Echoes of despair and defiance: The unfolding crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh

Echoes of despair and defiance: The unfolding crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh
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The forced exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh highlights the plight of the people and the failure of nationalist politics.

By Toros Korkmaz

Unfortunately, what was feared occurred. Over one hundred thousand indigenous Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh in Armenian) were forced to abandon their homeland with only what they could pack in suitcases, leaving children and older adults behind. It may be challenging for them to see Karabakh again, let alone what will happen to the property left behind. The fate of dozens of churches, monasteries, and mausoleums, the region's ancient Armenian historical cultural heritage, is uncertain. There are also reports that some Azeri soldiers who entered vandalized these structures, opening fire and destroying them.

The latest events reveal Armenians are experiencing one of the greatest human tragedies of the 21st century. One of the greatest crimes against humanity of the 20th century was the 1915 Armenian Genocide in their ancestral homeland of Turkey. One hundred years later, Armenians, one of the oldest peoples of Turkey and the Caucasus, are being forced to undergo historical trauma affecting dozens of generations because of ruthless decisions by Azerbaijani rulers seeking regional power through the imperial wars of big powers. Here, the Turkish state's unconditional support of Azerbaijan reflects an approach based not on human rights but imposing solutions by force.

Ilham Aliyev, who inherited power from his father in 2003, has maintained it through dictatorship and is said to have transferred much of the country's wealth to his family. Dissenting voices are immediately suppressed. Karabakh's wealth will probably be allocated to the Aliyev family. Not only democratic public opinion but international institutions have condemned Aliyev's policy in Karabakh. First blockading the region and then seizing it violently, Aliyev will be remembered as dictators such as Saddam Hussein, who committed crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, because of nationalist ideology, most Turkish politicians, media, and society do not understand this tragedy. The "one nation, two states" propaganda and acceptance of imperial pan-Turkic views make most Turks see Armenians as enemies rather than indigenous people.

Western states see Azerbaijan as an energy source after the Ukraine war. Turkey's dependence prevents concrete policy against Azerbaijan. Add Armenia's geographic isolation and need to rely on Russian protection against superior Azerbaijani forces, and Western military support is unlikely beyond rhetoric. Moscow dislikes Pashinyan because of his criticism of the country's reliance on Russia. Exercising with the US and adopting the Rome Statute have brought Russian condemnation. This has eased Azerbaijan's hand and cornered Armenia.

Azerbaijan's next move may seize the Zangezur corridor through Armenia, as Aliyev claimed, was allowed under the 2020 ceasefire. While unlikely for now, as it would threaten Armenian territorial integrity and Iranian interests, pan-Turkic demands and global conflicts mean military intervention cannot be ruled out.

Alleviating Armenia's tragedy requires empathy and solidarity. Democratic forces must counter the chauvinist nationalism of the Turkish and Azerbaijani states. Recognizing Armenian suffering and emphasizing peaceful solutions is critical.

*The opinion article was first published in Siyasihaber9. It was translated from Turkish to English for the Gerceknews readers.