On Saturday, the “humanitarian ceasefire” was put into effect that Azerbaijan broke in four minutes, one minute earlier than the initial ceasefire violated on October 10, 2020. For the last 24 days, the silence of the international community is more deafening than the bombs. No country has attempted to intervene meaningfully in this grossly uneven war as Armenia and Artsakh defends herself against Azerbaijan, aided by Turkey and Syrian mercenaries. The world does not care for what is happening in Artsakh just like it stayed silent when Henry Morgenthau was raging for intervention. THE WORLD DOES NOT CARE. The broken record of history will not be fixed. Every single facet of so-called “humanitarian law” has been broken in these 24 days. What does the silence tell us? Dictators like Erdogan and Aliyev can do as they please. That is the message. They will continue to import jihadist mercenaries, drop internationally outlawed cluster bombs and ban humanitarian aid from flying over their airspace. The world will not intervene because this war, like all the others we rarely pay attention to, is a combat sport for the interested without the pay-per-view.
What have we learned since the Armenian Genocide? Sabers and bashibozuks have been replaced with jihadists and Smerch missiles targeting civilians. Nothing has changed except the weather and analogue bombs now going digital just like our cassette tapes codified into iTunes tracks. At the touch of a button a bomb drops in the time it takes to click open an app on your phone.
The world and everything we are seeing in this past decade has digitized into technologies vast, advanced and vicious. We are facing most probably the first — if not among the first — full on, 24/7, hyperactive and high-tech theaters of war in the 21st century. David fighting two Goliaths is an understatement. The jihadist conversations now riddled across cyberspace, the images of Azeris and mercenaries desecrating Armenian soldiers on the front, the cassette bombs that are now sprinkled all over Stepanakert and other regions. Add to that the blatant barbarism of Aliyev and Erdogan and the cowardly silence of Trump who increased aid to Azerbaijan by 25 times.
We are not in the silent movie era of World War I. We are in 2020. This is the era of Facebook and social media anxiety where not a fly can buzz without getting trapped in a selfie and uploaded onto one of a zillion platforms.
In 1915 “under the cover of World War I,” as it has often been repeated, the Ottoman Empire started its ethnic cleansing of the Armenian, Greek, Yazidi and Assyrian indigenous populations.
And now, under the cover of a global pandemic, a most malevolent war has been started by Azerbaijan with the full backing of Turkey. It is not a question of what is happening in living color for the world to see, unlike the Genocide when the images and reports trickled in over the years over long distance wires.
The question beyond the obvious is: does the world have the attention span or political will to care about some lives and countries in peril over others?
This is not just the first full-on war in the time of COVID-19. What non-Armenians, non-Greeks, non-Kurds, non-Assyrians and non-Yazidis are still having a hard time processing is the century-old threat of the neo-Ottoman Pan-Turkism agenda that is festering steadily in these two republics that have all but decimated any voices of progressive opposition. Turkey’s left is silent because of the guaranteed blowback and persecution they will receive. Add to that, Recep Tayyip Erdogan making public statements such as Hitler’s Germany was efficient and that Turkey will carry out what their grandfathers started in the Caucasus, alluding to the Genocide. Since when have leaders of nations been held accountable for their vitriolic threats? And is accountability even a realistic demand in these apathetic and fictitious times?
Armenia is being pushed into the corner of an ugly realpolitik powder keg, spearheaded by Russia that does not want to “lose” Turkey and its strategic importance to their respective geopolitical interests. Mr. Putin has played the long game. Mr. Lavrov is his sphinx bishop on the chessboard. The real estate of high-tech arms trade is vital to any superpower or empire’s longevity. The divide must not be settled. It must linger if profits are to be waged through the arms trade to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Israel’s overt snuggling to Azerbaijan’s oil pot is a tragic example of war profiteering in the several billions paid. No matter how loud and vocal the Israeli protests in favor of stopping arms sales to Azerbaijan, the ugly truth remains etched in the blood of civilians and fresh graves caused by Israeli-made drones.
Whatever we have learned as Armenians over the past century has tragically come to haunt us in these vicious and united days. We are alone…again. With only fortitude, wherewithal and absolute blindly driven stubbornness to survive, this war demands that all of us GET BETTER. Think smarter and have foresight in all we do during wartime and after.
When Icarus smashed into the sea after daring the sun, the plowman tilled, the villager plucked his garden and the rest of the land didn’t see, didn’t care and didn’t remember just like our world today in this war. Aside from the lone conscientious souls in a few parliaments, civil society, sporadic academia and media who post, tweet, write letters and demand attention to the gross inhumanity taking place, we have only our willpower and presence of mind to rely on. Nobody cares that we are the first Christian nation. Nobody cares that we endured the first large scale Genocide of the 20th century. If history has taught us anything, it is that historical amnesia’s first casualties are victims. This is why we must be victorious. After two-thousand years of Armenia enduring and surviving conquests by the Persians, Mongols, Ottomans and Russians, guess what?
We won for the first time in ’94 this tiny patch of land from where our essence sprouts. Independence and democracy are bloody and expensive.
We have and continue to pay for it through the lives of a remarkable generation being martyred as I write this.
Every hope for peaceful coexistence and international cultural activities I have engaged in for the past 10 years trying to build a bridge between Armenia, the Diaspora and Turkey has been decimated. The same applies to the efforts of a generation of progressive Turkish academics and artists who have tried to sustain this lacerated rope of hope that we have been tugging on. After the failed coup d’etat in 2016, Erdogan ripped asunder Turkey’s opposition that included scores of academics, journalists, politicians and artists. Those who are not in jail like Osman Kavala and hundreds of others are in exile across Europe. The silence of my colleagues is part understandable, part infuriating. After the bombs stop, academics and intellectuals will organize conferences and kumbaya calls for dialogue. It will be too late and tone deaf as the ringing in our ears from the lingering bombs and carnage will last for years to come, drowning all else as we manically work to rebuild, revive and refocus all that we must fulfill for the future of Armenia and Artsakh. We take ash and blaze it back into fire. This is what we do. Maybe fate’s cruel reminder, no different than Job, is that all this is yet happening because we can handle it. There is no alternative but victory and survival.
Armenia, tragically you have realized yet again that in the worst hours of our civilization’s survival, WE ARE ALONE in this world. The tragedy of what we are living through in these brutal times of bone-and-knuckle survival will change forever how we will continue to endure, survive and face the future.
Inevitably, Armenia will become more militarized and must be ready to fight two or three fronts at once, given that the “laws of war” are hopelessly abandoned in our new high-tech era of aerial drones striking boots on the ground and clueless civilians. Sadly, might will define who endures. We are fighting a hell of a war, always outnumbered, always outgunned but nevermore the vanquished.
My whole life I have despised and continue to despise war and the mindless loss of life due to combat. I have and continue to despise this doomed masculinity of toy soldiers and whitewashed histories of shedding blood for heroism. I have and continue to believe wholeheartedly in peace, dialogue and civilized steps toward de-escalation, but this war has changed me and many of my friends probably forever. Nothing matters in the face of a global body politic that does not have a system of combating tyrants who hold the west and their own citizens in Azerbaijan and Turkey hostage because of the black gold and geo-strategic real estate it peddles for euros in the billions. The petro-math of this war and its tentacles stretch deep into the pockets of Trump and various circles in the European Union, as well as Hungary, Israel and Georgia.
Had Turkey and the jihadists not reinforced Aliyev’s thuggish and insidious warmongering, this war would have long been over in a matter of days, just like in 2016. Azerbaijan can never win the ground war by itself.
In the darkness and the horrible losses of the brave, bright young men and women fighting tooth-and-nail for Artsakh and Armenia’s survival, there is only one irreversible fact on the ground today: no amount of firepower, high-tech or otherwise in the hands of cowardly ragtag armies and sophisticated weaponry will ever come a hair’s breadth to achieving the impossible surrender of Armenia. The cost and consequences are beyond brutal, but the victory will not be Pyrrhic.
In the end, the calls for justice will continue in the halls of power, and celebrities will advocate for us then retract their support when the bots and trolls of Azerbaijan target their businesses and public image. All that will matter is the one less hour we sleep and devote to wholehearted action, aid and total mobilization for the very same survival that we have etched in our souls for millennia. There is no other way but allowing this darkness to become the purpose to finding the light.
The storm is now and forever in us. We will ride this one out too. For over a century we have been painted as ‘victims’ of one of the first genocides of the 20th century—the “starving Armenians” plastered all over American print and media. Finally, the pendulum swung in the first Nagorno-Karabakh war. We emerged victorious. For once in a long time, the world saw that when cornered into yet again the iron maiden of a nation’s annihilation, the only choice we have is victory, by any means necessary. Again, the harsh cost for our tiny country is too great. The former “victims” are now the victors just by the mere stubbornness and fight for their patch, no different than Sparta, no different than any fabled underdog tale.
This war will temporarily end when Russia intervenes. All else is window dressing and lip service. Artsakh will survive thanks to the indefinable courage and absolute dedication of our soldiers bearing the cost of this with their lives – young, old, men, women, elderly. What Armenia and Artsakh will need more than ever now and every day after tomorrow is our presence in the war after the bombs stop to rebuild, sustain and return to the root. The ghosts and scars of this war will remain for a while. They will only fuel each survivor and Armenians urge to dig deeper, plant firmer and blossom more garlands where children will nurture and grow, far from the chaos of our times. The only light that will break the isolation and cruel indifference of the world is our total, invincible unity and sustainable lifelong commitment to survive, rebuild, nurture and contribute every day to the survival of Artsakh and Armenia.