If one is to believe the Armenian lobby’s cliché narrative, Azerbaijan is an appalling country, whilst Armenia is the land of the free and the brave, the land of hope and democracy. The dystopian Armenian reality is actually a classic case of hyperopia (farsightedness). Armenia has a real moral and ethical deficit, putting it in no position to point fingers at its neighbors such as Azerbaijan when discussing international law and human rights.

What is the causal link for problems in the South Caucasus? Let’s examine closely: Azerbaijan was militarily attacked by Armenia, all the war fighting took place on the territory of Azerbaijan, about 16 percent of Azerbaijani territory is still occupied by Armenia, with some 600,000 Azerbaijani residents of those 16 percent of the country becoming internally displaced in their own nation in 1992-1994 (that’s in addition to the 200,000-240,000 Azerbaijanis and Kurds who were ethnically cleansed from Armenia and had to flee to Azerbaijan in 1987-1990. Compare this to 230,000 Armenians who left Azerbaijan, whilst 30,000 Armenians stayed in large cities and some 120,000 in occupied NK). What about the human rights of nearly a million people that Armenia violated – and Armenian propaganda is trying to whitewash?

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Armenia also conducted the largest human rights abuses in the entire post-Soviet history, such as the war crime of Khojaly, where in one night over 600 Azerbaijanis, Kurds and Meskheti Turks were brutally massacred (and the people who participated on the Armenian side are now the president and the defense minister of that country). The Armenian propaganda tried to clumsily whitewash that war crime, but its bluff was called out by the Human Rights Watch. How can anyone in Armenia speak loudly about “human rights” or “democracy” after this? 

All these actions caused by Armenian military aggression not just overwhelmed Azerbaijan, which in 1918 was world’s first Muslim democracy, a country that had a slew of typical post-Communist development challenges (hyperinflation, outdated laws, unsophistication of the bureaucracy, rising crime, etc.), but forced it to spend disproportionally more on defense, on demining, on humanitarian aid (food, medicine, clothes) to hundreds of thousands of people, overwhelms its hospitals, schools, kindergartens, arable lands and water resources, criminal justice system. Azerbaijan received about $1 billion in U.S. aid since 1992, whilst Armenia received almost $3 billion in the same time. Not content with this, Armenia also illegally develops Azerbaijan’s natural resources, such as gold mines in occupied Kelbajar district, as well as selling virtually all real estate and property that belonged to 600,000 Azerbaijanis, who are now displaced for over 20 years, to scrappers from Iran

The current Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan, set something of a dubious record in 2008 – ordering the largest beating and killing of civilian protesters. As a result, ten Armenian civilian protesters were killed – more than anywhere else in the former USSR. And just a few weeks ago, a motorcade of 30 cars with Armenian opposition activists driving from Armenia into the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region got severely beaten and cars damaged by the Armenian riot police and secret service – much of it caught on camera. It’s a hard to take seriously Armenian apologists trying to talk about human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan, when they have such incidents take place in their own backyard. 

Armenian government and society are violating human rights of not only Azerbaijanis, Turks and even some Armenians, but of the few hundred Jews who have the misfortune to stay. Rabbi Israel Barouk lists some eye-opening facts: "Knowing the historical background of Armenian anti­​-Semitism, perhaps it is less surprising to analyze a 2014 international survey on current trends in anti​-Semitism, conducted by ADL. The survey showed that 1.3 million out of 2.2 million adults in Armenia share anti-S​emitic beliefs. Armenia actually took first place as the most anti-S​emitic country in Eastern Europe, and held for 3rd place across all of Europe. To demonstrate the fever, Armenia tallied in as 2 percent more anti-­S​emitic than Iran. Considering the level of anti-­​Semitism in Armenia, one can understand why Iran and Syria are two of Armenia's most important allies today." 

Finally, it is truly dystopian to accuse Azerbaijan, with a straight face, of "blatant disregard to international law", for shooting down an Armenian military helicopter, with three uniformed Armenian soldiers, that was illegally conducting drills and maneuvers deep inside the Azerbaijani airspace, in the Armenia-occupied Aghdam region of Azerbaijan (which is not even part of the Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan). All Armenia needs to do is remove its military from Azerbaijan – and peace will immediately follow, together with improved democratic climate and stronger human rights protections for all.

Jaffe is the U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) military analyst.