After 9 months of blockade of Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh followed by a lightning military offensive and massive bombing by the Azerbaijani army on October 19 and 20, the Armenian population seized by fear and terror took the road of forced exodus. They are already more than 100,000 forcibly displaced out of the 120,000 inhabitants who have found refuge in Armenia.
Nothing will have prevented the worst, neither the injunction of the UN International Court of Justice to reopen the Latchine corridor, nor the appeals of France, the European Union, the United States or even the UN and many other countries and institutions. How did this happen? What lessons do we learn from it. Who is responsible for this human tragedy?
I think of the schoolchildren who sang, the disabled, the nurses I met on site in February 2021 with Bernard Kouchner, Patrice Franceschi and the Aurora Foundation. Where are they now, what will become of them? A television report entitled «A soulless ghost town» shows us the large empty Stepanakert square with children’s strollers and abandoned luggage, stray dogs. The exodus to flee from hunger and bombing. Some experts speak of «ethnic cleansing», even «genocide» as Luis Moreno Ocampo, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), says.
I think of those hard-working Artsakhiotes I met who had to give up their houses, fields, cattle, workshops, cemeteries and monasteries, whose ancestors lived there for 2500 years!
Let us not forget the inhabitants who remained in Artsakh. How many? What will become of them? A UN mission is on site, the first in 30 years! She now has the responsibility to protect, rescue, accompany and let people know.
My purpose here is to report facts with the humanitarian consequences they cause for the people of Artsakh and to assess the risks that could plunge Armenia into turmoil.
In my humanitarian life, I never accepted blockades of famine and ethnic cleansing and we always chose relief when Kabul or Sarajevo were surrounded, when the Muslim enclave of Gorazde in Bosnia was under siege and during the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. Today it is the case of Artsakh and tomorrow perhaps of Armenia.
Is Armenia a safe haven of peace and security?
The exiles of Artsakh receive an exceptional welcome and support in Armenia after crossing the Hakari border bridge. Solidarity is there with the inhabitants, their villages, the Armenian Red Cross and public services, Armenian and international humanitarian associations.
Armenia is larger than Artsakh with about 2.5 million inhabitants in a territory of 29,743 km2. But as soon as these forcibly displaced people arrive exhausted in Armenia with the little they have been able to save, voices are already rising. The President of Azerbaijan speaks of Armenia as Western Azerbaijan!
On 25 September, as the tide of exodus increased, the Turkish and Azerbaijani presidents met in Nakhchivan to lay the first stone of a pipeline that they believe should cross southern Armenia via an «extra-territorial corridor» which would thus escape its control, its sovereignty. The war is being played dangerously and the territorial integrity of Armenia is in question, especially since nearly 120 km2 of its territory are already forcibly occupied by Azerbaijan.
Today, we must help the Armenians of Artsakh, we must also help Armenia and its inhabitants who welcome them and who are themselves in danger. If the beginning of the blockade of Artsakh in December 2022 finally announced the coup de grace of the bombing of September 19 and 20, then Armenia is to support now and in the long term. Abandoned, alone, Armenia will eventually succumb.
For nearly 3 years, after visiting Artsakh and Armenia, Défis Humanitaires has kept you regularly informed of the situation and we have published letters from its inhabitants that you will find below. I also participated in various conferences and programs to better inform you. More than ever, humanitarian information is essential to freedom and solidarity.
Today, as you know, there is an urgency and I personally invite you to support Défis Humanitaires today (make a donation) to allow us to amplify the information because “There is no hope in the silence of others”.
The media today very mobilized will be tomorrow much less present and perhaps even silent again.
With your support, Défis Humanitaires will be able to publish a regular newsletter with accurate information on:
- Artsakhiotes refugees in Armenia and humanitarian organizations active on the spot.
- The situation in Armenia and the risks that could lead again to a humanitarian tragedy.
If your support allows (faireundon), Défis Humanitaires may send a fact-finding mission to Armenia to refugees and humanitarian organizations in order to produce a report to be published in a future edition, to produce a video with interviews and we will then offer you a webinar with guests and a debate with you.
This humanitarian support of readers can also be that of local authorities, foundations, philanthropists who want to be better informed, more supportive and whom I call to support us today (faireundon). Many thanks for your humanitarian generosity.
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