The Republic of Artsakh and her people are under attack. As an international traveller who has visited Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, I find the conflict worthy of our attention.
History Of Artsakh
Modern conflict in Artsakh, also known as the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, dates back about 100 years. After the dissolution of the Russian Empire in 1918, Armenia and Azerbaijan declared independence. The Artsakh region was predominately populated with ethnic Armenians who overwhelmingly identified as Christian. War broke out in 1920 but was resolved when the Soviet Union was established and asserted control over both regions, forming Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs) in Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The Artsakh region was originally placed in the new Azerbaijan SSR but ethnic Armenians protested and in 1923 the Soviet Union created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast.
There was relative peace until the end of the Soviet Union. But when the Soviet Union dissolved and Armenia and Azerbaijan each declared independence, the region came under conflict again. The Armenian majority in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence and an intention to unify with Armenia. A six-year war was waged, with a ceasefire implemented in 1994 that granted de facto independence to the Republic of Artsakh.
Over the years, conflicts have flared up. Last month, the conflict resumed when Azerbaijan unexpectedly attacked Artsakh, asserting international efforts had failed to remove Armenian occupiers from its land and it had no choice but to resort to force. President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan claims his nation will not withdraw forces until it has prevailed in reclaiming the disputed territory. It is no surprise that falling oil prices and a depressed economy in Azerbaijan have left Aliyev searching for avenues to build support and consolidate power.
A Russia-brokered cease-fire began on earlier today, but both sides have already claimed the other has violated it. Turkey, which shares ethnic ties with Azerbaijan and also has a strained relationship with Armenia, has vigorously and publicly backed Azerbaijan and vowed to lend aid.
The War in Artsakh…From Southern California
It is unmistakable. I live in an enclave of Los Angles with a large Armenian population and I’ve increasingly seen cars bearing Armenian flags this week. By the hundreds. And rightfully so.
Even though Artsakh is landlocked within Azerbaijan, it has never been part of modern Azerbaijan. It is filled with ethnic Armenians, not Azeris, and has been closely linked with Armenia religiously and culturally for hundreds of years, indeed 2,500 years.
The fact that Turkey, which to this day denies its culpability in the Armenian Genocide, has enthusiastically supported aggression by Azerbaijan further leads me to weigh in on this issue today. Turkey, which continues to occupy Northern Cyprus and battle Kurds in Syria under the auspices of preserving cultural unity, hypocritically rejects the same arguments from its Armenian neighbors.
As both sides come to the table, I voice my support for a lasting-peace that respects the right of the people of Artsakh for self-determination.
Last Sunday I received a call from my dad complaining that traffic had come to a grinding halt on the Hollywood freeway. He assumed there must have been a large accident. Not exactly. Instead, pro-Artsakh protestors had occupied the freeway, blocking all traffic. I do not think blocking roads and highways is a way to win public support, but who can begrudge the yearning for freedom and the resistance to re-litigating a battle that has already been fought?
Indeed, there are many parallels that can be drawn between the battle over Artsakh and those going on in other regions around the world. All are worthy of discussion. But it is time to support the people of Artsakh.
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