Why would an Armenian activist seek asylum in Azerbaijan?

In the past few days, a report that was covered as “shocking news” in Azerbaijan media occupied the agenda in Armenia. According to the report that was covered by almost all media organs of Azerbaijan, Martirosyan, an Armenian dissident activist, found asylum in Azerbaijan. When an insight was gained concerning this issue, it turned out that there are different reasons for Martirosyan’s asylum.

Vahan Martirosyan held a press conference, once he arrived at Baku. At this press conference, which was given a rather wide coverage in the news bulletins in Azerbaijan, he told that he suffered from oppression in Armenia because of his political views, he lost his unborn child because his wife was subjected to violence and he made an application for asylum to Azerbaijan and he was welcomed in Baku.

Stating that he suffered from the physical and political oppressions by Armenian government, Martirosyan declared that he is the leader of an NGO called “National Freedom Movement”, which nobody has ever heard of in Armenia up to that day. Vahan Martirosyan said that he left his country and fled to Azerbaijan for the security of his life and made an application for asylum to Azerbaijan. He stated that his purpose “is to reveal the crimes that Sarkisyan and the people around him committed in front of the international public opinion, international agencies and institutes and especially in front of the Armenian Diaspora,” and he also added that the MPs of the ruling party tried to silence him and he was assaulted in front of his mother and two children.

For the past 25 years, Azerbaijan government hasn’t been allowing Armenians, including the Armenians who are citizens of Turkey, to enter Azerbaijan and even the Turkish citizens who have Armenia visa on their passport are interrogated if they want to enter Azerbaijan; so, this Azerbaijan welcomed Martirosyan just like he said. At this press conference that confuses everybody, somehow Karabakh was also mentioned. Martirosyan claimed that Armenian officials gave millions of dollars of bribe to European authorities to keep their positions and the Karabakh question is maintained by Sarkisyan government which doesn’t want a solution. He said, “No sane person in Armenia wants war. It would be tragic, if a war erupts once again. This would be good only for the people who can benefit from the death. Armenian army is weak, Armenia would be frustrated. Our army cannot even fight against African countries; so, it cannot contend against Azerbaijan,” and Azerbaijani authorities agreed with him.

Martirosyan cannot help mentioning Diaspora Armenians who had to run away from war and said: “In recent years, over 20.000 asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq came to Armenia. These people, who were involved in terrorism and crime, are quartered in Karabakh.

His mother denied his allegations

Making a call to the UN and the Red Cross, Martirosyan wanted his relatives in Armenia to be protected. On the other hand, press agencies in Armenia managed to contact to his mother Julyeta Virabyan.  Finding his allegations of being assaulted ridiculous, she said: “In fact, he and his wife beat me for several times; my neighbors saved me from them.” She also added that his son has record in Erivan Psychiatric Hospital since 2005 and he is on meds and sometimes has nervous breakdowns. And there was no medical record about the miscarriage that Martirosyan’s wife allegedly had due to an assault.

It is curious why Martirosyan went to Baku via Georgia after the problems he had or he claimed to have in Armenia and not to a country that preserves international norms concerning human rights. In Armenia, it is commonly thought that this was a “defamatory campaign against Armenia” that is supported by Azerbaijan and some Azerbaijani people think that Martirosyan is sent to Azerbaijan by Armenian intelligence agency.

Caricature: Gündüz Ağayev

Şahinoğlu: Why Azerbaijan and not Germany or France?

Elxan Şahinoğlu, an expert from Atlas Research Center in Azerbaijan, said, “When I heard about this, my first reactions was to ask why Azerbaijan and not Germany or France,” and he pointed out that an activist that suffered from such torments could easily find asylum in Europe. Şahinoğlu also suggest that it must be discussed what should be done if there would be other asylum seekers from Armenia.

Azerbaijani journalist Zeynal İbrahimov also said that he and Azerbaijani people find this unrealistic. He said, “Vahan Martirosyan and the ones who help him waste their time and efforts. We, the people who live in Azerbaijan, know the difficulties and human rights violations in this country very well”, and he also reminded that there was discussions about the human rights violations in Azerbaijan in European Parliament during the very days that Martirosyan found asylum in Azerbaijan and added that Martirosyan is being used for affecting Azerbaijani people, not for affecting Armenia or international public opinion. Ibrahimov gave no response to the question of how Azerbaijan can protect the rights of an Armenian, as a country that cannot protect the rights of its own citizens.

And the dissidents in Armenia also find Martirosyan’s asylum suspicious.

Maxim Sargisyan, a member of “Voch Talanin” (no to plunder) movement, said: “For years, we have been trying to change things in Armenia and we haven’t met this person in any meeting or demonstration.”

Naira Zohrabian, an MP from the main opposition party the "Prosperous Armenia" Party and one of the prominent figures in the campaigns against the government, says that she doesn’t know Martirosyan’s party. “How can a person who had a warrant that has been issued for his arrest cross the Armenia-Georgia border? Let’s say somehow he managed to do it, but why he didn’t stay there and instead contacted to Baku? This is incomprehensible for me.”

Artur Sarkis, the chair of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office, said: “We know the problems and oppressions in Armenia very well, but fleeing to Azerbaijan, which is far behind from Armenia in terms of human rights, doesn’t make much sense.” 


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