The early release from a Hungarian prison of axe-murderer Rami Safarov, 35, a native of Azerbaijan and an officer in that country’s military, has not only seen a terrible injustice done but has resulted in a criminal being well rewarded for his barbaric crime. The Hungarian government, for reasons that have yet to be discerned, released Safarov after he had served only six years of a 30 year sentence for having murdered 26-year-old Armenian army Lt. Gurgen Markarian in his sleep with an axe in 2004 in Budapest. Safarov had also spent about two years in jail before a verdict was rendered.
Upon his return on August 31 to Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, on “a special flight,” Safarov was feted as a national hero and amply rewarded for his savagery. Once safely on Azeri territory, Safarov was immediately pardoned by Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev; he was also promoted two ranks and received eight years of back-pay as well as an apartment.
“With their joint actions the authorities of Hungary and Azerbaijan have opened the door for the recurrence of such crimes. With this decision they convey a clear message to the butchers. The slaughterers hereafter are well aware of the impunity they can enjoy for murder driven by ethnic or religious hatred,” said Armenia’s president, Serge Sarkisian, to foreign diplomats at a meeting called to address the travesty.
When the crime occurred, Safarov and Markarian were attending English language courses at the, considering the turn of events, ironically-labelled Partnership For Peace, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-sponsored event. One night, while Markarian was sleeping, Safarov took an axe and hit him 16 times, “almost decapitating him.” But the psychopathic Safarov’s bloodlust was not sated with just one foul murder. He then went to another sleeping Armenian officer’s room, intent on repeating his evil performance. But fortunately the door was locked and a double murder averted.
Azeri sources are excusing Safarov’s murder, blaming his unbalanced emotional state on the 1988 to 1994 war between Azerbaijan and Armenia-supported Nagorno-Karabakh, in which he and his family supposedly suffered severely (along with tens of thousands of other Armenians and Azeris). Both sides engaged in ethnic cleansing during the conflict, but it started, according to writers Caroline Cox and John Eibner, when Azeris first cleared 40,000 Armenians out of Kirovobad, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, in 1988. An Azeri pogrom against Armenians preceded this in Sumgait followed by another in Baku.
“The Armenians were not quick to retaliate to the Sumgait massacre,” wrote Cox and Eibner in their 1993-published book Ethnic Cleansing In Progress: War in Nagorno-Karabakh. “But Armenian restraint crumbled in response to the Kirovabad pogrom and the anti-Armenian demonstrations in Baku.”
Armenia and Azerbaijan, a Turkic-speaking country, are both former Soviet republics and neighbors in the southern Caucasus Mountains. Nagorno-Karabakh was an Armenian enclave inside of Azerbaijan that sought secession and reunification with Armenia in the dying days of the Soviet empire. The Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, perceiving themselves as victims of the Soviet Union’s nationalities policy, believed they were righting a historical wrong. In 1921, the Bolsheviks had first awarded the enclave to Armenia but later reversed that decision, giving it to Azerbaijan. Stalin was reportedly responsible for this fateful verdict.
In the 1988-1994 war, the outnumbered Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians not only won their independence, defeating the Azeri forces, they also occupied some adjoining Azeri territory which they refuse to return until it can be guaranteed that this territory will not be used to stage attacks on their land. In this respect, Nagorno-Karabakh has adopted a position similar to Israel’s regarding the Arab territories it captured in 1967: it will trade land for peace. Nagorno-Karabakh is now an independent political entity, calling itself Artsakh, its former name in the ancient kingdom of Armenia.
Azerbaijan’s ally, Turkey, became so angry when the Nagorno-Karabakh forces were winning that it threatened to attack Armenia, which was not officially a combatant. However, a warning from the Kremlin that a Turkish attack on Armenia would mean war with Russia caused Turkey to climb down, averting a regional war.
Since then, Turkey and Azerbaijan have maintained a crippling economic blockade on Armenia and Artsakh. Also like the Arab states in regard to Israel,Azerbaijan has promised to retake its lost territories, including Artsakh. To this end, the Azeris have recently used their oil wealth to make large weapons purchases. Last January, it bought $1.5 billion worth of arms from Israel alone as well as weapons from Russia.
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