Villages have been shelled. Homes have been destroyed. Fathers have been beheaded. Mothers have been violated. Children have no food. The indigenous Armenian population of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), a centuries-old enclave within present-day Azerbaijan, is the subject of President Ilham Aliyev’s ruthless plan of ethnic cleansing. More than one hundred years after the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks, Armenians yet again face the real possibility of extinction from a neighboring violent regime.
For the last two years, the autonomous region of Artsakh, where 120,000 ethnic Armenians reside, has been under constant attack by the Azeri military. With superior military equipment and technology, President Aliyev’s army has pummeled ancient churches, eliminated entire villages, and wreaked havoc on the peaceful Armenian population. Through it all, President Aliyev has smugly warned Armenians to “behave themselves” or face greater despair.
Azerbaijan, in cooperation with Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has its sights on achieving a pan-Turkish empire in the Caucasus region, extending from the Caspian to Mediterranean Seas and beyond. A key component of that campaign is the outright removal of all non-Turkic people from the region – especially the Armenians, who have inhabited the lands since the Neolithic era. Indeed, throughout Armenia's more than 3,500 years of recorded history, the mountainous region of Artsakh has always been Armenian land on which Armenian has been spoken, sung, danced to, and recited. Armenians, who were the first nation to adopt Christianity as their national religion, have for centuries built and maintained beautiful churches and cathedrals. To this day, centuries-old Armenian monuments dot the landscape of former Western Armenia (presently eastern Turkey) as well as Artsakh. Yet now, in an effort to wipe away the long and rich history of the Armenians, both Turkey and Azerbaijan are actively destroying all traces of Armenian existence.
An example of Azerbaijan’s ruthless means is its complete blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the sole road linking Artsakh to Armenia proper. Since Dec. 2022, the entire civilian population of Artsakh has been deprived of food, electricity, gas, and medical supplies. No outsiders have been able to enter, restricting all humanitarian aid from reaching the starved, powerless people.
These oppressive measures reached their peak during the summer when even the esteemed International Committee of the Red Cross found itself unable to provide essential humanitarian aid to the cherished region. The very roads that should have conveyed hundreds of tons of life-saving supplies were instead reduced to desolate wastelands, bearing the weight of Azerbaijan's callous blockade.
Luis Moreno Ocampo, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, detailed that “the idea of genocide is not just about killing, but about removing people from the land … Starvation is the invisible genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.” His report and tweets on Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor were published before the recent genocidal developments affecting the indigenous population.
On Sept. 19, Azerbaijan launched yet another full-scale attack on the civilian population of Artsakh. In one day, the Azerbaijani forces killed 200 civilians and wounded 400. With no support through the blockaded Lachin Corridor, the target population is physically weakened, food and medicine are nowhere to be found, and a shortage of fuel restricts ambulances from providing any assistance in the region.
It’s time for the international community to wake up and assist the Armenian people to preserve the lives of 120,000 native Armenians. A genocide denied is a genocide repeated, and we can see this cycle renew. Turkey and Azerbaijan have teamed up once again to, in the words of Turkish president Erdoğan, “continue to fulfill this mission which our grandfathers have carried out for centuries in the Caucasus region.” This situation is eerily similar to the circumstances present before the Armenian Genocide.
It's crucial to ensure that the true facts are revealed and not denied or altered in the pages of history once again. The world needs to put its eyes on Artsakh and hold Azerbaijan accountable for its 21st-century genocidal efforts. Azerbaijan is consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, which is no surprise with its history of racism, ranging from hate crimes in Armenian schools in the U.S. to the case of the “Military Trophies Park,” which showcases real slain Armenian soldiers’ helmets and preserved limbs, just months after they were killed.
In today’s society, the existence of a regime centered on the eradication of innocent people has no place. The U.S. and other superpowers’ recent disinvolvement with similar global crises in Sudan and Ethiopia allows dictators like Aliyev to get away with such atrocities. At this time, Azerbaijan is victoriously getting away with the mass starvation and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Armenians, with no more international pushback than a couple of official statements and tweets from government officials, which do little to no actual help. You, however, can make a difference by educating yourself and reaching out to your local representatives and government officials about the crisis. Inform your friends and family and allow the newly orphaned and displaced children of Artsakh to get the same attention as those of Ukraine.
It shouldn’t take an extraordinary human to advocate for the affected civilians and to educate themselves for the sake of the now-homeless children. Use your voice to help the 120,000 Armenians of Artsakh. To contact President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Congress now, please take action and condemn Azerbaijan’s genocidal efforts with this pre-filled link.
SOSE HOVANNISIAN is a College sophomore majoring in Sociology and minoring in History and Consumer Psychology from Los Angeles, California. Her email is email@example.com.