On October 3, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in his address to the nation, stated: “The objective of Azerbaijani-Turkish bandits is not about claiming territory. Their objective is the Armenian people. Their objective is to continue their genocidal policy. He had also stated on Twitter: “Why has Turkey returned to the South Caucasus 100 years later? To continue the Armenian Genocide.” The idea that the Armenian people are in danger of genocide was repeated in many other interviews and statements by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The inclusion of the term genocide is not being loosely thrown around. The potential for genocide against ethnic Armenians in Artsakh is very real and highly probable. Societies that have committed genocide and massacres in the past tend to repeat them according to a study on genocide prediction and prevention efforts by genocide scholars Barbara Harff and Ted Gurr. Turkey perpetrated genocide against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923. Azerbaijan committed genocidal acts in Sumgait, Baku, Gandzak and Maragha in 1988-1992. The likelihood of genocide in such countries increases if these crimes are not acknowledged or condemned, but even glorified.
Turkey and the Pride of the Perpetrators
Turkey continues to deny the Armenian Genocide, making its rhetoric more aggressive in recent years, even blaming the victim, suggesting that Armenians “massacred Anatolian Muslims, even women, children.” Simultaneously, various officials, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have repeatedly hinted that Turkey is ready to resume “giving a lesson” to Armenians. Thus, the President of Turkey declared that the deportation of Armenians in 1915 was the most reasonable decision at the time. During one of his last speeches in May 2020, he stated: “We will not allow the leftovers of the sword and terrorists to revolt again. They still exist, although their number has decreased in our country.” As Turkish journalist Uzay Bulut mentioned, “The use of ‘leftovers of the sword,’ does not represent a denial of massacres or genocides. On the contrary, it declares the pride of the perpetrators. It means: ‘Yes, we slaughtered Christians and other non-Muslims because they deserved it!’”
Through their denial, the Turkish authorities justify the Ottoman crimes, but also promote new genocides. This approach cannot but spread to society, bolstering the image of Armenians as enemies. All public opinion polls show that the bulk of the population has a hostile attitude toward Armenians. Hate speech and attacks against Armenian churches and other properties are on the rise. The last notable incident in Turkey was the targeting of Armenians in Istanbul, blaming them for supposedly spreading coronavirus.
It should be emphasized that this attitude goes even beyond hostility when being called an Armenian is considered an extreme insult, reaching the level of racist anti-Armenian intolerance. The most remarkable was Prime Minister Erdogan’s case when speaking in 2014 about others “insulting” him. In a TV interview, he stated, “I was called a Georgian. Pardon me for saying this, but they said even uglier things: They called me an Armenian!”
Azerbaijan and Its Anti-Armenian Indoctrination
The position of the Azerbaijani leadership and society is more representative. For years, anti-Armenian discourse and propaganda have been part of official state policy. Every day, indoctrination is carried out from schools to state media that demonizes Armenians, presenting them as an absolute evil. In his many speeches, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev himself made openly racist, xenophobic remarks. In one of his famous addresses, he spoke about a “hypocritical global Armenian conspiracy and western politicians, who are embroiled in corruption and bribery,” a direct reproduction of Adolf Hitler’s “global Jewish conspiracy thesis,” reiterated many times in Nazi speeches as a pretext and justification for the Holocaust.
In his pronouncements, Aliyev deprives Armenians of the right to live in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and in the Republic of Armenia, asserting that not only Karabakh but also other regions of Armenia, including the capital Yerevan, should become parts of Azerbaijan. The latest highlight was the menace of nuclear “catastrophe” made by Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargyakhly, who announced that their weapons “are capable of hitting the Metsamor Atomic Energy Station with high accuracy, which will turn into a catastrophe for Armenia.”
The problem is not only this anti-Armenian rhetoric but also its consequences. Such hatred toward Armenians leads to the glorification of killing Armenians, as happened in 2004 in Budapest with the Azerbaijani officer Ramil Safarov. During a NATO training program, Safarov entered the hotel room of Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan while he was sleeping and axed him to death. Safarov was sentenced to life imprisonment in Hungary, then later transferred to Azerbaijan, where he was released and honored as a hero. Azerbaijani Human Rights Defender Elmira Suleymanova stated that “R. Safarov should become an example of patriotism for the Azerbaijani youth.” This widespread hostility and hatred created an utterly genocidal attitude toward Armenians. Elderly Armenians were violently tortured to death in the village of Talish, which was overrun by Azerbaijani troops during the 2016 Four Day April War. Also, captive Armenian soldiers were beheaded, and their bodies brutally desecrated. In all the previous and ongoing wars, Azerbaijan has always targeted peaceful settlements.
All of this proves that Armenians face slaughter if any Armenian territory is occupied.
Genocide Convention and Inevitable Punishment
Humanity is continuously confronted with a disturbing confusion. Genocides become the subject of coverage, discussion, study, remembrance and sometimes condemnation only after they are “successfully” implemented. It happened not only with the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, but also with the destruction of peoples that took place in the age of mass-media, in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Darfur and the Yezidi homeland in northern Iraq.
Article 3 of 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide clearly defines that committing genocide itself is one but not the only crime that can be punished under the convention. The others include:
- Conspiracy to commit genocide;
- Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
- Attempt to commit genocide
- Complicity in genocide.
For a long time, all these actions have been neglected, even while being an integral part of the Genocide Convention. Moreover, they are not commonly considered as genocidal by the media, in political vocabulary and even in academia. Meanwhile, the slogan “Never again,” adopted by the international community and repeated so often that it is devalued, refers to all types of genocide crimes and not only to the last and irreversible stage – the elimination of the target group.
Observing the discourse of the Azerbaijani and Turkish leadership, analyzing the sentiments in the societies and elites of those countries, and remembering the actions already taken, it becomes clear that they can be considered not only as warning signs for genocide but also as genocidal in nature themselves; as conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and attempt to commit genocide, which according to the UN Genocide Convention are acts that all states of the world are obliged to prevent and punish.
If and when the leaders of Azerbaijan and Turkey stand before the international court, the latter should not forget to include these points in the indictment along with the war crimes and crimes of aggression.