Human rights organisations say thousands of Christians are at risk of genocide because of a blockade preventing food and medical supplies into the disputed of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The small, landlocked territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been contested for generations, but now a crucial access way has been blockaded in contravention of a peace agreement ensuring safe passage.
More than twenty organisations including Christian Solidarity International, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust and Genocide Watch say the blockade is designed to, in the words of the Genocide Convention, “deliberately inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the end of a national, ethnical, racial or religious group in whole or in part.”
Bishop Hovakim Manukyan who is Primate of the Diocese of Armenia in the UK and Ireland, has told Premier that Azerbaijani activists and special forces disguised as local citizens have blockaded the route which is known as ‘Lifeline Road’:
“For twenty days, about 120,000 people, including 30,000 children have remained besieged in their own land, their own homeland. It’s a very difficult humanitarian situation. People cannot leave the country to get medical aid or get to hospitals in Europe. So if it continues, if they do not open the road, then we will face a serious humanitarian crisis there.”
The organisations who have issued the genocide warning say current Azerbaijani aggression against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh conforms to a long pattern of ethnic and religious cleansing of Armenian and other Christian communities in the region by the government of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, and their partisans.
They’re calling on the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation, to fulfil their obligations through the UN Security Council, to prevent another chapter of the Armenian Genocide.
In 1915 the Armenian Genocide unfolded during World War I and led to the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians. Turkey, which has historically denied this genocide occurred, has been accused of helping Azerbaijan in the current conflict, adding extra layers to the disarray.
The Soviet Union conquered Armenia and forced the nation into its borders.
In 1991, Armenia once again became free, although in 2020, Azerbaijan attacked again. Seven thousand people were said to have been killed in just 44 days, and some 35,000 Christians were driven out of their homes.
A Russian-brokered ceasefire brought some peace to the region including the establishing of the safe corridor, which has now been blockaded in contravention of the agreement.
Bishop Manukyan says he fears history is repeating itself:
“There is this genocidal intention and also, when you see what is happening in the public, in the schools, how they rewrite history, how they destroy Armenian monuments or Armenian traces, you understand that their intention is just to annihilate Armenians and to erase the traces of Armenians from that region.
“We need to ask people to pray – first of all to soften the hearts of those who make decisions, actually, to ask them to think about children, elderly people who live there, and also to say to them that they are not alone. Christians are praying for you, both in your good times and your trying times. Now you are in trying times but we are praying for you.”