IRVINE, CA - On November 15, 2012, the Armenian Studies program at the University of California Irvine (UCI) hosted Levon Marashlian, professor of History at Glendale Community College, for a presentation titled "The Karabakh Conflict From Ceasefire to Safarov: Analysis Via Television NewsCoverage: 1990s to 2012”. The moderator of the event was Touraj Daryaee, professor of Persian Studies at UC Irvine, who recently wrote an article denying Azerbaijani national identity. Daryaee is also one of the contributors to UCI Armenian Studies program.
In what was a rather biased selective video coverage of the Karabakh conflict, Mr. Marashlian went on to advocate the Armenian view and attack Azerbaijan. He claimed that the 1988 Sumgait riots were the first atrocity of the Karabakh conflict and made no mentioning of the 1992 Khojaly Massacre. Marashlian also argued that apart from historical belonging, Armenia needs Karabakh as a food and land resource and Azerbaijan does not, because it has oil. While repeatedly misspelling the original name of Karabakh’s historic center, Shusha, as “Shushi”, Marashlian failed to mention that, prior to the Armenian occupation, this city had a predominantly Azerbaijani population and was founded in the 18th century as the capital of the Karabakh khanate. Levon Marashlian also alleged that while officer Ramil Safarov’s release was legal, Azerbaijan glorified him as an example for youth, and therefore Karabakh shall not be part of Azerbaijan.
During the subsequent question-and-answer (Q&A) session, one of the UCI Azerbaijani students asked Mr. Marashlian to draw contrast between Ramil Safarov and Varoujan Garabedian, convicted for the 1983 ASALA bombing of the Turkish Airlines office at the Paris Orly airport that left 8 civilians dead and 55 injured. Sentenced to life by a French court, Garabedian, originally from Syria, was released in 2001 on a condition of his immediate departure to Armenia. According to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report, upon his arrival to Yerevan on May 4, 2001, Garabedian was welcomed by then Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, who expressed “joy” over the release of the convicted terrorist. Then-Mayor of Yerevan, Robert Nazarian pledged to provide Garabedian with housing and accommodation.
Struggling to answer the question, Levon Marashlian pondered that the two cases are different, because Garabedian, welcomed by high-ranking officials of Armenia, was not greeted as hero, while Safarov, who did not receive such high-ranking reception, somehow was. Asked how the murder of 8 civilians in a terrorist attack differs from the murder of a military officer during a training course, Marashlian argued that Garabedian had served his sentence, while Safarov, who also spent 8 years in Hungarian prison, somehow did not. Throughout his lecture, Marashlian also omitted the fact that Safarov’s family has been expelled from its home when Armenian forces occupied Jebrayil region of Azerbaijan.
In a subsequent question, an Azerbaijani attendee asked Levon Marashlian, why he avoided mentioning the 1992 Khojaly Massacre, the largest mass killing of civilians during the Karabakh conflict according to Human Rights Watch. Marashlian insisted that he showed the photos from Khojaly, though he did not spell out the word Khojaly even once during his speech. He continued denying Armenia’s involvement in this crime against humanity as acknowledged by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Memorial Group and several other independent international watchdogs. When presented with the account of Armenia’s involvement in the Khojaly Massacre from Markar Melkonian’s “My Brother’s Road” – the diary of Armenia’s National Hero and Armenian-American, Monte (Avo) Melkonian – Marashlian went on to claim that Melkonian was wrong, that Human Rights Watch is using Azerbaijani figures. He reiterated Armenia’s dissolute denial of the crime by maintaining that Azerbaijani forces fired on Azerbaijani civilians and that the evidence was forged. Yet, in its March 1997 response to Armenian Government, Human Rights Watch wrote:
“We place direct responsibility for the civilian deaths with Karabakh Armenian forces. Indeed, neither our report nor that of Memorial includes any evidence to support the argument that Azerbaijani forces obstructed the flight of, or fired on Azeri civilians.”
Asked why he claimed Sumgait riots were the first atrocity of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict ignoring the preceding Askeran clash, during which two Azerbaijanis were killed by Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Marashlian declared that the killing of 2 Azerbaijanis was not an atrocity, while the killing of 26 Armenians and 6 Azerbaijanis during riots was.
Asked by yet another Azerbaijani student as to why hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the Armenian occupation cannot return to their homes for 18 years, Marashlian argued that Armenia needs Karabakh to sustain itself and Azerbaijan has oil to provide for those expelled from their homes by Armenian forces.
Several Armenian attendees at the lecture joined the Azerbaijan-bashing session with some even claiming that the medieval name of Karabakh was invented in 1921, and did not exist prior to that. In tune with this opinion, Marashlian ended his unscholarly propaganda on UCI campus by shouting “Artsakh”, the ancient Albanian name of Mountainous Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.