Quarantine Diaries – Day 22
April 5th, 2020
It’s the twenty-second day and it seems that even the Belgians are starting to get pissed with Hungary. I certainly don’t have the tolerance which the Belgians possess; in fact, Viktor Orbán has been on my shit list long before this whole coronavirus fiasco started. I just needed solid proof that this pathetic excuse of a prime minister really was using the pandemic to usher in legislation that had nothing to do with ending this pandemic quickly and efficiently, which, as opposed to doing things less “expeditiously,” isn’t a great way to get results either, as I’ve already discussed. Since I now have my first piece of evidence that suspending parliament wasn’t just about fighting a virus (as if anyone was going to believe that) but ending recognition of trans people, for example (I still don’t understand how coronavirus and trans people are connected), I can finally tear this collection of 37.2 trillion Hungarian cells apart.
As I mentioned already, 2020 isn’t Orbán’s authoritarian debut, so to say; no, his descent into the despicable abyss began eight years before, when his administration approved the extradition of a convicted killer to a government which had no other desire but to set him free; in fact, this government, which is Azerbaijan, paid Hungary not only seven million dollars to secure the release of the criminal, but also the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) uncovered data two years ago which showed “how a $2.9 billion slush fund tied to Azerbaijan’s ruling elite had been used to promote Baku’s political objectives worldwide,” according to Eurasianet; this has also been confirmed by The Guardian, which called the whole scheme “Azerbaijani Laundromat.” Here’s a picture of two dictators in love with each other; just look at them—it’s a match made in heaven.
Eurasianet also reported that the seven million dollars Orbán’s government received were directly linked to the Azerbaijani Laundromat. Let us forget, however, the excellent washing machines of an oil-rich authoritarian post-Soviet Muslim republic situated on the Caspian Sea. Although they not only welcomed the killer back as a hero but also reinstated him into the army, along with the fact that according to BBC “he was promoted to the rank of major, given a flat and all the pay he had lost since his arrest eight years ago,” this excellent example of authoritarianism doesn’t concern me. What does concern me, however, is Margaryan’s father, Artush, who has already tried to commit suicide once. One can only infer the reasons for his attempt, but they seem all too clear.
I now want to talk about the actual murder and how a democratic government run by an undemocratic prime minister—Orbán—handled the situation. It all began on January 11th, 2004 when Gurgen Margaryan, a twenty-five year old Armenian lieutenant, arrived in Budapest to participate in an English language course for three months, sponsored by NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” program. Margaryan is pictured below.
It all would’ve been very peaceful had a lieutenant from Azerbaijan with a vengeful hate for Armenians not participated in the same program. In the spirit of damnatio memoriae, I won’t mention his name here; I’m sure he and the person who burned the Temple of Artemis in search of fame and praise will have many things to talk about in hell when he gets there.
During his first interrogation, the murderer stated that while serving in the Azerbaijani army, he never got the chance to kill any Armenians, going on to describe how his only motivation for serving was “to fight against Armenians and to kill as many as possible.” Furthermore, he confessed that it didn’t matter to him whether killing Armenians was right or not: “My job is to kill [them] all, because until they live we will suffer.” In other words, the murderer was always at war with Armenians, even in English classes. He made no distinction between good and bad Armenians, women and children, or the elderly—so long as they were Armenian, they deserved to die.
It was this fanatic belief that led him, on the night of February the 19th, to enter Margaryan’s room with an axe and kill him in cold blood. One dead Armenian hadn’t proven to be enough, however; the killer wanted to end the life of another Armenian student, Hayk Makuchyan—his door was luckily locked.
In all fairness, the Hungarian justice system swiftly arrested the killer and in 2006 sentenced him to life in prison—without the possibility of parole. On the 22nd of February, 2007, the court upheld the conviction.
Five years later, however, Hungarian authorities mysteriously agreed to release and extradite the criminal, receiving assurances from the Azerbaijani government that he would continue serving his sentence there. Upon his return, however, the Azerbaijani government issued an immediate pardon. The president also released an official statement saying that the killer “should be freed from the term of his punishment.” Great, wonderful democratic country you guys have there—even your ombudsman is saying that the killer “must become an example of patriotism for the Azerbaijani youth.” This is the kind of stuff that wins you human rights awards from a president who violates human rights; incidentally, such arguments are the reason why Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a prominent Armenian footballer, didn’t travel to Azerbaijan for the Europa League final, citing safety concerns.
This really has less to do with the corrupt politics of an authoritarian, corrupt, post-Soviet state, and more to do with an authoritarian prime minister who’s trying to run a democracy like the General Secretary of the Communist Party. Kristóf Szombati, a sociologist and co-founder of the Hungarian green party (LMP) currently working for the Prague office of the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation, wrote the following: “Hungary’s current government is prepared to go a long way—if necessary, against fundamental human rights—in order to secure its economic interests.” Szombati recalls the instance of Hungarian immigration authorities cracking down on Tibetan protesters during the Chinese premier’s visit to Budapest in June 2012, the very year of our little incident. No, Orbán’s government has definitely been on the shit list much longer than people realize. Armenia has since suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary, which, to this day, haven’t been re-established.
Perhaps the saddest thing about Hungary’s crackdowns on human rights is that it devalues its own history. In what light do we now view the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, whose main purpose was to liberate itself from authoritarian Soviet policies? To this day, the Hungarian people are bitter about Soviet repression and its role in eroding various liberties. However, what right does Hungary now have to blame the USSR, and by extension Russia, when they, at present, are acting no differently than the authoritarian regime that subjugated them in the past? “Russians go home,” reads the historical poster.
Another reason why Hungary is especially pertinent is because of another little-known event: Before the collapse of that giant wall we all know in Berlin, there first happened the removal of Hungary’s border fence with Austria. It wasn’t the Berlin wall but that inconspicuous border between Austria and Hungary that represented the first crack in the Iron Curtain, which was ultimately responsible for the more prominent collapse we’re all familiar with in Berlin. On the left, Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock and his Hungarian counterpart Gyula Horn, on the right, cut the barbed wire in Sopron, Hungary—a border town near Austria.
Going back to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, however, what else could democracies like France and the UK do when they themselves invaded Egypt to keep the president from nationalizing the Suez Canal? When democracies invade to protect their interests, we don’t hear much about it; when the Soviet Union did likewise, the free world shouted “crime.” In all fairness, the crisis did finally sink the British Empire, and humiliated France.
Nevertheless, it was perhaps the last time in which the US, along with the Soviet Union and the UN, worked alongside each other to stop an invasion while the Soviet Union was invading another country and the US was unnecessarily cracking down on its own citizens—the House Un-American Activities Committee was dubbed by President Truman as the “most un-American thing in the country today.” Ah, the beauty of international politics.
Anyways, enough of this insanity. According to what John said, Jesus said in John 8:7—a person he never met—in the King James Bible, which is a book he didn’t write: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” In fact, scholars aren’t even sure whether John even said it, much less Jesus: “These verses, which narrate the Lord’s compassionate dealing with the woman taken in the act of adultery, are certainly not part of the original text of St. John’s Gospel,” at least according to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, which sounds pretty authoritative. So, having cleared that up, here’s me casting the first stone; this time not at a prostitute, but at the governments who act like one—you know who you are.
If you’re wondering whether we went into nature specifically to take these pictures, yes we did. And here’s another one that shows exactly what I think of politicians and governments; they’re either rocks or something else entirely which looks like that rock.
All the way from quarantined Italy: I may seem crazy now, but in a month everyone here will be no different.
Until next time.
About David Garyan
David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.