Disinformation and Propaganda in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

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Dr. Ahmad Shahidov
Head of Azerbaijan Institute for Democracy and Human Rights

Introduction

The ongoing conflict in in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the South Caucasus region started in the year of 1988. So far, there are four UN Security Council resolutions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. These documents clearly state that the armed forces should immediately withdraw from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and civilians should return to their homes. Unfortunately, the situation in the region has not changed over the past 30 years, and Nagorno-Karabakh up until now remains a hotbed of tensions.
During the course of the conflict, the sides of the dispute have repeatedly been engaged in peace talks, but have not yet achieved peace in the region. The reason is the intensification of war propaganda and a large amount of funds spent by the parties in armament. The Armenian side justifies its approach claiming that the nations have the right to self-determination. On the other hand, Armenian politicians say they will not return the lands, which hinders the peace process.
One of the striking moments during the conflict is the information warfare between the conflicting sides. For over 30 years, Azerbaijan has highlighted its territorial integrity on all international platforms, mentioning the fate of about 1 million citizens of refugees and the fate of thousands of captives, missing persons and hostages. The Azerbaijani side informs the world community about the destroyed mosques, historical monuments and facilities. Armenia, in its turn, claims that Nagorno- Karabakh is historical Armenian land and that the Armenians living here enjoy the right to the self-determination.

Background

The present-day stage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began at the end of 1987 with the attacks on Khankandi (during the Soviet period – Stepanakert) and resulted in a flood of refugees and internally displaced persons. On 20 February 1988, the representatives of the Armenian community at the session of the Soviet of People’s Deputies of the NKAO adopted a decision to send a petition to the Supreme Soviets of the Azerbaijan SSR and the Armenian SSR for the transfer of the NKAO from the Azerbaijan SSR to the Armenian SSR. On 26-28 February 1988, twenty-six Armenians and Azerbaijanis were killed as a result of the disturbances in Sumgait. During 1988-1989 the deportations took place. In the course of mass deportation at least 216 people were killed and 1,154 people were wounded. The refugees from Armenia — eventually numbering approximately 200,000 people — began to arrive in Azerbaijan. The bloody tragedy of February 1992 in the town of Khojaly involved the extermination or the capture of thousands of Azerbaijanis; the town was razed to the ground. The inhabitants of Khojaly remained in the town before the tragic night.
The Khojaly tragedy was one of the most heinous crimes during the armed conflict in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region. As a result of this tragic incident, 613 persons were killed, including 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly people. 1,275 inhabitants were taken hostage, while the fate of 150 persons remains unknown to this day. In sum, the ongoing armed conflict in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region made approximately one out of every eight persons in Azerbaijan an internally displaced person or refugee.The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has severely damaged the socio-economic environment of both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In Azerbaijan 871 settlements, including 11 towns, 848 villages, hundreds of hospitals and medical facilities have been burned or otherwise destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of houses and apartments, thousands of social and medical buildings have been destroyed or looted. Hundreds of libraries have been plundered, a great deal of valuable manuscripts have been burned or otherwise destroyed. Several State theatres, hundreds of clubs and dozens of musical schools have been destroyed. Several thousands of manufacturing, agricultural and other kinds of factories and plants have been pillaged. Hundreds kilometers-long irrigation system have been totally destroyed. The regional infrastructure, including hundreds of bridges, hundreds of kilometers of roads and thousands kilometers of water pipelines, thousands kilometers of gas pipelines and dozens of gas distribution stations, have all been destroyed.
According to the preliminary data, the overall damage inflicted by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the Republic of Azerbaijan is estimated to be tens of billions USD.On 12 May 1994, the ceasefire was established. However, since summer of 2003 there has been an acute increase in ceasefire violations.

Impact

Negative manifestations of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict still is the case in Armenia and Azerbaijan. First of all, the destruction of the historical and cultural monuments, the destruction of the dwelling houses should be mentioned.
This conflict has led to serious negative consequences for involved sides, material and moral losses. This conflict is harmful to both parties, and it does not promise anything positive in the future. Every day, every week, there are human casualties on the front line, billions of dollars spent on military budget and time loss.
Armenia and Azerbaijan should live in peace with good neighboring relations. The reason for the conflict is the concept of territorial integrity which lies at the root of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh. The issue of territorial integrity of the countries must be resolved within the framework of international law and the peoples have to live peacefully together again.

Recommendations

Today, the only problem between the peoples of Armenia and Azerbaijan is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Solving this problem will lead to peace and reconciliation between the conflicting sides. What prevents peace? We need to focus on this.
Today there are five permanent members of the UN Security Council, all of them are the world’s largest arms producing and selling countries. On the one hand, they are counted as responsible for the security of the world, on the other hand they sell weapons to other countries. In many cases, they sell these weapons forcefully. Armenia and Azerbaijan also receive large amounts of weapons each year, spending billions of dollars. If these funds are spent on the development of the region, education, health and culture, it is possible to achieve peace more quickly.
Communication between peoples, dialogue, together living and peace are essential. There is no need for an external involvement, and the parties themselves have to find a way out. Mutual respect, respect for international laws, norms and principles is the key to peace. The Armenians should know that their enemy is not Azerbaijan but the forces that created this war in the region and are interested in the continuation of the conflict.After restoration of recognized borders within international law, millions of refugees and internally displaced persons from both countries should return to their homes and live in peace again.To achieve great peace, it is necessary to take humanitarian steps already. For example, today there are captives and hostages on both sides. Exchanging all captives and hostages can lead to the path to peace. Carrying out joint projects in Nagorno-Karabakh, celebrating festivals and holidays is better than a war.Together living, multiculturalism and mutual respect are the first steps towards great peace. We can achieve peace in the region, and we can be a good example to the whole world.

The Article is prepared in the fram of the project “EaP&V4 Countries Countering Disinformation” with the financial support from the International Visegrad Fund. The views expressed in the article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not in any way represent the views of International Visegrad Fund or the partner organisations.

The project is implemented by the Europe-Georgia Institute and Civil Development and Research Institute.

News

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