Where is the international will to respond to the ethnic cleansing taking place in Artsakh?

Photo: Siranush Sargsyan, September 27, Twitter

As a community of critically engaged scholars and global citizens, we are shocked by the belated and insufficient response of the international community to the ethnic cleansing of what was, until weeks ago, the Armenian-populated enclave of Karabakh/Artsakh, located within the internationally recognized boundaries of Azerbaijan.

The precarious conditions of the local population were alarming enough for former International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to declare on multiple occasions that Azerbaijan’s actions in Artsakh are in violation of the United Nations Genocide Convention. He stated in unwavering terms that “we cannot accept a new Armenian genocide in 2023,” a statement that recalls how only a century earlier the Ottoman Empire erased its indigenous Armenian inhabitants.

During the recent Azerbaijani campaign, more than 100,000 Artsakh Armenians who were ethnically cleansed from their homes were subject to dehumanizing epithets, including that of being labeled “terrorists,” in a climate of inflammatory rhetoric that usually accompanies state violence, or worse, genocide. Caravans of Armenians were expelled from the mountainous enclave to safety in Armenia, forcibly displaced by legitimate fears of atrocities, state-sanctioned ethnic hatred and the suppression of their cultural rights. For the first time in the recorded history of the region, this majority ethnic Armenian enclave is depopulated of Armenians. They were ethnically cleansed while the world stood by and watched.  

In 2020, Azerbaijan invaded the self-proclaimed Artsakh Republic, and has since committed horrific crimes against both military personnel and civilians. Documented by international human rights groups and openly shared on Azerbaijani social media, Armenians were decapitated, mutilated and raped in the course of the invasion, which largely reduced the Artsakh Republic’s territorial holdings. In addition, the Lachin Corridor that connected non-contiguous Artsakh to its Armenian neighbor has been blocked since December 2022, placing the territory under siege, an action that the International Court of Justice ruled was a “real and imminent risk” to the population. Siege, a technique used in mass atrocities in Tigray and Syria, starved the population of medical, food and life-saving supplies, producing a classic case of ethnic cleansing by attrition.

Leading up to the military campaign to disarm and dismantle Artsakh in late September, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan (a close ally of both the U.S. and Russia), has used a new single lettered slogan mimicking Russia’s fascist Z symbol that propagandizes its genocidal campaign in Ukraine. Baku has already signaled that the conquest of Artsakh will not be enough, having renamed neighboring Armenia “Western Azerbaijan” and giving parts of sovereign Armenia Azerbaijani place names in media broadcasts and speeches.

Currently, Armenians of Artsakh have been reliant on Russia, whose role as peacekeeper in the region is in name only. Azerbaijan, a country given the status of “not free” by Freedom House, is not a place where the Armenians of Artsakh can live freely without persecution, a status that even Azerbaijani citizens do not receive from their own government. 

As scholars and concerned global citizens, we urge the international community to place pressure on Azerbaijan and to establish guarantees and mechanisms for the safe return of Armenians to the region, including the protection of their inalienable property and right to live in their ancestral homeland. We ask that the United Nations deploy peacekeepers to protect the safe passage for all remaining refugees and heed warnings about the destruction of Armenian heritage that is sure to follow the evacuation of Armenians from the region. Azerbaijan’s pattern of targeting Armenian churches, monasteries and cemeteries is well-documented by monitoring agencies. We urge the international community to take action to protect some of the world’s oldest Christian heritage from established patterns of destruction. Lastly, we call for Armenia’s beleaguered democracy and civil society—and, indeed, its sovereignty and territorial integrity—to be ensured and its people assured that they have not been abandoned by the international community. Only with guarantees that international law and treaties will be upheld in the troubled region can the cycle of violence finally be broken.


Levon Abrahamian, Head of the Department of Cultural Anthropology, Institute of Archaeology & Ethnography, NAS RA

Can Aciksoz, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UCLA

Hakem Al-Rustom, Alex Manoogian Professor of Modern Armenian History, Assistant Professor of History and of Anthropology, University of Michigan 

Dr. Avril Alba, Associate Professor in Holocaust Studies and Jewish Civilization, Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, Deputy HoS (Research) School of Languages and Cultures, The University of Sydney  

Anna Aleksanyan, postdoctoral fellow at the Armenian Genocide Research Program of the Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA

Sophia Armen, Independent Scholar

Richard Antaramian, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, University of Southern California

Dr. Sebouh David Aslanian, Professor of History and Richard Hovannisian Chair of Modern Armenian History, UCLA

Maral N. Attallah, Distinguished Lecturer, Dept. of Critical Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Cal Poly Humboldt  

Dr. Levon Avdoyan, Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist (retired)

Babayan Kathryn, Professor, History & Middle East Studies, University of Michigan 

Peter Balakian, Rebar Professor of the Humanities in the department of English, Colgate University

Aslı Bâli, Professor of Law, Yale University

Omer Bartov, Samuel Pisar Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Brown University

Tina Bastajian, Lecturer, Amsterdam University College; Sandberg Institute 

Jean-Philippe Belleau, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Boston  

Houri Berberian, Professor of History, Meghrouni Family Presidential Chair in Armenian Studies, Director of the Center for Armenian Studies, University of California, Irvine 

Matthias Bjørnlund, historian, genocide scholar

Donald Bloxham, Richard Pares Professor of History, University of Edinburgh 

Eric Bogosian, American actor, playwright, monologuist, novelist, historian

Ne’lida Elena Boulgourdjian, Professor of History, University of Tres de Febrero, Argentina 

Talar Chahinian, Lecturer, Program for Armenian Studies, University of California, Irvine 

Peter Cowe, Distinguished Professor, Narekatsi Chair of Armenian Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, UCLA

Asya Darbinyan, Executive Director, Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education (Chhange) 

Dr. Vazken Khatchig Davidian, Associate Faculty Member, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford 

Ruben Davtyan, Postdoc in Archaeology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

Bedross Der Matossian, Professor of History and Hymen Rosenberg Professor in Judaic Studies, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Silvina Der Meguerditchian, Independent Visual Artist

Dzovinar Derderian, Lecturer, Department of History, University of California, Berkeley, Executive Director, Armenian Studies Program 

Hossep Dolatian, Visiting Scholar, Department of Linguistics, Stony Brook University

Samuel Dolbee, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Vanderbilt University 

Atom Egoyan, Filmmaker

Caroline Ford, Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles

Andrea S. Goldman, Associate Professor, Department of History, UCLA

Fatma Müge Göçek, Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan

Rachel Goshgarian, Associate Professor of History, Lafayette College

Chris Gratien, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Virginia

Talinn Grigor, Professor of Art History, University of California, Davis

Dr. Edita Gzoyan, Acting Director at Armenian Genocide Museum & Institute

Mashinka Firunts Hakopian, Associate Professor, ArtCenter College of Design

Prof. Garry R. Hannah. Executive Director, Promise Institute for Human Rights, UCLA School of Law

Diana Hayrapetyan, Ph.D. Candidate, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University 

Katsuya Hirano, Associate Professor, UCLA 

Dr. Tessa Hofmann, Scholar of genocide and Armenian studies, author; formerly Freie Universität Berlin, Institute for Eastern European Studies

Margaret C. Jacob, Distinguished Professor of Research, Emerita, Department of History, UCLA

Arsinée Khanjian, Actor and Political Activist

Ayşenur Korkmaz, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study

Nancy Kricorian, Writer

Rudi Matthee, John and Dorothy Munroe, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Delaware

Dr. Suren Manukyan, Head of the UNESCO Chair on Prevention of Genocide and Other Atrocity Crimes, Yerevan State University 

Seta Kabranian Melkonian, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Services, University of Alaska, Anchorage 

Ronald Mellor, Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Ani Kalayjian, Prof., Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention, ATOP, Meaningful world, and Columbia University

Philippe Raffi Kalfayan, Ph.D., Associate Researcher and Lecturer in International Public Law at Paris Pantheon-Assas University, France 

Dikran M. Kaligian, historian, author

Dr. Sossie Kasbarian, Senior Lecturer, University of Stirling 

Robin D.G. Kelley, Professor of History, UCLA 

Thomas Kühne, Strassler Colin Flug Professor of Holocaust History, Clark University

Dr. Umit Kurt, University of Newcastle, the Center for Study of Violence 

Sergio La Porta, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, California State University, Fresno 

Jacob Ari Labendz, Scholar of Jewish History and Culture

Marc A. Mamigonian, Director of Academic Affairs, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR)

Christina Maranci, Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies, Harvard University

Afshin Matin-Asgari, Professor, Department of History, California State University, Los Angeles

Deborah Mayersen, Senior Lecturer in International and Political Studies, School of Humanities and Social Studies, University of New South Wales Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy

Ronald Mellor, Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles

Franz A Metcalf, Instructor, CSULA, Review Editor, JGB, H-Buddhism

Muriel Mirak-Weißbach, Author and Journalist, Armenian Mirror-Spectator, Mainz-Kastel, Germany

Dirk A. Moses, Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations, The City College of New York, CUNY 

Khatchig Mouradian, lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University 

Tsolin Nalbantian, Associate Professor of Modern Middle East History, Leiden University, the Netherlands 

Dr. Melanie O’Brien, Visiting Professor, Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota; President, International Association of Genocide Scholars

Dr. Darren O’Brien, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, The University of Queensland

Sheila Paylan, International Human Rights Lawyer and Former Legal Adviser to the United Nations

Dr. Rafal Pankowski, Professor at Collegium Civitas, co-founder of “NEVER AGAIN” Association, Poland  

Hrag Papazian, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, American University of Armenia 

Jess Peake, Assistant Director, the Promise Institute for Human Rights, UCLA School of Law

Rubina Peroomian, Ph.D., Genocide Scholar (independent, formerly UCLA)

Pirinjian Lori, Ph.D. Student in Armenian Studies, UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures 

Jasamin Rostam-Kolayi, Professor of Modern Middle East History, California State University, Fullerton

Natalie Rothman, Professor of History, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, University of Toronto, Scarborough

Teo Ruiz, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles 

Joachim J. Savelsberg, Professor of Sociology and Law, Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair, University of Minnesota 

Elyse Semerdjian, Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies, Clark University 

Viviane Seyranian, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Gayane Shagoyan, Leading Researcher, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Societies of Armenia

Awring Shaways, Founding President of KG Lobby Center and Member of IAGS

Christopher Sheklian, Postdoctoral Researcher, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Tamar Shirinian, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville  

Gregory. H Stanton, Founding President Genocide Watch 

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Distinguished Professor of History and Irving & Jean Stone Chair in Social Sciences at UCLA

Ronald Grigor Suny, Willian H. Sewell, Jr. Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of History, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, The University of Michigan

Frances Tanzer, Rose Professor of Holocaust Studies and Modern Jewish History and Culture, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies 

Jeanne Theoharis, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College of CUNY

George Theoharis, Professor of Educational Leadership & Inclusion Education, Syracuse University   

Henry C. Theriault, Founding Co-Editor, Genocide Studies International, and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Worcester State University History and Civilization Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies

Glenn Timmermans, Associate Professor, Department of English, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Macau, China

Artyom Tonoyan, Visiting Professor of Global Studies, Hamline University

Alison M. Vacca, Gevork M. Avedissian Associate Professor of Armenian

Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, Executive Director, Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention

Hrag Vartanian, Art critic and Editor-in-chief, Hyperallergic 

Keith David Watenpaugh, Professor and Director, Human Rights Studies, University of California, Davis

Dr. Stephanie Wolfe, Weber State University, First Vice-President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars 

Hrag David Yacoubian, Assistant Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Ph.D. Candidate at University British Columbia  

Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh, Professor of Art History, University of California, Davis

Cornel West, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Chair at Union Theological Seminary and Presidential Candidate

Anahita Mahdavi-West, Professor, Long Beach City College

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