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Azeri, Turkish War Crimes Against Armenians Must Not Go Unpunished

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Terrorism

The war launched by Azerbaijan and Turkey against the Armenian Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) in the South Caucuses on September 27 has been halted through an agreement, which was brokered by Russia and imposed on Armenia. Based on the circulating agreement, Armenians must relinquish most of their homeland in Artsakh to Azerbaijan by December 1, forcing any Armenians living in those regions to depart before that date.

During their indiscriminate shelling of Artsakh, the aggressors – Azerbaijan, and Turkey, accompanied by Syrian jihadist forces – have committed many war crimes against Armenians. They have murdered civilians and injured journalists. They have burned villages, forests, and churches. They have tortured and beheaded Armenians, and executed prisoners.

BBC reported on October 24:”One video posted on a messaging app shows what appears to be two Armenians in military uniforms being captured by troops from Azerbaijan.A second video seemingly shows the same Armenians being shot with their hands behind their backs.Armenian authorities have identified the men as Benik Hakobyan, 73, and 25-year-old Yuri Adamyan.”

Azerbaijani forces also used cluster munitions and white phosphorus against Artsakh. “Azerbaijan has repeatedly used widely banned cluster munitions in residential areas in Nagorno-Karabakh,” according to an October 23 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). “Cluster munitions have been banned because of their widespread indiscriminate effect and long-lasting danger to civilians,” it added.

The false, obsessive belief that Artsakh belongs to Azerbaijan has resulted in an ethnic cleansing against indigenous Armenians from their lands.

The area called Artsakh, originally one of the ancient provinces of Armenia, has preserved a majority Armenian population throughout the centuries. Despite this, Artsakh was annexed by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to the New Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan in the early 1920s. Armenian peaceful requests for self-determination were violently punished by Azerbaijan.

Under Azeri control, Armenians were subject to severe persecution such as pogroms in Sumgait and Baku from 1988 to 1990. The Soviet Union collapsed the following year, and Azerbaijan, Armenia and Artsakh declared independence. Azerbaijan, however, rejected Artsakh’s independence claim and chose to launch a war in 1992, which lasted two years and cost the lives of approximately 30,000 people.

26 years later, Armenians in Artsakh are once again assaulted by Azerbaijan. This time, arms supplies and diplomatic support from Turkey helped give Azerbaijan the upper hand in the conflict. Several news agencies, governments and the United Nations have also reported that Turkey sent jihadist terrorists from Syria to support Azerbaijan in its fight against the Armenians.

“We now have information which indicates that Syrian fighters from jihadist groups have (transited) through Gaziantep (southeastern Turkey) to reach the Nagorno-Karabakh theatre of operations,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at an EU summit in Brussels. “It is a very serious new fact, which changes the situation.”

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights)also reported on November 11:

“The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries said there were widespread reports that the Government of Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s assistance, relied on Syrian fighters to shore-up and sustain its military operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, including on the frontline. The fighters appeared to be motivated primarily by private gain, given the dire economic situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the UN experts said. In case of death, their relatives were reportedly promised financial compensation and Turkish nationality.

“‘The way in which these individuals were recruited, transported and used in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone appeared consistent with the definition of a mercenary, as set out by relevant international legal instruments, including the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, to which Azerbaijan is a party,’ said Chris Kwaja, who chairs the Working Group.

“‘Moreover, reports indicate that Turkey engaged in large-scale recruitment and transfer of Syrian men to Azerbaijan through armed factions, some of which are affiliated with the Syrian National Army. The alleged role of Turkey is all the more concerning given the similar allegations addressed earlier this year by the Working Group in relation its role in recruiting, deploying and financing such fighters to take part in the conflict in Libya,’ Kwaja added.”

The UN report was released two days after the treaty was signed, but Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was always transparent about his support for the war against Artsakh. “We support Azerbaijan until victory,” Erdogan said on October 6. “I tell my Azerbaijani brothers: May your ghazwa be blessed.”

Ghazwa in Islam refers to a battle or raid against non-Muslims for the expansion of Muslim territory and/or conversion of non-Muslims to Islam.

In another speech on November 1, Erdogan said, “We are in Syria, Libya, Azerbaijan. We have displayed the same dignified attitude from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, from Syria to Libya, from Cyprus to Karabakh.”

Prior to the war, Artsakh’s population was around 150,000. Turkish and Azeri aggression against the region has caused massive destruction on civilian infrastructure including homes and hospitals and the displacement of about 90,000 Armenians. On October 23, a group of genocide scholars issued a statement “on the imminent genocidal threat deriving from Azerbaijan and Turkey against Artsakh.”

Completely abandoned by the international community and faced with an existential threat, Armenia had to sign an agreement which allows Azerbaijan to take over much of Artsakh. With 60% of Artsakh destroyed and the remainder of land to be surrounded by hostile Azeri forces, many indigenous Armenians who have lived in Artsakh for generations see no choice other than to flee their homeland.

Meanwhile, during the war, hundreds of Turks and Azeris took to the streets in the French city of Lyon, looking for Armenians. They marched with Turkish flags, chanting Allahuakbar (Allah is the greatest), and “Where are you Armenians? Where are you? We are here… sons of bitches.”

Jonathan Lacôte, French ambassador to Armenia, announced that French police were protecting Armenian community centers in France from Turkish and Azeri attacks and vandalism.

In another move to counter Turkish aggression, the French Interior Ministry banned a Turkish ultra-nationalist group known as the Grey Wolves after a memorial to victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide was defaced.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the decision, saying that “there is no such a movement called ‘Grey Wolves’. Attempts to resort to imaginary decisions presuming the existence of such a movement or formation based on some individuals and their actions, reflects the latest contradictory psychology that this country lives in.”

The Grey Wolf movement, however, does exist. The Grey Wolves (Turkish: Bozkurtlar), officially known as Idealist Hearths (Turkish: Ülkü Ocakları) is a Turkish far-right, racist organization and movement affiliated with Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The movement has been involved in many acts of violence against civilians as well as political and religious figures. This includes the Alevi massacre in the city of Maras in southeast Turkey in 1978 and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981.

Attacks against Armenians in the South Caucasus and Europe demonstrate that this war is not only about land. It is about pan-Turkic, expansionist aspirations of Turkey and Azerbaijanas well as their unrelenting, genocidal hatred against Armenians.

As was the case during the 1915 Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turkey, the international community has once again abandoned Armenians, who are an indigenous and peaceful people. If new and effective steps are not taken by the civilized world immediately, neo-Ottomanism, pan-Turkism and jihad will win through the agreement imposed on Armenia.

Meanwhile, some opposition to the agreement has begun emerging in Europe. On November 11, France 24 reported that the French presidency said it was studying the parameters of the Russian-brokered ceasefire, adding that a long-term deal should also “preserve Armenia’s interests.” Macron’s office quoted him as saying that efforts should be made “without delay” to try to come up with a “lasting political solution to the conflict that allows for the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh to remain in good conditions and the return of tens of thousands of people who have fled their homes.”

To guarantee the return of Armenians to their ancient homeland and to prevent the complete erasure of the remaining Armenian cultural heritage by totalitarian Azerbaijan, Western governments must officially recognize Artsakh. The West must let dictators know that their war crimes and genocidal ambitions will not go unpunished.

Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist and political analyst formerly based in Ankara. Her writings have appeared in The Washington Times, The American Conservative, The Christian Post, The Jerusalem Post, and Al-Ahram Weekly. Her work focuses mainly on human rights, Turkish politics and history, religious minorities in the Middle East, and antisemitism.

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Eastern Europe

Latvia developed new tasks for NATO soldiers

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Member of the Latvian Saemas’ national association “Everything for Latvia!” and Freedom”/LNNK Jānis Dombrava stated the need to attract NATO troops to resolve the migration crisis. This is reported by la.lv.  In his opinion, illegal migration from the Middle East to Europe may acquire the feature of an invasion. He believes that under the guise of refugees, foreign military and intelligence officers can enter the country. To his mind, in this case, the involvement of the alliance forces is more reasonable and effective than the actions of the European border agencies. Dombrava also noted that in the face of an increase in the flow of refugees, the government may even neglect the observance of human rights.

The Canadian-led battlegroup in Latvia at Camp Ādaži consists of approximately 1512 soldiers, as well as military equipment, including tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.

Though the main task of the battlegroup in Latvia is country’s defence in case of military aggression, Latvian officials unilaterally invented new tasks for NATO soldiers So, it is absolutely clear, that Latvian politicians are ready to allow NATO troops to resolve any problem even without legal basis. Such deification and complete trust could lead to the full substitution of NATO’s real tasks in Latvia.

It should be noted that NATO troops are very far from being ideal soldiers. Their inappropriate behaviour is very often in a centre of scandals. The recent incidents prove the existing problems within NATO contingents in the Baltic States.

They are not always ready to fulfill their tasks during military exercises and training. And in this situation Latvian politicians call to use them as border guards! It is nonsense! It seems as if it is time to narrow their tasks rather than to widen them. They are just guests for some time in the territory of the Baltic States. It could happen that they would decide who will enter Latvia and who will be forbidden to cross the border!

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Changes are Possible: Which Reforms does Ukraine Need Now?

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Photo: Robert Anasch/Unsplash

The past 16 months have tested our resilience to sudden, unexpected, and prolonged shocks. As for an individual, resilience for a country or economy is reflected in how well it has prepared for an uncertain future.

A look around the globe reveals how resilient countries have been to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have done well, others less so. The costs of having done less well are almost always borne by the poor. It is for this reason the World Bank and the international community more broadly urge—and provide support to—countries to undertake economic and structural reforms, not just for today’s challenges but tomorrow’s.

One country where the dialogue on reform has been longstanding and intense is Ukraine. This is particularly true since the economic crisis of 2014-2015 in the wake of the Maidan Revolution, when the economy collapsed, and poverty skyrocketed. Many feared the COVID pandemic would have similar effects on the country.

The good news is that thanks to a sustained, even if often difficult, movement on reforms, Ukraine is better positioned to emerge from the pandemic than many expected. Our initial projection in the World Bank, for example, was that the economy would contract by nearly 8 percent in 2020; the actual decline was half that. Gross international reserves at end-2020 were US$10 billion higher than projected. Most important, there are far fewer poor than anticipated.

Let’s consider three reform areas which have contributed to these outcomes.

First, no area of the economy contributed more to the economic crisis of 2014-2015 than the banking sector. Powerful interests captured the largest banks, distorted the flow of capital, and strangled economic activity. Fortunately, Ukraine developed a framework to resolve and recapitalize banks and strengthen supervision. Privatbank was nationalized and is now earning profits. It is now being prepared for privatization.

Second, COVID halted and threatened to reverse a five-year trend in poverty reduction. Thanks to reforms of the social safety net, Ukraine is avoiding this reversal. A few years back, the government was spending some 4.7 percent of GDP on social programs with limited poverty impact. Nearly half these resources went to an energy subsidy that expanded to cover one-in-two of the country’s households.

Since 2018, the Government has been restructuring the system by reducing broad subsidies and targeting resources to the poor. This is working. Transfers going to the poorest one-fifth of the population are rising significantly—from just 37 percent in 2019 to 50 percent this year and are projected to reach 55 percent in 2023.

Third, the health system itself. Ukrainians live a decade less than their EU neighbors. Basic epidemiological vulnerabilities are exacerbated by a health delivery system centered around outdated hospitals and an excessive reliance on out-of-pocket spending. In 2017, Ukraine passed a landmark health financing law defining a package of primary care for all Ukrainians, free-of-charge. The law is transforming Ukraine’s constitutional commitment to free health care from an aspiration into specific critical services that are actually being delivered.

The performance of these sectors, which were on the “front line” during COVID, demonstrate the payoff of reforms. The job now is to tackle the outstanding challenges.

The first is to reduce the reach of the public sector in the economy. Ukraine has some 3,500 companies owned by the state—most of them loss-making—in sectors from machine building to hotels. Ukraine needs far fewer SOEs. Those that remain must be better managed.

Ukraine has demonstrated that progress can be made in this area. The first round of corporate governance reforms has been successfully implemented at state-owned banks. Naftogaz was unbundled in 2020. The electricity sector too is being gradually liberalized. Tariffs have increased and reforms are expected to support investment in aging electricity-producing and transmitting infrastructure. Investments in renewable energy are also surging.

But there are developments of concern, including a recent removal of the CEO of an SOE which raised concerns among Ukraine’s friends eager to see management independence of these enterprises. Management functions of SOE supervisory boards and their members need to remain free of interference.

The second challenge is to strengthen the rule of law. Over recent years, the country has established—and has committed to protect—new institutions to combat corruption. These need to be allowed to function professionally and independently. And they need to be supported by a judicial system defined by integrity and transparency. The move to re-establish an independent High Qualification Council is a welcome step in this direction.

Finally, we know change is possible because after nearly twenty years, Ukraine on July first opened its agricultural land market. Farmers are now free to sell their land which will help unleash the country’s greatest potential source of economic growth and employment.

Ukraine has demonstrated its ability to undertake tough reforms and, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen the real-life benefits of these reforms. The World Bank looks forward to providing continued assistance as the country takes on new challenges on the way to closer European integration.

This article was first published in European Pravda via World Bank

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Liberal Development at Stake as LGBT+ Flags Burn in Georgia

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Photo: Protesters hold a banner depicting U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan during a rally against Pride Week in Tbilisi, Georgia July 1, 2021. Credit: REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

Protests against Georgia’s LGBT+ Pride parade turned ugly in Tbilisi on July 5 when members of the community were hunted down and attacked, around 50 journalists beaten up and the offices of various organizations vandalized. Tensions continued the following day, despite a heavy police presence.

On the face of it, the Georgian state condemned the violence. President Salome Zourabichvili was among the first with a clear statement supporting freedom of expression, members of parliament did likewise and the Ministry of Internal Affairs condemned any form of violence.

But behind the scenes, another less tolerant message had been spread before the attacks. Anxiety about this year’s events had been rising as a result of statements by the government and clergy. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili suggested the march “poses a threat of civil strife.” The Georgian Orthodox Church meanwhile condemned the event, saying it, “contains signs of provocation, conflicts with socially recognized moral norms and aims to legalize grave sin.”

For many, these statements signified tacit approval for the abuse of peaceful demonstrators. Meanwhile, the near-complete absence of security at the outset of the five-day event was all too obvious in Tbilisi’s streets and caused a public outcry. Many alleged the government was less focused on public safety than on upcoming elections where will need support from socially conservative voters and the powerful clergy, in a country where more than 80% of the population is tied to the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The violence brought a joint statement of condemnation from Western embassies. “Violence is simply unacceptable and cannot be excused,” it said. The Pride event was not the first and had previously been used by anti-gay groups. Violence was widespread in 2013 — and the reality of attacks against sexual minorities in Georgia remains ever-present.

In a socially conservative country such as Georgia, antagonism to all things liberal can run deep. Resistance to non-traditional sexual and religious mores divides society. This in turn causes political tension and polarization and can drown out discussion of other problems the country is marred in. It very obviously damages the country’s reputation abroad, where the treatment of minorities is considered a key marker of democratic progress and readiness for further involvement in European institutions.

That is why this violence should also be seen from a broader perspective. It is a challenge to liberal ideas and ultimately to the liberal world order.

A country can be democratic, have a multiplicity of parties, active election campaigns, and other features characteristic of rule by popular consent. But democracies can also be ruled by illiberal methods, used for the preservation of political power, the denigration of opposing political forces, and most of all the use of religious and nationalist sentiments to raise or lower tensions.

It happens across Eurasia, and Georgia is no exception. These are hybrid democracies with nominally democratic rule. Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and others have increasingly more in common, despite geographic distance and cultural differences.

Hungary too has been treading this path. Its recent law banning the supposed propagation of LGBT+ materials in schools must be repealed, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on July 7. “This legislation uses the protection of children . . . to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation . . . It is a disgrace,” she said.

One of the defining features of illiberalism is agility in appropriating ideas on state governance and molding them to the illiberal agenda.

It is true that a mere 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union is not enough to have built a truly liberal democratic state. Generations born and raised in the Soviet period or in the troubled 1990s still dominate the political landscape. This means that a different worldview still prevails. It favors democratic development but is also violently nationalistic in opposing liberal state-building.

Georgia’s growing illiberalism has to be understood in the context of the Russian gravitational pull. Blaming all the internal problems of Russia’s neighbors has become mainstream thinking among opposition politicians, NGOs, and sometimes even government figures. Exaggeration is commonplace, but when looking at the illiberal challenge from a long-term perspective, it becomes clear where Russia has succeeded in its illiberal goals. It is determined to stop Georgia from joining NATO and the EU. Partly as a result, the process drags on and this causes friction across society. Belief in the ultimate success of the liberal agenda is meanwhile undermined and alternatives are sought. Hybrid illiberal governments are the most plausible development. The next stage could well be a total abandonment of Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

Indeed what seemed irrevocable now seems probable, if not real. Pushback against Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice is growing stronger. Protesters in front of the parliament in central Tbilisi violently brought tore the EU flag. Twice.

The message of anti-liberal groups has also been evolving. There has been significant growth in their messaging. The anti-pride sentiment is evolving into a wider resistance to the Western way of life and Georgia’s Western foreign policy path, perhaps because it is easily attacked and misrepresented.

To deal with this, Western support is important, but much depends on Georgian governments and the population at large. A pushback against radicalism and anti-liberalism should come in the guise of time and resources for the development of stronger and currently faltering institutions. Urgency in addressing these problems has never been higher — internal and foreign challenges converge and present a fundamental challenge to what Georgia has been pursuing since the days of Eduard Shevardnadze – the Western path to development.

Author’s note: first published at cepa

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