As Armenian Americans, we want to be hopeful about the new year, but the ongoing crisis for the citizens of Artsakh and Armenia makes it difficult to do so. They are enduring a brutal campaign that is currently threatening the lives of over 120,000 men, women and children, and they desperately need the attention of the world to act now and save lives. The barbaric Azerbaijani blockade of the only road connecting Artsakh to Armenia has cut off the delivery of food and lifesaving supplies. This campaign of ethnic cleansing, and the brazen attempts at cultural erasure, are barbaric.
Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh using Soviet-era terminology, is an ancestral Armenian land that was placed within the borders of Azerbaijan when Joseph Stalin and his government infamously drew the maps of the Soviet Union.
In 2020, during the height of the pandemic's uncertainly, Azerbaijan attacked Armenians living in Artsakh—with the assistance of Turkey and foreign mercenaries—and now control a significant portion of the territory. POWs have been abused or murdered. Religious sites have been desecrated and systematically destroyed, and Azerbaijan's kleptocratic leadership has encouraged and celebrated these violations with glee. The indoctrination and hatred toward Armenians are propagated on state-sponsored news and social media and the antipathy is even formally taught to children in Azerbaijan. More recently, Azerbaijan invaded the undisputed borders of Armenia with periodic attacks. If given an inch by the global community, this current Azeri leadership will take as many miles as it can—deep into Armenia's sovereign territory—under the guise of trade routes and corridors.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine and much of the world's subsequent efforts to limit the purchase of Russian oil and gas has emboldened Azerbaijan further. Nevertheless, Russia has significant financial interests in Azerbaijan's oil and gas success. If countries truly wanted to punish tyrants, they would apply consistent standards and not try to make duplicitous compromises to favor a lesser evil. Azerbaijan's president was sitting in Moscow mere hours before the Ukraine invasion. Does anyone really think there was no discussion about how to divvy up the anticipated shift in European energy dependence to Azerbaijan?
Azerbaijan has one of the worst records on human rights and freedom indices in modern times, but apart from cries from academic and human rights circles, this pattern of behavior is deliberately drowned out by millions of dollars spent on tourism commercials, lobbying, sporting event sponsorships, and other machinations. Artsakh and Armenia—rare democracies in the region—cannot be sacrificed for convenience or anyone's political expediency.
What can we do? As Armenian Americans with some level of influence across different realms, we need to engage with government leaders using our political capital, keep telling our stories at the highest levels, direct resources to protect Armenians through the international legal community, help Armenia develop its own strength across various domains through strategic investments and work to preserve our faith, history, and culture. For Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other Christian minorities from the former Ottoman Empire, the pain is still raw because there has never been a reckoning for the governments and systems built on this brutal history. We need to continue to shine a light on these injustices until decent people start to reconsider their financial, political, and emotional partnerships with these regimes.
Although clearly meeting the criteria for war crimes by international law, Armenian religious heritage sites have also been wantonly destroyed, and we know our faith is under attack. Did you know Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301 AD? Given the recent pattern of aggression, it has been important for us to also highlight and preserve two of the most historic sites in all of Christendom—the Holy Etchmiadzin Cathedral and the Khor Virap church and monastery complex.
We ask for everyone to take notice of autocratic regimes attacking Armenians with impunity. Think twice before turning a blind eye to the facts in order to favor some financially palatable dictators while trying to bypass others. We will keep sharing our stories, helping our brothers and sisters in our homeland, and providing support to protect our sacred structures. In turn, we ask our political leaders in the United States, and the people of the world who care about justice and decency, to boycott and sanction these murderous regimes, to cut off the incessant flow of money to them, and to apply more consistent standards when it comes to championing human rights.
The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.
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