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Genocide and Forced Deportation: Nagorno-Karabakh

A family walk along the road from Nagorno-Karabakh to the Armenian border town of Kornidzor, September 26, 2023.

Genocide and Forced Deportation: Nagorno-Karabakh

by Aline Keledjian and Ani Tonoyan

September 30, 2023

Two years after President Biden formally recognized the 1915 Armenian Genocide, the world is standing by as another Armenian genocide and forced deportation unfolds. Genocide Watch , The Lemkin Institute, The Save Karabakh Coalition, former ICC Prosecutor Ocampo, and Armenian organizations warned that genocide has been underway in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2022. By January 1, 2024 the independent Armenian Republic of Artsakh will cease to exist.

The forced deportation and genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh, known to Armenians as Artsakh, is the culmination of a decades-long conflict. Artsakh is the homeland of 120,000 Armenians, who have lived there since the Fifth Century.

On September 19, Azerbaijan began bombardment of Nagorno-Karabakh. In Vanq the shelling killed 16-year-old Sergey Hovoyan. His critically injured 13-year-old brother, Mkrtich, recounts that as he and his mother begin packing their bags to leave, Azerbaijani forces shelled their house and backyard, killing Sergey and 67-year-old neighbor Melsik.

Azerbaijan intentionally shells civilian towns. This is a war crime (ICC Statute (Art.8 (2b(i). When the shelling began, a group of women and children were housed in Sarnaghbyur. Their house was bombed, killing five civilians including three children. Two children are missing, and their parents cannot find their bodies. Seven-year-old Ruzan Hayrapetyan and her brother and sister were wounded. Sarnaghbyur is a village surrounded by forest and is far from any military targets.

The EU’s policy chief Josep Borrell said, “This military escalation should not be used as a pretext to force the exodus of the local population.” But forced deportation is exactly what is happening. Forced deportation is a crime against humanity (ICC Statute (Art.7 (1d). Over 100,000 people have already fled from Nagorno-Karabakh and the entire remaining Armenian population is trying to leave.

Azerbaijani propaganda dehumanizes Armenians. Azerbaijan schoolchildrens' textbooks portray Armenians as evil, aggressive enemies. Tofig Veliyev, head of the department of History of Slavic Countries at Baku State University, claims that negative expressions are required to portray Armenians "accurately."

Azerbaijan is erasing Armenia's ancient history. Azerbaijani historians and state-run media falsely claim that Armenia and Artsakh are historically Turkic lands. Azerbaijan systematically destroys Armenian Christian churches and holy sites.

In a victory speech, Azerbaijani President Aliyev claimed that Armenians would be guaranteed rights in Azerbaijan. In reality, Azerbaijani military have already begun sharing videos of themselves shooting and killing Armenians.

Hundreds of documented Azerbaijani war crimes prove that Armenians will not be safe under an Azerbaijani government. Azerbaijani forces are detaining evacuees and have already arrested former Artsakh leader Ruben Vardanyan.

The U.S. and European Union cannot feign ignorance about Azerbaijan's forced deportation and genocide in Artsakh.

This is not the first time that the U.S. and Europe failed to act to stop an Armenian genocide, as they did during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The U.S. and E.U. were also bystanders in 1994 during the Rwandan Genocide.

Unfortunately, Sergey is not the only child who died from the attacks this week. A fuel depot exploded and killed 68 people as they lined up to refuel their cars so they could flee from Artsakh.

The Armenians of Artsakh have endured ten months of blockade and starvation. USAID Administrator Samantha Power traveled to Armenia this week to show support for Armenia’s sovereignty. But she arrived too late to begin the airlift of supplies into Artsakh that Genocide Watch and The Save Karabakh Coalition have demanded since 2022.

The people of Artsakh now need emergency airlifts to transport Armenian refugees out of Artsakh. Armenia needs massive aid to cope with over 100,000 Artsakh refugees. Armenia needs a U.S., E.U., and Russian guarantee that they will be safe from more Azerbaijani aggression.

Genocide and Forced Deportation- Nagorno-Karabakh
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