By Colin Cortbus
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Last week, a well-known US-based Iranian-Azeri businessman was viciously beaten at an airport hotel in San Jose, California, leaving him with life-threatening spinal injuries. Ahmad Obali founded Günaz TV, a well-known Chicago-based satellite TV channel that pushes pro-Aliyev, pan-Turkist messaging to the Iranian-Azeri community. Pro-Aliyev media in Baku suggested “Armenian armed groups” in California might have been implicated in the crime and used the incident to shore up Armenophobic narratives. Now, an investigation by the Mirror-Spectator can reveal the District Attorney’s office has indicted Obali’s own son, Deniz Obali, for “Attempted Murder” and is treating the crime as a “family violence incident.”
Last weekend, the Baku-based newspaper Yeni Musavat published disturbing photos, showing a seriously injured, bruised Ahmad Obali in a hospital bed in California. The newspaper published claims that both Obali and his son, Deniz Obali, were brutally beaten, allegedly by up to six people, in an attack that the newspaper suggested may have been the work of Iranian intelligence services,” Obali’s channel Günaz TV (Günaz being short for Güney Azerbaijan, South Azerbaijan) quoted a relative as saying.
Chicago-resident Ahmad Obali is one of the most outspoken pan-Turanist activists in the West. In the economically-deprived, predominantly Azeri-Turkish speaking areas of North-Western Iran, which have long been neglected and repressed by the mullah regime in Tehran, the radical-populist rhetoric of Mr Obali and his channel GUNAZ TV have won him a large following. In an interview with the Jewish Press newspaper in Brooklyn, Obali summoned up his agenda as follows “Our activists want an independent South Azerbaijan because we will do much better once we are independent. We can move toward a union with North Azerbaijan, join the Council of Europe (a human rights group established in 1946 that includes most European nations), and embrace Western values.” Obali has travelled to Baku on multiple occassions. During one symbolic and provocative journey, he was photographed by pro-government media standing at the Khudafrin bridge, formerly a scene of fighting during the 2020 Karabakh war, at the Aras river, looking out at Iran. That visit was also promoted to American audiences by Mike Doran, the former Bush-administration official turned Hudson Institute think-tanker who has frequently been criticised for pushing pro-Baku messaging to US audiences. GUNAZ TV, the station Mr Obali owns, has repeatedly aligned itself with the Baku-authority’s Stalinist-style personality cult of deceased ex-dictator and human-rights violator Heydar Aliyev, using the reverential terminology “Ümummilli Liderin” (national leader) to describe him on it’s website. GUNAZ TV has published op-eds claiming an “40-million people” strong independent South Azeri state would be “suicide for Armenia” while lamenting the fact that many other Iranian-Azeris do not share this separatist and pan-Turkist viewpoint.
After the attack on Obali in California last week, media commentators in Baku rushed to suggest Armenians might have been guilty of the crime against Ahmad Obali, among other suspects like the Iranian Mullah regime or the exiled, non-separatist Iranian opposition. “We can say that this incident is a terrorist act. …As an initial hypothesis we can mention the cooperation of Iran and Armenian terrorist groups. We hope that the perpetrators of the crime will be revealed soon,” an one activist was quoted by Modern.az as saying. “In general, it can be said that either elements of the Mullah regime or members of Armenian armed groups who are in collusion with them, are behind treacherous plans prepared against Ahmad Obali and other national activists,” claimed an “investigative journalist” quoted by AZNews, although the journalist also thought exiled Iranian monarchists were the likely culprit. “The third possibility, I can say, is that the Armenian diaspora in California may have committed the incident,” an analyst told BayMedia Az . “His enemy can be only two forces: first-up, Iran and pro-Iran forces, and secondly, Armenia and pro-Armenian forces including the Armenian lobby, given that the Armenian terrorist organizations have been conducting such kinds of attacks against Azerbaijani and Turkish political and public figures,” an commentator told Azernews, though this person vehemently dismissed the possibility that Armenian groups could have done it without coordinating with Iran.