Many in Azerbaijan still believe his actions were justified
Ramil Safarov, an infamous 40-year-old Major in the Azerbaijani army, has been promoted to Lieutenant-colonel.
News of his promotion went mostly unnoticed among respectable Azerbaijani websites and media. A photo of Safarov donning his new epaulettes was mostly shared on small, low-traffic websites. Comments in his profile show that the new title was awarded four months ago, but for some reason the news was not published until now.
Safarov, a Lieutenant at the time, gained notoriety in 2004 when he hacked Gurgen Margaryan, a colleague form Armenia, to death with an axe while attending a NATO workshop as part of the Partnership for Peace program. A Hungarian court sentenced Safarov to life imprisonment. His lawyers and public defenders appealed, citing psychological trauma. Several members of his family were killed in 1993 when Armenian troops seized his village in the Jebrail region of Azerbaijan. However, an examination found him sane at the time of the crime.
Safarov spent eight years in a Hungarian prison. He learned Hungarian during this time, and translated several classics of Hungarian literature into Azerbaijani.
Hungary unexpectedly decided to transfer Safarov to Azerbaijan to serve out the rest of his sentence in 2012. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pardoned and freed him from the rest of his sentence the same day. In Azerbaijan Safarov received an apartment as a gift and was promoted from Lieutenant to Major (bypassing the rank of Captain). He also received eight years worth of back pay for the time he spent in prison.
The decision to transfer Safarov to Azerbaijan led to Armenia severing diplomatic ties with Hungary. Numerous representatives of international organizations have condemned Safarov’s liberation and heroization. President Aliyev has dismissed these accusations as ‘unreasonable’.
News of Safarov’s promotion has caused controversial comments among the Azerbaijani Facebook community. Here are some typical comments without naming the authors:
“Congratulations on your new military rank Ramil! Don’t let your punching hand tremble!”
“Ramil Safarov, the pride of Azerbaijan, you deserve this title. May Allah keep [protect] you and our country.”
“We want to see you as the future Minister of Defense.”
“Safarova a General! It’s for the worse. He is extremely influential.”
“I wish we could have him on the front line. Let’s see how brave he is there. I’m a hero too. Killing under the cover of night.”
“I’ll be brief. This is a shame.”
“I can’t condemn Safarov, I wasn’t in his shoes and my relatives weren’t killed. But to make a hero out of him is not worth it. We’re setting the wrong example.”