The Armenian Test: Did We Learn Anything from the Rwanda? – The American Spectator
Almost 30 years ago, over 800,000 people were brutally murdered in just 100 days in a tiny country in the middle of Africa. The global media and the international community largely ignored the event as it was occurring, refusing to say the word that might have galvanized the world into taking action to save the lives of at least some of the victims: genocide.
It would be nice to think that the world learned from the Rwandan genocide, but if the worsening conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh are any indication, it hasn’t. (RELATED from Aubrey Gulick: The World’s Oldest Christian Community Could Be the Victim of Genocide)
A nine-month blockade preventing food, medicine, water, and electricity from reaching the remote region of Nagorno-Karabakh — a region inhabited primarily by Armenian Christians, located in Azerbaijan, and governed by an independent republic — finally came to an end this week when Azerbaijani troops rolled in and conquered the territory in a single day.
By Wednesday, both sides had agreed to a ceasefire, and separatist Karabakh Armenian troops have begun demanding security guarantees before handing over their weapons. David Babayan, adviser to a breakaway ethnic Armenian leader in the region, told Reuters: “A whole host of questions still needs to be resolved…. At any moment they could destroy us, engage in a genocide against us.”
A History of Violence in Nagorno-Karabakh
That word — “genocide” — has been hanging over the Azerbaijani blockade of the region for months. There is a long history of ethnic and religious violence between Armenia, a predominantly Christian nation, and Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim nation. Nagorno-Karabakh has been at the center of that violence for decades.
The remote region located in the South Caucasus mountains is considered home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. It is located inside Azerbaijan — an uncomfortable arrangement — and has just one road connecting it to the rest of Armenia. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, it’s part of Azerbaijan. (READ MORE: Judge Orders Lawyers to Religious-Liberty Training)
Armenia and Azerbaijan were part of the Soviet Empire in the 20th century, and, when the empire fell, the two countries went to war over their border. When Russia managed to broker peace in 1994, Armenia came out on top, claiming Nagorno-Karabakh and some of its neighboring regions.
Azerbaijan struck back in 2020 — while the rest of the world was worried about the COVID pandemic — and won all but two-thirds of Nagorno-Karabakh while the Armenian population in the conquered territory fled.
In December 2021, a group of “climate activists” blocked the singular road connecting Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh — and they didn’t seem to have any plans to move. By April 2022, it became apparent that “climate activism” was just a pretense. The Azerbaijani military set up a base, allegedly to prevent gun smugglers, although the soldiers effectively prevented any humanitarian aid, food, medicine, or clothes from reaching the region.
‘Genocide’ by Starvation
The blockade stretched on into the summer and then into early fall. Some began to call it a genocide. A former lead prosecutor of the International Criminal Court published a 28-page report in August, suggesting that the Azerbaijani were effectively starving civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Luis Ocampo argued that the situation created by the blockade met the definition of “genocide” under the Genocide Convention by “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.”
In an op-ed published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the director of the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention, Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, wrote, “This total siege has created a humanitarian crisis that is nearing catastrophe and is now widely believed to constitute an effort at genocide — either by starving the population to death or by forcing it to flee and thus destroying a civilization.”
While the United States has openly called on the Azerbaijani government to stop blocking humanitarian aid to the region, it has stopped short of calling it a genocide. The Azerbaijani, of course, seem to have ignored the U.S. Instead, they waited until Russia — which has kept peace in the region in the past — was preoccupied with Ukraine and then simply conquered the region outright. (RELATED: VIDEO: Xi’s CCP Is Rewriting the Bible)
While the Azerbaijani government has promised that it wants peaceful integration, Armenian Christians are skeptical — because the same government has already threatened them with genocide. Just before Azerbaijani troops rolled, Elchin Amirbayov, a representative of the Azerbaijani president, warned that “a genocide may happen” if Nagorno-Karabakh’s leaders failed to cooperate, according to the Guardian.
A former state minister of the now-deposed republican government of the region, Artak Beglaryan, told Al Jazeera, “People here fear that we are still under high risk of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and that’s why an overwhelming majority is thinking of fleeing the country.”
While a violent ethnic cleansing hasn’t yet taken place, the possibility certainly exists. If the world has learned anything from the Rwandan genocide, it should be that ignoring escalating tensions doesn’t make them go away.