We are writing to you as former or ongoing Armenian participants and alumni of the Erasmus+ Program. The European Union has helped us access quality education (both formal and non-formal) in different corners of Europe, an experience that has changed us forever. We have benefited from the freedom of movement that our region has been short of because of the conflicts and continued hostilities since the collapse of the Soviet Union. We have bonded with people from various national backgrounds, thus strengthening the European in our hearts. We have learned to cherish democracy and human rights and each of us has embarked on making a change in our homeland; you can find us working in NGOs, governmental and international organizations, personal businesses or startups putting our skills for the prosperity of our country and strengthening the links with democratic Europe and the values that the EU stands for.
You can imagine that our world shattered on the 27th of September, when regardless of the geographic location, all Armenians woke up to a full fledged war, jointly planned by the aggressor Azerbaijan, its NATO member and EU candidate ally Turkey and international terrorists against the peaceful citizens of Artsakh (known to the international community as Nagorno Karabakh/NK) and Armenia. Since then, each of us has been doing his or her best to inform the international community about the wrongdoings of Azerbaijan and his belligerent accomplice by spreading only verified information, combating disinformation, and appealing to our European friends for their financial support to the Armenian refugees of Artsakh/NK. Nevertheless, each day of silence from the world costs us irreversible loss of innocent lives.
On behalf of the undersigned Erasmus+ participants and alumni, we urge you, as the Ambassador of the Delegation of the EU to the Republic of Armenia to advocate our message to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in order to condemn the aggressor’s attempts of extermination of Armenian population of Artsakh/NK and apply appropriate measures against the pre-planned military actions of Azerbaijan and its associate Turkey, which cannot stay a NATO member due to its proven entanglement of Syrian mercenaries and internationally banned terrorists groups into the battlefield. We are also devastated that this war was triggered amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic and is a serious threat to regional stability, as well as global peace and good governance.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are part of the Eastern Partnership program under the EU Neighborhood umbrella. EaP has promised to enlarge its partnership with the member countries based on the ‘more for more’ principle and we rely on this criterion as one of the bases of our appeal. In contrast to its bigger and wealthier neighbor Azerbaijan, since the Velvet Revolution of 2018 the Republic of Armenia has made substantial progress in regards to democratization and protection of human rights. According to the Freedom House, Armenia has improved its freedom score from 45 points (2017) to 53 (2020). Artsakh/NK, categorized as a partly free country, has also raised its score from 30 (2018) to 34 (2020). Meanwhile Azerbaijan, classified as a non-free country has the lowest and continuously decreasing score in the region, only 10 points. Moreover, Azerbaijan also continues its cultural genocide of the Armenian heritage (e.g Armenian Jugha cemetery in 2006) in Artsakh/NK, as, Armenian Christian pilgrimage site, Saint Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi was shelled twice by the Azerbaijani armed forces on October 8. We sadly witness how the aggressors depreciate the role of culture as a driving-force for democratic reforms in the EaP region.
Alas, our country is now being dragged into an escalating war with Aliyev’s dictatorship which disregards all democratic principles. A war that cannot be bypassed by the Republic of Armenia since Artsakh/NK is populated by ethnic Armenians and being a small nation we have the responsibility to protect our identity from any existential threat. We kindly request You to take into account various international media reports and verified facts that indicate this war is an attack on the young democracy in Armenia and Artsakh/NK. We are a nation seeking peace and stability, our historic path has taught us the value of peaceful existence, However, as 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, human rights activist Desmond Tutu said “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. Hence we have to be alert and honest in recognition of the fact that Azerbaijan under the rule of Aliyev is not sharing the same values and sentiments. The facts supporting this statement are numerous.
During 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev (whom Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project recognized as the Person of the Year in 2012) accused Armenia in terrorism, while it is now recognized that Azerbaijan and its warmonger ally Turkey have been recruiting Syrian and Libyan jihadist mercenaries (terrorists) to fight against peaceful citizens of Artsakh/NK. Today various government officials such as the President of France Emmanuel Macron, internationally renowned media outlets CNN, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Reuters and so forth) and intelligence services of several countries confirm the truthfulness of these facts. As proud bearers of the European and Armenian democratic values, we understand and acknowledge that this war was initiated by dictatorial and corrupt leaders of Azerbaijan and Turkey, and not by the people of Azerbaijan. Despite the calls of Armenian side to respect humanitarian laws and the interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights, the Azerbaijan-Turkey criminal dictatorial tandem has deliberately targeted civilians and journalists.
Human Rights Defender of Artsakh/NK reported about 22 civilian casualties, 93 wounded, and over 5,800 damaged properties and key civilian infrastructures in Artsakh/NK. These crimes against humanity and the fact that over 50-percent of the population of Artsakh/NK (75,000 children, women, elderly) had to flee their country reflects the true motivation of Azerbaijani government, which is to have Artsakh/NK without its Armenian population. Moreover, despite the fragile truce attempts by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, after eleven hours of trilateral negotiations between the diplomatic corps of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan and the decision on humanitarian ceasefire achieved in Moscow on October 09 2020, Azerbaijani forces violated the ceasefire within five minutes after its coming into force.
Hence we call upon the European Union, with its successful mediation in conflict resolution and protection of human rights and democracy, to be more vocal and unambiguously reprehend and sanction the aggressors. All the above mentioned facts, backed up with our democratic values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and human rights, stimulate us – the Erasmus + Armenian participants and alumni – to raise our voice and appeal to You and the European Commission with the following calls:
- Abstain from equalizing the responsibilities of both sides in your official There are established facts that prove that Azerbaijan has planned and initiated the aggression and its leadership does not even hide its objective to cleansing Armenian population of Artsakh/NK.
- Consider sanctions against the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey, as well as responsible officials for their involvement in the infiltration of terrorist groups into the region, as well as for violating international humanitarian law against the civilian population of Artsakh/NK and Armenia.
- Remain consistent in your fight against international terrorism (as declared in EU Security Union Strategy) that is reemerging right now in South Caucasus.
- Recognize remedial secession of Artsakh/NK to secure the right of the people of Artsakh/NK for self-determination and the fundamental right to life.
The European Union is not a union based on economic interests alone, first and foremost it is a Union of values, and we are waiting for the EU to stand by its values.
Erasmus+ participants and alumni of Armenia
Dr. Arsen Aproyan
Pia Kai Sild