‘All the toy guns are sold out’ – Azerbaijanis on the war
How are the people of Azerbaijan living during the intense fighting in Karabakh? Views and conversations from Baku.
The battle between the Azerbaijani and Armenian forces has been going on since 27 September. Official figures state that 500 people, both military and civilian, have been killed on both sides, and thousands have been wounded. Unofficially, the numbers are much higher. A ceasefire was signed on the night of 10 October, but, as of this writing, fighting continues.
Gauging the Azerbaijani people’s mood is not so simple. Alertness, apathy, expectation, and hope all make up the incongruous mosaic representing the mindset of the majority of the country’s populace.
If one were unaware of what has been happening in Nagorno-Karabakh and the frontlines since 27 September, one might think that nothing special is going on at all. Perhaps some sort of holiday or event with Turkey? National flags, including Turkish flags, are all over Baku, on buildings, on balconies, on cars.
But after nine of clock, everything is empty and quiet. That is the curfew. And if you sit in a café during the day or pull up a bit of Azerbaijani social media, then it will become crystal clear that the whole country is affected by the military activities in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The war has even left its mark on children’s games. All the toy guns have sold out of stores. In yards the sounds of cap guns are heard with children playing.
Sometimes you’ll even hear them chanting slogans about Karabakh in groups, a new pasttime for the children of Baku.
Returning to social media – it must be mentioned that since September 27, which was the first day of military action on the frontlines, there has been no internet access throughout the entire country. It is impossible to access any social messaging service without using a VPN.
But even that only worked at the beginning of the block. Then the government also blocked even the ability to download programmes to get around the ban.
But people are still getting all their news from the frontlines through blocked social media. Even the president himself tweeted about territorial gains on his Twitter, despite the fact that no one could access it without circumventing the ban.
After the bombardment of Ganja by the Armenian forces on the night of 11 October, the hashtag #PrayForGanja was created. Users of social media were encouraged to make tweets to get the hashtag to trend worldwide.
And it worked for the Azerbaijani users of Twitter, despite the fact that Twitter is blocked in the country.
Here are a few comments that more accurately represent the mood of the populace:
“I was talking to my friend’s mom. Her son is on the front. His mom brought up the ceasefire. I thought for sure she’d be happy that nothing bad was going to happen to her son. But no. Turns out it was the opposite. She told me ‘If we don’t win, we’ll just get angrier. Just let it end, once and for all, so we finally understand that there will be no more war. Anything else and it’s just going to smoulder”. Yeah, it has to end once and for all, so that there will finally be peace on our land”.
“My page is like the calm before the storm. All of Azerbaijan is waiting for orders from the top, to stop Armenia from taking this opportunity. Onward!”
“I’m not saying that we don’t have to get back our land. I’m just saying that I’m against sacrificing children for that land. If we want war, then we’re setting them up to die. No piece of land is worth more than human life. We need to find a way that won’t cost children their lives”.