Editorial: Stand for peace and justice, condemn Turkish and Azeri dictatorships

Graphic Carl Bindman

It’s time for Canada and international leaders to place themselves on the right side of history.

Turkish and Azeri aggression against the Armenian people in the Caucasus region is threatening to wipe away the existence of a civilization that has persisted in Asia Minor for almost 3,000 years. They threaten to finish the genocide they started 105 years ago.

And Canada is standing idly by.

Montreal’s Armenian community has joined diaspora communities all around the world in protests against the lack of meaningful coverage of the conflict and diplomatic action against the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. Thousands gathered in Dorchester Square last Sunday, followed by a three-day protest against local news agencies this past week.

This isn’t just some war. Artsakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, has been inhabited by Armenians as early as fourth-century B.C. Azerbaijan, a country that is only a century old, cannot reasonably claim a territory that is over two millennia older than its state. They cannot reasonably claim a piece of land they inherited from the failures of the Soviet empire. A piece of land that means little to Azeris, but means everything to the indigenous Armenian people who have called it home for generations.

Azerbaijan and Turkey have a combined population of over 90-million people and have a combined military budget of over 20-billion USD. In comparison, Armenia and Artsakh have a combined population of over two million people, and spend over 600-million USD on their military.

Azerbaijan started this war on Sept. 27, and will accept nothing less than to fully “re-claim” Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia just wants peace. Artsakh has absolutely nothing to gain from war, but has everything to lose.

Azeri attacks include air strikes against civilian populations and deliberate destruction of Armenian heritage sites, including the 19th-century Ghazanchetsots Cathedral.

So who’s the aggressor here? Seems pretty clear.

Illham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, was elected to power in 2003, strongly helped with his campaign by his father’s government, according to Human Rights Watch. The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, considers Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich as an example of effective government. His foreign policy has been described as “neo-Ottoman,” epitomized by Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War and his obsession with anti-Armenian rhetoric.

Azerbaijan has no free press. Aliyev’s government has not allowed any international journalists into the country to report on the recent conflict, representing a clear threat to freedom of information and democracy as a whole. The Turkish constitution states that the press is free and should not be censored, yet freedom of the press in Turkey has deteriorated since Erdogan came to power, most notably after the failed military coup of 2016, which sought to overthrow the president.

These are dictators. Turkey and Azerbaijan are dictatorships. But most importantly, these are dictators who are being allowed to have their way, terrorizing without consequence.

Canada, are you watching? Are you listening?