Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a delicate French flower with a stoic Jewish disposition, has spoken up on the most sensitive issue in today’s Azerbaijan—the killing of two innocent journalists in Kalbajar. After UNESCO’s alarmingly persistent statements of concern about the fate of Armenian monuments in Karabakh, the Azerbaijani public may be under the erroneous, prejudiced impression that this specialized UN organization has limited its mission and scope to protection of solely Gregorian cultural heritage.
You may recall that UNESCO’s reaction to the destruction of the monuments of Islamic, Azerbaijani and Turkic cultures in that very same Nagorno-Karabakh was rather apathetic. UNESCO’s lassitude and impassivity in response to the repeated appeals by the Azerbaijani side, even after bashful Azouley rose to the leadership position there, was a testament to how tame and spineless this organization is. Azoulay turned out to be not so bashful and timid after all. This inconspicuous sweet Frenchwoman, who found herself getting all mellow at the sound of the word “Armenia”, was all of a sudden going through quite conspicuous metamorphoses.
Azoulay began to speak to the Azerbaijani government in the language of blackmail and threats, demanding immediately after the cessation of hostilities a mandate for a special UNESCO field mission to Karabakh to inspect the state of Armenian monuments—without any mention of Islamic and Azerbaijani cultural heritage whatsoever. The martyr philosophy in the Director-General’s mind is closely intertwined with ordeals and hallows of Christianity alone, whereas Islam is all about militarism, mobilization, barracks, administration, something outside the process of formation of world culture and art. The smokescreen of intercivilizational dialogues is an archaic declarative being from the era of withered liberalism.
However, little by little, under the pressure of the truth voiced by Azerbaijan, Azoulay came to understand the true mission of UNESCO, which consists, according to the declared principles, in the strengthening of peace and security through cultural interaction. Apparently, Azoulay, just like Abulfas Garayev, the legendary Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan, believed that culture comes down to the inventory of monuments and libraries, which are easy to trade for public services. And French Socialist Azoulay of all people should have known that culture is the basis of modern—or any—society.
UNESCO should be concerned about more than just the state of Armenian cultural heritage—it should be concerned about all forms of human knowledge and self-expression, all aspects of human activity in the name of the very principles declared by her organization: peace and security. Formal propriety could not have allowed UNESCO to remain impassive about the tragic death of the Azerbaijani journalists killed in Kalbajar, if for no other reason than because this organization undertook the mission of protecting journalists who put their lives at risk in the name of establishing peace and security. For this exact reason, UNESCO created the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 1997 to honor the memory of the Columbian journalist Guillermo Cano Isaza murdered by drug cartels.
Azouley said in her official statement that she was shocked by the tragic deaths of Siraj Abishov and Maharram Ibrahimov as a result of a landmine explosion in Kalbajar. The Director-General condemned the incident outright, saying that “journalists must be able to exercise their profession without risk to their personal safety.”
Still, Azoulay did not ask about the real culprits and the real reasons of the journalists’ tragic death. Why were the journalists killed in the recently liberated territory of Kalbajar District? Who haphazardly and chaotically planted landmines on all roads and paths, while hastily withdrawing from the district as per the surrender document? And why was the Azerbaijani district of Kalbajar, recognized by the UN as an integral part of Azerbaijan under the unlawful control of another state’s army for thirty years in the first place? Azoulay said part of the truth. She expressed her sympathy. She described her alleged heartache. But who caused the Azerbaijani journalists’ death and Azouley’s melodramatic, even if put-on, anguish? Is it really so terrifying to say the word so dear to the French heart—“Armenia”?
Highest justice, this absolutely ethical category, this virtue, as well as conscience, demanded that Azoulay name the country and its criminal government that had put landmines on the way of the Azerbaijani journalists, didn’t it? Azoulay emphatically says out loud that Azerbaijani journalists must be able to do their job without risking their safety. But this is something Azerbaijani journalists cannot do. According to Armenian field commanders, all roads to Lachin, Kalbajar, and Agdam, are filled with bombs and mines. Danger lurks at every turn, there is a threat of explosion at the entrance to every village. How hard would it have been for Azouley to call on Armenia to clear the region of landmines in the name of UNESCO’s true goals—peace and safety?! But no, Madame avoids sharp edges, deploring only the consequences. Shedding crocodile tears over the journalists’ dead bodies and yet encouraging their murderers. Inspiring them to new political and military crimes. Imagine UNESCO condemning Guillermo Cano’s death but never mentioning the names of the brave journalist’s murderers—Saldarriaga and Zamora. This is almost like with Somoza: he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch. Artificial lamentation of the hypocritical West…