STEPANAKERT, Nagorno-Karabakh — In between the major countries of Azerbaijan and Armenia lies the mountainous landlocked South Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh, officially known as the territory of Artsakh by ethnic Armenians. According to BBC, Armenia predominately controls and backs the region financially and militarily though it is internationally recognized as being part of Azerbaijan. Over the past couple of months, the ethnic Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh have endured attacks from Azerbaijan as the powers try to gain control over territory in the Armenian-controlled region. Turkey is backing Azerbaijan. Armenians have had to fight back, resulting in the destruction of schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure in the region. The Armenian Assembly of America has been making efforts to support those living in Nagorno-Karabakh by raising funds to help civilians escape poverty and urging the U.S. Congress to recognize the genocide of Armenians that is taking place during the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Background on the Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh
The Washington Post reported that the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia began towards the end of World War I when the two powers fought to form independent states after being dominated by empires for years. In 1921, fascism and nationalism started to spread across Europe. The Soviet Union, led by Josef Stalin, asserted control over Azerbaijan and Armenia. Stalin had taken the initiative of creating an autonomous region called Nagorno-Karabakh. It contained 90% of Armenians; however, Azerbaijan was given control. This led to more skirmishes between the two countries.
In 1988, when the Soviet Union had dissolved into many states, Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence and became a de facto state. However, during that same time, Azerbaijan and Armenia fought in a war. Turkey backed Azerbaijan, and Russia backed Armenia. The de facto state ended up in the hands of the Armenians when both countries had signed a truce in 1994, which Russia helped to broker.
During the battles between the two countries, the Azeris living in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh had fled back to their homeland while the Armenians living in Azerbaijan did the same. Since then, the two powers made had small exchanges. One skirmish was the 2016 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which was a four-day artillery fire clash between the Armenian Armed Forces and the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. The two countries established the Nagorno-Karabakh Line of Contact, which would separate the military forces.
2020 Attacks Between the Two Countries
On September 27, 2020, an intense military confrontation occurred between the two countries. While it is unclear whether the Azerbaijani Armed Forces or the Armenian Armed Forces started the conflict, CNN reported that the conflict wounded “dozens of people” living in the region and destroyed infrastructure as Azerbaijan and Armenia had engaged in a fierce battle involving tanks, artillery and other weapons.
U.N. Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet believes the strikes on citizens could be considered “war crimes.” She has called for both countries to halt their attacks as schools, homes and hospitals were reduced to rubble. However, both sides have been persistent. Civilians have had to flee the region, hide out in their basements or join the number of casualties.
With no progress of a stalemate between the two powers, the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, who have been targets of the attacks, are suffering in impoverished conditions. They are unable to gain access to medical care or basic food and water. Furthermore, hundreds of Armenians are being killed on a daily basis by the attacks, resulting in what officials are calling the “continuation of the Armenian genocide of 1915.”
The Armenian Assembly of America
Located in Washington D.C., the Armenian Assembly of America is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to nine principles, according to its website.
- To sustain and strengthen the organization as the community’s preeminent non-partisan advocate representing Armenian-American interests.
- To provide ever-expanding opportunities for the active participation of all Armenian-Americans in the American democratic process at the federal, state and local levels.
- To be mindful of the pluralistic character of the Armenian-American community, the worth of its institutions and organizations and the obligations of the Armenian-American community to the United States of America and its democratic institutions.
- To expand the organization’s pioneering research, education and advocacy campaigns for universal affirmation of the Armenian Genocide and to secure Diaspora-wide consensus for the government of the Republic of Armenia to deal with the consequences of this crime against humanity.
- To support and deepen the U.S.-Armenia and U.S.-Karabakh relationships based upon a common vision of democracy, the rule of law, open markets, regional security and unfettered commerce.
- To promote public and private civil society initiatives within Armenia and Karabakh while maintaining the organization’s policy of non-interference in those societies’ internal affairs.
- To encourage free-market oriented, sustainable and responsible development within Armenia and Karabakh.
- To lead in securing increasingly more effective collaboration among Armenian-American organizations.
- To maintain and enhance the organization’s human development model.
Mitigating Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh
The organization has taken several initiatives to mitigate the conflict. One of the initiatives is to urge individuals to sign two Senate Acts and one House of Representatives Act. The Senate acts, labeled S.Res.745 and S.Res.755, would hold Turkey and Azerbaijan accountable for their human rights abuses against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. The House of Representative Act would recognize Nagorno Karabakh’s right to self-determination.
In addition to the acts, the Assembly has put together a series of petitions on its website for individuals to sign regarding the Azerbaijan-Armenian conflict of 2020. The petitions include urging Congress to stop Azerbaijan’s attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh and calling on the current President to stop giving U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan and Turkey. Furthermore, there is a petition to pass an act that would support travel and communication between the United States and Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, one urges Congress to support a democratic partnership between the United States and Armenia. The Assembly has also created a place for donations.
While these are just a few efforts that the Assembly is taking, they are steps towards ending the attacks against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Hopefully, these efforts will bring an end to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
– Sudiksha Kochi