Letter by Mr. Tahir Taghizade, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the UK to the editor of The Independent

Dear Editor,

I am utterly disappointed to have read the article called “Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Baku and why sport and politics cannot be separated” that was published in The Independent on May 25, 2019 by Jonathan Liew.

The author probably should have had his history lessons before attempting to write an article using a “historical” perspective. Baku pogroms were murder of innocent Azerbaijanis by Soviet army and no Armenian was harmed in Baku at that time. In fact, Mr. Liew stops just one step short of suggesting that anything should have been done to preserve the Soviet regime.

Suggesting that when Mkhitaryan says he does not feel safe travelling to Baku for EL final, he probably knows what he is talking about is exactly what the author promised to avoid – flattening the history. Reality is different: repeated safety guarantees by almost every Azerbaijani government authority; 25 Armenian athletes and other members of Armenian delegation who felt totally safe in Azerbaijan when they came to and stayed at Baku for European Games in 2015 and when an Armenian boxer was awarded his silver medal by the President of Azerbaijan; Russia’s Armenian gymnasts (a sister and brother - Garsevan and Duhik Janazyan) who are in Baku currently to participate at European Aerobic Gymnastics Championships in Baku; the fact that Azerbaijan even relaxed its laws and said that Mkhitaryan will be able to travel to Azerbaijan despite the fact that he had visited the occupied territories of Azerbaijan without my government’s consent where doing so usually results in denial of entrance.

With regard to my interview to Talksport in relation to the issue that the article discusses, I am used to operate based on truth and verified information, not the rumors. Plus, as far as we are concerned the expertise area of Jim White and Simon Jordan is sport and not the Caucasus politics as the author claims.

The point is this: anyone deciding not to go to EL finals despite dozens of guarantees is probably doing so on political grounds. Ok, let’s talk politics now.

As a result of Armenian aggression almost 20% of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan is under Armenian occupation. More than one million of Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons. Armenia conducted the policy of ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis in Armenia, in Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 other regions of Azerbaijan. Armenia committed genocide against Azerbaijanis in Khojaly. Khojaly massacre is already officially recognized by more than 10 countries including the Scottish Parliament. One of the perpetrators is now a former Armenian President.

Now, doesn’t the author think it has been “alarming enough” when Serj Sarkisyan said after massacre that “before Khojaly, the Azerbaijanis thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We were able to break that stereotype”? I think it is.

Conversely, whatever my President says is aimed at restoring Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders. And this is totally normal under international law. Unlike his Armenian counterpart, never has he talked about purported genetical disability to live side by side.

Saying that “the battle was won and lost” and implying in that sense to Azerbaijan’s successful economic policy and Armenia’s failure as a state is nothing more than an effort to erase the difference between the occupier and the victim. Yet, was it not for Armenia’s aggressive policy, it could have been win-win for the whole region not only in the sense of sport but in a broader historical perspective which the author vehemently tries to distort.

Next time, when Mr. Liew wants to use the historical perspective, I would advise him to have a look at UN Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874, 884 adopted in 1993 which confirms the fact of occupation by demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territory of Azerbaijan. I think this would be not only much more professional but honest and responsible as well.  

And I would expect the author who publishes at The Independent to use more reliable sources rather than the purported “eyewitnesses” and “polls”. I am citing here only a few of the real reports of the international media outlets, including The Independent which would help the author to enrich his historical vision about what indeed was done in Khojaly and throughout the conflict:

The Washington Post, 28 February 1992

By Thomas Goltz, Agdam, Azerbaijan, 27 February


Refugees fleeing the fighting in Khojaly claimed that up to 500 people, including women and children, were killed in the attack. 


The Independent, 29 February 1992 by Helen Womack

Elif Kaban, a Reuter correspondent in Agdam, reported that after a massacre on Wednesday, Azeris were burying scores of people who died when Armenians overran the town of Khojaly, the second-biggest Azeri settlement in the area. “The world is turning its back on what’s happening here. We are dying and you are just watching”, one mourner shouted at a group of journalists.

The Independent (London), 12 June 1992 “PAINFUL SEARCH”

The gruesome extent of February’s killings of Azeris by Armenians in the town of Hojali is at last emerging in Azerbaijan - about 600 men, women and children dead.


Anatol Lieven comes under fire while flying to investigate the mass killings of refugees by Armenian troops

As we swooped low over the snow-covered hills of Nagorno-Karabakh we saw the scattered corpses. Apparently, the refugees had been shot down as they ran. An Azerbaijani film of the places we flew over, shown to journalists afterwards, showed dozens of corpses lying in various parts of the hills.

Notwithstanding, today more than 30,000 Armenians live in Azerbaijan outside of Karabakh quite safely.

If these are not enough, I stand ready to be contacted by The Independent at any time.


Tahir Taghizade

Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the UK

Search in archive