A Save the Persecuted Christians Webinar
Atrocity in Artsakh:
Azerbaijan’s Genocidal Blockade of Armenian Christians
Muslim-majority Azerbaijan is intentionally starving an estimated 120,000 Armenian Christians—including 30,000 children–in Nagorno-Karabakh, known to locals as the Republic of Artsakh.
Since December, a purported environmental protest and now, since April, an official Azerbaijani military checkpoint has denied all access to and from the region across the only land corridor connecting it with Armenia. Electricity, internet, and international aid organization trucks delivering food, medicines, and hygiene supplies have been completely blocked. Children are dying and pregnant mothers are starving.
As a result, “Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s backing, is really slowly strangling Nagorno-Karabakh,” according to the Honorable Sam Brownback, former ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, who recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Armenia. “They’re working to make it unlivable so that the region’s Armenian-Christian population is forced to leave.” If the United States does not intervene added Brownback, “we will see again another ancient Christian population forced out of its homeland.”
Majority-Christian Armenia is home to one of Christendom’s most ancient faith communities. Armenians were subjected to Genocide by the Ottoman Turks in 1915-16 in modern day Turkey, and today in Artsakh, they are faced with yet another.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast—home to a 95 percent ethnically Armenian population—was established in 1923 within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 when Armenia and Azerbaijan gained independence. Territorial disputes between the two countries over Nagorno-Karabakh have continued well into the 21st century.
In 1988, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh began agitating for independence which led to the “First Nagorno-Karabakh War.” By 1993, Armenia controlled Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s geographic area. Then, in 1994, a ceasefire brokered by Russia known as the “Bishkek Protocol,” left Nagorno-Karabakh de facto independent but still heavily reliant on close economic, political, and military ties with Armenia. The Bishkek Protocol remained in force until September 27, 2020, when Azerbaijan began incessant bombing of the Artsakh city of Stepanakert.
The 44-day “Second Nagorno-Karabakh War” ended with a peace deal again brokered by Russia on November 9, 2020. In toll, more than seven thousand soldiers and civilians were killed. And Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s help, reclaimed most of the territory it lost two decades prior, leaving Armenia with only a portion of Karabakh. The agreement also established the Lachin corridor, a small strip of land to be monitored by Russian peacekeepers that would serve as a transit route connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.
The latest crisis began in December 2022 when alleged Azerbaijani environmental activists illegally occupied the Lachin corridor. The large mob blocking all traffic across the corridor was supposedly protesting mining operations in Nagorno-Karabakh, but were also reportedly backed by the Azerbaijani regime in Baku. In April, when the “environmental protest” concluded Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev put in place a military checkpoint continuing and strengthened the blockade purportedly to stop rebel forces coming and going. And, Russian peacekeepers have been unwilling or unable to secure and reopen the highway.
“Azerbaijan,” reports Radio Free Asia, “has insisted that it can only allow supplies to reach Nagorno-Karabakh over a road from Agdam, the administrative center of Azerbaijan’s Agdam district, one of seven districts adjacent to the breakaway region that Baku managed to take back under its control along with chunks of Nagorno-Karabakh in November 2020 after a 44-day war.
“However, Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist government has rejected that offer, saying Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor is a violation of the Moscow-brokered 2020 cease-fire agreement that placed the 5-kilometer-wide strip of land under the control of Russian peacekeepers.”
In May, European Council President Charles Michel mediated discussions between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and said they made “clear progress” toward peace. Then, in late May, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a trilateral meeting with the two leaders to discuss the reopening of transportation links between Armenia and Azerbaijan, though no agreement was reached. And, in late June, after three days of U.S.-held talks, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken applauded “further progress” toward a peace agreement and said both sides showed a willingness to negotiate seriously.
Still, Azerbaijan has ignored outside calls to lift its blockade, and Pashinyan has accused Baku of Genocide saying that war remains “very likely” as long as a peace deal is not signed.
STPC President and CEO Frank Gaffney hosted Hon. Sam Bownback, Baronness Caroline Cox, Uzay Bulut, Dr. James Jacob Pursley, and Michael Yon to consider the current status of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, what a continued blockade portends for this ancient Christian community, and what can be done about it.
- Frank Gaffney, President and CEO of Save the Persecuted Christians; Founder and Executive Chairman of the Center for Security Policy; Host of Securing America with Frank Gaffney on Real America’s Voice Network
- Baroness Caroline Cox, founder, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (www.hart-uk.org); an internationally recognized champion for human rights; an independent member of the UK House of Lords, and former Deputy Speaker
• Topic: “The impending Genocide of Armenian Christians in Artsakh.”
- Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist formerly based in Ankara; a PHD candidate in international studies and a research fellow of the Philos Project; she is currently based in Athens
• Topic: “What are Azerbaijan and Turkey’s genocidal goals towards Armenians of Artsakh?”
- Michael Yon, Former Green Beret; experienced combat correspondent; author; photographer
• Topic: “Investigating the movement of people out of Armenia and making friends on the ground”
- Dr. James Jacob Pursley, Ph.D. ICS, A missionary in the Muslim world since 2002; He currently resides in Yerevan, Armenia; Church planter and academic dean of a missions school serving in the Turkic and Persian world; Since 2008, Dr. Pursley has been bringing Christian Turks, Kurds, and Armenians together and helps facilitate reconciliation over the Armenian Genocide; Dr. Pursley has been featured on the Charlie Kirk Show, One America News Network (OANN), Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and other news outlets and documentaries regarding Azeri and Turkish aggressions against Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh.
• Topic: “Who are the players and what’s behind the conflict over Artsakh?”
- Honorable Ambassador Sam Brownback, Chairman, National Coalition for Religious Freedom, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom (2018-2021); former Governor for the State of Kansas; former U.S. Senator; former Member of Congress
• Topic: “What can Americans do to help stop a full-scale Genocide in Artsakh?