Nine Armenians Killed by Chechen Terrorists, No One Seems to Care

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Harut Sassounian Commentary 2004 September

Earlier this month, when Chechen terrorists took over a school in Beslan, North Ossetia (Russia), there were at least 33 Armenians among the 1,200 hostages. During the rescue attempt, more than 300 children, parents and teachers were killed, including nine Armenians (five schoolchildren and four adults). Several other Armenians are still missing. Armenia's leaders joined the rest of the world in sending humanitarian aid and messages of condolence to the Russian government. Sadly, neither Armenian officials nor Armenian organizations bothered to express any sympathy for the nine Armenian victims. There was no outrage expressed by anyone regarding the cold-blooded murder of these innocent Armenians. While the Russian government offered a $10 million reward for the killing or capture of the leaders of the Chechen rebels and reserved the right to make pre-emptive strikes against terrorists in other countries, Armenian officials did not even express their condolences to the families of the Armenian victims. They showed no interest whatsoever in the fate of those killed and injured, even though some of them were citizens of Armenia. While it is true that Armenia has a limited ability to pursue those who organized this terrorist act, Armenian officials could have at least expressed their sympathy to the victims' families, set up a special fund to help them, and offered their willingness to assist the Russian authorities in tracking down the leaders of these terrorists. Armenian officials often talk about Armenians worldwide being members of "one nation," regardless of where they live. In order to have some credibility, these officials must show with their actions that they really care about their fellow Armenians overseas. Simply organizing annual song and dance festivals is not enough! Azerbaijan Behaves Like a Banana Republic NATO officials finally got fed up with all the lies and childish games played by the novice Azeri President, Ilham Aliyev, and canceled the military exercises that were scheduled to take place on Sept. 14-27 in Azerbaijan. Since the beginning of the year, Azerbaijan's leaders had repeatedly assured NATO officials that they would not impede Armenia's participation in these exercises. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are members of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Earlier this year, three Armenian military officers tried to attend a planning conference in Baku. After getting a run-around for several days, they were eventually refused entry into Azerbaijan. In June, when two other Armenian officers finally managed to attend a second planning conference in Baku, several Azeri thugs broke into the hotel where the conference was being held, threatening to harm the Armenian participants. When some of these hooligans were arrested and sent to jail, Pres. Aliyev complained that the courts were being too harsh on them. Earlier this month, as an Armenian delegation was preparing to travel to Baku, high ranking Azeri officials, contrary to the commitments they had made to NATO, started saying that the Armenians were not welcome in Azerbaijan. Finally, the government of Azerbaijan refused to grant an entry visa to the Armenian officers. As NATO rules do not allow affiliated member countries to exclude one another from exercises being held on their territory, Azerbaijan had violated the principle of inclusiveness. Therefore, NATO had no choice but to cancel the planned exercises in Azerbaijan. Azeri thugs and government officials immediately began celebrating the fact that they had succeeded in keeping the Armenians out of their country. But, one wonders, at what price? Azeri officials for a number of years had nurtured the pipe dream that Azerbaijan would shortly join NATO. They were hoping that NATO would then take their side in the Karabagh conflict. After all the games played by Azeri officials leading to the undermining of an important NATO activity, it does not look very likely that Azerbaijan would be admitted to NATO membership anytime soon! In addition to the violation of NATO rules of inclusiveness, the Azeri officials have shown to the whole world that Azerbaijan is not a reliable partner, and that the word of its leaders means nothing. Basically, they proved that Azerbaijan is a banana republic. Finally, Pres. Aliyev made a big mistake by allowing this small group of street thugs, who were opposed to the participation of Armenians in the NATO exercises, to take the lead in this emotionally-charged issue. Their "successful" and "heroic" efforts would enable them to attract fresh recruits to their fanatical cause. Thus emboldened, they will be making more and more radical demands on the government, eventually leading to the destabilization and may be even the toppling of the Aliyev regime.