As a globally strategic city and international melting pot, Los Angeles is home to one of the largest consular communities. Foreign countries establish consulates to stay connected to their citizenry, promote trade and advance cultural and humanitarian exchanges. With an estimated population of 1 million Armenian-Americans in the Western United States, the Republic of Armenia is no exception to this group.
There is one member of theLos Angelesconsular corps that sees its mission differently. With practically no Azerbaijani community inLos Angelesand virtually no economic activity with theWestern United States, the country ofAzerbaijanhas set up a consulate inLos Angelesa few years ago to wage war on the Armenian-American population—identified explicitly in the official Azeri doctrine as the country’s archenemy. In order to fight its overseas nemesis,Azerbaijanemploys tactics of intimidating and malicious propaganda, such as the recently placed article, “ArmeniaHas Lost the War” thanks to the efforts of high-priced public relation firms and lobbyists.
Typically, the Consulate of Armenia would not react to a partisan demarche because of its averseness to engage in propaganda warfare in its host country. However, the playing field has changed and the contained setting has strategically moved mainstream and viral. It is due time that misinformation be countered with truth and facts.
Armeniaand Armenians have been victim to soiled campaigns funded byAzerbaijan’s government since the breakdown of theSoviet Unionwhere several sovereign countries emerged—includingAzerbaijanand theRepublicofArtsakh(previously known as Nagorno Karabakh). Azerbaijan, rich in oil and other resources, attempted to prevent the people of Artsakh from becoming independent and sent troops and warplanes to crack down on civilians. In recent years, this has become a familiar pattern where people take their destiny in their own hands and defy the ruthless tyrants who without hesitation order death squads against school children and helpless elderly.
The protracted conflict between Artsakh andAzerbaijanis about freedom loving people. It’s about human beings who won the right to elect their own democratic institutions and raise their children in a free country. The generation living, working and advancing Artsakh today is 21 years old and have not seen Soviet- Azeri occupation. And this generation will never tolerate living underAzerbaijan’s rule with its despotic hereditary regime, medieval hate speech and repugnant racism.
In absolute terms, the recurring theme of the article can be reduced to the following assertion: Since Azerbaijan has oil reserves and has made extra profit in the wake of the skyrocketed oil prices in recent years, the people of Artsakh should surrender their freedom and submit to Azeri rule. The following points will argue how detached this wishful thinking is from reality.
At the onset of the article published by the Azeri Consulate in Los Angeles, the author(s) mock the international community with a direct attack of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States—a group that have been tasked with mediating a resolution to the conflict between Artsakh and Azerbaijan. The Minsk Group serves as an honest broker, working towards a peaceful and sustainable solution. However,Azerbaijanmaintains a different view, “… the Minsk Group must not simply keep issuing empty statements.” As if criticizing the international community was not bad enough, the author(s) of the article disingenuously place the onus of the failed negotiation process onArmenia. The mediation has not resulted in a breakthrough solution yet – but uniquely because ofAzerbaijan. Not to be declarative, but the current compromise solution presented by theMinskgroup is acceptable byArmenia, whileAzerbaijanrefuses it even after several modifications to meetAzerbaijan’s intransigence.
Yes,Armeniais a small and open country with little or no natural resources. It is also true that the country experiences weak dynamics in population growth, but this is quite typical of many European countries. Unfortunately,Armenia’s free labor market often remunerates less competitively thanEurope,Russiaand theUnited States—where there is a demand for our qualified labor. Hence, we are not immune to labor migration and do not view this as taboo in our national discourse.
Quoting some dubious statistics on population growth demographics, the paid Azeri lobbyists fail to understand the fundamental root ofArmenia’s strength. Armenians do not flee their country. Due to our harrowing history, we have long become a global nation with a global footprint. Our families are scattered around the world and have global stakes. We remain connected to our homeland with strong bonds and solid relationships. We live with our country through problems and successes to such an extent thatArmenia’s issues, including the “frozen conflict” withAzerbaijan, often become domestic issues in third countries.
There should be an attempt on the part ofAzerbaijanto overcome its pathological arrogance and understand that in the face of threats, Armenians around the world will mobilize and stand united —from besiegedAleppoto laidback Sao Paolo. The Consulate of Armenia works with the community, day-in, day out and has witnessed this strength and allegiance first hand. This was the case 21 years ago, too, when the people of Artsakh righteously fought for independence.
The Azeri government sees the source of its supremacy overArmeniainAzerbaijan’s oil reserves. Oil is a blessing for any country with responsible governance and civil society. ForAzerbaijan, it is a curse. The resources are single-handedly managed by the Aliev Dynasty and little goes into the physical and human infrastructure of the country. Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani citizens live in substandard conditions, but the government spends tens of millions of dollars to awkwardly promote its international prestige. The Azeri leadership’s unbridled frenzy to buy itself an improved image invariably results in embarrassing and comic situations. The case in point is the incredulity of citizens of a Latin American city who, having heard nothing of Azerbaijan, discover the statue of Heidar Aliev, a Soviet era KGB general, and the founder of the current Azeri ruling dynasty erected in a central park, close to Mahatma Gandhi’s and Simon Bolivar’s statues.
War is in no one’s interest. The people ofAzerbaijanshould not be fooled by the perceived sense of prosperity and military might. They should not be blinded by hate speech and racism. Remember the dream turned nightmare when Saddam, Gaddafi and other dictators celebrated their palaces, tanks and toys and inflicted suffering upon their nations and people. They should not accept the actions of their government—a government that pardons and glorifies a heinous murderer who beheaded his fellow Armenian student in his sleep in a NATO training camp inHungary.
Armeniawill continue to depend on its grassroots and build on its only comparative advantage – its people and its desire to build a viable and democratic state. We, in Armenia and all around the world, only hope that Azerbaijan will review its assessment of Armenia’s potential and actual strength, thus sparing us all more bloodshed and destruction.