Negligent research and trivialization of war criminals

The reports of the German media on the offensive of Azerbaijan on the Armenian Artsakh are in considerable parts inaccurate or even distorting. Erdogan’s Syrian auxiliary forces, which are feared for murder, rape and looting in occupied Efrîn, are depicted as refugees who have to feed their families and many articles mention an effective alliance between Armenia and Russia, which actually isn’t influencing the war.

It already begins with the fact that the aggression carried out by Azerbaijan in the southern Caucasus does not seem to be worth a headline to most German media and the dimensions as well as the possible consequences are being played down. The Tagesschau wrote that the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, threatens to escalate into a real war. Based on the intense shelling on cities on both sides and the numerous recordings of drone strikes and artillery shelling, in which dozens of fighters are being wiped out, this is a cynical belittling of the situation. After a conversation between the author and the Tagesschau journalist Silvia Stöber, however, this formulation was corrected (although it’s unclear if it was due to this).

However, the misleading remark that Armenia is allied with Russia remains in the article. Formally there is an alliance within the framework of the CSTO, but Russia does not actively contribute to the defense of Armenia, whereas weapons have been delivered to both states. In addition, an alliance with Russia always carries the charge of authoritarianism. For the average reader of course, an alliance with Russia also carries the notion of authoritarianism. But Armenia is a democratic country - even more since the "Velvet Revolution" of 2018, when long-term President Sargsyan was forced to resign. In contrast, Freedom House classifies Azerbaijan as an authoritarian regime that is firmly in the hands of President Aliyev and his extended family.

Most questionable, however, is probably the Spiegel article from October 5th, in which the presence of Syrian auxiliary forces of Erdogan is admitted, but at the same time enormously played down. The article says that the fighter Ibrahim from the Sultan-Murad-Brigade accepted to go to Azerbaijan because he had to feed his wife and children, who live in a refugee camp. The article also intends to arouse pity for the fighter by telling how his voice sounds almost panicking and that he is crouching in an air raid shelter.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, after long and extensive research by activists and human rights activists such as the organization “Missing Afrin Women” or the “Violation Documentation Center / N&NE Sy” has accused these very militias of being responsible for an enormous amount of Human Rights violations. These include murders, kidnappings, rape, expropriations, looting and displacement, which have been carried out with enormous regularity since the occupation of Efrîn in early 2018. Does that side of these militias get mentioned? Not in a word. Instead, it is said that until recently the Sultan Murad Brigade fought against Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad. The TFSA's last attack on Assad positions, however, took place in July 2018 by Ahrar ash-Sharqiyah, and the commander in charge, Abu Khawla Muhassan, has since been in Turkish custody for disobeying orders. The TFSA has had nothing to do with the liberation of Syria for a long time now, and the militias are now acting as unofficial paramilitary for Erdogan's hegemonic interests.

Süddeutsche Zeitung and Zeit don’t even consider a brief research on the subject to be necessary. They write that the international community is concerned that "Islamist terrorists from Syria and Libya could now earn money fighting" or that this would be an allegation from Armenia. In fact, there are video recordings of Syrian fighters that have been geolocated by experts like Murad Gazdiev. Independent sources like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian Rebellion Observatory, Reuters and even local activists like Hussein Akoush and Mhazem Alsaloum, who support the opposition, have also confirmed this. As for fighters from Libya, this has not been reported from any source and is most likely a confusion with the Syrian fighters that were sent to Libya as well.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung is generally so uninterested that Yerevan - the name of the Armenian capital - becomes Erwin. The attacker cannot be clearly defined either, since both sides had accused the other. This overlooks the fact that there had been large demonstrations in Azerbaijan calling for the war against the Armenian Artsakh a few weeks earlier and the war had been anticipated by the Azeri media, Erdogan's auxiliary forces were directly present from the beginning and Azerbaijan has since deeply penetrated into Artsakh. Armenia, on the other hand, lacks the motive. On the one hand, because Artsakh is already under their control and on the other hand, it simply doesn’t have the military strength to attack its much larger neighbouring state.

The Tagesschau writes about the self-proclaimed, but internationally unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabach, whereas the Republic hasn’t proclaimed itself as Nagorno-Karabakh, but as Artsakh. It’s described that around 145,000 people live in the region and that while it’s controlled by Armenia, it belongs to Azerbaijan according to international law. So far that’s correct, but they forget to mention that the indigenous population of the area is Armenian and that in the event of the conquest by Azerbaijan they will have to seriously expect complete displacement and even pogroms. Pogroms against Armenians in Azerbaijan were one of the triggers for the Artsakh War of Independence. In the course of the war, hundreds of thousands were also expelled from different parts of Azerbaijan with no hope to ever return.

It should be mentioned however, that in the same war, a combined higher number of Azeris and Kurds were expelled from Artsakh and Armenia. The settlements of the expelled Kurds are in the so-called Red Kurdistan or Kurdistana Sor between the core-Artsakh around Stepanakert and Armenia, those of the Azeri in the districts of Fuzuli, Jabrayil and Zangilan along the Iranian border and on the Artsakhian side of the frontlines before the outbreak of war about one week ago. These settlements are currently almost entirely in ruins. As soon as a ceasefire has been agreed upon, a right of return for these displaced persons must be negotiated and made possible.

Conversely, the return of the displaced Armenians to Azerbaijan is sadly completely unrealistic, and for the same reason, Artsakh shouldn’t return to Azerbaijan military control, even if there are promises of autonomy. The state has cultivated radical and institutionalized nationalism for decades. For example, members of the small Udi minority from the north of the country have enormous problems with discrimination, as their last names often end in -ian and are therefore confused with Armenians. The few Armenians who remain in the country have to hide their identities if they don’t want to risk being attacked by nationalists. At the beginning of this year, a commission decided to ban Russian names and the name Talysh of the minority of the same name from the Southeast for newborn babies. Talysh activists also report that, in addition to the assimilation policy against the country's ethnic minorities that has been going on for many years, they are being forcibly recruited and sent to the frontline in disproportionate numbers - some sources even speak of 50% - to be dying there instead for the Azeris. Similar tactics have already been used by Turkey in the fight against the Kurds in the past. Thus, the likely fate of Armenians who would return under Azerbaijani rule even without the context of a war, can be roughly imagined.

As in Efrîn, it’s again activists who warn of the possible consequences if “the West” simply continues to this aggression. There are still no serious attempts by the government to defuse the conflict or to put an end to Erdogan's hegemonic plans. The German press landscape has little interest in the situation and instead of giving a platform to those who are affected, the multitudes of correspondents in Istanbul are shaping what is being told. Why Istanbul still enjoys such prestige among journalists is difficult to understand. After all, it is hundreds of kilometers away from the trouble spots of West Asia and not to forget in a country that tramples on freedom of the press and is only surpassed by China in terms of the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide. Unsurprisingly, those correspondents are holding back with all too harsh criticism of Erdogan, while pro-Kurdish activists are often ridiculed as biased by the very same people. And when in the end a situation like the one currently in Efrîn arises, the tone in the articles will suddenly change, as if they had seen this coming for a long time and in this way push responsibility away from them.

All of this is part of the pseudo-pacifist lack of interest of the German and - within a larger framework - of the European society, regarding what is happening beyond “the West”. Soon you will hear from the same people in talk shows and articles that you have to fight the causes of war, a classical talking point when the topic is refugees. When asked what has to be done to fight the causes of wars, there will be at best a few sentences that Germany should no longer supply weapons, and that is where the analysis ends. If, however, regional powers such as Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran ignite proxy wars and choke off the very development of democratic structures, then this analysis is not sufficient.

This criticism of the reporting in the German press is admittedly not formulated all too neutrally, but this also has to do with the fact that they are paid journalists - in the case of the Tagesschau even from taxpayers' money - and have a job of differentiated reporting. However, this mandate is often not met satisfactorily in reporting on events in North Africa and West Asia. The writers at Rojava News on the other hand don’t even do this for a living, they don’t even earn any money from their work. Nevertheless, we repeatedly pointed out errors in the reporting of national newspapers, something we shouldn’t have to do under normal circumstances. But if the German press is interested in entering into a cooperation with us regarding fact checks on topics of the region, Rojava News is happy to get in touch.

Edited by Passar Hariky


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