Latest military escalation met with uncertainty, reaction in Azerbaijan: Report
Many people in Azerbijan were confused about the objectives of the latest fighting with Armenian forces, and the current sentiment in Azerbaijan is different from the one during the war in 2020, Open Caucasus Media (OC Media) said on Thursday.
While a series of street interviews in capital Baku in the days that followed the beginning of clashes on 13 September indicated a popular yearning for peace, many Azerbaijani opposition figures openly expressed their disapproval of military escalation, according to OC Media.
Historian and political activist Altay Goyushov was cited saying on his Facebook page in the first hours of the clashes: "Personally, I do not need Yerevan or Zangazur, and I unequivocally condemn the overnight aggression against Armenia."
Ali Karimli, chair of the opposition Popular Front Party, expressed his opposition to the military operations, saying:
"I, the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party and the majority of our people, consider it our main task to ensure the sovereignty of Azerbaijan within the borders recognized by the international world, and we do not make any claims to territories outside our official borders."
Independent opposition figure and director of the Institute of Political Management, Azer Gasimli, released an anti-war statement on his Facebook page on 13 September. He said:
"Today, the war serves the interests not of the Azerbaijani people, but only a group of people, the authoritarian regime (...) Healthcare, education, the economy have all been stolen, and everything is in the hands of one family. Those who have taken power send young people to their deaths for the sake of their own power."
Azerbaijani writer Samad Shikhi posted calls for peace following the start of the fighting, and said that the reaction to the recent conflict was different to that seen two years ago. He warned that Azerbaijan is "likely to be treated by the World as the aggressor."
NIDA, an organization that advocates for democratic and social change in Azerbaijan, the Democracy 1918 movement, and several public figures issued calls for an end to military action immediately after the conflict began.
Official narratives, ban on Tik Tok, shaming campaign
In an attempt to provide an excuse for the Azerbaijani attacks, narratives were put forward by the state media, including claims that Armenian troops were planting mines on Azerbaijani territory along the border, OC Media said.
The Prosecutor’s Office and Defense Ministry on multiple occasions discouraged citizens from sharing information other than that provided by the state. Tik Tok was restricted on 14 September, with the State Security Service calling on the people "not to believe in false information circulated on social media, which aim to create unease in the country." A public campaign was launched to shame and intimidate those who speak out against the war, with their names and photographs being shared alongside their words, all stamped with the hashtag #xainitaniyaq, "let’s recognise the traitor."
Giyas Ibrahim, a former political prisoner who spoke out against the war during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War and the latest military clashes, told OC Media that "the current situation is completely different from the war in 2020, and the authorities are very aware of that."
"No matter how much the internet and social networks try to create the image of the public support in 2020, it’s not there," he said. "In the second Karabakh war, the aim was clear to people, to reclaim that land. But this time, people could not find any logical answer."