The recent developments in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) have given rise to serious concerns within the international community. Artsakh has been targeted by a genocide campaign conducted by Azerbaijan — with the help of brother nation Turkey — against the indigenous Armenian population. With genocide and legal experts alike speaking out against the blatant ethnic cleansing, this genocide is reminiscent of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. It is heartbreaking to accept that despite the passage of more than a century, war crimes materialize under the nose of powerful governmental and intergovernmental organizations.
Currently, Azerbaijan has illegally detained eight Artsakh officials and Armenian citizens in Baku, including Arayik Harutyunyan, Arkadi Ghukasyan, Bako Sahayan, Davit Babayan, Davit Ishkhanyan, Davit Manukyan, Levon Mnatsakanyan and Ruben Vardanyan, an eerie echo of Red Sunday. On Red Sunday, which took place on April 24, 1915, the Young Turks targeted, deported and murdered Armenian intellectuals and other figures that maintained any form of social, cultural or political influence in Armenia.
The United Nations’ response has been met with criticism. The U.N. mission to Artsakh, led by Vladanka Andreeva, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan, suspiciously concluded within a single day, issuing a report that has drawn significant scrutiny and skepticism. The team also included Ramesh Rajasingham, the Director of OCHA’s Coordination Division, as well as representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
The report stated that there were “no incidences of violence against Armenian civilians” and “no damage to civilian public infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, housing, or cultural and religious structures” in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh. It further declared that they “did not come across any reports – neither from the local population interviewed nor from the interlocutors – of incidences of violence against civilians following the latest ceasefire,” and “[were] struck by the sudden manner in which the local population left their homes and the suffering the experience must have caused.”
This assessment has raised questions about the U.N.’s ability to address the complex humanitarian crisis unfolding in Artsakh. Many have expressed concerns that the organization did not adequately respond to the allegations of ethnic cleansing and genocide, leaving the affected Armenian population in a vulnerable and dire situation.
The confusion ends and controversy grows when one discovers two things. First, the author of this U.N. report was Rashad Huseynov, an Azerbaijani National Information Officer of the United Nations, generally known to be a mouthpiece for the Aliyev regime – a potential explanation for the U.N.’s rushed approach. The flagrant partial authorship raises doubts about the report’s objectivity, further eroding trust in the U.N.’s ability to provide an unbiased assessment of the situation.
Second, the mission comes one day after Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev’s announcement that he donated one million USD to the United Nations Human Settlements Program (U.N.-Habitat) from the Presidential Contingency Fund.
The U.N. report is countered by photo and video evidence showcasing the damage that has been imposed on civilians and their homes, as well as the number of deaths and illnesses that resulted from the blockade, attacks and so-called “ceasefire.” We have also heard from voices on the ground, actual Armenian civilians – not the Azeri nor the Armenian government – who resided in their ancestral homes and documented the day-to-day horror of the almost year-long blockade and its barbaric “conclusion.”
The humanitarian crisis in Artsakh has resulted in a significant exodus of ethnic Armenians, with reports suggesting that over 100,000 people have fled the region, many describing the area as a “ghost town.” As few as 50 to 1,000 ethnic Armenians are reported to be left in Artsakh, further underscoring the scale of displacement and suffering experienced by the Armenian population in the region. The sudden departure of tens of thousands of people from their homes has created a profound humanitarian challenge that demands immediate and comprehensive attention from the international community.
Yet, despite our understanding of how a universal global organization like the U.N. should be approaching a dire situation of this scale, the Armenian people are once again left sorely disappointed in a world that seems willing to tolerate genocidal regimes.