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It’s time to point out why exactly an Azerbaijani military takeover of #NagornoKarabakh itself - i.e. not the territories surrounding it - would almost certainly result in the massacre and/or ethnic cleansing of the local population.

First, a general observation: ethnic wars with this level of pent-up mutual hatred almost always end up in ethnic cleansing, regardless of the ethnicity involved. Even the most ‘normal’ people end up carrying out atrocities when intoxicated by ethnic hatred and violent conflict/2
Second, the empirical record. Every time land has been conquered, or re-conquered by either side in this war, ethnic cleansing has been the result. This was the case when Azerbaijan had the upper hand - in 1992 - and during the Armenian takeovers of Azerbaijani-inhabited land. /3
More recently, any more recent direct contact between the Azerbaijani armed forces and Armenian civilians has resulted in the latter’s killing. This was the case in 2016, in Talish; it is also the case during this period of conflict, e.g. in Hadrut. /4
Furthermore, in spite of his professions of tolerance, the Azerbaijani president has himself promoted hateful behaviour - including ordinary and war crimes - among his military personnel.

Prominent expressions of humanity towards Armenians have also been severely punished. /5
Ramil Safarov - an Azerbaijani officer who axed an Armenian officer to death in his sleep during 2004 NATO training in Budapest - received the country’s highest honour after having been pardoned by the president himself. And this is just one example. /6
Azerbaijan’s most prominent writer, Akram Aylisli, was, on the other hand, severely punished by that same president for daring to write a novella which talked of Armenians in human terms, and presented their suffering in ways unprecedented in Azerbaijan./7
Official Azerbaijani sources regularly talk of the tolerant nature of their multicultural society. They point to the presence of multiple ethnicities, and ’30,000 Armenians’ on territory controlled by Baku, contrasting it with Armenia’s ‘mono-ethnic’ nature./8
These arguments are highly selective. Firstly, the main fissure in this South Caucasian confrontation is between Armenians and Azerbaijanis; this is where all the antagonism is concentrated, and where ‘tolerance’ or ‘intolerance’ must be measured. /9
You do not judge Azerbaijan’s attitudes towards Karabakh’s Armenians in 2020 by looking at its interactions with Russians or Jews, just as you wouldn’t have judged Serbia’s treatment of the Kosovar Albanians in 1999 based on its conduct towards Poles or Romanians. /10
Furthermore, even if the ’30,000 Armenians’ figure were truthful, the question would remain as to where that sizeable community’s cultural centres and - functioning - churches are.

If these Armenians exist, they are invisible. /11
Tolerating only such assimilated or ‘neutered’ Armenians is not ‘tolerance’ in any true meaning of the word, and does not constitute a valid rebuttal against institutionalised and internalised armenophobia. /12
Which brings us to the most important issue: the constant flow of armenophobic discourse and distorted history-writing to which Azerbaijani society - including its soldiers, judges and bureaucrats - have been subjected to since the 1990s./13
As a group, Armenian are all too often depicted - in Azerbaijani official circles, media, the arts - as a species of parasitical, rootless sub-human, with mendacious and terroristic tendencies.

They are erased from South Caucasian history… /13
…and routinely effaced from the present. Much of the discourse in Azerbaijani society basically treats the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a fight over ‘territory’, pretending the place has no inhabitants. /14
If they are acknowledged, the Karabakh Armenians are described as ‘visitors’, ‘newcomers’, ‘occupants’, completely erasing their own definitions of historic identity, priming them into legitimate targets for removal./15
President Aliyev is himself on the record as saying that any Armenians not willing to accept Azerbaijani rule over Nagorno-Karabakh would have to move to Armenia- a frequently heard trope.

Imagine, for a second, a British PM saying that about Catholics in Northern Ireland? /16
Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh are regularly compared to Armenian diaspora communities in California, or Marseilles - again, pointing to wards de-legitimisation of their presence on lands on which their ancestors have lived for centuries./17
So: if Azerbaijan does manage to take over Nagorno-Karabakh itself, will Armenians be adjudicated by Azerbaijani judges who have been trained in this atmosphere of extreme armenophobia? Will they be forced to deny their own history, and that of their monuments? /18
Will they be able to learn Armenian at school? Will they be policed by an Azerbaijani police force brought up on the image of them as ‘enemy’?

In short - will they be allowed to survive as Armenians in their own towns and villages? /19
The record points only in one direction in case of a military final solution. The current Azerbaijani leadership knows this: the only thing it’ll have to do is take over the territory, see its inhabitants flee, and cynically tell them they’re welcome to return *if they dare*. /20
Promises of a multicultural life with their identities assimilated or neutered do not amount to an offer of ‘full citizenship’.

And state-enforced histories and identities are not compatible with 'tolerant multiculturalism’./21
In light of the above, the shelling of Nagorno-Karabakh - which has already displaced more than half the population - and the renaming of captured, and ethnically cleansed, formerly Armenian-inhabited villages from Armenian into Azerbaijani present an ominous prelude./23
This is not the time to downplay the existential fears of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population: they are to be taken very seriously indeed, rather than being dismissed as the products of an over-active fantasy. /24
A desire for ‘revenge’ at decades of Azerbaijani displacement from the lands surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh is no counter-argument. In fact, it is an additional cause for alarm.

Too often, the idea that two wrongs don’t make a right gets lost in war. With tragedy as a result. /End
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