‘Let the garlic-growing Armenians beg to join you [Azerbaijan]’

Thomas Goltz’s racist remarks about Armenians

OTTAWA, Canada—Earlier this week, at a lecture at the National Archives of Canada sponsored by the Assembly of Azerbaijani-Canadian Organizations (with “kind assistance from the Azerbaijani Embassy in Ottawa”), Thomas Goltz, an American journalist and professor of political science at Montana State University, made clearly racist and derogatory remarks about Armenians.

Goltz’s remarks were in response to a question from the audience on how to convince the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabagh to stay within the “current boundaries of Azerbaijan.” Goltz replied: “By building a forward-looking democracy, you will be able to let the garlic-growing Armenians beg to join you [Azerbaijan].”

In a talk titled “Khojaly Massacre: Crime and No Punishment,” Goltz spoke about the events of Feb. 26, 1992 in the town of Khojaly in Karabagh. Approximately 60 people, mostly Azeris and Turks, were in attendance. The next day, Goltz delivered a variation of the same lecture at the National Press Club’s Newsmaker Breakfast Series, hosted by the Azeri Embassy. About 20 people attended that gathering.

As an unofficial mouthpiece of the Azeri government, Goltz’s talk was in the form of propaganda and ranting against the Armenians. He first spoke about the contradiction in the “self-determination” versus “territorial integrity” concepts of the United Nations. He then praised the Azeri “secularist attitude,” which he said was adopted as a governing model five years in advance of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Armenians have long held that their actions in Khojaly were defensive in nature, in an attempt to relieve the Karabagh capital of Stepanagert from relentless shelling. Goltz dismissed this argument as “nonsense,” instead accusing Armenians of carrying out ethnic cleansing. He also argued that Khojaly did not hold any military significance, and mocked claims that the heavy civilian casualties on the Azeri side were the result of internal strife and intrigue.

The most dramatic moment of the Newsmaker Breakfast lecture occurred when Aris Babikian from the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) successfully refuted two controversial statements by Goltz.  Babikian confronted Goltz over his “command performance of misrepresentation and revisionism.” For, Goltz had paraphrased two quotes from author Thomas de Waal’s book, where supposedly the current president of Armenia, Serge Sarkisian, had said: “We showed the Azerbaijanis that we [Armenians] are not afraid of killing civilians.” The second quote cited by Goltz was from a book by the brother of Karabagh military leader Monty Melkonian; according to Goltz, when Melkonian visited the liberated town of Khojaly and saw the Azeri corpses, he exclaimed: “What have you done?”

Babikian pointed out that “Armenians did not claim that Azeris had perpetrated the massacres of their own people. It was the then-Azeri president, Ayaz Mutalibov, who made such a statement in an April 2, 2004 interview published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta.  In the interview with Czech journalist Yana Mazalova, Mutalibov said that his opposition, the National Front of Azerbaijan, was behind the killings to undermine his authority and to topple him.

Babikian also asked Goltz why he had “conveniently forgotten to mention the Sumgait, Baku, and Maragh massacres of the Armenians by the Azeris,” along with the fact that “had it not been for the Russian navy, 230,000 Armenian inhabitants of Baku would have not survived” the pogroms.

In further questioning, Babikian asked Goltz to explain why the bodies of Azeri victims were found 11 kilometers from Khojaly and 2 kilometers from the most heavily fortified Azeri military town of Aghdam. “Is it logical for Armenians to follow Azeris 11 kilometers, risking their own lives to eliminate the enemy around Aghdam, instead of killing them in Khojaly?” he asked.

Babikian also challenged Goltz to explain why so “many Azeri journalists who had questioned the Azeri government’s version of Khojaly events were jailed or killed.” Babikian cited the case of jailed Azeri journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, whose imprisonment was investigated by the European Court for Human Rights.

He also asked Goltz to be honest and impartial when employing quotes, and to do so “without misrepresentation and misquotation so that they can fit and augment your narrative of the events.”

The ANCC executive said he found it strange that Goltz praised his “old friend,” the late “great” Heydar Aliyev, as an “extraordinary guy” when most in Azerbaijan view him as a despot who stifled democracy during his tenure (as his son, the current president, follows in his footsteps). “The lure of the petro-dollar is much stronger than the lure of truth and impartiality,” Babikian said.

Goltz did not answer any of Babikian’s questions and skirted around them.

Girair Basmadjian, president of the ANCC, later said: “We condemn such racist and hate-disseminating lectures spewed by the mouthpiece of a foreign government on Canadian podiums. It is unfortunate that some Canadian Parliamentarians, Senators, and journalists had to hear such vile statements without even raising an objection or questioning the organizers and the speaker about the validity of their words and action.”

Basmadjian added that “The Canadian government and police should investigate the grave and far-reaching consequences of such hateful speeches. We also would like to ask Canadian Parliamentarians to disassociate themselves from this lecture and the anxiety it has caused to the Canadian-Armenian community.”

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