soL news interviewed TKP GS Kemal Okuyan on the reflections of the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Turkey’s political environment. Okuyan noted that the holders of power in Turkey try to take a position and strengthen their ranks in an ever-competing age of imperialism. Regarding a solution on the Nagorno-Karabakh question, Okuyan says: "In the current world system, there is but a single solution for the problem of Karabakh. Peoples of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and in all Caucasia must move towards a better, an equalitarian life instead of following a small group of rich who maintain their rule thanks, to a degree, to these tensions and keep injecting racism in the society to that end. In fact, this is easier for these peoples as they have already done it once!”.
Once again, pro-AKP media started to propagate that “Turkey is now strong enough to fight in multiple fronts”. Being a part of all military tensions in all directions whether in air, seas or on land. What does this stance mean for poor people of this country as the economy gets worst?
It is known that one of the reasons for the wars is to divert the attention of the public. Not only in Turkey at that. For instance, in Greece, too, the government pumps chauvinism whenever they feel they are cornered. Armenia and Azerbaijan, both sides of the clashes today, suffer economic and social problems which force the hand of their governments. History shows that a “victory” in the international areas can save governments and even the social system itself. But just the opposite is also true. Losing a war, taking steps back on international politics, a government does not risk itself only but also may open the door for the masses to direct their looks out of the system. But Turkey’s current foreign policy cannot be evaluated solely from this point. Holders of power in Turkey try to take a position and strengthen their ranks in an ever-competing age of imperialism. This cannot be ignored or dismissed so easily.
But the government keeps engaging in new issues every day. Does this pose social risks as well? People keep getting poorer at an incredible pace, they might easily drown in their “own problems?”
Exactly… As a rule, the masses focus on the nearest problem. If the problems that are close to home are aggravated, masses become short-sighted and thus do not look afar. This is why a line of reasoning that only repeats “employment rates are down, let’s feed chauvinism to people” or “inflation rates are skyrocketing, let’s make another move in Libya” has its limitations. Nonetheless, the exacerbating clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia have a much higher usage value comparing to ongoing tensions in say Syria or Libya. This must be underlined.
Can you elaborate?
“Enmity to Armenians” has become a persistent phenomenon in Turkey that exceeds the social boundaries of mere chauvinists. Liberal sensitivities inspired by cosmopolitism never had a chance in alleviating this deep-rooted problem. It must also be considered that Armenian nationalism, which gathered Armenian people on its wake after the collapse of the Soviets, feeds on this hostility as well.
Moreover, secular concerns about the AKP government’s moves in Syria and Libya quickly diminish when it comes to Azerbaijan. On the other hand, CHP, the party that usually gets votes of secular segments of Turkey gets readily behind the AKP government in near about every item of foreign policy, anyway. Nonetheless, the number of people on “what are we doing in Syria” camp is high enough to send chills down the government’s spine.
Sunni axis simply does not apply to Azerbaijan with a predominantly Shiite population. Also, the moves Turkey has made to change secular habits in these countries (which moves started well before AKP’s rule) resulted in nothing but fiascos. For this reason, no secular resistance would arise against AKP’s interventions in Azerbaijan-Armenia tensions.
So, does that mean there is no ground for a fundamentalist movement to take root in today’s Azerbaijan? I mean, can it be claimed that AKP just throws the towel on this angle?
Such a guarantee cannot be given for any country, even any locality in this region. Back then, the USA, when they were trying to surround the Soviet Union with the infamous “green belt”, invented heavily in a very wide area. Many tribes in Pakistan and Afghanistan were tied to the American interests against money and weapons. All support was given, again to fundamentalist movements to prevent and suppress any wake-up calls in Turkey and other countries. CIA got its hooks on clergy in some of the Republics that were part of the Soviet Union and created sleeping cells for “destructive” activities in time. West of the Soviet Union was surrounded by the Catholic Church which acted on the very same logic. The clergy of the Polland and Baltic countries, which sit on a very big economic power, exploited its immunities to the last drop to undermine socialism. Well, to disperse that green belt, the Soviet Union had to launch an intervention to Afghanistan which was completely understandable as the green belt threatened the secularism that took deep root in all peoples of the east of the Soviet Union. The USA backed fundamentalist movements caused the most damage in Tajikistan.
But the fundamentalists never had such an influence in Azerbaijan.
Well, about 85 percent of the population of Azerbaijan is Shiite. Therefore, it was already impossible to paint a picture similar to the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan axis. Moreover, the Shiite identity of Azerbaijani people is based on cultural elements and not on fundamentalist ones. With the help of Soviet power, the secular lifestyle took hold in Azerbaijan and this won’t change easily. Nonetheless, one can easily see that Islamist fundamentalist movements penetrate especially Sunni communities. Yet there is an absolute harmony between Moscow and Aliyev administration, at least on this subject. Setting aside discordance on other issues, both the Aliyev family, who run Azerbaijan like a family business and Putin administration, are in close cooperation when it comes to controlling fundamentalist organizations.
Rumors that jihadists from Syria and other places are sent to engagement areas in Nagorno-Karabakh are just flying around. Why is it allowed?
There is more of a symbolic meaning to it. No doubt the Ikhwan ideology tries to seize every opportunity and these kinds of engagements are big opportunities for them. But neither Russia nor Azerbaijan would allow a permanent armed militia in the area. Outcomes of such foolishness are obvious. But, whenever the tension rises between Azerbaijan and Armenia, an influx of militants from surrounding regions, most notably from Chechenia starts immediately. During the war in the 1990s, a significant number of mujahideen took part in clashes and they were not only from Caucasia but also from Afghanistan. At that time there was a serious power struggle going on in Baku. Every single one of these mujahideen groups tried to have a role in this struggle and afterward, a very large part of them settled in Chechenia and Dagestan. Of course, now they move jihadists from Syria, Libya, or other places. For these groups and organizations, each clash means both money and experience. This being said, considering the geographic and climatic characteristics of the region, likely candidate for an “outer force” would be those coming from Chechenia.
There are other rumors. Azerbaijan accused Armenia of using “foreign militia”.
Right now, psychological warfare takes precedence over actual war. Even though it is possible that sparks might get out of control any minute, no one expects an all-out, long-term war. For this reason, both sides want to sit on the table with the upper hand and gain immunity in domestic politics. So many allegations were denied since the start of the current conflict. Many videos turned out the be footage from past clashes, some even forged! Therefore, there is a propaganda war going on, which is rather clumsily performed. But I must underline; call it legionary, mercenary, or foreign militia, now we must expect to see “voyager” troops in every warzone. This is a reality of this age. Of course, there were precursor examples of this in the past. And we cannot forget revolutionaries from all around the world joined the International Brigades who fought among Republican ranks during the Spanish Civil War. But we must also remember that revolutionaries did not go to war for money, adventure or on blind faith. They were honest men and women with the highest awareness, and they fought the good fight in the name of humanity.
Let’s talk about the causes of this conflict. What happened and now both sides on the state of war?
Naturally auxiliary factors came into play, which will be revealed in time. But now, it is crystal clear that a war on Nagorno-Karabakh does not suit Armenia. It is Azerbaijan who wants the current status quo to change there. Because since the 90s, the Karabakh is under Armenia’s control; more, Azerbaijan lost other territories besides Karabakh during that war. Armenia lacks the strength and capacity grasp at more. But let me reiterate, a number of elements, which we may not find meaningful at this moment might have triggered the clashes.
For the international community, “who attacked first” has always been important. But “who attacked first” is not sufficient to understand what is going on. We need to look deeper. Even so, the international platform’s perception is that Azerbaijan has started the clashes. For instance, the Organization of American States (OAS) strongly condemned Azerbaijan. This should not be taken wrong, currently, there is not a single organization or mechanism that can deal with “justice” in the world. Including the UN! I just only point to widespread perception.
It is also claimed that the Karabakh problem originates from Stalin’s decision to leave Karabakh to Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic and not to Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922.
From 1922 until the end of the 1980s, only friendship flourished and strengthened among Caucasian peoples. It is utterly ridiculous to hold a decision taken 70 years ago responsible for a bloody showdown. If all these tensions were quelled and gradually turned into friendship and fraternity during that era, as I said, now everyone must reflect on that! So, they say people cannot raise voice out of fear in the Soviet Union! Coercive power is intrinsic to the government. But no state can squash ethnic tensions with arms. The Soviet Union was the sole experience that strengthened the ideal of the brotherhood of peoples the most, throughout history.
When I think of Caucasia in the Soviet era, I recall Azerbaijani, Armenian, Russian naphtha workers that drill out oil in Baku; I recall Khachaturian’s magnificent ballet suites which combines the melodies of all peoples of the Region; I recall Rashid Behbudov’s songs. But I don’t recall some chauvinistic group or other cutting throats of chauvinists of another nation. There is no such thing as “innocent nationalism”. What happened in Sumqayit and in Khojaly were a disgrace to all humanity and are crimes committed by the imperialist-capitalist system which keeps inciting nationalism and bigotry. The Soviet Union has collapsed; hundreds of thousands of Armenian and Azerbaijani have been displaced due to conflicts, massacres. Some of them went to Russia and today they fight each other on Russian streets. Those who migrated to other countries continue the enmity in those countries. The pathetic idea that a nation is superior to others, or others, the notion that a country is always right whereas some others are always wrong, are irrational nonsenses. But even in the 21st century, imperialism, and all the exploiters still need this nonsense!
Some people profit from this atrocity.
Well, how will the Karabakh question be solved, then?
There is no solution to the Karabakh question in this world order. It simply isn’t possible. There is but one way forward: peoples in Armenia, in Azerbaijan and in all Caucasia must move for a more equalitarian, a better system instead of following the elite, the charlatans who maintain their wealth and power through these tensions and by injecting racism. And it is easier for them, even. They’ve done it once before! Otherwise, there is no solution to Karabakh. Karabakh was Azerbaijan territory. In this regard, Azerbaijan’s cause is just. But a vast majority of the population in Karabakh is Armenian. How that majority of the population will be integrated into today’s Azerbaijan? So, all the demographic structure will change. İmmigrations, clashes, mutual massacres will happen all over again… Recognizing Karabakh as a sovereign country is not a solution either. Already there is an administration who self-proclaimed independence in Karabakh but without an effect. Moreover, there are Azerbaijani territories de facto occupied by Armenia. Considering Azerbaijan’s energy-rich resources and economic presence of near about every single major power in the region, no “national” solution can be found for all these complications. The way forward in Caucasia is through class struggle. The unemployment rate in Armenia is near 20 percent. Azerbaijan has slightly less unemployment, but the majority of the people do not have access to the wealth created by the rich energy resources of the country. The people should direct their looks to this point. Otherwise, a class of leeches profits over the bloodshed when the poor of India goes for the throat of the poor in Pakistan, the poor tribes in Libya go head to head with other tribes and when the oppressed of all nations in Balkans regard the oppressed of the other nations as their enemies; someone profits over this atrocity.