Celebrities have waded in to the Azerbaijan-Armenian conflict by publicly siding with one of the two warring factions.
Mesut Özil, his ex-Arsenal teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan and reality TV star Kim Kardashian West have all issued statements on the dispute, which centres on Azerbaijan’s fight to liberate part of its territory.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. Yet since 1991 the region has been under occupation by separatist Armenian forces, who are backed by Yerevan.
The long-running conflict between the two former Soviet Union states in the Caucasus has periodically led to violent skirmishes, including this year. Clashes took place along the Armenian-Azerbaijan border throughout the summer, exploding into war at the end of September.
Azerbaijan has received strong backing from its regional ally and neighbour Turkey. The two countries share ethnic bonds, triggering global Turkish support for Azerbaijan.
Among those to declare his support is Mesut Özil. On Tuesday Arsenal’s star player, who is of Turkish descent, issued a statement via Twitter, which included a quote from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey:
“Azerbaijan’s problem is our problem, its joy is our joy,” before adding the popular slogan “One nation, Two states” and the flag emojis of Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Özil started his short statement by setting out the status of Nagorno-Karabakh:
“For me, it’s important that everyone in the world should know the fact that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is legally and internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, yet it is currently occupied illegally.”
The German-Turkish World Cup winning midfielder highlighted the fact that over a decade ago the UN General Assembly (UNSC) had passed a resolution, which not only confirmed the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, but also insisted on Armenia withdrawing its forces.
“In March 2008, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution reaffirming territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and demanding withdrawal of all Armenian forces. I am therefore simply urging that the decisions of the United Nations General Assembly are upheld and recognized by everyone,” Özil continued.
‘Azerbaycan’ın derdi bizim derdimiz, sevinci bizim sevincimizdir’ M.Kemal Atatürk
Tek millet, İki devlet 🇹🇷🇦🇿 pic.twitter.com/dUDm9lfoik
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) October 13, 2020
The footballer said he was “seriously concerned” by the armed conflict and its threat to “international peace and security.”
Özil ended his statement by urging all sides to work towards a peaceful solution: “Let’s achieve peace and let’s work toward a fair future, and one without violence. Every death on either side is a loss for everyone.”
The gifted player, who is a devout Muslim and has a following of 25 million on Twitter, has regularly used his status to talk about significant political and social issues.
In 2018, Özil issued a candid statement about racism in Germany and how it led to his early retirement from international football. In December of last year, he tweeted in Turkish about the plight of Uyghur Turks in occupied East Turkestan, and the oppression they face from China.
Özil’s latest political message comes in the wake of notable Armenians speaking out in favour of Yerevan, including his former Arsenal colleague Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Last week the Armenian footballer, who left the North London side for Italy’s AS Roma over the summer, tweeted a letter to world leaders, where he described Azerbaijan as the “aggressors” and accused them of “international terrorism.”
— Henrikh Mkhitaryan (@HenrikhMkh) October 6, 2020
A few days later, American celebrity Kim Kardashian West also declared her support for Armenia, announcing on Saturday 10 October that she is donating $1 million to the Armenia Fund.
The reality TV star, who is Armenian through her late father Robert Kardashian, gave details of her donation in a short video posted to her Instagram account, which has 190 million followers. Kardashian West also encouraged her fans to support Armenia.
“I’ve been speaking out about the current situation in Armenia and Artsakh and having conversations with so many others to bring further awareness to the crisis that we cannot allow to advance,” Kardashian West said.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the brave men, women and children. I want everyone to remember that despite the distance that separates us, we are not limited by borders and we are one global Armenian nation together.”
Kardashian West, who reached international prominence with her family in reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, told her fans:
“I will be donating $1M to assist their efforts on the ground and invite you to join me. Whether you are helping with just raising awareness and posting on social media or donating just $1, every bit helps,” before adding, “Let’s make this our most successful fundraiser ever.”
View this post on Instagram
I’m so honored to be part of today’s global effort to support the @armeniafund. I’ve been speaking out about the current situation in Armenia and Artsakh and having conversations with so many others to bring further awareness to the crisis that we cannot allow to advance. My thoughts and prayers are with the brave men, women and children. I want everyone to remember that despite the distance that separates us, we are not limited by borders and we are one global Armenian nation together. The @armeniafund is directly helping those that have been impacted during this critical time with humanitarian aid through food, shelter, and medical care. I will be donating $1M to assist their efforts on the ground and invite you to join me. Whether you are helping with just raising awareness and posting on social media or donating just $1, every bit helps. Let’s make this our most successful fundraiser ever. Thank you so much. 🇦🇲 ❤️💙🧡
The post has had over 18 million views and nearly 300,000 comments in five days, including many from Azeris upset with her stance.
The latest conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted in late September. The Azerbaijan army went on the offensive after the country’s Tovuz region came under fire from Armenian forces.
While Azeri forces seek to liberate Nagorno-Karabakh region, Armenia has been shelling Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second biggest city, with casualties mounting on both sides.
The current war between these two former Soviet Union republics feeds into a conflict that first broke out in the late 80s and ran until a ceasefire was called in 1994. By that time, Nagorno-Karabakh had fallen into Armenian hands and tens of thousands had been killed and over a million people displaced.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has repeatedly ordered Yerevan to withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh, but the Armenian government refuses to comply.
Trying to quell the current hostilities Russia, which is traditionally close to Armenia but which has been selling arms to Azerbaijan, brokered a truce on Saturday. However the ceasefire failed to take hold, with the two countries accusing each other of violating its terms.
Main photos, top, of Mesut Özil in Baku before the 2019 UEFA Europe League Final. Photo © Fars News Agency / Wikimedia, CC BY 4.0. And Kim Kardashian in 2018. Photo © Ashley Graham / Wikimedia, CC BY 3.0