Armenian judoka absent from World Judo Championships in Baku due to 'security concerns'
The Armenian judo team has decided not to attend the World Judo Championships, citing security concerns. The championship is taking place in Azerbaijan from 20 to 27 September.
The on-going territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh have made diplomatic relations between the two countries impossible. The communities of both countries also experience hostility towards one another.
The arrival of Armenians in Azerbaijan, be them athletes, cultural figures or others, are often met with hostility. In terms of the Armenian judo team, the question of their safety was discussed not between governments, but between Azerbaijani and European judo federations.
Concern was mostly shown for the team’s trainer Armen Nazaryan and the team’s strongest judoka Ferdinand Karapetyan, amidst doubt that they would be adequately protected.
The Azerbaijani judo federation told 1news.az:
“This is yet another Armenian lie. Azerbaijan has always provided security measures at government level. This is how it was during the first European Games and during other international competitions. Moreover, we presented the Ministry of Sport with an official letter which confirms that Azerbaijan guarantees the security of all participants on a state level.”
Nazaryan said that Azerbaijan did not give any guarantees pertaining to security:
“We were told that the guarantee of security given to all other athletes would be enough for us, and that there was no need to take separate, ‘personal’ measures … this leaves room for doubt. Thus, the Azerbaijani side, not having presented a guarantee of security, used the opportunity to deprive Ferdinand Karapetyan who had a real shot at the medal, of participating in the world championship. In 2018, he was the European champion, having won against an Azerbaijani athlete.”
Nazaryan and Karapetyan were in Tbilisi while negotiations between the Azerbaijani and the European judo federations were taking place. They waited for news about a guarantee of security in order to leave for Baku. In the end, however, they returned to Yerevan.
Armenian athletes have participated in several sports tournaments in Azerbaijan. This has, on occasion, been accompanied by several small incidents, though there have been no serious injuries.
The championship will continue until 27 September. A record number of athletes are participanting: 831 judoka from 133 countries.