(The organization Armenian Society of Fellows (ASOF) released the following statement this week. The statement will run in several major US dailies.)
We condemn the siege of the civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh by the Azerbaijani government and ask the international community to organize a humanitarian intervention immediately, before it is too late.
On December 12, 2022, the Azerbaijani government initiated a siege of the Armenian population in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Caucasus, inflicting collective harm on 120,000 civilians — including 30,000 children, 20,000 elderly and 9,000 disabled people. The month-long siege has resulted in the closing of schools because of food shortages, rationing of electricity and natural gas for heating, and the severance of communications with the outside world. Essential medications are now scarce, families have been separated, hospital patients in need of critical treatment have died. Other than the occasional shuttling of critically ill patients out of the region through the help of the Red Cross, all movement has been blocked by Azerbaijan on the only road linking the region to the outside world.
The goal of the Azerbaijani government is simple, as stated by the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, on January 10, 2023: depopulation of the region and ethnic cleansing of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Genocide scholars and participating scientists of the 4th Global Forum “Against the Crime of Genocide” issued a recent joint statement stating “As scholars studying the genocide process, 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 has issued a Red Flag Alert for Genocide for the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh in light of the siege, and has called for the international community to step in immediately with sanctions against Azerbaijan in an effort to prevent a genocide.
- The European Court of Human Rights has applied interim measures against Azerbaijan over this blockade and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights called for its urgent lifting.
- Amnesty International, the European Union, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, the Helsinki Commission, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, and USAID have all separately called for the immediate lifting of the siege.
It is essential to remember that:
- Azerbaijan is a petro-dictatorship governed by the same family since 1993. In 2017, it was revealed that Aliyev and his family were involved in a complex money-laundering scheme to pay off prominent European politicians to deflect criticism of Aliyev and promote a positive image of his regime;
- Azerbaijan ranks 167th out of 180 in the most recent Reporters Without Borders ranking. Freedom House describes the state as “authoritarian” with “rampant corruption” with “little room for independent expression or activism” . Human Rights Watch has called the situation of human rights in Azerbaijan “appalling,” with the government “severely curtailing freedoms of association, expression, and assembly”, and with rampant “torture and ill-treatment of journalists, lawyers, and opposition activists” ;
- While the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians have endured decades of persecution, they have self-governed for more than three decades. The unrecognized, yet democratic, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has effectively engaged with international institutions and European oversight bodies to enhance governance and civil society infrastructure and development. Nagorno Karabakh today stands at the forefront of the conflict between democracy and autocracy, between transparency and corruption, and between freedom and oppression.
We denounce as a crime against humanity the Azerbaijani government’s policy of siege and ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. We ask all people of conscience, international and humanitarian organizations, NGOs and government entities alike, to help in breaking the siege of Nagorno-Karabakh by:
- organizing airlifts of supplies immediately;
- creating an international mandate for Nagorno-Karabakh to protect the local population from ethnic cleansing and genocide by the Aliyev regime;
- applying economic sanctions and Magnitsky sanctions targeting the corrupt ruling elite in Baku.