Anti-Armenian sentiment in Azerbaijan

Anti-Armenian sentiment or Armenophobia is widespread in Azerbaijan,[9] mainly due to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.[10] According to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), Armenians are "the most vulnerable group in Azerbaijan in the field of racism and racial discrimination."[11] According to a 2012 opinion poll, 91% of Azerbaijanis perceive Armenia as "the biggest enemy of Azerbaijan."[12] The word "Armenian" (erməni) is widely used as an insult in Azerbaijan.[13] Stereotypical opinions circulating in the mass media have their deep roots in the public consciousness."[14] According to historian Jeremy Smith, "National identity in post-Soviet Azerbaijan rests in large part, then, on the cult of the Alievs, alongside a sense of embattlement and victimisation and a virulent hatred of Armenia and Armenians".[15][16]

Throughout the 20th century, Armenians and the Muslim inhabitants of the CaucasusAzerbaijanis were called "Caucasian Tatars" before 1918— had been involved in numerous conflicts. Pogroms, massacres and wars solidified oppositional ethnic identities between the two groups, and have contributed to the development of national consciousnesses among both Armenians and Azeris.[17] From 1918 to 1920, organized killings of Armenians occurred in Azerbaijan, especially in the Armenian cultural centers in Baku and Shusha, under the Russian Empire.[18]

However, contemporary Armenophobia in Azerbaijan traces its roots to the last years of the Soviet Union, when Armenians demanded that the Moscow authorities transfer the mostly Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast in the Azerbaijan SSR to the Armenian SSR.[19] In response to those Armenian demands, anti-Armenian rallies were held in various cities, where nationalist groups encouraged anti-Armenian feeling that led to pogroms in Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku. An estimated 350,000 Armenians left between 1988 and 1990 as a direct result of the violence directed towards them.[20]

Disputes over the ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh eventually escalated into a large-scale military conflict, where Armenian forces occupied of most of former NKAO and seven adjacent districts. According to HRW, systematic abuse of human rights was carried out by Karabakh Armenian forces and by the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia.[1] A cease-fire was achieved in 1994 and still remains in effect as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is de facto independent, while de jure inside Azerbaijan's borders. The unresolved conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh as well as the presence of up to 880,000 refugees and IDPs in Azerbaijan contributed significantly to aggravating the economic, social and political situation in Azerbaijan, with around 14%[21] of the country's territory occupied by Armenian forces.[19]

The Armenian side has accused the Azerbaijani government of carrying out anti-Armenian policy inside and outside the country, which includes propaganda of hate toward Armenia and Armenians and the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage.[22][23][24]

According to Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, "Armenophobia is the institutional part of the modern Azerbaijani statehood and Karabakh is in the center of it".[25] In 2011, the ECRI report on Azerbaijan stated that "the constant negative official and media discourse" against Armenia fosters "a negative climate of opinion regarding people of Armenian origin, who remain vulnerable to discrimination."[26]