In a conflict built on cruelty and hate, war crimes come as no surprise

My first ‘first-hand’ understanding of what a war crime actually is dates back to April 2016, when I learned that my childhood friend had gone missing. A week later we were told that his body was among 18 bodies that had been returned to Armenia… tortured. All of them.

His body was returned with the head of a Yazidi soldier, Kyaram Sloyan, whose beheaded body had been returned and buried earlier.

I did not watch the videos that were shared on social networks at the time; I did not see Azat’s body, but just the memories of the descriptions I read and heard send a shiver down my spine even six years later.

The recently published videos of Azerbaijani war crimes that took place in Armenia during the two-day war shocked the world, prompting some of the harshest statements of condemnation from the West this conflict has seen.

Those videos were not, however, very shocking for Armenians and Azerbaijanis.

Both sides have seen a lot.

In terms of cruelty and trauma, the wars in 2020 and 2022 were a high-speed replication of what both nations went through during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, the pogroms prior to it, and the whole three-decade period of ‘peace’ that followed.

These traumas — and for us, the genetic memories of genocide too — are part of the national identities of both Armenians and Azerbaijanis.

But this time things look