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Silent Suffering: Fears of Renewed Armenian Genocide

Silent Suffering: Fears of Renewed Armenian Genocide


Exploring the human impacts of Azerbaijan’s attack on Artsakh

(Cover Photo: Russian and Azerbaijan soldiers)

“What’s gonna happen to our family? What’s gonna happen to our house and the home that we built there?” said Anahit, an Artsakh Armenian from the village of Martuni, whose worry and uncertainty reflect hundreds of thousands of Artsakhcis today.

Artsakh is an appendage to the Armenian nation. There are traces of ancient history mottled throughout Artsakh, standing as a powerful symbol affirming their long-standing ties to the land. The region encompasses an array of captivating untold stories unfolding into a daunting past and present.

The Gandzasar Cathedral, which translates to “mountain of treasures,” is one of the most prominent churches in Artsakh’s history and was built in the 13th century. Artsakh is also home to the Amaras Monastery, which is known to be the first Armenian school. When asked about the deliberate targeting of Armenian holy and ethnic sites, Anahit revealed some of the severe damage, “You can see pictures of the cathedral today, and the top of the dome is completely detached, and it’s on the floor.”

Damage to cathedrals hit by Azerbaijani military. Photo by ?????? MEDIA via Wikimedia Commons.

Damage to cathedrals hit by Azerbaijani military. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

February 2024 marks six months since the brutal land theft of Artsakh and the ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Armenian population. Al Jazeera stated, “Armenia says more than 100,000 people fled Nagorno-Karabakh,” which has now made the region nearly devoid of its indigenous Armenian population for the first time in thousands of years. This was followed by a ruthless 9-month blockade, which resulted in the starvation and endangerment of hundreds of thousands of Armenian lives. With the allegiance of corrupt superpowers and the utter silence of the international world layered with the lack of care from local communities, this ethnic cleansing has intentionally been silenced and wholly disregarded.

Lamentably, tragedy is nothing new to Armenians. Following the Armenian genocide of 1915 that involved the systemized mass slaughter of over 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, what is now Turkey, Armenians faced a series of pogroms and massacres, including the Sumgait, Baku, and Maragha pogroms, as well as the Shushi massacre. Genocide still boldly reveals itself today.

Azerbaijan continues its relentless mission to erase Armenia from the map as Artsakhcis endure the blight of their genocidal war crimes unveiled through invasions, blockades, desecration of Armenian sites, land theft, torture, and mass slaughter.

As the United States and Europe continue coddling Azerbaijan by making gas and oil deals, Armenia and Artsakh have been completely abandoned, suffocating between the trenches of Turkish and Azeri war crimes. Since September 2023, over one hundred thousand Armenians have been forced into refugee status once again.

Language of hate

Aside from all of Azerbaijan’s histrionics, which is a classic case of colonial projection, the most critical aspect to comprehend is the constant genocidal language that the international community ignores. Turkish and Azeri media constantly spew genocidal rhetoric. The most popular is the continuous denial of the Armenian genocide and yet threatening to do it again.

Azeri officials, and even the Azeri president Ilham Aliyev, constantly spew racist and [CONTENT WARNING FOR FOLLOWING LINK] dehumanizing language, calling Armenians “animals,” “terrorists,” and “beasts.”

To understand the region, one must look beyond the relentless propaganda that Turkey and Azerbaijan have spent millions on to victimize themselves. We’ve seen these warped Azeri claims on replay over and over again. Azerbaijan grasps at straws using any talking point they can think of to argue that Armenians have no ties or relation to Artsakh. This propaganda represents an insidious tactic used to demonize Armenians and to blind the world into thinking this is a “complex conflict,” masking the twisted truth: genocide, ethnic cleansing, and Pan-Turkism, a supremacist and fascist ideology that would see an Imperialistic Turkic nation and the total annihilation of the Armenian people.

Historic photo of the Armenian geno

Victims of the 1915 Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turkish forces. Photo by Henry Morgenthau

One of the most disturbing and psychologically distressing tactics of Azerbaijan’s ethnic genocide is the systematic desecration of Armenian graveyards. Anahit knows far too well of this psychological torture. A video had just been released the day before in the city of Stepanakert, revealing footage of a decimated Armenian graveyard. The image of this should disturb anyone, but for Artsakhcis like Anahit, the footage is not only far too jarring but too close to home, “My own grandfather’s grave is in Stepanakert,” the fear and profound numbness of the unpredictability of generational genocide have left Artsakhcis in a state of constant stress. Anahit then began to share her grandfather’s legacy and the beauty of the Artsakhci personality, one that is enamored with nature and an undying love for their homeland,

“He was an Artsakh Armenian through and through. I think a lot of Armenians can agree that Artsakh Armenians have this personality that you can see from a mile away; my grandfather was definitely like that.”

Why doesn’t the US even bat an eye when it comes to this barbaric genocide? Just a couple of years ago, in 2021, the US recognized the Armenian genocide, 106 years after its execution, seemingly used as a tactic to further anger Turkey. It is pretty apparent to many Armenians that Biden’s decision to recognize the genocide was disguised as false support and instead represented a calculated move to ruffle the feathers of their NATO ally.

Anahit says, “It’s always been a conversation in our community that whenever we go on the march to commemorate the genocide every April 24th, there are hundreds of thousands of Armenians, but maybe like 2 percent of the crowd will be non-Armenian,” she further elaborated on Turkey’s mission of institutionalizing their propaganda, “I’m sure it is a combination of things including the culture and legacy of genocide denial that Turkey has perpetuated, they’ve spent millions and millions on propaganda and pressuring foreign governments and education.”

Blind eye towards Justice

She then brought attention to America’s collaboration, “As for America, I think it’s a nation that greatly benefits from stoking conflicts, wars, genocide, I mean, that is a complete given; there were many reports on the U.S. army using the region for classroom training scenarios, and that’s not even mentioning all the economic and other ties America has with Turkey and Azerbaijan.” Armenians are expected to be killed silently. America’s complicity in wars and genocides across the world shouldn’t be a surprise, judging from its history.

“Since 1915, the world has betrayed us,” Anahit’s words should awaken anyone, “I know that it’s something that I and probably every Armenian around the world has asked themselves hundreds of times, since 2020 and even before then.” In 2020, Azerbaijan launched a 44-day genocidal campaign against Artsakh, which resulted in the mass slaughter of over 5,000 Armenians.

Israeli arms suppliers, Turkish allegiance, Syrian mercenaries from the FSA, and American silence propped up this campaign. Anna, an Armenian who received her master’s degree in Russian studies at CU Boulder, highlighted the need for more cooperation from the international community. When asked about the lack of US support, Anna illuminated what most Armenians feel: confusion and helplessness, “You know, it’s a really tough question to answer.” With the lack of US support and Russia playing both sides, the Armenian people are on their own to fight for their freedom and their rights and to change the narrative that Azerbaijan has worked so hard to distort.

Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Russia plays both sides. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Aram, an Armenian student of International relations at the University of Denver, said, “In the end, this came down to the fact that the community decided that perceived energy security from Azerbaijan outweighed that of Armenian lives; they understood that Azerbaijani oil … going to Europe is more important than Armenian lives.” It is an ugly truth. Armenians have been put on the back burner and ignored for selfish political interests.

Russia is known for its shady history of helping both Armenia and Azerbaijan while also posing as the mediator in the region through the use of Russian peacemakers. But since the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh, Russia has abandoned Armenia. I asked Anna her thoughts regarding Russia’s lack of interference, “In February 2024, it will be 2 years since Russia and Ukraine are at war; it is a really good time for Azerbaijan to start again as they did in 2020,” Anna said, “Our peacekeepers are really busy helping out with the war in Ukraine.”

When will it end?

I asked Aram the same question; Aram said, “Russian firms have their own stakes in Azerbaijani gas companies and their oil operations,” which would make sense as to why Russia continues to play both sides and may choose to sit this one out, casually allowing a genocidal regime to lay claim to indigenous Armenian land.

Azerbaijan relies on bizarre conspiracy theories designed to morph narratives that Armenians not only lack roots in Artsakh but that their ancient sites aren’t theirs to begin with. This is a classic colonial talking point. Azerbaijan has gone as far as claiming that Armenians rub vinegar, yes vinegar, over their graveyards and ancient sites as a deceiving action of making them “look older” or “more ancient.”

We’ve heard these twisted narratives before, used to undermine indigenous people who are being eradicated. The Armenian genocide was executed swiftly, involving multiple complicit nations. The world let it happen then and has let it continue with Artsakh. Aram said, “In terms of fighting, nobody wants to go to war except the Azerbaijanis. We Armenians, you know, we were preparing for peace for these past 30 years. We were open to free and fair negotiations. Still, the question is that the Azerbaijanis knew that if there were a peace process if there were free and fair elections for self-determination, it would obviously end up in the Armenian favor because Nagorno-Gharabagh or Artsakh, has been inhabited by majority Armenians for 3,500 years.”

Armenian cultural sites dot the landscape, yet some are being erased entirely. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

While I spoke with Anna and Aram, what was buzzing in my head was this hope of return for Artsakhcis. Asked if there was any chance to get their land back, “I don’t think it’s possible,” Anna said.

“Unfortunately, we can’t change the past; it happened already, and it’s not safe to go back. And even if there were a possibility, no one would like to go back because there is no point; you can get attacked any minute,” these words are devastating and illuminate the international world’s complicity when it comes to the theft of Artsakh.

Although Anahit’s grandfather is greatly missed, she said the devastation that has erupted would have significantly impacted him, “I think of my grandfather all the time, and I always think, I wonder what he would say if he was alive right now, I wonder what he would think, and I miss him so much but I also think to myself I am glad he is not alive to witness all this because it would have absolutely destroyed him.” 

Since September of 2023, Artsakhcis have continued to mourn the loss of their homeland. The traumatic effects of genocide remain, and an aching hope for return now lingers. Artsakh will continue to live on throughout the hearts of Armenians worldwide. I feel the biggest shame is how we have failed the Armenian people entirely once again. Like clockwork, the world moves on, completely overlooking an over-century-old documented genocide of one of the most ancient people ever to exist.

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