Editorial: New Armenian Genocide “may already be taking place”

13 September 2023

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A new Armenian Genocide “may already be taking place” in Nagorno-Karabakh. That’s the view expressed in an emergency report published by the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention on 5 September.

The report “points to the existence of several serious red flags for genocide, typical genocidal patterns, and evidence of the special intent to commit that crime”.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian Christian region that, owing to a quirk of history, lies within the borders of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan.

A church building in Dadivank, Nagorno-Karabakh, which dates back to the ninth century (and perhaps earlier). The area – the people of which accepted Christianity in 301 AD – is now controlled by Azerbaijan

The area has been populated by Armenians (who accepted Christianity in 301 AD) for at least 2,500 years. Under Soviet rule it was governed as an independent oblast within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, and was incorporated into the Republic of Azerbaijan at the dissolution of the USSR.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been under siege for nine months, beginning on 12 December 2022, with Azerbaijan blockading the Lachin Corridor – the only land route between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Church leaders have warned that “mass starvation is likely in the coming months”.

The Lemkin report argues that this “illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor […] is a deliberately targeted effort to inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of [Nagorno-Karabakh’s] Armenians – which may constitute the crime of genocide according to the United Nation’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948”.

Warning of genocide no exaggeration

The warnings of genocide from the Lemkin Institute and other observers are not overblown rhetoric.

A century ago several thousand Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians were among the 3.75 million Armenian, Assyrian, Syriac and Greek Christians who were systematically exterminated in a 30-year campaign waged by the Turkic rulers of the Ottoman Empire from 1893 to 1923.  

The anti-Armenian attitudes that shaped the Armenian Genocide are, says the Lemkin report, still prevalent today.

Three generations of the same Armenian Christian family living under a makeshift shelter in the Syrian desert in 1915, having been forced from their homes during the Armenian Genocide [Image credit: Armenian National Institute]   

The Azerbaijani invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2020 was characterised by many war crimes and human rights abuses, which were, argues the Lemkin Report, “reminiscent of the violence of the Armenian Genocide”.

The report also notes an ongoing Azerbaijani military build-up, which suggests the possibility of a further invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh that “could lead to the mass murder stage of genocide”, both in Nagorno-Karabakh itself and more widely in the South Caucasus region.

The stage is now set for a second Armenian Genocide. It is up to the international community to act swiftly to prevent such an atrocity.

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