Azerbaijan Pursues ‘Elimination of the Entire Christian Population and Its Churches’ in Nagorno-Karabakh

The Tom Lantos Committee on Human Rights in Congress, chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), said: hearing Wednesday will discuss the plight of Armenian Christians trapped by the Azerbaijani blockade in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The committee heard expert testimony that said Azerbaijan’s actions were clearly genocide and that there was collusion between Turkey and Islamist forces sent to the region.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous region the size of Azerbaijan’s Delaware state that has been inhabited by Armenians for centuries. Most Azerbaijanis are Muslim, while Armenians are Christian.

The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh fought an unsuccessful secession war in 1994 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, after which it remained a semi-autonomous colony supported by the Armenian state.

Sporadic clashes broke out over the years, full-scale war In 2020, a ceasefire was signed in November of the same year, brokered by Russia. Azerbaijan was generally seen as winning the conflict, as Armenia was required to hand over control of some border areas.

Finding broke out again At the end of 2022, despite the presence of Russian peacekeepers. Both Armenians and Azerbaijan accused each other of violating ceasefire terms with unprovoked ground attacks and shelling.

In December 2022, Azerbaijan will blockade Known as the Rachin Corridor, this road is the only land route connecting the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh with the Armenian state. The blockade was initially started by a group of self-proclaimed “environmental activists” protesting illegal mining activities, but testimony at the Human Rights Commission on Wednesday revealed they were in fact Azerbaijani agents. .

Testifying before the committee on Wednesday was Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC). published report In August, about the closure of the Lachin Corridor. Mr Ocampo’s report said the blockade was an attempt by Azerbaijan to use “hunger as a means of genocide”.

“There are no crematoriums, no machete raids. Hunger is an invisible slaughter weapon. Mr. warned In August.

Ocampo told the Human Rights Commission that there are essentially two types of genocide. One is murderous violence using weapons, and the other is a deliberate effort to create the conditions for the extermination of entire populations. He said the Lachin blockade is a clear example of the latter, depriving Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh of food, gas, electricity and medicine. The Azeris stopped the Red Cross from reaching the Armenians and even drove back the Russian peacekeepers.

“This is an ongoing genocide. It’s happening now,” he said. “There is no doubt that genocidal intent is there.”

Mr. Ocampo handed down a harsh sentence against Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, as did the committee’s other expert witness, David L. Phillips, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. They said Aliyev was well aware of the humanitarian crisis caused by the Rachin blockade.

“President Aliyev is clearly in charge. No doubt, no doubt,” Ocampo said.

Phillips said Aliyev’s goal is “the eradication of all Christians and their churches.”

“There is no question that genocidal intent exists,” Ocampo said.

Mr. Phillips quoted extensively from Mr. Aliyev and his officials, who expressed their determination to wipe out the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh once and for all.

“There is no question that the language used by President Aliyev and his officials has genocidal intent,” he said, noting that Aliyev “dehumanized” the Armenians among his own people and that they He pointed out that he has been working to pave the way for the destruction of the world.

Phillips added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and some senior officials, including Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, were “responsible” for the imminent genocide because they supported the Azerbaijani army. Ta.Akar is Succeeded In June 2023, Yasar Guller took office as Defense Minister, but he does not appear to be showing any more favorable attitudes towards the Armenians.

Phillips said the presence of “Turkish-backed Islamic fighters” in the Nagorno-Karabakh battlefield was “notable”, saying they were targeting Armenian farmers, making them afraid to take their crops to market, and threatening starvation. He said it contributed to the pressure.he pointed to the United Nations report The report said that since the outbreak of the war in 2020, Turkey has helped send thousands of Syrian mercenaries to aid the Azerbaijani army.

Phillips said the international community has so far allowed Aliyev to act “with impunity” even when he has committed serious violations of international norms, including: to import It re-exports Russian gas to Europe, and after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, direct imports of Russian products are prohibited.

“Azerbaijan’s record of murders over the past 30 years is shocking,” Smith said, adding that the United Nations has documented numerous “expressions of hatred against Armenians emanating from Aliyev and other officials.” but there seems to be little enthusiasm among the public. Either the international community or US officials should take decisive action.

Smith said U.S. officials said: Admitted Called for the reopening of the corridor, calling for the humanitarian crisis caused by the blockade of Rachin, but the call was ignored. He said the Human Rights Commission will immediately send a letter to the Biden administration urging stronger action.

Ocampo pointed out that international diplomacy tends to have slower effects than hunger or disease, and mused that “the international system is not equipped to deal with genocide.” He stressed that if genocide conditions are imposed, action should be taken quickly rather than waiting until entire populations are at risk of extinction.

“The imperative is to prevent harm to hundreds of thousands of people,” he said. “Parties should not wait for the genocide to begin. They should act as soon as the warning is given.”

Ocampo further warned that if US officials directly or indirectly aided Azerbaijan’s genocide denial, it could be considered “complicity.”

“If the situation is not dramatically reversed soon, the United States and its allies should give Armenians the means to protect themselves,” Phillips suggested.

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