In the past we had already dealt with a very thorny issue: the relations between the Italian Republic and the Republic of Azerbaijan. In light of the latest events that are shaking the stability of the Caucasus and the recent visit to our country by the Azerbaijani dictator, Ilham Heydar oğlu Aliyev, received with all honors (not to say "with great fanfare") by the Italian authorities, it is necessary to we return to the subject because the scarce and partial (not to say ridiculous) media coverage of the visit by the national media as well as the almost total absence of information about the events in the Caucasus by them, risk creating in misinformed observers a dangerous "squint" which, in the long run, can turn against our country. So here we all must collectively ask ourselves: do we know what we are dealing with?
First of all, we must immediately point out that, over the years, both the regime of Ilham Heydar oğlu Aliyev and that of his father Heydar Alirza oğlu Aliyev before him have shown themselves to be devilishly skilled in the difficult and not at all obvious art of "public relations" .
While other dictatorial regimes have been and continue to be subjected to a "concentric media fire" in order to report abuses and embezzlement, in the case of "Tierra del Fuego" (another name by which the Caspian state is known), nothing happens in this sense. Mind you, there is no "international conspiracy" to cover up the misdeeds of the satraps of the Caucasus, and the reports describing the real situation of what is happening there are widely available both online and in print. Several institutions such as Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and whoever has more, put more, have repeatedly denounced the deplorable state of human rights in the satrapy in the Caspian, and even the State Department of the United States of America (a country which has far from hostile relations with Azerbaijan) has been generally honest in presenting the situation of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan in terms of very negative. Anyone who wants out of curiosity to scroll through one or more of these reports, especially those of Human Rights Watch, will find that the word most frequently used to describe the human rights situation in Azerbaijan is: "Appalling", which can be conveniently translated into Italian as "Frightening / terrifying".
After reading these lines, a casual observer would therefore be tempted to ask: "But if the situation is so critical, why is everyone (or almost) silent?". The answer is very simple and can be summed up in a single magic word: HYDROCARBONS. With 41% of exports directed to our country, Rome is confirmed as Baku's most important trading partner, however this "special relationship" is literally "drugged" by the massive supply of oil and products derived from its refining. If we exclude the black gold and other raw materials enclosed in the subsoil, in fact, the only other products that Azerbaijan exports to our market are a bit of agriculture, fishing, forestry and obtained from metallurgy, but it is really a small thing therefore we report it here only for "reporting purposes".
The importance that Azerbaijani oil has acquired for a whole series of countries, especially in Europe, has guaranteed Aliyev one almost untouchability by the continental press, especially our own, and whenever a voice over the top has been expressed outside the chorus, it has been faced by the Azerbaijani regime with the utmost harshness. This is the case of the well-known journalist and television presenter Milena Gabanelli who, for having broadcast during an episode of the television program "Report" a documentary concerning the reality of corruption and human rights violations in Azerbaijan, was immediately registered in the register of "unwelcome people" and permanently banned from entering the territory of the country.
All in all, however, Gabanelli can still consider herself lucky compared to what she risked, and still risks, but for different reasons, the traveler, blogger and journalist with dual Russian and Israeli citizenship Aleksandr Valerievich Lapshin. In his case, journalistic reports on corruption and violation of human rights have nothing to do with it, but the "sin" of having visited on two different occasions, in 2011 and 2012, the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), an area at the center of a conflict that has opposed Armenia, the Nagornian Armenians and Azerbaijan for 34 years.
Mind you, Lapshin he is by no means the first person to have visited those lands, but has the aggravating circumstance of having documented everything making it accessible to the Internet community. In doing so, he has in fact "made fun" of the Aliyev regime and, as all those who are experts in Caucasian affairs know: there is nothing worse in the Caucasus than "making a man lose face", especially if he is a man of power, because he will do anything to take revenge and, literally, "wash honor in blood". The Azerbaijani judiciary (nothing more than an appendage of the power of the clan in command of the country) has for years "hunted down" Lapshin asking on 13 different occasions that he be extradited but always encountering clear refusals from the authorities of as many countries (understandably , given that the blogger's curriculum vitae does not reconcile with that of "a dangerous international criminal") until Aliyev found a complacent side in the Belarusian regime by Aleksandr Grigorevich Lukashenko. Given the important relations between Minsk and Baku, the Belarusian autocrat proved to be happy to meet the wishes of his Caucasian "colleague".
On 15 December 2016, Lapshin, then visiting Belarus, was arrested by the police and on 7 February 2017, on the orders of the Attorney General of the Republic of Belarus, extradited to Azerbaijan to answer for his "crimes" committed against the country authority. Interestingly, the Russian / Israeli blogger's one-way trip to Baku took place no less than on the satrap's personal plane! This says a lot about the fact that the strong man of "Tierra del Fuego" is literally willing "to go all the way" on the events that interest him and that touch him personally. Subsequently, thanks to the joint efforts and protests of the governments of Russia, Israel, Armenia (and probably others), Lapshin was released and "pardoned" but not before undergoing, on the night of 11 September 2017, an attack which for little did not cost him his life while he was locked up in solitary confinement!
But whoever believes that his personal odyssey ended with the "forgiveness" and the return to his homeland is wrong! In February 2019, the Azerbaijani judiciary again opened a court case against him, this time accused of "discrediting or humiliating the honor and dignity of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan" and "openly inciting against the government of Azerbaijan "And on 15 December of the same year he finally escaped an attempted kidnapping, apparently orchestrated by the Azerbaijani secret services with the complicity of criminal elements belonging to the same nationality but active in Latvia, where the blogger was to participate in a forum on tourism.
It is interesting to note a curiosity by no means secondary. For years, Azerbaijan has spared no efforts in cultivating relations with the State of Israel. Again the magic word is "Hydrocarbons", given that nowadays the Jewish state imports 50% of the oil it needs precisely from Azerbaijan. However, there are also other strategic reasons that prompted Azerbaijanis and Israelis to establish a profitable two-way relationship (one of these is the collaboration to contain Iran). This intertwining of reasons has led many to believe in the facade image built by the Azerbaijani regime, and relaunched at 360 degrees by its payroll gallops scattered around the world, that Azerbaijan is "the best friend of Israel and of Jews in general ". Yet, just take a look at the headlines of the main Azerbaijani newspapers at the time of the hearings in the trial against Lapshin and at the photos of local protesters armed with banners to read about them. anti-Semitic invectives which have nothing to do with the supporting image of "tolerance" that the Caucasian satrapy claims to "sell" abroad.
In the wake of what has just been said, it is now necessary to talk about another very thorny issue: the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Since 1988, when both countries were still an integral part of the Soviet Union, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in a situation of conflict over the possession of the territory of Nagorno-Karabkh (Artsakh) and the surrounding areas; conflict complicated by the fact that although Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) was administratively part of what was at the time the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, the inhabitants of the region were for the most part always Armenian states and, due to all a series of problems inherited from the complicated history of that area, had always seen their belonging to the "Azerbaijani state" as nothing more than a "colonial imposition" when not a real abuse by the authorities of both Moscow and Baku .
The exhaustive narrative of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not the subject of this analysis, however some grotesque implications they must necessarily be addressed. In fact, from 1994 to today, also due to the need to contain the centrifugal forces by other ethnic groups that threatened / threaten to destroy the unity of the Azerbaijani state, the Baku authorities have carried out two parallel battles. The first is one scientific and methodical campaign to suppress cultural and linguistic identities in order to promote a sort of "homogenization of the Azerbaijani population". The second is an equally consistent one campaign of "mortification" of the Armenian enemy that at all institutional levels, schools, media and so on and so forth, has been and is being portrayed as the "Absolute Evil" deserving to be completely eradicated from this world.
The fixation of the father and son Aliyev destroy "all that is Armenian" has gone so far as to order the almost complete cancellation of what was once the very consistent Armenian cultural heritage present in the country.
Thanks to interactions of all kinds lasting millennia, the Armenians had left very important traces in the archaeological history and architecture of the nearby Caucasus and Azerbaijan itself. In particular in the region of Naxçıvan, one of the cradles of the Armenian people, the researcher Argam Aivazian (Armenian native of the place) documented during the 80s of the twentieth century the existence of a very rich cultural heritage of Armenian origin by publishing well 80.000 photographs and drawings representing among others a total (according to the author, incomplete) of 218 churches, monasteries and chapels, 41 castles, 26 bridges, 86 sites of cities and villages, 23.000 tombstones and, above all, 4500 crosses of stone, the legendary “khachkar”, which represent perhaps the most important mark of Armenian culture in every historical period. In particular, in the vicinity of the city of Julfa there was a unique cemetery in the world consisting of a "forest" of khachkar which rose by the thousands (10.000 according to the French missionary Alexandre de Rhodes who visited the area in 1648) in an open space located along the Aras river.
Well, in the years following independence, after having first cleaned up the area from the last remaining Armenians, the last heirs of an uninterrupted multi-thousand-year presence just like in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), Azerbaijan has systematically destroyed all traces of the Armenian archaeological and architectural heritage present on its territory, operating a cultural genocide even worse than that caused by ISIS in Syria and Iraq or by the Taliban when they destroyed the statues of the Bamiyan Buddhas. Between 1998 and 2002, the 3000 khachkar and the 5000 tombstones that were still found in the Julfa cemetery (including some very rare and very precious tombstones bearing the Armenian ram motif dating back to the pre-Christian period, nowhere else on Earth) were methodically demolished, split and shredded by Azerbaijani soldiers until they were literally reduced to dust and then dumped into the Aras riverbed.
These destructions then reverberated throughout the country (except of course Nagorno-Karabakh!) So much so that today the only two Armenian churches still standing in Azerbaijan are the church of the village of Kish (but only because in the course of history it subsequently became first an Albanian-Caucasian church and then a Georgian church, then it was something else, in addition to being Armenian) and the church of San Gregorio the Illuminator located in Baku but permanently closed and today used as a warehouse. To the author's knowledge there are also the ruins of a church located in the town of Madrasa, the dilapidated ruins of the monastery of Targmanchats and the equally derelict ones of the monastery of San Sarkis on Mount Gag.
Unfortunately, the state propaganda has gone far beyond that, instilling a fierce hatred not only against the symbols of "Armenity" but also against the Armenians as human beings, and in some cases this has had absolutely gory outcomes. An example that is worth as much as a thousand textbooks is the case of Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani officer who on February 18, 2004, while taking part in a course organized by the NATO "Partnership for Peace" in Budapest, killed lieutenant in cold blood in his sleep. Gurgen Margaryan of the Armenian army inflicting no less than 16 blows on him using an ax. When, after 8 years, Safarov was transferred by the Hungarian authorities to serve the rest of his life sentence in his native country, Ilham Aliyev found nothing better to do than to forgive him and make him a national hero!
But this shouldn't be too upsetting given that Azerbaijan is, to the author's knowledge, the only country in the world that discriminates against entry by foreign nationals on an ethnic basis. There is in fact a rule that expressly prohibits entry into the territory of the Caspian satrapy to any male or female individual of any nationality of Armenian origin. The thing that needs to be stressed over and over again is that this prohibition does not only concern "the citizens of the Republic of Armenia" (such an attitude would also be understandable, since the two countries are at war), but involves all 12 million Armenians. who live on this Earth even though they have never visited Armenia in their life and have always kept away from the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict.
Of course, a careless reader would be tempted to create a parallel between this prohibition and that existing in the Arab-Islamic world where several countries do not allow citizens of Israel to travel within their borders, not recognizing the existence of the "Jewish state". Yet the ban by these countries only affects citizens of Israel (not all Jews), but does not extend to every single Jew living on this Earth!
That is why the attitude on the part of the Baku regime represents the quintessence of malice and finds no rational justification other than to deliberately create a climate such that all Azeris are knowingly being transformed into living hate machines unable to feel any kind of empathy towards the Armenians and who would then have no qualms about bringing about carrying out any genocidal plans that Aliyev and his clique of power would order them to do.
It is often said that politics and geopolitics are "the art of the possible" and that the only thing that matters in the international relations ring is the protection of national interests. As I personally am an advocate of the “realist” view in the field of international relations, I find absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, however a question is absolutely necessary to ask in this situation.
If this is Azerbaijan (and on these lines I have only scratched the surface!), And not the operetta version that most of our media propagate knowing they are lying, what kind of long-term guarantees Italy has in the bind to a similar country, moreover Turkey's best friend, which I have already described countless times as a long-term strategic threat to us, transforming it into our main energy supplier when those in power both in Baku and in Can Ankara use this weapon at any time to throttle us and submit us to their will?
This is a fundamental point because we are not talking about peaceful and neutral Switzerland but about a bloodthirsty regime with expansionist ambitions linked to an equally charitable regime that controls a very important NATO country and both implement an unscrupulous and unpredictable foreign policy that risks destabilize the world to a level, if possible, even higher than even the much-maligned Russia.
Paraphrasing the words of Socrates: “Know your enemy. If you don't know him, it means you don't even know yourself. And then don't allow yourself to be surprised. "