In the 3 weeks since Hakob Injigulyan, the “lost” Armenian soldier, was captured by the Azeris, there seems to be an increasing lack of clarity around this case. This is another example of the on-going opaqueness that happens in the South Caucasus which Azerbaijan seems to fuel at every conceivable opportunity.
It was initially reported that Injigulyan got lost whilst on the front-line, and wandered into Azeri controlled territory prior to being seized. This has now been modified to suggest that he deliberately left the Armenian lines to “defect” to the Azeris as his commanding officer was, allegedly, requesting him to collect water. Frankly none of these options sound plausible to me, at all. In a statement by Shahin Sayilov, Secretary of State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons, in the last few days, he confirmed that Injigulyan would be released when it is clarified why he crossed the border. Yet, surely if he was “lost” or “defected” then the explanation is clear and therefore now he can be released, or transferred. The confusion suggests something a little more sinister.
It was also reported ( en.apa.az – 13 Aug 2013) that when the Azeris found Injigulyan “his appearance was awful. He was dirty, had torn shoes and shabby and torn clothes. It was impossible to go up to him, because of stench and lice. He had a bath, was cleared of lice and put on a new uniform of Azerbaijani soldier”.
This is undoubted nonsense and is merely a way of justifying why he appeared in an Azeri uniform. It is highly unlikely that any soldier, in these circumstances, would be in such a condition. If they were actually concerned about his state, and new clothes were required, then, any country trying to abide by the spirit of the 1949 Geneva Convention, would provide simple casual clothes. The fact that he was paraded in front of the TV cameras is a flagrant violation of the Convention and being in an Azeri uniform is the ultimate humiliation for an Armenian soldier. The Azeris know this very well, and their tactics are very transparent. ( The Red Cross criticized the Iraqis for showing US POW’s on TV, in 2003, as being against the Geneva Convention albeit that in 1949 the authors did not anticipate the development of TV technology).
It must be assumed that Injigulyan is under some form of coercion when he is seen speaking on TV – it would be naïve to think that he is saying “his words”. Any reported speech should also be treated with some suspicion. The danger, now, is that the Azeris have also “got lost” in the propaganda combat zone with their manipulation of this situation. If they release Injigulyan back to Armenia then he will presumably tell the truth to everyone and expose the Azeris for their duplicity, or if he is, in fact, a defector then he could never voluntarily leave Azerbaijan. Both scenarios suggest that he can never be released. I hope for his sake there is a 3rd option.