Updated: Mar 18, 2021
Washington, D.C. - The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) partnered with International Christian Concern (ICC) to host a virtual event, titled “Anatomy of Genocide: Karabakh's Forty-Four Day War,” on March 17, 2021, which focused on the aggression of Azerbaijan and Turkey against the Armenian people during the 44-day war launched on September 27, 2020, which included the use of internationally banned cluster munitions and incendiary white phosphorus against Christian Armenian civilians. Speakers included the Permanent Representative of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to the United States, Robert Avetisyan, humanitarian rights champion the Right Honorable Baroness Caroline Cox, and Assembly Director of Congressional Relations, Mariam Khaloyan, with ICC’s Advocacy Associate Andrew Crane serving as moderator. Mr. Avetisyan, who participated in the Assembly’s Virtual National Advocacy Conference last week in a panel titled “Artsakh Post-War,” provided a historical framework of Artsakh, “one of Armenia’s historic principalities,” and a region that became vulnerable in 1918 as the Russian Empire disintegrated and the Armenian Genocide was well underway. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the majority Armenian population of Artsakh exercised their right to self-determination and formed the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Azerbaijan responded by waging war from 1991 to 1994 when a ceasefire was established. Despite decades of OSCE Minsk Group negotiations to resolve the conflict, with the full and blatant support of Turkey, “on September 27, Azerbaijan resumed its full-scale attacks on all the settlements across the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic where the civilian infrastructure was targeted by thousands of missiles,” said Avetisyan. He remarked that the “avalanche” of weaponry was an “absolute violation of the UN Charter” as Turkey sent thousands of jihadist mercenaries to fight against Christian Armenians. Post-war, Azerbaijan continues to “reject demands” for the release of prisoners of war, according to Avetisyan. While Armenia has adhered to the provisions of the November 9, 2020 ceasefire statement and has released all Azeri POWs, Azerbaijan remains in clear violation of the terms of the statement and the Geneva Conventions, to which it is a signatory. “They politicize this question and make it a subject of political manipulations,” said Avetisyan. “They show no willingness to engage in this issue.” Avetisyan emphasized Artsakh’s commitment to democracy in the South Caucasus and called on the international community and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs - the U.S., Russia, and France - to “exert all possible pressure so the POWs issue is dealt with in a proper and prompt manner.” He also touched upon issues concerning the status of civilian refugees, economic and security challenges, and the destruction of cultural heritage, while referring to the Republic of Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman office, which thoroughly documents human rights violations. Baroness Caroline Cox, a Member of the British House of Lords and founder of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, has spearheaded humanitarian aid missions to Artsakh since the early 1990s. She commented on her recent trip there, post-war, and shared the “poignant experience” that she had at the Dadivank Monastery where she watched Fr. Hovhannes Hovhannisyan “carry out the last marriage” before Azerbaijan gained control. Although Russian peacekeepers are currently protecting the landmark, Baroness Cox emphasized that Azerbaijan is “eradicating Armenian heritage from places that have an ecclesiastical history.” She elaborated on other sites that she visited, including the maternity hospital in Stepanakert, which was “deliberately targeted by Azerbaijan while babies were being delivered in the basement.” “These are war crimes,” she continued, stating that Azerbaijan needs to be held accountable for its actions. Baroness Cox also reiterated that the Armenian people in Artsakh have the right to self-determination. “Armenians are not only survivors, but they create a future from the ashes of destruction,” she concluded. As part of the Assembly’s fact-finding mission, the Assembly’s Director of Congressional Relations Mariam Khaloyan, along with the Assembly’s Armenia-based Regional Director Arpi Vartanian, travelled to Artsakh immediately after the November 9, 2020 ceasefire. Khaloyan witnessed and documented the shelling and destruction of infrastructure in Stepanakert, which she remarked was “very difficult to see first-hand,” particularly amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon her return, the findings and impressions of the mission were conveyed to Members of Congress and to the Armenian American community. During the Assembly’s fact-finding trip, Khaloyan met with The HALO Trust, a UK-based organization that has cleared landmines in Artsakh since 2000 and is currently clearing cluster munitions. Khaloyan also visited the Holy Mother of God Cathedral, where hundreds of refugees hid in the basement for safety during the war, as well as the morgue and memorial in Stepanakert, which Khaloyan described as “devastating.” The Assembly continues to push for the immediate release and repatriation of Armenian POWs, according to Khaloyan, and welcomed bipartisan legislation, H.Res.240, calling on Azerbaijan to immediately return all Armenian POWs and captured civilians. The resolution, spearheaded by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), along with fellow Congressional Armenian Caucus leaders, Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), David G. Valadao (R-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA), was a focal point of the Armenian Assembly’s Virtual National Advocacy Conference and subsequent meetings with Congressional offices. Khaloyan expressed gratitude to the Armenian Caucus leadership for the resolution as well as to Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is circulating a letter urging the Biden Administration to keep its campaign promise to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, as the House of Representatives and the Senate did in 2019. “Awareness is key,” said Khaloyan. “It’s important to talk about the atrocities so they don't happen again.” ICC recently published an in-depth report titled “The Anatomy of Genocide: Karabakh's Forty-Four Day War” that provides further background into the history of the region and the motives behind Azerbaijan and Turkey's intent to start a war. ICC is also leading a petition to release Armenian POWs and help bring an end to the abuse of Armenian soldiers. “The Armenian Assembly expresses its appreciation to the International Christian Concern for their support and in raising awareness of the plight of Christian Armenians in Artsakh,” said Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.