Turmoil in Azerbaijan

We were rather surprised by the glaringly biased reporting of the events in Azerbaijan and Armenia by The Times. Most of what we read painted a picture of innocent Christian Armenians of Azerbaijan being expelled from that state by Muslim Azeris mostly because of their religious differences. Truth behind the Armenian-Azeri struggle, however, cannot be reached by such a simplistic approach.

First, we should answer the question "how did these events start?" As the Moscow government declared a few months ago, the Armenian-Azeri conflict started when Armenian nationalists asked for the annexation of Azerbaijan's Karabakh region into Armenia. Anybody with a map of the region in question can see that what Armenians were asking for was a piece of land right in the middle of Azerbaijan.

Armenians' justification for annexation was that they were the majority in Karabakh. They, however, conveniently were forgetting that Karabakh has never been ruled by Armenians in its history and Armenians were sent there as immigrants by the Russians to increase the Christian population of this Muslim-dominated area. As a result of actions of the Armenian nationalists, the Armenian majority of Karabakh and Armenia started attacking the Azeri minority in mid-1988. It should be recognized that the first victim of this conflict was an Azeri and that close to 160,000 Azeris were forced to flee Karabakh and Armenia to escape attacks by Armenian nationalists.

What we see today in Azerbaijan is a response to the events that took place in Armenia and Karabakh. It is sad that both Armenian and Azeri lives were lost in this conflict.

All of the Soviet Republics had demands from the national government under the open policies of President Mikhail Gorbachev but no nation except Armenia demanded additional land from a neighboring republic. This is not a religious war as Armenians would like the American public to believe. This is a war for land and Armenians started it.

BULENT BASOL

Vice President

Western Region, Assembly of Turkish American Assns.

Washington, D.C.

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