By Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte
As an Armenian refugee from Baku, Azerbaijan, senseless, violent acts committed against innocent Armenian women, men, and children by Azeris no longer shock me. I was forced to grow up with their hatred and violence, committed on the basis of nationality alone. It doesn’t surprise me in the least.
In 1988, the Azeri government orchestrated pogroms on the Armenian citizens of Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku. Twenty-some years later, the existing Azeri government hardly differs from its predecessor in its continual propaganda and education of ignorance, distrust, and obsessive hatred toward Armenians as a whole.
The brutal murder of Armenian officer Gourgen Markarian in Budapest in 2004 is no exception. The Azeri officer, Ramil Safarov, who murdered the sleeping victim with an axe was sentenced to life in prison by the Hungarian judicial system. That is where the story should have ended.
But of course the story doesn’t end there, and that is because we’re talking about Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani bribery and corruption machine is in full force, as oil money keeps flooding the pockets of the Aliyevs. While the general population is not thriving economically, as would be expected, the government wields its money to buy championship trophies, build enormous structures to show off its fortune, and buy its power. It’s done within the region, and apparently it’s now done outside of the region.
Hungary’s extradition of a brutal murderer back to Azerbaijan is not an isolated event that hurts officer Markarian’s family alone. That act, and the subsequent pardon of the murderer, Safarov, by the Azeri government are quite possibly a violation of international law and a clear message to the world that Azerbaijan is not a democracy that respects international law and human rights of all mankind, as it proclaims.
Aside from the pain I feel as an Armenian—with my home uprooted and destroyed, my childhood demolished—I also feel the pain of history repeating itself: The Azeris slaughtered Armenians in Azerbaijan in 1980’s. The Turks slaughtered Armenians during the genocide in 1915. No one is brought to justice. The world turns away. And it is happening again. It cannot happen again. We cannot let it happen again.
The world, along with Hungary, must stand by the Armenians. The world must see the Azeri dictatorship for what it is, in all its violence. And Nagorno-Karabagh Armenians must be free from Azeri rule. Because if an Azeri “hero” can slaughter an Armenian in his sleep on foreign soil and get praised for it, imagine what he will do within his own borders. The Nagorno-Karabagh Republic must be independent. Now more than ever.
Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte is the author of Nowhere, a Story of Exile.