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Azerbaijan False Narratives vs. Armenian Reality

False Narratives vs. Reality: Debunking Azerbaijani State Propaganda Since 2020

Please download the PowerPoint presentation or the PDF document to read the report.


On September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan began what it called an “anti-terrorist campaign” and started shelling Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). Azerbaijani forces killed at least 200 people and left over 400 people wounded. Left with little hope for survival if they stayed in Artsakh, over 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled the region to seek safety in Armenia. This episode of forced displacement came after Artsakhtsi Armenians suffered months of starvation under the Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin corridor.   

Why is Azerbaijan referring to its attacks on Artsakh as an “anti-terrorist campaign?” The answer is that Azerbaijani propaganda uses the term “terrorists” to dehumanize all Armenians, including ordinary civilians. According to Freedom House, Azerbaijan is ranked as a “Not Free” society. On a scale of 0-6 points — with 0 being the worst and 6 being the best — Azerbaijan ranks as a 1 in terms of upholding the rights to freedom of expression and press freedom. In 2012, a once-celebrated Azerbaijani author named Akram Aylisli wrote a book titled Stone Dreams. His novel tells the story of an Azerbaijani man who grapples with the violence that his Armenian neighbors face. The contents of Stone Dreams angered the Azerbaijani government because it portrayed Armenians in a more humanizing light. As a result, Aylisli’s books were publicly burned and Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev removed Aylisli’s title as the “People’s Writer.”  


Azerbaijani propaganda spreads its influence outside the country. The BBC, for example, broadcasted a film titled Wonders of Azerbaijan that received support and funding by Azerbaijan and British Petroleum (BP). The film downplayed the human rights violations of the Aliyev dictatorship. One Israeli writer even expressed her support for Azerbaijan’s September 2023 shelling campaign, explaining that the country’s actions are justifiable because Azerbaijan has a right to “reclaim” land that belongs to the country. Her account reveals the danger that Azerbaijani propaganda presents for the safety of the Armenian people.   

Azerbaijan has violent plans for the future. By 2026, it plans to “re-settle” 140,000 Azerbaijanis into abandoned Armenian homes in Artsakh. Armenian cultural heritage sites located in Artsakh, such as the famous “We are Our Mountains” statue, are slated for destruction. It is imperative for policymakers and human rights leaders to take a stand against the destruction of Armenian life and culture. That starts with learning to separate propaganda from reality. 

False Narratives vs
. Reality - Combatting Azerbaijani Propaganda Since 2020 Written Versio

False Narratives vs. Reality - Combatting Azerbaijani State Propaganda Since 2020
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