By Ardem Patapoutian and Vicken Cheterian
We are both Armenians born in Beirut who met some 50 years ago in kindergarten. We grew up in war-torn Lebanon, embedded in a bubble of Armenian language, school, and culture. We immigrated to the West (the United States and Switzerland), built careers as a scientist and a lecturer/columnist, and managed to stay in touch. The last time we saw each other was last summer in Armenia. We fondly remember sitting together in a loud jazz club in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, entertained by the proprietor who presented us with a 15-year-old Armenian brandy from Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed enclave to the east of Armenia mainly populated by Armenians. We were there because the government of Armenia was celebrating one of us winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine, a first for an Armenian. A few months later, on Dec. 12, 2022, Azerbaijan imposed a blockade on Nagorno-Karabakh. The painful disconnect between the Europe-like scenes in the capital, the celebration of scientific discovery, and the struggles of the persecuted population in Nagorno-Karabakh have become urgent anguishes we share today.
Azerbaijani military personnel regularly open fire on agricultural workers, effectively prohibiting them from cultivating their own food; the intent seems clear: to slowly starve them into submission. We, the diaspora Armenians, are anxiously watching the unfolding of this humanitarian crisis that seeks to force Armenians from their ancestral lands. Armenians experienced genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in the early 20th century, a horror that feels all too familiar to us now.
The Armenian presence in the Caucasus is challenged by Azerbaijan, a state with a population several times larger than Armenia. Caspian oil has permitted Azerbaijani rulers to invest heavily in military equipment.
Moreover, Azerbaijan has the unconditional support of Turkey, which provides political and military aid to Azerbaijan.
During the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020, it was Turkish aviation — including US-made F-16s and Bayraktar TB2 attack drones — that pulverized Armenian defenses, while Turkish generals overlooked Azerbaijani military operations. Armenia is left alone against this powerful alliance.