By Selina Abram
I haven’t slept properly in days. 44 days to be exact.
For the past 6 weeks, Australian-Armenians have waited on tenterhooks for news from their ancestral homeland of Armenia and Artsakh. News about our cousins, brothers, mothers and fathers. If you have an Armenian friend, colleague or even barista, check on them. Because we are not OK.
To understand the current conflict, we need to look back over the last hundred years.
The people of Artsakh have struggled with their right to self-determination for years. They were placed under autonomous administration under the Soviet Azerbaijan SSR, and eventually voted for their independence right before the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90’s. Azerbaijan does not recognise this independence. The Armenian people are indigenous to this land, which is evidenced through the rich historical buildings and churches which have been there as early as the 6th Century.
As a result, the area has been subjected to ongoing war and skirmishes across the years, however a ceasefire (of sorts) was brokered and in force since the mid 90’s.
The Current Conflict
44 days ago, we woke to news of an attack on Artsakh, led by Azerbaijan and backed by Turkey. For those who know, Turkey has been trying to exterminate Armenians since the turn of last century, resulting in the mass killings of 1.5m Armenians during the Armenian Genocide. Earlier this year, Turkey’s President Erdogan addressed his parliament and said their administration would finish what their grandfathers started a century ago.
For 44 days, we woke to news of more soldiers, mostly all aged 18-24, dying in battle. Being tortured, beheaded, their deaths plastered across social media. The main city, Stepanakert was shelled constantly. Historic churches, daycare centres, schools, cultural centres, even the maternity section of a hospital were targeted and levelled. Three humanitarian ceasefires were broken by Azerbaijan and Turkey, one even brokered by Trump.
It became clear that this was not a battle for territory, but a second attempt at ethnic cleansing. I’ve had to go on with life and work, while trying to support friends who have lost family members.
Yesterday, in a bid to preserve human life, the Prime Minister of Armenia took a deal brokered by Russia. He exchanged the lands – lands which have been Armenian for centuries – for the war to stop. Russian peacekeeping forces are now moving in. Over a hundred thousand civilians now have no home to return to. Once again, evil wins.
Why haven’t I heard about this?
Good question. While Human Rights have been grossly violated, the international community has stayed largely silent. Oil money, terrorism and the battle for land once again takes precedence over human lives.
Armenia is a small country, and no match for the oil of Azerbaijan and Erdogan’s vision of Pan Turkic expansion.
Why should I care?
Firstly, I would like to think any gross violation of human rights and international law would be a matter of concern to Australians. While Australia burned last year during the fires, the world looked to us, sending donations, sharing the news, and yes even sending the ubiquitous ‘thoughts and prayers.’ To those affected. If you don’t know what to say, a simple “I’ve heard what’s happening in Artsakh, are you ok?’ isn’t a bad start.
Secondly, the media is silent. Government is silent. Well, now we have our own platforms, and we don’t need to be… Armenians across the diaspora have been trying to raise awareness of the issue. You may have seen some of the silent protests, the car convoys and the march through Sydney CBD a few weeks back.
You can help bring awareness to this issue. Share this article. Tell someone what’s happening. Follow independent journalists reporting from the ground. (@NeilPHauer, @MuradGazdiev @LindseySnell @ronzheimer on Twitter is a great start) and share their updates. Sign petitions to pressure the government to speak out and condemn the atrocities.
History denied is history repeated. Help break this cycle.