My Plea to Joe Biden to Stop Another Armenian Genocide – Rolling Stone

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We are Armenian. We are the descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors, and we do not want to be talking about the recognition or commemoration of yet another genocide in the future. 

Since December of last year, Azerbaijan has blockaded the only lifeline between the indigenous Christian Armenians of Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) and the rest of the world. For many years, they have been dependent on the transport of food, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid through the Lachin Corridor. The war in Ukraine has made Azerbaijan a seemingly more favorable alternative to Russian oil and gas for some countries. However, this reliance has emboldened the autocratic Azeri government to use starvation as a weapon against the Armenian population in the region. There is no more time for thoughts, prayers, or concern.

The 2020 war, after Azerbaijan attacked Armenians in Artsakh without provocation, has never ended in the minds of Armenians around the world. Despite a ceasefire agreement, the attacks on Armenian soldiers have been constant and without repercussions. Armenophobic policies have been designed and widely promoted by the Azeri government and others. Regional peace should not involve sacrificing the sovereignty of the Armenians in Artsakh, but regardless of what anyone believes about our opinion, it is clear that this ruthless blockade has crossed all red lines of human rights and humanitarian law. Blocking human rights groups, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the hateful rhetoric accompanying the blockade are signs of genocidal intent.

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A view shows an Azerbaijani checkpoint at the entry of the Lachin corridor, the Armenian-populated breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region’s only land link with Armenia, on August 30, 2023.

Karen Minasyan/AFP via Getty Images

Azerbaijan’s government and its allies claim that there are alternate routes that should be used. Using a separate Azerbaijan-controlled passage for the occasional delivery of supplies is disingenuous at best. More likely, it will signal the beginning of the end for Armenians and Christians in Artsakh. At the start of this crisis, there were approximately 120,000 Armenians, including 30,000 children, living in the republic. Unfortunately, because of starvation and the inability to receive adequate medical care, there has already been a significant and tragic loss of life — and it will only get worse without immediate action. For those who survive, the trauma will be permanent. While there was a disingenuous attempt to portray the blockade as one related to environmental concerns, Armenians and international observers knew that the desire was to make the republic so uninhabitable that people would either die or agree to leave. Meanwhile, supporters of this starvation use coordinated social media campaigns to pretend that a blockade is not taking place. This dystopian propaganda may be absurd to those with knowledge, but the defenders of these human rights abuses are trying to confuse people given everything else happening in the world.

Numerous genocide watchdog groups and the United Nations’ own independent Special Rapporteurs — including the first UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Professor Juan Mendez — have been trying to alert the world about these impending atrocities for months. Last month, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the first Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, published his independent report. He concluded that a genocide is already underway because under Article II, (c) of the Genocide Convention, Azerbaijan is “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.”

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Dr. Eric Esrailian.


The University Network for Human Rights, in collaboration with students, lawyers, and academics from Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights, UCLA’s Promise Institute for Human Rights, Wesleyan University, and Yale’s Lowenstein Project conducted two fact-finding trips in Nagorno-Karabakh and four in Armenia between March 2022 and July 2023. Their recently published briefing paper states, “Moreover, the abuses we documented are not a string of unrelated rights violations; taken together, these abuses reveal a synchronized, comprehensive campaign to empty Nagorno-Karabakh and parts of Armenia of Armenians.”

The collective silence or inaction by individuals, governments, and governmental organizations like the United Nations and European Union has perpetuated the crisis. Every passing day puts more lives in danger. American taxpayer dollars are now facilitating and enabling this behavior by providing foreign aid to an oil-rich nation. Through economic sanctions, cutting off foreign aid to Azerbaijan, boycotting international events in Azerbaijan (such as concerts and sporting events like soccer and Formula 1), and through proceedings in international courts, we can collectively achieve results, but this process has been too slow and time is running out. As citizens, we are appealing to leaders such as President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and their colleagues to take a stand immediately. They must pressure Azerbaijan to open the corridor without preconditions.


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Demonstrators rally in support of Karabakh to demand the reopening of a blockaded road linking the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Armenia and to decry crisis conditions in the region, in Yerevan, on September 2, 2023.

Ken Minasyan/AFP via Getty Images

We are just two people. We have been working behind the scenes to support our Armenian brothers and sisters, but this diplomatic approach has not yielded meaningful results. This crisis will clearly not be remedied by individuals, but we will continue to do what we can to use whatever influence we have. We are not politicians or government leaders, and despite our own diplomatic efforts, this humanitarian crisis has persisted with no clear end in sight — except for the potential for ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population. We will continue to use our voices to amplify the truth.

The people in Artsakh want to live in peace. Now is the time for true leadership. We need for those who have a meaningful role in these affairs to immediately demand that the Lachin Corridor is opened to stop another genocide. We want to draw more attention to the crisis and appeal to those in our own government who truly care about humanity to intervene. The United States has the ability to mobilize a response. Leaders who are effective and help our people will be remembered for their heroism. Even if well-meaning, the ones who are inert and ineffective will be remembered for allowing a genocide to take place under their watch. The choice is theirs.

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