Stop Azerbaijan & Turkey's War Crimes Against Civilians in Artsakh

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On September 27, 2020 Azerbaijan launched an undeniably pre-planned, large-scale military offensive against the people of Artsakh. Armed with months of emphatic and public support from Turkey, which followed up with extensive military aid–both in the form of hardware and personnel–Azerbaijan strategically struck a geographically wide range of civilian targets in cities, towns, and villages all over Artsakh.

The time for the impunity of foreign invaders against the marooned democracy of Artsakh must come to an end in this century lest the Armenian holocaust of the last century is ultimately realized. The international community must uniformly denounce this Turkish and Azerbaijani aggression for what it is: a coordinated armed attack, the illegal use of force, and a patent affront to international law. To do otherwise is to continue to embolden dictatorial regimes and green-light military adventurism in the region and beyond. In fact, this breach of peace and act of aggression not only warrants forceful condemnations, but also humanitarian sanctions.

As in 2016, now too, the hereditary Aliyev regime is eager to systematically target civilian communities and infrastructure, in clear violation of the Geneva Convention and customary international law. Initial reports show attacks on at least fifty civilian targets, including the capital city, Stepanakert. As a result, a grandmother and child lost their lives, and dozens of civilians were left wounded. It should be stressed: the attack on Artsakh’s capital serves no military objective; it was intended only to terrorize civilians.

The international community had ample warning for months—if not years—since the 2016 war and, more recently, Azerbaijan’s unprovoked attack in July of this year on the Tavush region of the Republic of Armenia. Wholly unheeded went the U.N. Secretary-General’s call for a cessation of all hostilities during the global pandemic. Since then, Aliyev’s bellicose attack of the peace process, military build-up, and state-sponsored Armenophobia gave the international community notice that intervention was necessary to preserve peace. Now, Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s violations of humanitarian law demand intervention.

Just as Turkey does not hesitate to use its political and financial might in the war on Armenians in the Caucasus, so too the international community should not hesitate to use a forceful tone against the destabilizing imperialistic aspirations of Erdogan. Following Azerbaijan’s unilateral attacks on Armenia in July 2020, the Turkish Defense Ministry was quick to issue inflamed threats of “drown[ing]” Armenia and making it “pay”. Unfortunately, these threats were largely ignored by the international community.

Discontent with limiting itself to only threats and hate speech, the Turkish president mobilized Turkish forces in Azerbaijan’s war against Armenians under the pretense of “military drills” with Azerbaijan’s land and air forces. It should not have come as a surprise when Turkey deployed weaponry and Syrian fighters of Turkish-backed factions to the conflict area two months later. Rather than call for peace, Turkey fanned the flames of war by sending mercenaries and arming Azerbaijan’s war-complex.

The writing is not only on the wall—it has outright stained the wall. Years of appeasing belligerent dictators has come at the expense of civilian lives, and it will continue unabated unless there are strong counteracting measures. This is no time for the international community to continue hiding behind feigned neutrality. The Azerbaijani aggressor is emboldened and backed by Turkey’s vows to “increasingly continue its solidarity with Baku” with “all its means”.

It is imperative to categorically counter the pre-orchestrated and intentioned actions committed by Turkey and Azerbaijan if this region is to know true peace and stability. Accordingly, we urge your high offices to demand that member states immediately impose strict measures against Turkey and Azerbaijan to halt otherwise certain humanitarian catastrophe.