How Britain Enabled Genocide

International

8th September 2023
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We have failed to stop the worst. The Armenian people of Artsakh, after a long and brutal year under siege, are now dying of starvation. Right now, the Azerbaijani state is committing genocide in Artsakh.

The Russian Federation, Armenia’s supposed allies against such an existential threat, turned their backs on them at their hour of need. The European Union, the self-declared champions of freedom and democracy, has enabled Ilham Aliyev’s dictatorship in its genocidal quest. And the Left, which loves to pride itself on its smug sense of self-righteousness, has dismissed or outright ignored Armenians when they called for help.

Over the past year, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention has issued no less than 8 alerts about the situation in Artsakh. They saw what was coming and were desperate to stop the worst from happening. But we didn’t listen. Many of us still don’t even know it’s going on.

Our press, whether right-wing tabloids or left-wing broadsheets, have done nothing to publicise the plight of the Artsakhi people. Our esteemed representatives in the House of Commons, in all their posturing, bickering and bluster, have said absolutely fuck all about the situation in Artsakh. Our government, content with squeezing its own people for every last ounce of value they’re worth, couldn’t care less. Why is that?

Yes we can point to the obvious, that news about the Caucasus has never been a priority for the people of Britain. But it goes deeper than that. There’s something more sinister beneath the surface of the wide-scale silence and inaction. There are members of our ruling class that don’t just support the genocide of Armenians in Artsakh, they’re actively profiting off it.

Conservative Friends of Genocide

In Parliament, there exists a group called the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Azerbaijan (APPGA). Their stated goal is “to develop good relations between the legislatures and governments of our two countries.”

This is nothing too out there, parliament is full of groups that advocate for good relations with fascistic dictatorships; from Putin’s Russia to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. What is different is how the APPGA operates, in the shadows and outside of the public eye. Whereas other parliamentary groups diligently report their finances in the monthly reports on their activities, the APPGA has never published a single statement on its income and expenditure.

The extent of the group’s corruption has only been discovered through the hard work of investigators. The Azerbaijani state has regularly financed all-expenses-paid trips to the country, which have been enjoyed by MPs on both sides of the aisle. As the APPGA has only officially declared one of these trips, we can only speculate just how much money has been funnelled into their pockets.

Humanitarian convoy stuck behind the blockade

The APPGA’s dodgy dealings started under its previous chair Mark Field, who was Minister for Asia and the Pacific until he violently assaulted an environmentalist activist in 2019. Before he resigned in disgrace, Field made sure that his work to sanitise the image of a dictatorship would only ever be done with the most upstanding of citizens. Of course, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, was the natural choice for such an important lobbying job. While facing scrutiny for his association with child sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, Andrew visited his good friend Ilham Aliyev no less than a dozen times, in an attempt to increase trade between the two countries. Outcry from human rights groups swayed neither the Prince, nor his backers in the APPGA.

Despite the name, the only party currently represented in the group’s activities in the House of Commons is the Conservative Party. Its officers include: Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon, and Martin Vickers, MP for Cleethorpes; while its operations are run by its vice-chair David Duguid, MP for Banff and Buchan, and its chair Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East.

The group’s leader Bob Blackman isn’t unknown when it comes to corruption, having been discovered to have regularly fudged the numbers on his expenses claims. Nor are his apparent fascist sympathies confined to the Caucasus, as he has publicly associated himself with the English fascist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Aka: "Tommy Robinson") and the Hindu nationalist organisation HFB, supporting their violent rhetoric against British Muslim communities. He has also been one of the loudest and proudest homophobes in the country, having sickeningly advocated for the reintroduction of section 28, after opposing the legalisation of equal marriage together with his APPGA colleagues Offord and Vickers. It is then quite logically consistent with his odious ideology that he would find a friend in the corrupt and fascistic regime of Ilham Aliyev and his cronies.

As leader of the APPGA, Blackman has become the most outspoken British voice for Azerbaijani state interests. Over the years, he has received tens of thousands of pounds from the Aliyev regime, although he has never brought up this conflict of interest in parliament. He has also remained a close personal friend and collaborator of the Azerbaijani oligarch Javanshir Feyziyev, sticking with him even as he was investigated for laundering £5.6 million through the UK.

Working closely together with his good friends in the Azerbaijani ruling class, Blackman has knowingly made himself into a sock-puppet for their propaganda. When the Azerbaijani regime launched its unprovoked war against Armenia in 2020, invading Artsakh and placing its people under a deadly siege, Blackman wasted no time in lobbying the British government to support the aggressors. He received “information” on the conflict directly from the Azerbaijani embassy, blaming Armenians for the actions of a state that explicitly desires their elimination.

Once Artsakh was safely under the occupation of the Azerbaijani state, Blackman decided it prudent to visit the region, barely containing his glee as he toured sites of ethnic cleansing. He reported to Liz Truss of his desire for the UK to establish a trade deal with the genocidal regime, conveniently failing to mention that his trip had been paid for in full by that very same regime. This was the culmination of years of campaigning by the APPGA, in direct collaboration with Feyziyev, to support the Azerbaijani state’s offensive actions against Artsakh. His actions were influential enough that the APPGA doubled in size, roping in even more corrupt parasites excited by the opportunities of enabling crimes against humanity.

Even outside of the APPGA, there are Tory politicians making money off the mass murder of Armenians. Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham, was already making the rounds for his racist abuse of Bahraini human rights activist Sayed Alwadaei. Now he is facing even more trouble, as openDemocracy uncovered that he had failed to declare his role as director of Azerbaijani weapons company Ksantex SARL, while he was serving on the UK’s defence select committee. British oligarch and Tory party mega-donor Javad Marandi has also been discovered to have made dodgy deals with Bob Blackman’s good friend, the alleged money launderer and genocide profiteer Javanshir Feyziyev.

There may be even more Tories that are profiting off the Artsakh genocide, we can only wait and see.

Russian "peacekeepers" bravely doing nothing about the blockade

Blood for Oil

So the Tories are corrupt and in bed with oligarchs, what else is new? Well nothing is new, that’s the problem. The British ruling classes’ complicity in the genocide of Armenians, and the corruption of the Azerbaijani regime, goes far deeper than a single political party and much further back than a few years.

The British exploitation of the Baku oil fields goes back over a century. When the Shell corporation was founded, it controlled a near monopoly over the industry, becoming a key supplier of the British war effort during World War I. A British force was stationed in Baku to protect the oil fields from the Ottoman Empire, which by August 1918 was assaulting the city. By this time, the British were well aware of the atrocities of the Armenian genocide. Nevertheless, when the moment came, they abandoned the city’s Armenian population to the Ottoman onslaught. Tens of thousands of Armenians were killed during the September Days. On the ruins, the Ottomans established the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. But they were never able to exploit the oil fields they so desired, as the Ottoman Empire surrendered to the British only weeks later.

As though it had shifted with the wind, the British Empire quickly allied itself with the new Azerbaijani state. In Artsakh, Armenians formed the self-governing Karabakh Council, but it went unrecognised by the British, who instead appointed Khosrov bey Sultanov as governor of Karabakh. With British support, Sultanov set about massacring the native Armenians in Ghaibalishen and Shusha, killing thousands.

All of this would be for nothing. In 1920, the Red Army invaded Azerbaijan and Armenia, annexing the two back into the Russian Empire; now rechristened as the Soviet Union. Aping the strategy of “divide and conquer”, Joseph Stalin awarded Artsakh to the Azerbaijan Soviet Republic. This ensured that should Russian control of the Baku oil fields ever be threatened, war in the Caucasus would be unavoidable. When the Soviet Union finally collapsed, the Republic of Artsakh declared independence from Azerbaijan, but it would go unrecognised by the new exploiters of Baku’s oil.

Since Azerbaijan regained independence from the Soviet Union, the largest and most direct beneficiary of the Aliyev regime has been the oil giant British Petroleum (BP). While British humanitarian Caroline Cox was witnessing the unfolding horrors of the Maraga massacre – during which dozens of Armenian men, women and children were kidnapped, tortured and killed – BP was making a deal with the perpetrators of the massacre in Baku.

Empty supermarket in Stepanakert

Armenia would eventually be victorious in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, securing the people of Artsakh a period of respite from attacks against their mountainous enclave. But BP and other international oil companies came together to ensure that another war was inevitable, funnelling money into the pockets of the Aliyev regime in return for concessions in the oil fields of the Caspian sea. That oil money would go onto fund the Azerbaijani state’s 2016 attack on Artsakh, its 2020 conquest and now its ongoing genocidal blockade.

These oil companies aren’t naive to the consequences of their actions, they just don’t care. In fact, over the past few years, they have secured even bigger and better contracts with the Azerbaijani government. As Armenians die and the world burns, BP and its cohorts will continue to extract oil on shiny new platforms built by blood. BP has even secured “green energy” contracts in Artsakh itself. Don’t expect to read anything about this in British news though, as BP has already paid the BBC £300,000 to whitewash the Aliyev regime’s image and report the “wonders” of Armenian cities bereft of the life of their original inhabitants.

We also can’t expect BP to ever willingly pay for the incalculable damage it has caused. One of BP’s biggest political advocates in the UK its one of its own former engineers, APPGA vice-chair David Duguid. Last year, Duguid used his position in the government to block movements for a windfall tax on the oil company, conveniently forgetting to declare that his £50,000 stake in BP may have had an influence on him.

As if Brits needed more reasons to despise BP, which has been scalping us with increasingly high energy prices and encouraging the authoritarian repression of activists that protest against such social and environmental devastation. That monthly energy bill is not only feeding the record profits of the UK’s powerful fossil fuel oligarchy, it’s enabling the mass murder of thousands. When winter comes this year, while Brits may be bankrupting ourselves to pay off the BP mafia, Artsakhis won’t have the option of such a luxury. Unless we do something right now, they will almost certainly die in the cold.

How we stop the worst

Every genocide in history has had its foreign backers and profiteers. Prince Andrew, BP and the Tories of the APPGA should rightfully be seen no differently than the fascist sympathisers, industrialists and aristocrats that supported the Nazis.

If we lived in a just society, this kind of bloody corruption wouldn’t be tolerated for a single moment: MPs like Blackman, Duguid and Stewart would have been removed from power four times over; Prince Andrew would have been stripped of his royal titles and privileges; and BP would be dissolving while its executives faced retribution for crimes against humanity.

But we don’t live in such a world. Corruption and racism isn’t just tolerated by the Tory Party, it’s actively encouraged and completely normalised. Abuse would never be challenged by the House of Windsor, it’s their very reason for existing. And no petrochemical company would ever face consequences for their actions, as they have been profiting off mass murder since the day they first set oil alight.

States and corporations can’t solve the problems that they have caused, even if they wanted to. Genocide is the ultimate form of state violence against a people. Once a genocide is ongoing, the only way to stop it is to destroy the state that is perpetrating it and all the mechanisms that are enabling it. This is the lesson that has been learnt again and again throughout history.

Armenians have already suffered enough from half-measures against the institutions that want them eliminated. We are now far beyond the point of prevention; genocide is already underway, right now. The only option remaining to save the people of Artsakh is to bring down Ilham Aliyev and his entire wretched regime, along with all the bastards that enabled him.

In Britain, this means we need to intensify the fight against BP; this is no longer just a question of climate emergencies or financial difficulty, this is an existential fight for survival. We need to intensify the fight against the Tories, who have abided by the corruption of their colleagues in the APPGA for far too long. We need to intensify the fight against the monarchy, which has continued to protect a sick old man from the consequences of his actions, whether personal or political.

Artsakh’s fight is also our fight. If we continue to sit by and do nothing as thousands of people die, then we too will have blood on our hands, we too will be complicit in the worst.

Protests against the blockade

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