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'It is a prelude to genocide that we are witnessing today in Nagorno-Karabakh'

Members of the Armenian Society of Fellows warn that the Azerbaijani government's goal is the ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and are calling for humanitarian intervention by the international community before it's too late.

[For Rights]

We condemn the siege of the civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh by the Azerbaijani government and call on the international community to organize a humanitarian intervention immediately, before it is too late.

On December 12, 2022, the Azerbaijani government began a siege of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus region, inflicting collective harm on 120,000 civilians – including 30,000 children, 20,000 elderly, and 9,000 disabled people. The blockade has resulted in school closures, food shortages, rationing of electricity and natural gas for heating, and the interruption of communications with the outside world.

Essential medicines are now scarce, families have been separated, hospitalized patients requiring critical treatment have died. Other than the occasional shuttle of critically ill patients out of the region with Red Cross assistance, all movement has been blocked by Azerbaijani army troops on the only road connecting the region to the outside world.


The Azerbaijani government's goal is the depopulation of the region and the ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenians, as Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev made bluntly clear on January 10, when stating on local television that residents who do not want to become Azerbaijani citizens "can leave, the route is open, no one will oppose it."

Genocide scholars and scientists participating in the fourth Global Forum Against the Crime of Genocide recently issued a joint statement saying, "As scholars studying the process of genocide, we believe that the actions of the Azerbaijani government pose a threat of genocide to Armenians in the region. We call on international organizations and governments to ensure the free entry of people and goods to Nagorno-Karabakh."

The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention issued a genocide alert against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh in light of the siege, and called on the international community to intervene immediately with sanctions against Azerbaijan. On December 21, the European Court of Human Rights ordered interim measures against Azerbaijan for the blockade, and the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner called for it to be lifted urgently. Amnesty International, the European Union, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, the United States and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have all separately called for the immediate lifting of the siege.


It is essential to remember that Azerbaijan is a petro-dictatorship that has been ruled by the same family since 1993. In 2017, the investigation entitled "Laundromat", conducted jointly by Le Monde and ten other European publications, including the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, uncovered a complex system of money laundering diverted from the Azerbaijani state budget to fund the leaders' lifestyles, obtain friendships with foreign officials and promote a positive image of the regime.

The NGO Human Rights Watch has deemed the human rights situation in Azerbaijan "appalling," with the government "severely restricting freedoms of association, expression, and assembly" with "rampant torture and ill-treatment of journalists, lawyers and opposition activists."

Despite a conflict that has stalled since the 1990s, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh have governed themselves for over three decades. The unrecognized but democratic Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has effectively engaged with international institutions and European monitoring bodies to improve governance and infrastructure and the development of civil society. Nagorno-Karabakh is now at the forefront of the conflict between democracy and autocracy, between transparency and corruption, and between freedom and oppression.

Crime against humanity

We denounce as a crime against humanity the policy of siege and ethnic cleansing by the Azerbaijani government against the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. We call upon all people of conscience, international and humanitarian organizations, NGOs and governmental entities to help break the siege of Nagorno-Karabakh.

This must be done by immediately organizing supply airlifts, creating an international mandate for Nagorno-Karabakh to protect the local population from ethnic cleansing and genocide by the Aliyev regime, and implementing economic sanctions as well as sanctions targeting the corrupt ruling elite in Baku.

What we are witnessing today in Nagorno-Karabakh is a prelude to genocide. Inaction at this stage is tantamount to tacit encouragement and sows even greater dangers for the future of world peace.


(c) 2023, LeMonde


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