An emboldened Aliyev perpetuates violence

Ilham Aliyev at the inauguration of the Military Trophy Park in Baku, April 12, 2021

I write this with great outrage, as an unplanned second installment to my 2016 article published in the Armenian Weekly titled “Aliyev’s War on Peace.” 

On April 13, as many around the world commemorate Genocide Remembrance and Education month and only 10 days prior to the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, Azerbaijan’s Aliyev has opened a “Trophy Park” as a place to educate visitors about his recent conquest and destruction of the Republic of Artsakh and its Armenian population. The park displays destroyed Armenian military equipment and a wax museum with mannequins of Armenian soldiers made by employing racist stereotypes. Commenting on their creations, one of the three artists Kamran Asadov boasted, “We tried to create the ugliest images. We usually try to do something beautiful. But now it was the other way around. It was a long and difficult process. We gave them hooked noses, flat heads and other features.”

The park also displays helmets of killed Armenian soldiers reminiscent of the towers and pyramids of skulls displayed by the 15th century Turkic-Mongol conqueror Tamerlane.

It is interesting to note that children are encouraged to visit the park and can do so free of charge. Photographs of the first visitors to the park show children choking racist wax mannequins of Armenian soldiers and posing next to the helmets of young Armenian soldiers killed a short five months ago. This is the unfortunate nature of state socialization in Turkey and Azerbaijan. While children are now encouraged to visit this racist park celebrating war, it is a new addition to the variety of other campaigns that instill hatred toward neighboring Armenians. For instance, in Turkey, we continue to see a variety of sites named after Mehmed Talat where his memory is revered. Children can even attend a middle school named after the orchestrator of the Armenian Genocide. 

Images of the “Trophy Park” show us Aliyev’s commitment to an ongoing campaign of discrimination, dehumanization and polarization against Armenians. Coupled with his ongoing claims to further occupy Armenian territory, including the capital cities of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh, his future intentions become more clear and the genocidal nature of his recent aggression against Armenians further solidified.  

Aliyev does not miss an opportunity to use his media to perpetuate aggression, hate and violence against Armenia and Armenians. The international community must see how Aliyev’s behavior and actions are evocative of how Hitler tried to define the “enemy” and convey who would have to be excluded from his idea of the “national community.” He reinforced his ideologies and incited hatred through his racist rants from his podiums and organized anti-Jewish propaganda campaigns with racist posters and films. A week after Yom Hashoah, we see Hitler’s vile spewed through Aliyev’s “Trophy Park” once again, this time against Armenians.  

The international community must acknowledge and understand that decades of state-initiated and sponsored Armenophobia in Turkey and Azerbaijan have only one intention and one realization of the very same ideology that was the catalyst for the Armenian Genocide a century ago—Pan-Turkism: the complete destruction of Armenians and Armenia and an Armenian Highland with no Armenians.  

Emboldened by past silence and met with the very same hush, Aliyev takes all he can.

Decades of internationally tolerated and state-sponsored destruction of Armenian cultural and religious heritage through historical misrepresentation and physical desecration have now reached sites that have recently been occupied by Azerbaijan after the displacement of the Armenians of Artsakh. Emboldened by past silence and met with the very same hush, Aliyev takes all he can.

As we remember the Armenian Genocide next week, it is important to remind ourselves that Turkey and Azerbaijan no longer solely deny the past and attempt to destroy memory, but rather have set out to complete the century-old Young Turk blueprint of the Committee of Union and Progress to destroy the Armenian homeland. 

Our unified efforts at home and abroad are ever more important to bring home our prisoners of war, pursue justice for the war crimes committed, safeguard our historic sites, reinstate our homeland and, most of all, end Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s appetite for Armenian territory and Armenian blood. We must ensure the international community accurately characterizes and understands the past as well as the ongoing actions of Erdogan and Aliyev. Armenians around the world have a duty to be the living defenders of the rights of all the fallen over the last century in addition to our own rights and those of future generations. We must not succumb to challenges, and we must not doubt that justice for the Armenian Genocide and every crime thereafter will be realized with our committed efforts. Our present actions are instrumental to defend our past and safeguard our future with hopes that we do our part in creating a world free of the discrimination, dehumanization and destruction Armenians and many others around the world continue to face. 

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Raffi Sarkissian

Raffi Sarkissian is the principal of the ARS Armenian Private School of Toronto. He is the founder and former chair of the Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education (www.corningcentre.org). He is an educator, human rights advocate, public speaker and poet. He holds a BA Hons. in history and a MEd from York University, and a BEd from Trent University. Raffi is also a Doctorate in Education Candidate from Western University (2022).
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@sarkissianraffi

A community advocate and educator. Founder and former Chair of Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education.
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