English, Röster om

“The Nobel Foundation should withdraw the invitation for Azerbaijan”

Nobel Foundation should stop Azerbaijan's participation in the ceremony. That's the opinion of Pussy Riot activist Lusine Djanyan and human rights activist Zhala Bayramova, both of whom have been affected by the regime's oppression.

This is an argumentative text aimed at influencing the reader.

Both of us were born in Azerbaijan. One of us, Lusine, fled the pogroms against Armenians in 1988, and the other, Zhala, was born in Baku ten years later. Neither of us can return.

There are different reasons for this. Since the Nagorno-Karabakh war in the 1990s, Armenians have been banned from setting foot on Azerbaijani territory. Zhala is the daughter of Gubad Ibadoglu, who was arrested a few weeks ago. There is no doubt that dictator Ilham Aliyev imprisoned him for political reasons.

We have lived different lives and grown up in different places, but we have both experienced the worst of the Azerbaijani regime. Now, both of us are in Alfred Nobel’s homeland, and we urge the Nobel Foundation to withdraw its invitation to the Azerbaijani ambassador, just as it did with the ambassadors from Russia and Belarus. As feminists and human rights activists, we are pleased to see that Iran is not welcome either. But we are disappointed by the silence with the ignorance of the Azerbaijani state’s abuses.

Back in 1975, Andrei Sakharov, the Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of the Memorial organization, said that for Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is a matter of ambition, while for Armenians, it is a matter of survival. He was right because many years later, and until today, it is still a matter of survival.

By inviting the Azerbaijani ambassador to mingle and engage in small talk over a glass of champagne, the Nobel Foundation contributes to obscuring the regime’s abuses against both Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and its own population. 

But now we, who are subjected to the regime, are speaking up together!

The forgotten conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has taken a new form since December. The only lifeline Armenians have with the outside world, which they rely on, is closed. The Lachin Corridor leading to Armenia is blocked by Azerbaijan.

Due to this blockade, miscarriages have tripled, deaths due to malnutrition have skyrocketed, and children stand in line at bakeries for hours without getting any food to take home. Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have been trained in how to care for children who faint in school due to hunger.

In Azerbaijani textbooks, the dehumanization of Armenians begins. It is built on a long tradition that dates back to the Armenian genocide in Turkey. Furthermore, the European Parliament has condemned Azerbaijan not only for committing ethnic cleansing against people but also against their cultural heritage. The regime is accused of deliberately erasing the Armenian heritage in all parts of society where Armenians once lived.

When Armenians in Sweden who are against the war have demonstrated against what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani ambassador has called the demonstrators radical and defended both the war and the blockade.

The regime doesn’t stop at committing atrocities against Armenians; it also targets democracy activists and human rights defenders within its own borders.

With the callous arrest of Gubad Ibadoglu, the last hope for a free civil society in Azerbaijan has died. He teaches abroad but was visiting Azerbaijan for the first time in several years to check on his ailing mother. That’s when he and his wife were stopped by police, dragged out of their car, and brutally beaten. On fabricated grounds, the regime has charged him with allegations ranging from treason to religious extremism and money laundering.

In detention, Gubad Ibadoglu is denied any form of medical care, despite needing medication. All we hear is that his health deteriorates with each passing day.

Ilham Aliyev does everything in his power to break down, silence, and eliminate any form of criticism from those who dare challenge his rule. In connection with his arrest, a new report has also been released. Political arrests have increased from 99 to 204 in just one month. It has become commonplace to hear about activists being arrested on dubious grounds, subjected to abuse, and even torture.

We’ve mentioned Russia and Iran. In fact, the human rights organization Freedom House considers Azerbaijan to be more authoritarian than both of those countries. Azerbaijan is becoming a prison for its own citizens, and Nagorno-Karabakh is a prison for the 120,000 Armenians who cannot leave.

There is no hope for democracy in the country. There are also no arguments to defend the starvation of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

How is it that the Nobel Foundation withdraws invitations for Russia, Belarus, and Iran, but not for Azerbaijan? It is clear that Azerbaijan’s oil, gas, and caviar diplomacy overshadow the realities in the country.

We demand that the Nobel Foundation listens to our critical voices and excludes the Azerbaijani ambassador from its esteemed event. The Nobel Foundation should not serve as a platform for those who commit human rights abuses to walk on the red carpet.

We also hope that the Nobel Foundation will want to listen to us. We hope they invite us to a conversation to demonstrate that they genuinely stand up for human values.


Lusine Djanyan, Russian-Armenian activist from Pussy Riot who has asylum in Sweden 

Zhala Bayramova, Azerbaijani human rights lawyer and daughter of Gubad Ibadoglu

Top photo: Lusine Djanyan to the left and Zhala Bayramova to the right. Photos by Rasmus Canbäck