Azeri soldiers who commit such ISIS-like war crimes not only escape accountability and are never prosecuted, rather they are treated as national heroes by their government.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on October 13 that in the coming weeks, Azerbaijan could invade Armenia. Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has threatened Armenia with war multiple times.

Meanwhile, pro-Erdogan media outlets in Turkey are also playing their war drums against Armenians. The headline news in the pro-Erdogan newspaper Türkiye on October 3 refers to Armenians in Armenia's Syunik (Zangezur) province as "snakes", "gangs" and "terrorists". One headline reads: "The new nest of the snake is Zangezur". It claims that the Armenians displaced from Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) are receiving military training in "terror camps in Zangezur".

When the Turkish media uses such words, its intent is to prepare the public for an upcoming war against an "enemy".

On November 1, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention issued a Red Flag Alert "due to the alarming potential for an invasion of Armenia by Azerbaijan in the coming days and weeks".

The US government also knows that the next step for Azerbaijan and Turkey is to attack the Republic of Armenia.

After Azerbaijan besieged and starved 120,000 Christian Armenians in the Republic of Artsakh in the South Caucuses for nine months, on September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan bombed Artsakh's communities.

Hundreds of civilians, including children, were murdered. Almost all the Armenians of Artsakh have fled: they know that after all military raids, Armenians who have fallen into the hands of the Azerbaijani military have been treated with maximum cruelty.

Azeri soldiers, since their invasion began, have been uploading videos on social media showing themselves beheading and mutilating Armenians.

The Lemkin Institute of Genocide Prevention on September 23 noted:

"There are stories coming out of Artsakh of the beheading of children and the separation of older boys and men from women and children..... Azerbaijan has routinely treated Armenians with this level of barbarism, especially in the wars of 2016, 2020 and 2022. It is a country is run by people who do not hide their visceral hatred of Armenians."

Beheading and mutilating Armenians appears to be a long-standing tradition of Azeri soldiers. These actions are promoted and rewarded by the State of Azerbaijan. Azeri soldiers who commit such ISIS-like war crimes not only escape accountability and are never prosecuted, rather they are treated as national heroes by their government.

On February 19, 2004, for instance, during a three-month English language class that was part of the Partnership for Peace NATO-sponsored program in Budapest, Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army officer, broke into the dormitory room of Armenian army Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan at night and axed him to death while he slept. Safarov hit Margaryan 16 times on his head and neck with the axe, almost decapitating him.

A court in Budapest convicted Safarov in 2006 of murdering Markaryan and attempting to murder another Armenian participant of the course, Hayk Makuchian, in the same fashion. Safarov was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006. However, when Safarov was extradited to Azerbaijan in 2012, he received a hero's welcome in the capital of Baku.

According to anthropologist Sarah Kendzior:

"On August 31, 2012, Ramil Safarov was extradited to Azerbaijan, where he was greeted as a hero. As an adoring crowd cheered, Safarov walked the streets of the capital draped in an Azerbaijani flag, carrying a bouquet of roses. He was pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev, promoted to the rank of major and given a new apartment and money by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry."

In 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Azerbaijan's actions amounted to the "approval" and "endorsement" of the "very serious ethnically-biased crime" that Safarov committed. The court concluded that "the acts of Azerbaijan in effect granted [Safarov] impunity for the crimes committed against his Armenian victims."

"In addition, the Court finds particularly disturbing the statements made by a number of Azerbaijani officials glorifying [Safarov,] his deeds and his pardon. It also deplores the fact that a large majority of those statements expressed particular support for the fact that [Safarov's] crimes had been directed against Armenian soldiers, congratulated him on his actions and called him a patriot, a role model and a hero."

During an Azeri raid against Artsakh on April 1-5, 2016, a Yazidi member of the Artsakh Defense Army, Kyaram Sloyan, was beheaded and mutilated by Azeri soldiers. Videos and pictures showing Azeri soldiers posing with Sloyan's severed head were posted on social media networks. The Sunday Times called them "shocking souvenir photos of uniformed Azerbaijani soldiers posing with the severed head".

Sloyan was reburied in his father's village in Armenia after the International Committee of the Red Cross retrieved his severed head and returned it to his family.

"When they brought the body, we didn't know that it's headless," Sloyan's grief-stricken father Kyalash told RFE/RL's Armenian service on April 11, 2016. "It was very painful to discover that. They brought the head yesterday."

The Azerbaijani officer who decapitated Sloyan reportedly became a national hero in Azerbaijan. President Aliyev awarded him a medal in May 2016.

The Office of the Human Rights Defender of the Artsakh Republic published an interim public report on the atrocities committed by the Azerbaijani Military Forces during the four- day war in April 2016.

The report noted that both civilians and servicemen were executed and mutilated by the Azeri Army. Some Artsakh soldiers were, "along with other forms of dismemberment, also subjected to beheading," Graphic images of the abuses were also published in the report.

During Azerbaijan's 2020 war against Artsakh, Azeri accounts once again posted videos on Telegram which showed Azeris beheading Armenian civilians, soldiers and prisoners of war. One was Yuri Asryan, a reclusive 82-year-old who had refused to leave his village on October 20, 2020 when the invading Azerbaijani forces approached.

During Azerbaijan's military incursion into Armenia in September 2022, Azeri soldiers raped, mutilated and slaughtered a 36-year-old Armenian woman who served in the Armenian forces. They then posted a video demonstrating their war crime on social media. In it, the dead woman appears naked, with both of her arms and legs dismembered. One of her eyes is gouged out. A severed finger appears to be sticking out of her mouth, and another appears out of her private parts.

The video also includes several other mutilated and beheaded Armenian men. The Azeri soldiers videotaping can be heard laughing and joking in the background.

The words of Kamil Zeynallı, an Azeri athlete with 1.7 million Instagram followers, demonstrate the Azeri path to national "heroism". Zeynalli said in a WhatsApp call later posted on social media:

"Shed the blood of the Armenians. You'll return to our country like a man. You'll be free like a man. Our president [Aliyev] is behind those who behead Armenians.

"Whoever cuts off the heads of Armenians, our esteemed president is by their side."

Azerbaijan tries to spread propaganda in the West about allegedly being a "tolerant" and "multicultural" society. This propaganda is refuted by Azerbaijan's rewarding soldiers who behead Armenians, among many other war crimes they commit against Armenians.

There is no government other than Azerbaijan that so proudly rewards soldiers who behead and mutilate their captives, except perhaps for the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic State (ISIS).

The jihadists' use of beheadings is based on Islamic scriptures and Islamic history:

"So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds..., and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah – never will He waste their deeds." – Quran 47:4, Sahih International translation

"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip." – Quran 8:12 : Sahih International translation

Beheadings have been commonly used by Muslims in their jihad (war in the service of Allah) against non-Muslims since the advent of Islam in the seventh century. (For more examples of Islam's use of beheadings and other forms of violence, see here.)

Azerbaijan's war against Armenians is jihadist as well as nationalist. During Azerbaijan's war against Armenians in 2020, Erdogan declared:

"We support Azerbaijan until victory... I tell my Azerbaijani brothers: May your ghazwa be blessed."

"Ghazwa" in Islam means a battle or raid against non-Muslims for the expansion of Muslim territory and/or conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. Erdogan thus openly announced that attacks against the Armenian territory constitute jihad. To fight against Armenians in Artsakh, Turkey was joined in Azerbaijan by mercenary jihadi terrorists from Syria, as well.

During the first Artsakh war (1991-94), which the Armenians won, Dr. Araks Pashayan, an expert on political Islam and Azerbaijan, noted that "mercenaries from Afghanistan, Iran, the United States, Russia and Turkey were included in Azerbaijani army, and particularly Turkey and Iran provided Baku with military instructors."

Mohammad Younas was among the thousands of Afghan fighters that Hezb-e Islami, a major Afghan Islamist party, sent to Azerbaijan in the 1990s to bolster Baku in its war against Armenians.

"If possible, I would again join the Muslims of Azerbaijan to defend them against non-Muslims," Younas told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. "My real motivation in going to Azerbaijan was participating in a jihad, but I also wanted to make some money," he said.

In the face of this barbarity, the world idly watches. Such complacency has allowed Azerbaijan to forcibly displace around 120,000 indigenous Armenians from their homeland of Artsakh. Armenians know what will happen if they try to live under the Azeri regime.

So, will the US finally hold the government of Azerbaijan to account? Will it cut US military aid to Azerbaijan? Will it once again watch as Turkey and Azerbaijan massacre more Armenians and invade more Armenian lands?

It is high time that the West sanctioned the Azerbaijani government and held it accountable for treating Armenians in the most brutal ways. As long as Western governments continue their military and commercial cooperation with Azerbaijan and turn a blind eye to its mass atrocity crimes, they will remain complicit in Azerbaijan's crimes.

© Gatestone Institute