georgia and Armenia, it was made part of the USSR.

    Unfortunately, Stalin unfairly gave Karabagh/Artsakh to Azerbaijan, and the latter repressed Armenians there and tried to depopulate it of Armenians. Even the former Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliyev, admitted that.

    The territory of Nakhichevan, also given unfairly given by Stalin to Azerbaijan, was totally depopulated of Armenians. Karabagh/Artsakh’s Armenians did not and do not want that to happen to them.

    Azerbaijan malign motives are clear and so are the rights of Armenians. Karabagh/Artsakh is a democratic nation now and will never submit to any form of Azeri rule.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    July 24, 2020 at 7:17 pm
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    The author is disappointed in German and other media for portraying the conflict as between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan. I agree with him. Christian Ukraine supports Azerbaijan; Muslim Iran is good friend of Armenia. So is Muslim Syria while Muslim Egypt’s media is pro-Armenian.
    I am also disappointment—with the author. He doesn’t condemn Baku for starting the fight. Armenia has no reason to attack. Its strategy is based on defense. Hajibala Abutalybo, ex-mayor of Baku, told a German delegation: “Our goal is the complete elimination of Armenians. You, Nazis already eliminated the Jews in the 1930s and the ’40s, right?”

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  • Avatar
    July 25, 2020 at 7:45 am
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    It is more of a question whether to uphold Soviet-era Stalinist drawn borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    Like the rest of the Caucasus countries, Armenia joined the Soviet Union in 1920 and became a founding member of the Soviet Union in 1923. The territory of Soviet Armenia then included the greater region of Nagorno Karabakh and Nakhichevan.

    One day after “sovietisation” of Armenia Pravda (Truth) newspaper (issue No 273) published a letter by Joseph Stalin, then People’s Commissar of Nationalities, starting with a greeting “Long Live Soviet Armenia!”. The letter specifically touched upon that issue: “On December 1, Soviet Azerbaijan, of its own free will, gave up the debated provinces and declared the transfer of Zangezur, Nakhichevan, and Nagorno Karabakh to Soviet Armenia.”

    However, due to Turkey’s Kemal Attaturk’s insistence the issue was reconsidered by the Moscow treaty, and, as a result, Soviet Armenia was stripped of the greater Nagorno Karabagh and Nakhichevan regions and were handed over to Soviet Azerbaijan by Bolsheviks.

    Despite the fact that none of the involved sides (Kemalist-Turkey and Bolshevik-Russia) were an entity of international law, such a method of solving issues became a precedent: two decades later Bolsheviks and Nazis used that experience when signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, when two parties decided the fate of a third state – Poland, in accordance with their wishes.

    Until now, no adequate response has been given to the Moscow Treaty between Kemalist-Turkey and Bolshevist-Russia on the “modern Armenian-Azerbaijan border”.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    July 25, 2020 at 10:03 am
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    In the 1990-s scores of your coreligionists ie Chechens, Afghans under the banner of Islam fought against us & they never went back…
    Artsakh is a liberated from slavery free country & any attempt by the AXEris to come near it will be crushed as seen for the last 30 years & above all recently. Did you know that the worldwide drone prices have crashed? Anyway you won’t be able to afford even with their cheaper prices due to the crash of the petrol prices, which will continue on its low levels for the foreseeable future. Unless of course if you bring back the stolen billions by the aliyevs.

    Reply

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