PM Pashinyan: I am ready to exchange my son for all Armenian prisoners held in Azerbaijan
Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has stated that he is ready to give his son in exchange for all Armenian soldiers detained in Azerbaijan after the second Karabakh war. This statement has sparked outrage on social media in Armenia and the Public Defender demanded to “stop using Armenian prisoners in Azerbaijan as a pre-election political manipulation”.
Nikol Pashinyan made this statement on June 8 during a meeting with voters on the second day of the election campaign. His son Ashot Pashinyan supported his father and stated that he was ready to go to Azerbaijan in order to help return the Armenian prisoners to their homeland.
Early parliamentary elections are scheduled for June 20 in Armenia. The authorities and the opposition have come to the conclusion that only elections can resolve the political crisis that arose after the end of the second Karabakh war. After the defeat of Armenia, the opposition demanded the resignation of the prime minister. But Nikol Pashinyan stated that he was elected by popular vote and would not leave at the request of opposition supporters.
The return of Armenian prisoners of war from Azerbaijan has become one of the main topics of discussion with voters for all political forces participating in the election race. In this regard, Armenian human rights defender Arman Tatoyan stated that “speculation on the return of illegally detained prisoners in Azerbaijan is unacceptable during the election campaign”, especially when it comes to “exchanging prisoners for other people and proclaiming readiness to do so”.
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Prime minister’s response to the ex-president of Armenia
The proposal to exchange the prime minister’s son for prisoners was sparked the absentee dialogue between Pashinyan and former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan on the very first day of the election campaign. Both politicians met with voters in various settlements.
Speaking to the residents of the Armavir region, Nikol Pashinyan stated that “Armenian prisoners of war held in Baku prisons are essentially fighting for the independence and sovereignty of Armenia”. Therefore, in his opinion, these people will forgive him for being in captivity for another month or two, but they will not forgive him if the authorities give up the country’s independence for the sake of their freedom.
Former President Serzh Sargsyan reacted to this statement at a meeting with voters in the city of Ashtarak:
“How can you talk about prisoners when anything can happen to them. People expect every day that something terrible will be done to them: that they will be tortured, raped, or killed. Does Pashinyan realize what kind of state these people are in ?! Why won’t he exchange his Ashotik [Ashot – the son of Nikol Pashinyan] exchange for 20-25 soldiers held in Azerbaijan”.
Pashinyan responded to Sargsyan’s statement:
“I agree. I officially declare to Aliyev: I offer my son in exchange for all the prisoners. And I authorize Serzhik [Serzh Sargsyan] and Robik [Robert Kocharian – ex-President of Armenia] as specialists in human trafficking to negotiate this issue. If you make a few thousand dollars from it, I think your feeder will be fine with it”.
Prime minister’s son, Ashot Pashinyan, wrote on his Facebook that he is ready to go to Azerbaijan “as a hostage or in any other status to help return Armenian prisoners”.
He also noted that some political forces are speculating on this topic, but for him serving the motherland is more important than his own self.
The story continued the next day at a meeting between Pashinyan and residents of the village of Mets Mantash, Shirak region. Then Pashinyan announced that he had already given the instructions to make an official offer to Azerbaijan to exchange his son for all Armenian prisoners.
Pashinyan also said that “intensive work is underway to return the prisoners to their homeland” but did not disclose details in order not to jeopardize this process.
Since the topic of prisoners of war is very painful for society and is constantly being discussed by all politicians participating in the election campaign, Arman Tatoyan stated that “speculating” on it is unacceptable, especially by talking about exchanging prisoners for other people:
“Obviously, this cannot happen, and speculation only increases tensions in the country and complicates the return of prisoners: thus, for the Azerbaijani authorities, the price of their return increases. And, of course, this is an obvious disrespect for the prisoners, their families, and their feelings”.
The human rights defender demanded politicians to stop speculating on this issue.
Social media reaction
Most social media users in Armenia harshly criticized Nikol Pashinyan’s proposal to exchange his son for Armenian prisoners.
Here are some of the comments:
“It is necessary to stop any manipulation [ of this issue] by all candidates during the election campaign, including the use of profanity, threats, and calls for riots”
“They play with the feelings of families and friends [ of the prisoners]. The prisoners are being held in order for the authorities to score some political points. Their dividends are our losses (of sovereignty, lands)”.
“This is an absolutely shameful situation. It doesn’t matter which political force used the subject of prisoners of war. It is disgusting regardless”.
“This is just another twisted gossip”.