Recently, in the official rhetoric of Azerbaijan, the talk about “Western Azerbaijan” and “return to Western Azerbaijan” has become active at the highest level. The “West Azerbaijan Community” pseudo-organization directed and instructed by the state was created. In Armenia, both at the state level and in the media field, there are almost no references to this new hostile initiative, although it is gradually gaining a dangerous character for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia. The “Armenian Wave” tries to clarify for the reader that what do these artificially created terms by Azerbaijan represent, and what new demands are made to Armenia on the international stage.
What area is meant within the formulation of “West Azerbaijan”?
Recently, the artificial term of “West Azerbaijan” used by the Azerbaijani side refers to the entire sovereign territory of the current Republic of Armenia. This is not the first example of Azerbaijan’s state policy of creating fake names for places in order to legitimize its territorial ambitions and claim historical rights to that territory. In the context of territorial claims from Armenia, Azerbaijan also actively circulates the term “Western Zangezur”, referring to the Syunik region of RA, while the fake name “Eastern Zangezur” refers to the southwestern parts of the Republic of Artsakh (Kashatagh region), which were occupied in 2020, as a result of the third Artsakh war. The same policy is also implemented towards the northwestern provinces of Iran, calling them “Southern Azerbaijan”.
What is the “Community of Western Azerbaijan”?
On August 3, 2022, the general session of the “Azerbaijani Refugee Union” public organization, which has been operating since 1989, was held, during which it was renamed as the “West Azerbaijan Community” public organization. The president of the organization is Aziz Alakbarli. This fake organization declares its goal as “restoration of the rights of Azerbaijanis and their descendants who were deported from Armenia at various times due to their nationality and ensuring their return to their ancestral homes”.
By its name, nature and activity, this organization has a complete anti-Armenian orientation. In essence, the goal of the organization is to speak out on the international platforms about the supposed Azerbaijani belonging of the current territory of RA, the need for the return of 100,000 “Azerbaijani refugees” there and the “destruction of Azerbaijani historical and cultural monuments”, providing legitimacy for further anti-Armenian actions and expansionism towards the sovereign territory of RA.
Is the state affiliated with this organization?
The activity of the organization is coordinated and directed by the state. On December 24, 2022, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev visited the organization’s administrative building in Baku and got familiarized with the conditions. Aliyev made a lengthy speech, which proves that the organization is just a puppet in the hands of the state to implement its conquering policy on the international stage under the guise of “human rights”.
“I am sure that the day will come and our compatriots from West Azerbaijan, their relatives, children and grandchildren will return to our historical land, West Azerbaijan.
… Western Azerbaijan is our historical land, it is confirmed by many historical documents, historical maps, our history.
․․․ …It is well known to us that the Azerbaijani people lived in the territory of present-day Armenia throughout history. Now our main task is to deliver this information to the global community. The works in this direction have already started. But I am sure that the community will work more purposefully in this direction to achieve results.”
In his speech, Aliyev considers “presenting” Yerevan and Zangezur to Armenia between 1918-1920 as a historical betrayal and a crime.
“Therefore, the devastation caused by Armenians in Western Azerbaijan should be reported to the global community. I am sure that the West Azerbaijan community will make it happen with the support of the Azerbaijani state.
I think that it is very important for all of us that the West Azerbaijani community works in a more organized manner, both for the residents of West Azerbaijan and for the entire people of Azerbaijan. I think that in the future this work should be carried out more purposefully. In other words, the organization was created, the community was created, the government provided and will provide support. Further instructions will be given by me.”
Does this represent a danger for Armenia?
The de facto authorities of the Republic of Armenia have never responded at the state level to these ambitious statements that grossly violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Armenia, even though they are becoming more and more dangerous. The constant circulation of these terms in the internal Azerbaijani audience creates a public demand for the current territory of Armenia and the “occupation” of territories other than Artsakh, and generates Armenian hatred not only among the Azerbaijani “refugees” who were allegedly expelled from here 34 years ago, but also among the youth generation.
Azerbaijan is actively working to provide a “scientific” basis for its ambitions and then to bring them to the international stage, in which it is certainly succeeding. For example, recently 3 departments related to the studies of “Western Azerbaijan” were opened in the NAS of Azerbaijan: the department of history of “Western Azerbaijan”, the department of folklore and toponymy of “Western Azerbaijan”. Aliyev himself repeatedly states in his speech that it is necessary to collect the names of all the settlements where Azerbaijanis once lived;
“Of course, our books on historical facts should be updated. In a certain period, books were published, including a book about the names of our historical cities and villages. But we have to do it at the state level. That bookletshould be translated into all languages. In other words, these propaganda works should becarried out.”
The organization has already compiled a list with the names of 100,000 Azerbaijanis who should “return” to Armenia.
However, the organization’s biggest success was perhaps the UN circulating their appeal to the international community as a document of the UN General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. At the end of the document, the “Community of Western Azerbaijan” demands “the government of Armenia, within the framework of the international process, to enable the safe and dignified return of ethnic Azerbaijanis” to the current territory of Armenia and asks the UN member states, the United Nations Organization and all other relevant international organizations to “support the safe and dignified return of the expelled Azerbaijanis from current Armenia to the homes”.
What is Turkey’s role?
As in all issues, Turkey supports and maybe even secretly directs Azerbaijan in this issue. It should not be forgotten that Azerbaijan was created by Turkey more than a hundred years ago as a platform to connect with the Turkic states of Central Asia in the long term. Therefore, the elimination of the Armenian political unit in the region, in this case, by gradually changing the ethnic image, is primarily beneficial to Turkey itself. Proof of this is the visit of Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Jahit Bagji to the organization on January 23, during which he noted that “Turkey is always by the side of brotherly Azerbaijan in its just struggle.”