In short, I was going to spend the evening there and I had heard that there will be some food. It was perhaps due to this initial ignorance that I was absolutely shocked (and honestly, pleasantly surprised - at first) to see "Azerbaijani food" among other concessions (such as barbecue and comfort food). Putting the exclusive "Azerbaijani" label on dishes such as dolma or kebab was a little too politically incorrect, I thought (OK, they even had Efes, which is perhaps the one thing everyone will agree is not Azerbaijani). But if others do it, why can't Azeris do it, too... right?
When I got to the Mall, I was curious to check out their food stand. The lines were pretty big. And yes, I was actually impressed, at first.
Then, I saw the T-shirts.
Apparently, the Karabakh Foundation is also sponsoring two evening Azerbaijani concerts - Mugham performances - which, although are not yet labeled as being related to "Karabakh", will surely be used for related informational ends, as well.
Nothing wrong with a political statement?
The thing is, the Festival is supposedly about culture,heritage, and history, and with such a politically loaded statement and the promotion of the local region's culture as exclusively Azerbaijani, the Karabakh Foundation might have overstepped the bounds. And not just "a little bit". The region has been very diverse for centuries (if not, millennia), even if one forgets the current de facto status on the ground. So, presenting it as "Azerbaijani" at such an event actually defeats the very purpose of the festival (and of the Foundation itself), supposedly aimed at celebration and preservation of cultural heritage.
All this within an environment where very few, if any, know about the issue at all, much less about the complexities involved. This, therefore, goes beyond the traditional public (or cultural) diplomacy, and easily crosses the line into manipulation and propaganda.In short: Yes, it is that. All over again...
However, I do not (and cannot) forget that there is the other side to it all, too: the Armenian propaganda side, taking similar (the same?) steps, just - perhaps - within a different context.