Armenia-Azerbaijan: Whose war is this?

We share a statement from leftist youth of azerbaijan against the war over nagorno-karabakh. Its english translation was passed onto to us by the collective, whom we warmly thank.

Anti-War Declaration of the Leftist Youth of Azerbaijan (1)

“Our enemy is not an Armenian; our enemies are the people in power.”

The most recent escalation of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh region(2) once again shows the degree to which the system of the Nation-States has been surpassed by today’s realities.

The only occupation against which we must rise up is the occupation of our minds and abilities to think beyond the narratives and ideas that are imposed upon us by our predatory nationalist governments. That’s our “inability” to surmount a state of mind that divides people into “human” and “nonhuman” on the sole basis of their birthplaces, then sets the “superiority” of the “humans” over the dehumanized “others,” as the only possible perspective on life within certain territorial limits.

As soon as the “nation” calls on us to protect it from the “enemy,” we are encouraged to forget about the exploitative conditions of life in our own countries. But our enemy isn’t the average Armenian, whom we have never met in our everyday lives, and, perhaps, whom we may never meet. Our enemies are the people in power, people who have particular names, titles, ranks and faces, the people who for more than 20 years have pillaged the resources and inhabitants of our country and keep us in a state of poverty for their own personal benefit. They do not tolerate any political opposition and they have used a powerful security apparatus to repress those who think differently from them. They have seized natural areas, coasts and beaches, as well as natural resources, for their own pleasure and use, and they have limited the access of ordinary citizens to them. They have destroyed the environment, cut down the forests and polluted the water. They have accomplished an “accumulation through expropriation” on a vast scale. They are implicated in the disappearance of historic and cultural monuments and sites throughout the country. They have taken funds that should have been devoted to education, healthcare and social security and have given them to the army and our capitalist neighbours with imperialist ambitions: Russia and Turkey.

Curiously, everybody knows all this and yet suffers from a sudden onslaught of amnesia as soon as the first bullet is fired at the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Blind, like the people in Blindness, the novel by Saramago,(3) they turn self-destructive in an instant and welcome the death of their youth in the name of being a “martyr” for a “holy cause.” This question has never been anything other than the bread and butter of the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia. It keeps them in power and justifies the endless militarization of their respective societies and even more bloodshed.

We are not blaming the people: in the absence of alternative interpretations that give a meaning to the war and the conflict between these two nations, nationalist ideology remains unchallenged. If there are in fact things that our under-funded educational establishments do well, they are definitely the sewing of hatred and the spreading of nationalist propaganda. Because hatred is never the product of the psyche of individuals; it is constructed and produced in the existing relations of power.

In a context in which there is no direct contact between the “haters” and the “hated,” it is constantly necessary to recall to the “hating” public the necessity of hating the “hated,” and so much more so if the “hating” public if forced to struggle for its own day-to-day economic survival in the framework of a system that rejects the equal sharing of resources and services and that brings more suffering. Hatred must be produced. “They” have stolen “our” land, they tell us; “this is why we detest them.” Never mind that there are innumerable ways of inhabiting this land without any single group claiming an exclusive right to it.

When he was still an adolescent, the younger brother of someone in our group once exclaimed with horror when he learned of an upcoming business meeting abroad with Armenian colleagues: “Will we see a real Armenian?” If you think about it, entire generations have grown up in a vacuum, without any contact with those with whom we once co-existed in a single place for centuries. What kind of violence does such isolation do to our minds and how does it ravage our creative abilities? It is obvious that this situation is perfect for dehumanizing “the other.” What is easier than attributing every bad quality to people with whom one has never been in contact?

In the years that followed the signing of the Bichkek Protocol of May 1994,(4) when the two parties agreed to a ceasefire, the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments have acquired vast arsenals of deadly weapons that they now want to use against each other. The last time that these two countries approached reaching a peace agreement was in 2001, during the peace talks at Key West, which were brokered by the Minsk Group, which included France, Russia and the United States. Those talks failed due to nationalist sentiments and the fact that the leaders of the two sides were not disposed to make any compromises whatsoever. Ever since then, a peace accord has never really been pursued seriously.

In the current situation, it seems extremely difficult to find the means to avoid a new war in the region. We see the discourse of hatred dominate the narratives of both sides and gain influence, in particular on television, in the official declarations and the postings to the social networks that circulate with alarming speed. The two parties make declarations that are difficult to verify, which creates an atmosphere of fear, mutual hatred and mistrust.

The populations on both sides have been affected by the epidemic and the economic recession, and they have had difficulties facing the challenges posed by these [twin] crises. At the moment, they are involved in a military conflict, which is still far from attaining a constructive solution to the conflict in Karabakh. Such conflicts consume enormous amounts of economic and human resources, so that the elites on both sides can continue to benefit from them. Azerbaijan’s military budget for 2020 has surpassed $2.3 billion and Armenia’s has reached $634 million, which represents around 5 percent of the [combined] gross domestic product of the two countries.

It is high time that we, the youth of Azerbaijan and Armenia, take responsibility for finding a solution to this superannuated conflict. Finding a solution can no longer be the prerogative of men in suits and uniforms, whose goal is the accumulation of capital – economic and political – and not the resolution of the conflict. We must throw the Nation-State’s hideous straitjacket into the trashcan of history, which is where it belongs, and then imagine and create new ways of collective peaceful coexistence. To this end, it is imperative that we revitalize grassroots political initiatives that are, in the majority, composed of ordinary citizens. Above all, these initiatives must restart the negotiations for peace and cooperation. Leftist activists who live in Azerbaijan, we will not support any effort to involve the youth of this country in this senseless war. The restoration of dialogue is our principal task.

This new military escalation and new incitements to mutual hatred can neither resolve the conflict nor begin a new future. The most recent military clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region haven’t brought peace any closer to the region. We do not want to see ourselves involved in an all-out war, because we know the consequences that it would have for our societies and their future generations.

We strongly condemn all measures that prolong the conflict and incite hatred between Armenians and Azerbaijani. We must turn back(5) and take the measures that are necessary to restore trust between our societies and our young people. We reject all nationalist declarations and all propaganda that advocates war, because war deprives us of the possibility of once again living together on this land. We call for initiatives that consolidate peace and solidarity. We are convinced that there is a way of getting out of this impasse – a way based upon mutual respect and an orientation towards peace and cooperation.

1. Signed by Vusal Khalilov, Leyla Jafarova, Karl Lebt, Bahruz Samadov, Giyas Ibrahim, Samira Alakbarli, Toghrul Abbasov, Javid Agha, and Leyla Hasanova. Written in Azerbaijani, this “Declaration” was translated into Russian by the AIT (“International Association of Workers”), then from Russian into French by someone else, and now from French into English by us. All footnotes by the French-to-English translator, who thanks Raoul Vaneigem for bringing this text to our attention. 17 October 2020.

2. 27 September 2020.

3. Cf. José Saramago (1922-2010), a Portuguese novelist. His Ensaio sobre a cegueira (“Essay on Blindness”) was published in 1995.

4. Signed by representatives from Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (unrecognized).

5. The French here is Regardons en arrière, but these are forward-looking people, so we have modified the translation: turn back from the path of war.

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3 Responses to Armenia-Azerbaijan: Whose war is this?

  1. SamFanto says:

    Thought this might be of related interest:

    Is Israel’s Forbidden Affair With Cluster Bombs Making Another Round?

    Amnesty International claims that a cluster bomb made in Israel, apparently fired by Azerbaijan, has been found on the battlefields of Nagorno-Karabakh. In Israel, everyone is keeping mum
    [By Yossi Melman, Haaretz]

    A few days after the start of the fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh, Amnesty International claimed that an Israeli-made cluster bomb had been found near the city of Stepanakert, the capital of the contested region. According to the claim, the bomb fell in a residential area after apparently being fired by Azerbaijani forces.

    “The use of cluster bombs in any circumstances is banned under international humanitarian law, so their use to attack civilian areas is particularly dangerous and will only lead to further deaths and injuries,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s acting chief for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

    “Cluster bombs are inherently indiscriminate weapons, and their deployment in residential areas is absolutely appalling and unacceptable. As fighting continues to escalate, civilians must be protected, not deliberately targeted or recklessly endangered.”
    My questions to the Defense Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces and the Foreign Ministry on whether – and if so, when – Israel supplied cluster bombs to Azerbaijan received a “no comment” across the board. Meanwhile, this week it was reported that Azerbaijan and Armenia had agreed on a cease-fire for the second time, after the one declared a week earlier collapsed quickly.

    A cluster bomb is a kind of container holding a bundle of small bombs. The mother bomb explodes at a certain height and, over a wide area, scatters the smaller bombs, which explode a short time later. The munitions can be launched from cannons of various sizes, with diameters up to 155 mm, from launchers, helicopters and planes.

    These bombs were first used during World War I but became infamous during the Vietnam War, when U.S. and South Vietnamese forces fired them from planes and cannons along with napalm and other chemical substances such as Agent Orange, against the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army. There were many civilian victims.

    After the Vietnam War, demands to impose restrictions on cluster bombs increased, but the efforts were fruitless. In 1999, U.S. and NATO forces used them during the war in Yugoslavia.

    Israeli use

    Israel used cluster bombs in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and in its 1978 invasion of Lebanon up to the Litani River and during the first Lebanon war in 1982. But it was especially criticized for its widespread use of the bombs during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, against the orders of then-IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. This led to a condemnation by then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and to tension in the United States, because the firing apparently violated the restrictions on using cluster bombs when the weapon was supplied in 1976.

    Cluster bombs were discussed during the Winograd Committee’s investigation into the Second Lebanon War, but large sections of the deliberations and conclusions were censored so as not to embarrass Washington. In the sections approved for publication, the committee harshly criticized the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas.

    It turned out that Halutz’s orders weren’t clear, so the Artillery Corps used the bombs against his intentions. A major general was appointed to investigate.

    After the war there was once again a global effort to draw up an international convention against the use of cluster munitions. This came on top of the October 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which discussed cluster bombs

    In December 2008, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was signed in Oslo. It prohibits the use, development, manufacture, storage and transfer of cluster bombs, which it defines as “a conventional ammunition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions” from a container. Over 100 countries signed the accord, which went into effect in 2010. Next month, this convention’s Second Review Conference will be held in Geneva.

    Israel refused to sign, though it expressed an awareness of the international concerns regarding this weapon, as it put it. Nearly two years before the convention went into effect, Israeli used cluster bombs in the 2008-09 Gaza war.

    All diplomatic efforts to convince Israel to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions, at least as an observer, failed. Israel refuses to sign the accord, as well the convention prohibiting the use of land mines. That didn’t prevent Israel, with typical hypocrisy, from joining the 2018 UN condemnation of Syria for using cluster bombs.

    Customers in the Caucasus

    The two key players in Israel’s manufacture of cluster bombs were Israel Military Industries, which provided them to the IDF’s Armored Corps and Artillery Corps, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which provided them to the air force.

    In the past Israel, often sold cluster munitions to other countries. According to various reports, these include the United States, Germany, India, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, Britain, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela.

    But according to foreign reports, the largest market abroad for IMI cluster bombs was Azerbaijan, along with various cannons and rocket launchers, some of which weren’t even purchased by the IDF. Most if not all of these sales were made before the international convention went into effect. There have also been reports that Israel sold dual-purpose munitions components, which can also be used in cluster bombs, in a way that let Israel bypass the convention.

    Amid the international pressure, especially the legal pressure, the air force decided in 2018 to consider destroying its inventory of cluster bombs. It invited bids for this purpose; the intention was to dismantle so-called CBU cluster bombs, the most common, at a base in the south.

    Although two years have passed since the decision, the work has apparently yet to begin. Otherwise, there’s no explanation for the IDF and air force’s refusal to reply to simple questions: Which company won the bidding? Has it begun the work? And if so, how many bombs have been destroyed so far?

    Elbit Systems, which acquired Israel Military Industries about two years ago, said: “In the wake of the acquisition of IMI in November 2018, Elbit has discontinued IMI activities related to cluster munitions.”

    The owner of IMI until then was the Defense Ministry, which refused to discuss cluster bombs, including any link with Azerbaijan.

    Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said: “As a rule, we do not discuss the details of transactions with customers due to contractual obligations. Regarding the issue at hand, Rafael does not deal with the subject and therefore does not sell systems of that kind.”

    The Defense Ministry, as we have often seen, including in Israel’s submarine corruption affair, is run like a state within a state. Or to be more precise, it’s run as if it owned the state.

    True to its aggressive habits, it’s loath to give explanations and refuses to answer questions it doesn’t like. It seems to have something to hide, especially when it comes to its overly intimate relationship with Azerbaijan.

    On Wednesday, activist Eli Joseph, who takes part in efforts to ban weapons sales by Israel to dictatorial regimes, is expected to petition the High Court of Justice, demanding that Baku and Jerusalem’s military connections be revealed. Also, Joseph and his colleagues in the Jewish Heart organization will demonstrate in front of the Knesset against arms exports to Azerbaijan, under the slogan “No to war crimes, no to the murder of innocents.”

    In that connection, Jewish Heart mentioned the Syrian jihadis who have been hired as mercenaries by Turkey are sent to the battlefields in Nagorno-Karabakh.

  2. Julius Gavroche says:

    Thanks for this.

  3. SamFanto says:

    By the way, I’ve recommended this pretty excellent article here:

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