Artsakh is on the Brink of a Second Genocide

Human rights hearing experts urge the Biden Administration to take action

A scene from the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Artsakh security held on June 21

Former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, former US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Michael Rubin and Columbia University Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights David Phillips all delivered one clear message to lawmakers leading the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing last week: Artsakh is on the brink of a second Armenian Genocide.

During the two-hour hearing, chaired by Rep. Chris Smith and Rep. James McGovern, with the participation of Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chairs Frank Pallone and Gus Bilirakis, the experts discussed risks that Armenians in Artsakh face in light of a nearly 200-day blockade by Azeri forces along the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor—the only strip of land connecting Artsakh to Armenia. The blockade has left 120,000 indigenous Armenians without food, energy and medicine for seven months. On April 23, Azerbaijan opened a military checkpoint at the corridor—a breach of the November 2020 ceasefire agreement. Fears of a second Armenian Genocide are heightened, and tensions are again rising two and a half years after the six-week war that ended in Armenia’s defeat.

When speaking of President Erdogan of Turkey, Ambassador Brownback stated, “He’s got this pan-Turkic idea of a corridor and the one…sliver of land that stands between him and this pan-Turkic corridor is Armenia.” Thus, the only way to complete his pan-Turkic dream is to eradicate the Armenian people. Chairman Smith later added that creating a pan-Turkey requires the destruction or alteration of cultural legacies. Phillips entreated that America’s values on human rights and genocide prevention “not be traded for hydrocarbons or other concessions to authoritarian leaders.” He highlighted that Azerbaijan’s motivation has been and still is the “cultural erasure of Armenians in violation of the trilateral ceasefire statement.”

Both Amb. Brownback and Rubin had the opportunity to visit Armenia from June 14-16 with the Philos Project, observing firsthand the living conditions of its people. The Philos Project is a nonprofit organization that strives to encourage positive Christian engagement in the Middle East. Led by Philos Project president Robert Nicholson and former Amb. Brownback and attended by Rubin, the trip informed Christian and Jewish leaders of Armenia’s rich history and the threats it faces today. Participants visited various monasteries, spoke with Jermuk residents affected by Azerbaijan’s violence and met with Armenia’s President Vahagn Khachaturyan.

During the hearing, Amb. Brownback said that in Jermuk, “you could see the Azeri forces on the other hill from where we were and the ability of them to just lob artillery into that town at any time […] really reminded me of Sarajevo.” The Philos Project trip also struck a chord with Rubin, who at the hearing declared, “It’s unconscionable to take a democracy like Artsakh and subordinate it to a country that, according to Freedom House, is not only not free, but is actually less democratic than Burma and Russia.” Philos Project president Nicholson emphasized the very real threat of a second genocide, saying that “[Armenia] is the oldest Christian nation facing again for the second time in only about a century the possibility of a genocide.”

During the hearing, Amb. Brownback emphasized that if the United States doesn’t intervene, yet another indigenous Christian population will be forced out of its homeland. He called on Congress to pass the “Nagorno-Karabakh Human Rights Act,” which would identify the minimum standards to safeguard the security of Armenians in Artsakh. Brownback stated that although Christians in the Middle East have fallen victim to similar attacks in the past, this time the US is supplying Azerbaijan with weaponry that is being used for ethnic cleansing in Artsakh. Azerbaijan’s actions are backed by Turkey, a member of NATO.

Furthermore, Rubin also spoke of the geopolitical history of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to emphasize the threat Armenians face today. He said, “What Russia is doing right now…is symbolically showing that if you choose democracy—as Azerbaijan flirted with in the 1990s, as Georgia embraced in 2008, and as Armenia embraced in 2018— […] you’re going to lose a third of your territory.” He said the US should reward democracies rather than serve as a puppet for dictatorships like Azerbaijan.

Speaking of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Rep. Frank Pallone said, “He is clearly taking premeditated steps to remove the indigenous Armenian population from Artsakh and depriving them of the opportunity to live freely, democratically, and with dignity in the land of their ancestors, which is a clear sign of…ethnic cleansing.”

Rep. Gus Bilirakis emphasized the importance of heeding lessons from the past and taking action to prevent a second genocide. Various legislation pushed by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has informed members of the US Congress about this crisis, urging them to take action. For example, Rep. Barbara Lee’s letter, signed by 54 Representatives, called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to enforce restrictions on military assistance to Azerbaijan (Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act). Since 2002, Section 907 has been waived, and in the fiscal years 2002-2020, $808 million has been provided to Azerbaijan by the Departments of State, Defense and Energy, as well as the US Agency for International Development. In the hearing, Rep. Bilirakis stated, “While we can’t change the past, we must act now to stop another Armenian Genocide…There’s no justifiable reason to continue this waiver when Azerbaijan has clearly used this equipment to wage an aggressive war against Armenia, commit war crimes against innocent Armenians and enforce the current blockade.”

In the midst of this nearly seven-month blockade of the Berdzor Corridor and ongoing Azeri aggression, we must remain united, strong and resilient. Amb. Brownback spoke of the Armenian people’s resiliency, recounting our history as the first Christian nation that has “been persecuted by multiple empires, over thousands of years (the Persians, the Ottomans, Russians, others), and yet they’re still there. They’re still fighting. And it just inspires you with their tenacity, with their courage, their pluck. Armenia to me…is really kind of the Israel of Christendom, where it stood there so long, and we should stand with them, and we should not allow them to be driven out of this ancient homeland with the use…of US weaponry… we should stand up policy-wise here, and we should stand up compassionately.”  

Sophia Papazian

Sophia Papazian

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sophia is a rising sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley. She is majoring in Political Economy and minoring in Public Policy and plans on pursuing a career in international relations. She is also interested in exploring the world of journalism, research and consulting. With a passion for serving our global community, she is currently participating in the 2023 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship. Sophia is also an active member of the ASUC Student Union, Global Research and Consulting, Cal’s Armenian Student Association, and the “Ararat” chapter of Homenetmen Hrashq.
Sophia Papazian

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  1. Hopefully in this rotten episode Armenians will notice the contrast between Arktash and Kosovo and realise that it’s time to give up on Russia

    • Agree with Charles. Armenia is an independent country. Armenians are strong. Armenians are closer to Europeans than to Russians. Russians have done nothing for Armenia but Armenians helped Russia beat Hitler. Putin is the new Hitler. Russia is a rouge state. We need to get Russians out of Armenia sooner the better. Get Russians out invite NATO in and finally make peace with Turks. That’s the only way forward for Armenia.

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