AYF-ER condemns upcoming Princeton talk with Azeri ambassador

December 7, 2021

To the Princeton Institute for the Transregional Study and Princeton Faculty, 

We, the undersigned organizations, write to share our opposition to Princeton University’s decision to provide a prominent platform for Khazar Ibrahim, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States, to discuss “peace and cooperation in the Caucasus.” The government he represents has, in actual fact, acted directly and violently against the interests of both peace and cooperation.

As has been widely documented, Azerbaijan, backed by Turkish-drafted extremist mercenaries, committed countless war crimes against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh during, before, and after the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war. To this day, Azerbaijan continues to invade Armenian sovereign land, choke off water from vulnerable populations, and illegally hold and maltreat hundreds of prisoners of war. Hosting Ambassador Ibrahim –without providing the audience with factual context or offering equal time to critics of the Azerbaijani government – risks normalizing racism and ethnic cleansing by an autocratic regime. 

Azerbaijan’s record is clear, and thoroughly documented, by our own government and leading human rights organizations:

State Department: The U.S. Department of State’s most recent Human Rights Country Report on Azerbaijan documents “Significant human rights issues,” including: “unlawful or arbitrary killing; torture; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisal against individuals outside the country; heavy restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence against journalists, the criminalization of libel and slander, harassment and incarceration of journalists on questionable charges, and blocking of websites; systemic government corruption.

Freedom House: Freedom House rates Azerbaijan as Not Free, noting that: “power in Azerbaijan’s authoritarian regime remains heavily concentrated in the hands of Ilham Aliyev, who has served as president since 2003, and his extended family.

Amnesty International: “War crimes were committed by Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. Several verified videos depicted the mistreatment of prisoners of war and other captives, decapitations, and desecration of the dead bodies of enemy soldiers.” 

Human Rights Watch: “Azerbaijan’s government continues to wage a vicious crackdown on critics and dissenting voices. The space for independent activism, critical journalism, and opposition political activity has been virtually extinguished as so many activists, human rights defenders, and journalists have been arrested and jailed and [there are] restrictions on media freedoms.”

The opinions of the undersigned organizations are supported by the United States House of Representatives, which recently passed five amendments to the 2021-2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Among these were measures demanding Azerbaijan’s release of Armenian POWs and calling for investigations of Azerbaijani war crimes.

We write this letter, sadly aware of Princeton University’s troubling history as a home of Armenian Genocide revisionism and denialism, most notably in the form of the scandal surrounding Heath Lowry, the widely criticized denialist installed as the Atatürk Professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies.

As you know, Princeton University has set forth its public commitment to “service to humanity.” The Vice Chair of the Board of the Trustees Brent Henry called on people to “be of service to humanity and help make the world a better place.” The Republic of Azerbaijan stands for exactly the opposite. The Aliyev regime and its representatives have forfeited any right to speak in the name of “peace and cooperation.”

We urge Princeton University to recognize how unsafe this event and other actions have made its students of Armenian descent and the surrounding Armenian community, and call on the university to cancel this racist and offensive lecture. Failing this, we ask that Princeton University provide an equally prominent platform for voices critical of the Azerbaijani government. 

Sincerely, 

Armenian Youth Federation, Eastern USA
Armenian Student Associations United

___________________________________________________________________________________

Princeton Armenian Society
Harvard University Armenian Students Association
Seton Hall University Armenian Student Association
Armenian Students Association at Northeastern University
Brown University Armenian Society
Armenian Society of Columbia University
Armenian Society at Fordham University
Bentley University Armenian Students Association
Michigan State Armenian Students Organization
UC Berkeley Armenian Students Association
Boston University Armenian Students Association
University of Pennsylvania Armenian Students Association
Georgetown University Armenian Student Association
University of Maryland Armenian Student Union
University of Michigan Armenian Students’ Cultural Association
Providence College Armenian Society
Ramapo College Armenian Students Association
Fairleigh Dickinson University Armenian Students Association
UC San Diego Armenian Students Association
University of Chicago Armenian Students Association
MIT Armenian Society
George Washington University Armenian Students Association
Villanova Armenian Students’ Organization
University of Virginia Armenian Cultural Student Association
Arizona State University Armenian Students Association
Armenian Club of Purdue University
Boston College Armenian Club
California Polytechnic State University Pomona Armenian Students Association
California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo Armenian Students Association
Chapman University Armenian Students Association
Colgate University Armenian Students’ Association
Cornell Armenian Students Organization
California State University Northridge Armenian Students Association
Glendale Community College Armenian Students Association
Lafayette College Armenian Students Association
Loyola Marymount University Armenian Students Association
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Armenian Students Association
McGill University Armenian Students Association
Moorpark College Armenian Students Association
New York University Armenian Students Association
Occidental College Armenian Students Association
Pepperdine University Armenian Students Association
The Ohio State University Armenian Students Association
UC Davis Armenian Students Association
UCLA Armenian Students Association
UC Santa Barbara Armenian Students Association
UC Santa Cruz Armenian Students Association
UMass Amherst Armenian Students Association
University of Nevada Las Vegas Armenian Students Association
University of Rochester Armenian Students Association
University of Southern California Armenian Students Association

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Founded in 1933, The Armenian Youth Federation is an international, non-profit, youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The AYF-YOARF Eastern United States stands on five pillars that guide its central activities and initiatives: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural. The AYF also promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together to realize the AYF’s objectives.

3 Comments

  1. How can we individually impress upon Princeton our disapproval of their invitation of the ambassador? What a disgrace to give such a criminal an ounce of respect!

    • If every Armenian will pound on the doors of the University by send one email, one letter, or even one phone call, I assure you they will be convinced that we mean business. BUT, WE ALL MUST DO THAT in a UNTED way.
      I tell you what:” Monday morning, the first thing I will do is this: I will call Princeton University and express my outrage and my disapproval. I will also email them a nice polite email but right to the point.
      All this can be done and it will cost nothing.
      Let’s hop on the wagon, and let us do it NOW.

  2. Well done AYF. A well composed letter resonating the anguish and pain felt by all Armenians at this insensitive action conducted by such a well known and respected university that is supposed to be a shining beacon leading each new generation in excelling the previous generations. This letter will have a much higher impact if we could all flood Princeton with complaint e-mails. Maybe the AYF could put together a standard response e-mail we can all use. This is urgent and needs organising immediately.

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