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‘Forgotten by All’: The Ordeal of Armenian Victims of Azerbaijan’s Blockade in Nagorno-Karabakh

The people of Armenia, the world’s oldest Christian kingdom, are fighting once again for their survival. Nearly three years after the end of the latest war with its neighbor and historic enemy Azerbaijan, following which it was forced to cede the long-disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, the situation of the 120,000 or so people left in that region is now critical.

Since December 2022, the “Lachin” corridor, the only road geographically linking the ethnic enclave to Armenia, has been the object of a series of blockades provoked by the Azeri government, plunging it into a serious humanitarian crisis that has so far elicited little reaction from an international community whose eyes are riveted instead on the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Experts who spoke with the Register on the ground believe that these hostile acts conceal a broader plan for ethnic-religious cleansing in the region. Indeed, Armenia’s geographical position, caught between Azerbaijan and Turkey, represents an obstacle to the pan-Turkic ambitions of its Turkic-speaking, Muslim-majority neighbors. Regular incursions by Azeri forces on Armenia’s borders since September 2022 are reinforcing fears of a resurgence of conflict in the region.

 

Continuing War by Other Means

The war between the two countries for control of Nagorno-Karabakh — known as “Artsakh” in Armenian — from September to November 2020 resulted in the deaths of more than 6,500 people. It followed an earlier conflict in the region in the early 1990s. This conflict, in which Armenia emerged victorious, claimed some 30,000 victims.

But the origins of the dispute go back to the 1920s, when Russian Soviet leader Joseph Stalin arbitrarily separated the enclave, which was more than 90% Armenian, from its mother country, placing it under Azerbaijani Soviet administration.

Armenia’s recent defeat by Azerbaijan — massively backed by Turkey — resulted in the loss of almost all the territory, leaving its citizens in the region in a state of deep uncertainty as to their future. Without offering them any integration plan, Azerbaijani President Ilhan Aliev’s government left them with the choice of “either living under the Azerbaijani flag or leave.”

“The Azerbaijani authorities have made a habit of simulating Armenian provocations to tighten the screws, toughen their coercive measures and push the local population to leave,” Aram Kayayan, supervisor of the French organization SOS Chrétiens d’Orient (SOS Eastern Christians) for Artsakh and the nearby Syunik region of Armenia, told the Register. He noted that he and his organization have not been able to access Artsakh and bring aid to the population since the end of 2022.

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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