On November 10, 2020, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia have signed an agreement to end military conflict. However, as Baroness Caroline Cox, Peer at the U.K. House of Lords who recently traveled to the region, reports, “Serious concerns nevertheless remain, with reports emerging of brutality inflicted on military and civilian prisoners, including torture and beheadings, with claims that equivalent brutalities have been perpetrated by jihadists who receive payment for every Armenian beheaded.”
At the end of September 2020, media outlets reported on the escalation of a conflict (between Armenia and Azerbaijan) in Nagorno-Karabakh, the territory of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), a de facto independent state with an Armenian ethnic majority. While both sides deny any wrongdoing and blame each other for the escalation, some of the recent information sheds further light on the situation and raises concerns. For example, on October 5, 2020, the Telegraph reported that it saw evidence that Azerbaijan has been dropping cluster munitions in civilian areas. On October 8, 2020, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of deliberately targeting a historic cathedral in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Holy Savior Cathedral in Shusha city. Furthermore, Turkey has allegedly played a role in supporting the Azerbaijani aggression, significantly affecting the nature of the conflict. Another report suggests that Azerbaijan is using phosphorus weapons that have chemical weapons elements. The recent clashes have displaced half of Nagorno-Karabakh's population, ca. 70,000 people.
In light of the emerging evidence, Genocide Watch, a non-governmental organization led by Gregory Stanton, a world-renowned genocide expert, issued a Genocide Emergency Alert due to Azerbaijan’s aggression. According to Genocide Watch “Although a paper ceasefire was signed on October 15, 2020, Azerbaijani forces are still attempting to capture new territory. Azerbaijan uses laser-guided drones from Turkey, Russia, and Israel to attack Artsakh’s defenders, who are mostly Artsakh civilian volunteers. Azerbaijan is using Syrian mercenaries. Azerbaijan’s political ally, Turkey, provides air support for Azerbaijani forces, sparking fears that Turkey will resume the Armenian Genocide of 1915 - 1922.” As Genocide Watch further adds “Azerbaijan denies displaced Armenians the right to return to Azerbaijan and forbids a person of Armenian heritage from entering Azerbaijan’s territory. If Azerbaijan retakes control of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), it could forcibly deport all Armenians in Artsakh to Armenia. Forced displacement is a crime against humanity. The Azerbaijani government under Ilham Aliyev denies its past and current violence against Armenians. Aliyev is also a denier of the 1915 Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire. The Azerbaijani government promotes hate speech and encourages violence against Armenians.”
Genocide Watch identified several early warnings of genocide and issued a statement that it considers Azerbaijan to be engaging in “Stage 8: Persecution’ and ‘Stage 10: Denial” of the Ten Stages of Genocide. However, shortly afterward, Genocide Watch updated this to “Stage 9: Extermination” and “Stage 10: Denial.” The warning of genocide was followed by several recommendations to address the atrocities.
A similar genocide warning was issued by several experts and members of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. As they emphasized “history, from the Armenian genocide to the last three decades of conflict, as well as current political statements, economic policies, sentiments of the societies and military actions by the Azerbaijani and Turkish leadership should warn us that genocide of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and perhaps even Armenia, is a very real possibility. All of this proves that Armenians can face slaughter if any Armenian territory is occupied, consequently recognizing of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh is the way to save Armenians of Artsakh from extermination now or in the near future.”
Despite the recent ceasefire, the warnings from experts should not be disregarded. Armenians were let down over 100 years ago, they cannot be let down yet again. We do not have to wait until bodies are on the streets. The time for action is now.
Forbes © 2020