Artsakh, or a right to self determination.

On Sunday, 27 September 2020, one state attacked a self determined state. To this day, it has now also attacked its neighbor to the west, in addition to surveillance. In July 2020, that same state attacked that same neighboring state to the west. By the end of the first week of bombings, reports from experts, analysts, and organizations, such as Amnesty International, raised the alarms on the war, on the violation of international law, on the violation of 2020’s international cease-fire yet again, and a violation of international humanitarian law. The last point refers to the use of certain banned military and war equipment. This includes cluster bombs.

This is Artsakh, also known as Nagorno Karabakh. 95% of its population is Armenian. In 1921, Joseph Stalin separated Nagorno Karabakh from Armenia and set it within the drawn borders of Azerbaijan. Multiple reasons: 1. the Soviet Union wanted to attract Turkey into the USSR and 2. the USSR ruled its internal borders through division. This ultimately led to war, genocide, and ethnic cleansing throughout Eurasia in the 1990s after USSR crumbled. Artsakh was no exception.

In 1988, as the cracks in the USSR were apparent, Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) held a referendum, the majority determining that Artsakh join Armenia. In 1991, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and as the USSR crumbled, the republic held another referendum, this time to determine its full independence. The majority voted in favor. Afterwards, Azerbaijan drew up its post USSR borders, refusing the republic’s referendum and subsequent declaration. War erupted until 1994, when the Minsk Group brokered a cease fire.

However, despite a ceasefire, it became frozen. Each neighboring state keeps Artsakh on its agenda, either security or economic interests. The republic of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) rebuilt what was destroyed while staying alert. Today, it still wants that security. In addition to self determination, this war of two weeks (or many long decades) is about security. Regional security as the region is coveted by the few “great states”, for the land and its resources. International security because it stands at the crossroads for the Silk Road and finds itself facing terrorism, exported from all directions, especially from Syria and Iraq. It is, therefore, a war by proxy: Turkey is using terrorism as mercenaries. For Artsakh, security is equal to the right to exist.

Since the beginning, civilian and residential areas have been targeted. On 14th October, a hospital was targeted. This past weekend, diplomatic talks were hosted in Moscow. 10 hours of negotiating led to an agreement to a cease-fire. This cease fire was supposed to begin at 12pm on the Saturday. The morning of brought intensified bombing on civilian and residential areas in Stepanakert, capital city of Artsakh. At 12:05, the cease fire was violated by Azerbaijani bombings. A three-day long cease fire lasted 5 minutes.

As the international community either stays silent or calls for “both sides to cease fighting”, there is a bigger danger. For the past decade and longer, Europe had maintained a “Diplomacy first” tradition, specifically under Jean Claude Junker’s mandate. This was detrimental to Europe, because most of this was directed in the face of its neighbor, Turkey. The same cannot be said of Europe’s relations with Russia. Then, threaded into this danger are the shadows of the past. 1915 saw a limited or silent response to the mass genocides within the Ottoman empire, from Anatolia to present day Arab states in the Mediterranean. This is no longer the time to simply ask both sides for peace. This is the time to finally stand against what has been breeding for years: authoritarian regimes, who are violating civic and human rights, using brutal military force to keep their populations in check, and blackmailing other states in the international community to get favors or something done. This includes looking the other way during each and growing human rights violation. This also includes arms deals and weapons sales to Azerbaijan.

The strengthening of the authoritarian regimes in Turkey and Azerbaijan led to a consolidation of power in the hands of Neo-Islamisation and Pan-Turkic on one end and in the hands of a ruling family on the other, all in the name of state interests, big business, and a brotherhood. As a consequence, free speech and civil liberties have been restricted. Journalists and members of the political opposition have been jailed or subject to death threats or death itself. At the moment, Azerbaijan has closed down many corners of the internet in order to control their citizens and the national discourse. It also applied this to foreign journalist entering the country. For years, the government leads a nationalist discourse against ethnic minorities, embedded in the country’s education system and civil society. Turkey continues the brutal actions it has carried out in the past decade against its minorities (Kurdish and Armenian among others). In addition to the war, both states are leading a campaign of threats and words in the international community, calling it to see Armenia as the aggressor on one hand and, on the other, publicly declaring each other’s support and warning they will carry out the unfinished business.

The “unfinished business” is 1915. It extends to Armenia, Artsakh, Greece, Cyprus, and the minorities indigenous to Anatolia, Syria and Iraq. The war in Artsakh is a battle for survival against a propaganda machine, whose ultimate goal is to wipe clean the histories and cultures which all built the regions since Antiquity. Regions, as this concerns the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean, the Levant, the Caucasus, and parts of Central Asia. Regions, which are now independent states and self-determined states. International law clearly states that a people have the right to freely determine its political status.**

To this day, the republic of Artsakh had followed every step of self determination. The final solution is to recognize those steps and that choice.

Note: This article is not research. We leave you with sources for further reading and understanding.

Freedom House

The Council on Foreign Relations‘ project the Global Conflict Tracker

Also International Crisis Group.

Le Monde is currently on the ground in Artsakh. (For French) Several journalists for international newspapers and media are also on the ground (Vice News, BILD-Zeitung, BBC, to name a few). Also PBS Newshour.

Several Armenian media are in English : EVN Report and CivilNet to mention a couple.

Several organizations to follow : Charjoum le mouvement and European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy

Official international organizations: The UN Charter and resolutions, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the European Union

Other resource (in French): ARTE’s Les dessous des cartes report and interview concerning Artsakh.

“Armenia/Azerbaijan: Civilians must be protected from use of banned cluster bombs”, Amnesty International, 5 October 2020, online.

** from “International Law and Self Determination”, Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Center. URL: Diakonia 


3 Comments Add yours

  1. paulkayaian says:

    Well researched and well written…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. beachah says:

      Thank you Paul. It’s just a small window.


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