Azerbaijan Gives New Reasons Why Karabagh Can't Be Under Azeri Rule

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Harut Sassounian Commentary 2004 November

Karabagh Armenians keep telling the world that Azeris abused them so much and for so long that they can never go back to living under the yoke of Azerbaijan again. Armenians provide documented evidence of the trampling of their most basic rights by Azeri officials during the Soviet years. Most of these arguments, regrettably, fall on the deaf ears of insensitive world leaders who care more about Caspian oil than Armenian blood.

A scandalous incident at the Baku airport last week came to demonstrate what Karabagh Armenians have been saying all along. A prominent Bulgarian journalist, Edward Papazian, who is the sports editor of "24 Hours," the largest daily newspaper in Bulgaria, had flown to Azerbaijan along with Bulgaria's soccer team to cover a friendly match between the two countries.

Upon arrival at the Baku airport, the Bulgarian soccer players and their entourage quickly made it through passport control and were allowed in the country except for one passenger -- Papazian. His sole guilt was that he had an Armenian last name. Even though the government of Azerbaijan was notified in advance of the list of the travelers accompanying the soccer team, as soon as Azeri border guards saw Papazian's last name in his Bulgarian passport, they began yelling "Armenian, Armenian!" They immediately took him in for questioning. They asked him how long he had been a citizen of Bulgaria. Papazian told them that he was born in Bulgaria, as were his parents and even grandparents. He told them that he had traveled around the world, both in civilized and uncivilized countries, and never had this kind of trouble. The border guards were angered by Papazian's implied reference to their country as being uncivilized. They told him that all Armenians were barred from entering Azerbaijan, ostensibly because their security could not be guaranteed! One of the airport officials told Papazian that he was being harassed because of Karabagh. Despite his vehement protests, the journalist was forcibly put back on the same plane that he had just arrived in and unceremoniously deported from the country.

In the meantime, Bulgarian officials, through their Ambassador in Baku, had made every effort to secure Papazian's entry into Azerbaijan. The journalist's deportation was not only discriminatory, but also offensive to the government of Bulgaria. This incident had a chilling effect on relations between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry subsequently delivered a diplomatic note of protest to the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Sofia.

The Bulgarian press widely covered this scandalous event. "24 Hours" quoted Papazian as saying: "I thought we lived in the 21st century rather than the Middle Ages. I am proud of my heritage and my family and I am not going to change my name just because of Azerbaijan."

Rather than apologizing for their shameful and racist behavior, Azeri officials tried to cover up this incident by insisting that it never took place and no person named Papazian had tried to enter Azerbaijan.

This appalling episode leads us to the following conclusions:

  • Azerbaijan has declared an all-out war not only against Karabagh, but also against all Armenians, regardless of their country of origin;
  • Azeris resort to all possible means to demonstrate their hatred of Armenians, including lying and covering up not only historic events but also incidents that occurred just a few days earlier;
  • By barring all Armenians from entering Azerbaijan, the Azeri authorities are basically confirming that Karabagh Armenians are no longer considered to be citizens of Azerbaijan, (which is exactly what the Karabagh Armenians want);
  • If the anti-Armenian hostility and hysteria in Azerbaijan is such that even a third generation Bulgarian of Armenian ancestry cannot go to Baku to cover a soccer match, how could more than 150,000 Karabagh Armenians risk their lives believing that they can live in peace under Azeri rule?

A whole new generation of Armenians have been born and raised in Karabagh since its separation from Azerbaijan. These youngsters have only known life under a free and independent Karabagh! Putting them back under Azeri rule would be as unnatural and unacceptable as returning the 13 U.S. colonies to the British, Louisiana to the French, and Alaska to the Russians!

The Azeri officials, by their hateful action, proved once again that Armenians couldn't even visit Azerbaijan, let alone live there. Karabagh Armenians are perfectly happy not to be associated with such a country!