Who benefits from the "Traitor" public lynching campaign?

In recent days, a large-scale campaign with the hashtags "#xainitanıyaq" has been carried out on social networks. After the military clashes that took place on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border on September 12, 2022, uncertainty and contradiction arose in public opinion in the country. A small group condemns and criticizes these military operations and considers them to be against the interests of the country. Another group considers these operations necessary and calls to support all steps of the state.

In relation to the last incident, mutual accusations and harsh criticisms are noticeable between the parties who have different positions. In particular, the groups supporting the official position of the government have launched a wide public campaign against those with the opposite opinion, labeling them "traitors".

Who organized this campaign? What is the purpose? What can be the consequences of this campaign?

First of all, let's look at the legal, social, political, and psychological effects of this campaign.

It is not realistic that this campaign will lead to any result from a legal point of view. There is no concept of "traitor" in the Criminal Code. The word "traitor" has a more moral and psychological impact. According to Article 274 of the Civil Code (274-285; 11 articles), treason is defined as an act committed intentionally by a citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the detriment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, state security, or defense capability of the Republic of Azerbaijan: defecting to the enemy's side, espionage, giving state secrets to a foreign state, acting hostile to the Republic of Azerbaijan by helping foreign state, organization, and (or) their representatives.

People cannot be held legally responsible for expressing their thoughts in the context of freedom of expression.

Let's take a look at the public side of the campaign. There is an attempt to discredit the bearers of different opinions in public opinion. The people stigmatized as "traitors" are mainly some opposition representatives and some bloggers abroad. The purpose of creating public distrust, hatred, and anger towards them in society is clearly visible.

Unfortunately, such "public lynching" campaigns are not the first in our country. We have witnessed such campaigns many times. There were writers whose books were burned, singers who were subjected to mass insults, journalists, politicians whose homes and offices were attacked, human rights defenders, and other persons. Such "lynching" campaigns are mainly carried out by groups close to power, and law enforcement agencies usually patronize these groups.

It is difficult to find such cases in democratic countries and pluralistic societies. However, in a country where there is no democratic society, where rights and freedoms are suppressed, such campaigns are used as an effective tool against the opponent.

Unfortunately, many resources that have the ability to broadcast on social networks take advantage of these methods. We often come across such behavior towards their competitors, towards those who do not share the same opinion with them. It seems that every person who has a small broadcasting platform in his/her hands acts as an enemy to the freedom of expression instead of contributing to its strengthening in society. One day it is done by the government, one day by the opposition, and one day by civil society representatives. "Public lynching" deals a crushing blow to freedom of expression. Everyone is harmed by this campaign, regardless of who is behind it.

Let's look at the political side of this campaign. The government denies organizing such a campaign. It tries to describe it as a natural protest of society. Not campaigning against opposition leaders and other harsh critics is a deliberate tactic in this respect. The campaign targets those people who do not hide that they really have the opposite opinion.

However, based on the observations, it is clear that this campaign was carried out by groups close to the government and supporters of the government. The active participation of groups of different social categories working in budget organizations or financed from the budget in this "public lynching" campaign cannot be accidental.

At the same time, there are many people who are affected by this campaign, which is widely spread on social networks. Some people who have little knowledge and were influenced by the propaganda of "motherland, nation, state" also follow this trend.

With this campaign, the government mainly aims to target the opposition, create mistrust towards it, and weaken its political power. Of course, certain traces and effects of such a campaign may remain. In the recent past, the campaign around OCCRP's investigation into the secret fund "Azerbaijani Laundromat" and other similar corruption investigations have not gone unnoticed in public opinion for the government.

Let's look at the psychological side of this campaign. Targeting active members of society in this way is a terror from a moral and psychological point of view. The people who are the targets of this campaign are probably prepared for such negative-psychological terror. They know in advance what kind of political conditions they are operating in and how they are likely to encounter such situations.

Organizers of this campaign and ordinary people affected by it insult so-called "traitor" and their family members, criticize and humiliate them with harsh words. Not only those persons but also their family members and loved ones are exposed to this moral terror. At the same time, this "activity" leads to tension in the country, hostility, hatred, and ill-treatment among citizens.

Finally, let's look at the purpose and outcome of this dangerous and harmful campaign. The goal is to change the direction of the discussions caused by the military clash on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border on September 13, as well as to prevent social activists from criticism and to force them to internal censorship.

2 years ago, in the 44-day war, all the adults of the society showed a united will. All political forces of the country were directed toward one goal. However, a different approach has emerged in the current military conflict. Active people of the country hoped for great political, economic, and social changes after the war ended with victory. There was an expectation that the government-opposition relations in the country would reach a new level. Unfortunately, the government's attitude towards the families of martyrs, war veterans, and war participants has not changed. Discrimination regarding visits to territories freed from occupation and lack of transparency in the work conducted there created dissatisfaction in society. The government monopolized the political and material benefits of the victory won by the will of the people. The great victory won in Karabakh during the 44-day war brought prestige and rating to the government. Currently, the previous attitude towards power in society is changing. The government also sees this situation and tries to reduce the criticism directed against itself with various methods.

Government bodies should stop this campaign. It is necessary to think about the consequences of "virtual lynching" action if it happens in real life one day. Citizens affected by such campaigns and mentally ill individuals can attack the mentioned persons living in the country. Furthermore, foreign special services interested in creating tension in the country can take advantage of this favorable opportunity and commit crimes.

At a stage when the peace agreement with Armenia has not been signed, and the very contradictory and complex military-political situation in the region continues, such behavior that undermines the solidarity and stability of society cannot be tolerated.

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