Azerbaijan memorial in north Lebanon sparks outrage in Armenian community
The "martyrs of the Republic of Azerbaijan" memorial in the village of Kouachra in the Akkar province angered Lebanese Armenians, who said it was an insult to their country of origin and war dead.
Kouachra is inhabited by Turkmen Sunni Muslims, like many other villages in Akkar. It was visited by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2010.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought two since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The nearly two-month conflict in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in 2020 left thousands killed on both sides. There were also clashes this year which killed hundreds of people.
The Azerbaijani people are of Turkic origin and Turkey was a key backer of Azerbaijan in the 2020 conflict, in which Azerbaijan managed to recapture territory which Armenia had occupied since the 1990s.
The Secretary-General of the Lebanese Armenian Tashnaq Party, Hagop Pakradounian, said he was surprised to see the memorial being erected in the Lebanese town, which was attended by Akkar MPs Muhammad Suleiman and Jimmy Jabbour.
Jabbour is a member of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement party, which is close to Tashnaq.
"With our respect for the people of the town, it is an insult to erect a memorial to criminals against humanity in a Lebanese town, so why do some insist on staining it [the town] with blood?" Pakradounian wrote on Twitter.
وكيف للبعض أن يتجاهل موقف لبنان الرسمي باستنكار القتل والتدمير في البلدات الأرمينية، ويحمّل أرض الوطن حمل دماء الأبرياء بهدف تقدير السفّاحين لحسابات خاصة؟— Hagop Pakradounian (@hagopakradouni) November 10, 2022
هناك كثيرون يستحقون التقدير… لكن المجرمين؟ فمكانهم على مشانق العار. pic.twitter.com/SOjZeoXLNf
"How can some ignore Lebanon's official stance which denounces the killing and destruction in Armenian towns?” he asked, accusing those behind the memorial of "private interests" without naming them.
The ceremony to unveil the memorial was attended by other officials, including the Azerbaijani Chargé d'Affairs in Lebanon, a representative of the Turkish ambassador to Lebanon, the Akkar governor, and Kouachra mayor.
It is believed that about 140,000 Armenians live in Lebanon, mostly descendants of survivors of the mass killings of their people under the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
The killings and displacement of hundreds of thousand Armenians from what is now Turkey during the First World War remains a major source of tension between Turkey and Armenia, with Turkey denying accusations of genocide.
The Armenians of Lebanon are the largest such community in the Middle East and have their own schools and university as well as seats in the Lebanese cabinet and parliament.
Major Armenian towns in Lebanon include the Beirut suburb of Burj Hammoud and the Bekaa Valley town of Anjar.