February 23, 2021 - 18:11 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Though violence has abated in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, Azerbaijan’s authoritarian regime has not taken appropriate steps to cool ethnic tensions, Human Rights Watch says. Part of the problem is authoritarianism itself. Long-term peace cannot happen without democratic reform in Azerbaijan, the organization said, adding that ethnic Armenians are right to be skeptical that they will be treated humanely.
"The sheer number of Azerbaijani soldiers that appear comfortable filming atrocities, as well as the widespread denial of these atrocities in Azerbaijan, are only recent developments in Azerbaijan’s history of ignoring or welcoming abuses against Armenians. In 2012, for example, an Azerbaijani officer who murdered an Armenian with an axe in Budapest was extradited back home, and promptly given a hero’s welcome, including a pardon and a promotion," HRW says.
Dozens of videos of Azeri troops cutting the throats and ears of Armenians have been spreading online since the final days of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijanis subject the Armenian POWs and captives to physical abuse and humiliation. The videos depict Azerbaijani captors variously slapping, kicking, and prodding Armenian POWs, and compelling them, under obvious duress and with the apparent intent to humiliate, to kiss the Azerbaijani flag. In most of the videos, the captors’ faces are visible, suggesting that they did not fear being held accountable.
"Perhaps an even greater barrier to peace than ethnic tension, is Azerbaijan’s own government. Azerbaijan is ruled by a fully authoritarian regime that shows no respect for human rights, even to its own citizens. Since 1993, Azerbaijan has been ruled by the Aliyev family like a textbook dictatorship. Meaningful political opposition in Azerbaijan is impossible."
According to the organization, discussions about degrees of autonomy for Armenians in Karabakh run up against the fact that nobody in Azerbaijan, save the regime itself, has any degree of control over domestic politics, and the recent actions and rhetoric of the Azerbaijani government do not bode well for a peaceful coexistence with Armenians in Karabakh.
"Azerbaijan cannot expect ethnic Armenians to be loyal citizens of a country that doesn’t allow representation or basic minority rights. As difficult as democratic reform may seem today, it is the only viable path toward reconciliation and eventual peace in the region." HRW added.