Arizona State Representative Don Shooter has effectively become the spokesperson of a genocide-denying dictatorship that executed and mutilated Christian civilians just last year.
Rep. Shooter visited Azerbaijan, ranked the fifth most repressive nation in the world, on all-expense-paid junkets. He received high-dollar gifts from the country infamous for its human rights abuses and militant hostility toward Armenian Christians.
The latter want to live in peace, free from an oppressive government trying to wipe their people and culture off the map. Rep. Shooter prefers his lavish friends’ alternative facts.
I write this as an Armenian-American and Phoenix resident. Arizona is home to a lively Armenian community; here we work, pay taxes, raise families and worship in our churches. On April 24 at the state Capitol, we held our commemoration of the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, where 1.5 million Armenians were marched from their homes, starved, massacred and crucified as part the Turkish government’s orchestrated plan. A crime Turkey and Azerbaijan are working overtime to cover up and deny.
Azberbaijan hailed as a country of ‘tolerance’?
Despite the facts of the horror taking place in Azerbaijan and its sister nation Turkey, on Feb. 23, Rep. Shooter presented an absurd, inaccurate proclamation and praised the brutal dictatorship of Azerbaijan — which the State Department called an “oil-rich mafia state.” With the Azerbaijan general consul at his side, Rep. Shooter touted that country’s “tolerance.”
Worse than that, Rep. Shooter brazenly stated alternative facts that Azerbaijan’s small-landlocked neighbor, Armenia, which suffered a true genocide of 1.5 million deaths for being a Christian minority, was instead the perpetrator of genocide.
The hate-filled, anti-Armenian propaganda stems from several hundred civilian casualties during the 1990s, when indigenous Armenians in Artsakh, known as Nagorno-Karabakh during the Soviet years, were protecting their families, homes, ancient lands and the world’s oldest churches (Armenia was the first Christian nation) from Azerbaijan’s army.
Assault on Armenian Christians, churches
The 1990s Nagorno-Karabakh war, which Azerbaijan launched and lost in order to maintain Joseph Stalin’s illicit decision to expropriate part of the already dwindled Christian Armenian homeland to Islamic Azerbaijan, victimized countless people on both sides. Azeri civilians did die in Khojaly, but for Azerbaijan and Rep. Shooter to cherry-pick one war episode and baselessly proclaim it “genocide” deliberately misrepresents the central cause of the conflict, which is Azerbaijan’s staunch determination to wipe out indigenous Armenians.
Azerbaijan’s state-sponsored hate was first applied in Nakhichevan, another Armenian region expropriated to Soviet Azerbaijan, which was completely cleansed out of its indigenous Arme-nian population by the 1980s. Artsakh had no choice but to fight to avoid Nakhichevan’s fate.
Azerbaijan continues its genocidal policies. It has already destroyed countless Armenian Christian churches and monuments, including sending in its army in 2005 to demolish the world’s largest medieval cross-stone field (the Djulfa cemetery in Nakhichevan), in an attempt to erase 2,000 years of Christian history and culture.
In April 2016, Azerbaijan launched and lost yet another war, this time committing ISIS-like war crimes against Armenian civilians in Talish and soldiersduring Azerbaijan’s ceasefire violation.
Shooter unresponsive to brought-up concerns
These facts were conveniently left out of Rep. Shooter’s proclamation as well as from Azerbaijan’s state-controlled media that reported his repetition of Azerbaijan’s alternative facts as breaking news.
When Arizona residents called Rep. Shooter’s office to set the record straight on his blatantly false proclamation, those calls were unreturned.
Genocide denials and spreading fake news about a people trying to live in peace in their homeland is heartbreaking at best and complicit at worse.
This leaves one to ask: does Rep. Shooter work for the people of Arizona or the dictator of Azerbaijan?
Yervant Baltajian, who is married with two children, is a Phoenix resident and a small-business owner. He served in the U.S. Air Force. Email him at email@example.com