“I want to say again that we must not take revenge on civilians. We are taking revenge on the battlefield.”
An encouraging wartime quote perhaps, yet, when you learn the source, one that cannot be taken at face value.
Ilham Aliyev included the message during a speech last week in which he simultaneously labelled Armenians “fascists” who will be forced from Artsakh “like dogs”.
And then in his latest speech to the nation on October 20 he said: “We will continue to expel these liars. They see who is who now. They see that we were teaching them a lesson they will never forget.”
The Armenophobic comments from Azerbaijani’s President are nothing new. He has long drummed up support among his population by promoting anti-Armenian thought and using dehumanizing language.
In 2012 he opted for “barbarians and vandals” while “rats” has been another preferred term.
The contradictions of the language he uses to speak to his people and those he uses when addressing the international community are stark. A man who considers Armenians vermin in one speech turns around and tells France 24: “We don’t have a problem with Armenian people” and invites them to live in Nagorno-Karabakh under his rule.
Under international law speech inciting hatred towards specific ethnic groups, especially when spoken by individuals holding office, is prohibited by a number of international instruments.
According to Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “(a)ll are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination ... and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
And yet, under Aliyev, Armenophobia is crucial to Azerbaijani national identity, argues Dr Nerses Kopolyan: “Armenophobia is not simply an exercise in cultural, racial, and political chauvinism; it is also a necessary precondition of Azeri nationalism.”
How can an Armenian be expected to live in a country with an Azerbaijani leader who has conducted a near two-decade campaign to delegitimize their very existence? A leader who tells international press that “jobs will be created” for Armenians in an Azeri-run Artsakh, but honors and pardons a man who brutally murdered an Armenian soldier on a UN peacekeeping mission in Hungary.
The contradictory messaging is clear to Armenians, of course. Time and time again, he, and his colleagues in government, have used dehumanizing and Armenophobic language. But for neutral observers, who perhaps don’t feel the need to keep such a close eye on the speeches of the President of Azerbaijan, it may not be. Therefore we have compiled a list of Aliyev’s contradictory – and consistently brutal comments, including interviews with the international press and translated speeches made to his own country.
Addressing his nation on October 17, Aliyev said: “I also appealed to the Armenian people, and I am appealing to them again: Do not let your children go! What are they doing in our lands? Live in your own country. We have nothing to do with you. Go and live in your own country, do whatever you want but leave our lands.”
Yet in an interview with France 24, two weeks earlier, he said: “We don’t have a problem with Armenian people. And those who live in Nagorno-Karabakh area, we consider our citizens. And we invite them to live together with us.”
But in a speech to his own cabinet in April 2015, he was reported on his government’s official website as telling Armenians: “If you do not want to die, then get out of Azerbaijani lands. […] We must and we do wage a more active struggle with Armenia. We have isolated it from all international and regional projects.”
A 2012 speech also railed against Armenians, in which an excerpt later posted on his official Twitter account read: “Armenia is a country of no value. It is actually a colony, an outpost run from abroad… Evidence of this is the mass exodus of people from Armenia to other countries.”
On October 13 he told Haberturk TV channel that “The Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh should not worry. After we free them from the regime of this criminal junta, they will live in better, more reliable and secure conditions, and their well-being will increase, because currently in the area, poverty runs rampant”.
Just four days later, those Armenians he supposedly promised jobs to were “wild beasts” while on October 20 he vowed the “ugly and savage enemy” would be removed from Artsakh, adding: “We have shown them the place they deserve. We will drive them out of our lands! We will drive them out!”
He added: “They have neither conscience nor morality. They don’t even have the brain.”
On October 17 he said: “The remains of the city of Fuzuli are a manifestation of Armenian fascism and a witness to Armenian fascism. For 30 years, it was in the hands of wild beasts, in the hands of predators, in the hands of jackals. All the buildings have been demolished, our religious sites have been demolished, everything has been looted, the roofs of the houses, the windows, the belongings – everything. It was as if a wild tribe had taken over the city.”
He added: “If they do not leave our lands of their own free will, we will chase them away like dogs and we are doing that.”
Similar rhetoric came in August 2014 when discussing the city of Agdam. In a post on Twitter he said: “The Armenian barbarians and vandals have razed the city of Agdam to the ground.”
An October 9 speech from this year compared Armenians to vermin with Aliyev saying: “If we didn't put the aggressor in his place, he wouldn't be running to Moscow right now. He wouldn't give any territory now. We made them do it. They are sitting like rats, where is your anger, where is your pride, where is your heroism now?”
Note: While we have provided links to the source of President Ilham Aliyev’s speeches and interviews referenced, websites with the .az domain are currently inaccessible in Armenia without a VPN. If you click on a link and it doesn’t work, this will be why.