Baku’s Blacklist of Artsakh Visitors Helps Armenia, Hurts Azerbaijan

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Azerbaijan's leaders may not be aware that some of their incompetent
underlings are causing great harm to the interests and reputation of their
own country. Pres. Aliyev should take a short break from issuing daily
threats to Armenians and pay a little more attention to `enemies' within
his own government.
To begin with, Azeri officials cannot count! Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry
recently issued a `Black List,' disclosing the names of 335 individuals
from 41 countries who had visited Karabagh (Artsakh) since 2005, `without
Baku's permission.' The list of persona non grata banned from visiting
Azerbaijan includes: parliament members, businessmen, journalists,
entertainers, and other celebrities. They are all accused of violating
Azerbaijan's borders and disrespecting `the national sovereignty and
territorial unity' of the country. Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry website
sheepishly acknowledges that `Nagorno-Karabagh' is `temporarily out of the
control of the Republic of Azerbaijan.'
Here is the number of visitors from each of the 41 countries who traveled
to Artsakh `illegally,' according to Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry website:
Argentina (6), Australia (12), Austria (8), Belarus (1), Belgium (6),
Bulgaria (5), Canada (6), Cyprus (3), Czech Republic (2), Denmark (2),
Estonia (1), France (22), Georgia (11), Germany (22), Greece (2), Hungary
(1), Iran (3), Ireland (2), Israel (1), Italy (24), Japan (1), Jordan (1),
Latvia (2), Lebanon (1), Lithuania (6), Moldova (3), Netherlands (4),
Poland (6), Russia (91), Romania (3), Serbia (2), Singapore (1), Slovakia
(2) Spain (1) Sweden (1), Switzerland (7), Turkey (1), Ukraine (8), UK
(13), Uruguay (5), and U.S. (36).
The Azeri count of 335 visitors to Artsakh since 2005 is way off! Over
16,000 tourists from 86 countries visited Artsakh in 2012 alone. The Azeri
bureaucrats who prepared the `Black List' not only can't count, but also
cannot find publicly available information. While the name of every single
tourist entering Artsakh is not known, Azerbaijan's intelligence agents
must be sleeping on the job. Surprisingly, none of Armenia's leaders
appears on Azerbaijan's `Black List,' even though they make no secret of
their periodic trips to Artsakh. Could it be that Azeri officials consider
Artsakh to be part of Armenia, and that's why they do not blacklist
Armenian citizens who go there?
Faulty mathematics and shoddy intelligence create additional problems for
Azerbaijan. In the list of 335 names, there are people who have never been
to Artsakh, while others, like Jonas Hollander from Germany, have visited
Artsakh and yet, their names are left off the `Black List.' Hollander
posted the following sarcastic comment on his facebook page, displaying a
photocopy of his entry visa for `The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic': `Dear
Azerbaijan, recently you have published a list of people who are not
allowed to enter your country. I am fully offended and frustrated that my
name was not included inyour list. Please find attached evidence of my stay
in Karabagh and correct the mistake as soon as possible. [Signed] Jonas
Hollander, feeling sad and unimportant.'
To ridicule the ban on future travels to Azerbaijan, Armenians have set up
a facebook page titled, `I have been to Artsakh without permission.'
Here are some critical responses from prominent individuals who have been
unfairly blacklisted:
-- Marcelo Catelmi, Chief Editor of International Policy at the prominent
Argentine newspaper Clarin: `Publishing a blacklist is a despicable and
barbaric act. It is a discriminatory method, historically used by dictators
and tyrants who intend to punish divergent opinions in a brutal manner.'
-- E. Wayne Merry, Senior Fellow for Europe and Eurasia at the American
Foreign Policy Council, Washington, D.C.: `Azerbaijan harms only itself
with its `black list' of persons who have visited Karabagh. An intelligent
policy for Baku would be to invite to Azerbaijan, immediately, every person
from a third country who visits Karabagh.'
After it was revealed that the `Black List' had inadvertently left out
names of tens of thousands of Artsakh visitors over the years, Elman
Abdullayev, Chief of the Press Service of Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry,
embarrassingly announced that the list will be updated and expanded.
Hopefully, he does not forget to add my name to the `Black List,'
especially since I wrote a column describing my memorable visit to Artsakh.
Armenian officials should help the Azeris by making public the names of
everyone who had the good fortune of visiting Artsakh in the past 20 years,
so that they would all be banned from entering Azerbaijan, leaving that
country with fewer visitors, and isolating it from the rest of the
civilized world!

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