One of four letters I wrote today to my representatives in US Congress regarding the Ibragimov interview and the censorship and corruption of the Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty funded by U.S. Congress. I encourage Armenian American refugees to write to their Senators and Representatives. We need answers.
30 years ago, I was preparing to turn 10, excited to have my entire family from all corners of Baku, Azerbaijan to come to our garden and eat delicious shish-kabobs and cake. But that was not to happen. Beginning on February 26, 1988, the Azerbaijani government orchestrated violent pogroms targeting the apartments of Armenians, a Christian minority in our nation. The gangs killed and maimed innocent civilians simply for being Armenian. Women were raped and burnt alive; the elderly thrown off their high-rise balconies. This was the government’s response to the call of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians to rejoin Armenia, defying Stalin’s drawing of the borders in 1923.
The Soviet Union’s collapse began with that single democratic and constitutional movement of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and the response was brutal. This response has been ongoing for the last 30 years. The city of Sumgait was first, then Kirovabad, then my home city of Baku. The entire Armenian population of Azerbaijan, some 300,000, was ethnically cleansed and displaced. We lost more than our property. Even our history is being erased from Azerbaijan as we speak. My grandparents’ graves and every Armenian cemetery, or a historic marker, were demolished, leaving no traces of Armenians ever living there. Our headstones were used to pave roads.
This brutal government’s policy of anti-Armenianism continues. The U.S. State Department warns American citizens of Armenian descent against traveling to the region, for fear of being killed for our ethnicity. Back in early 1990s, tens of thousands of us ended up in United States, many in Maine. We are proud Americans, investors, business owners, public servants. And we cannot understand how after 30 years of systemic and consistent anti-Armenianism by Azerbaijan, and especially after accepting tens of thousands of Armenians from Azerbaijan as refugees, the United States continues to placate this authoritarian despotic regime.
Just recently, on January 21, 2018, the program “Echo of Caucasus,” a project by Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty, a project fully funded by the U.S. Congress interviewed Azerbaijani journalist Zeynal Ibragimov about his new book, “35 Letters to my Son.” Ibragimov is one of few Azerbaijani nationals – albeit one who escaped Azerbaijan hiding in Britain as a political asylum seeker – who freely discusses the atrocities committed against the Armenian population and assigns the current conflict to the dictator Aliyev himself and his policies. Soon after the interview was published, the article was removed from the Echo’s website and the journalist Katsiaryna Prakovyeva promptly fired. The interview was then replaced by a propaganda piece written by an Azerbaijani political analyst, handpicked by the Aliyev regime. Why does the U.S. Congress allow foreign dictatorship’s actions oppressing speech and free journalism, specifically within programs and publications funded by the U.S. Congress itself? Why would we, of all nations, engage in the stifling of free speech?
I look forward to your response.
Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte