Why is Azerbaijan boycotting foreign burger, pizza joints – and shampoo?
It has been almost a week since Azerbaijan started boycotting some foreign chain restaurants and one specific manufacturer of hygiene items after these brands expressed positions on the Karabakh conflict that social media users didn’t take a liking to.
In the beginning of October, the Azerbaijani branch of McDonald’s posted a photo of the map of Azerbaijan with the inscription ‘Karabakh is Azerbaijan’ on social media.
Later an Armenian diaspora organization in the US complained about this post to the head office of the company, after which the post disappeared from the accounts of the Azerbaijani restaurant.
Following this, Azerbaijani social media users called for a boycott of McDonald’s, and this call spread very swiftly. Some volunteers even stood in front of restaurants and explained to potential customers why they shouldn’t dine in the establishment.
The management of the Azerbaijani branch of McDonald’s suspended activity on social media but came forward with a statement that over 20 of their employees were currently serving in the Azerbaijani army. The company committed to paying their full salary during their time in the military, and also stated that families of the employees who died in the war will receive aid from the restaurant throughout its functioning in Azerbaijan.
However the statement failed – the boycott remains strong.
Another slightly smaller scandal was caused by social media posts from McDonald’s rival, Burger King and Papa John’s, as well. These restaurants also deleted their “militant” posts on social media but didn’t follow up with any statement.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson, a company producing hygiene items, mentioned Nagorno-Karabakh in a post on its social accounts as Artsakh.
Large stores in Azerbaijan then refused to sell products of this company. However, the next day Johnson & Johnson deleted this post.
“First of all, we should find out what is provided for regarding PR and advertisement placements in the franchising agreement between the head office of the company and the Azerbaijani branch. If we look into it, the branch hasn’t violated any laws. Karabakh is an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan, and the post spoke about it. This case could be easily won even in court, but the branch decided not to get entangled in this for too long and deleted the post.
As to the boycott, I think citizens should appeal to the head office of the company and not refuse the services of a restaurant that employs 1,700 Azerbaijani citizens”, says well-known journalist Rahman Haji.
Popular Azerbaijani blogger Farid Pardashunas doesn’t fully agree with the journalist’s point of view.
“Boycotting a service is the most natural right of the consumer. This is the most accessible form of protest for a common citizen who will not go looking for a way to complain to the head office. That’s why I think that the Azerbaijani branch of any chain company should think about its clients in the first place. McDonalds head office should have paid attention to the fact that until today there is not a single McDonalds restaurant in Armenia, while there are many in Azerbaijan”, wrote the blogger.