Over 100,000 Armenian Christians displaced in under-reported conflict with Muslim Azerbaijan

Over 100,000 Armenian Christians displaced in under-reported conflict with Muslim Azerbaijan

More than 100,000 Armenian Christians have been displaced in a conflict largely ignored by mainstream media outlets amid the ongoing conflicts in Europe and the Holy Land.

Hostilities in a decades-long conflict between the Muslim government of Azerbaijan and a small group of Armenian Christians broke out anew last month, killing hundreds and forcing nearly all of the roughly 120,000 Christian residents of a region known as Nagorno-Karabakh to flee to Armenia.

“Nobody wants to leave his homeland, but we had to in order to save the lives of our children, to protect them from war, starvation, and further atrocities of Azeris,” Lyudmila Melquomyan, one of the Christian refugees, told Catholic News Agency.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a tiny Christian enclave, has been considered part of Azerbaijan by the international community after communist dictator Josef Stalin handed the region over to the Soviet-affiliated Azeris in the 1920s, The European Conservative noted.

But the Armenian Christians who have lived there for generations claim it as a sovereign republic and call it by its ancient name: Artsakh.

Tensions between the two regions have been hot for decades.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ethnic Armenians won control of the region, to which they claim generational ties going back many centuries in a bloody conflict that left 30,000 dead and a million displaced, mostly Azeris.

In 2020, Azerbaijan shelled Artsakh over a six-week period, damaging civilian infrastructure including an estimated 71 schools and 14 kindergartens. Artsakh officials decried the attacks as violations of international law and accused Azerbaijan of “deliberate and indiscriminate” attacks on “civilian objects.”

Amid the destruction, Azeri social media accounts reportedly posted videos of their own soldiers “decapitating and murdering in other atrocious ways Armenian civilians, soldiers, and prisoners of war,” according to Providence Mag.

The bombardment of Artsakh Christians drew little international interest in 2020, and the eruption of renewed violence against the region’s population in September has similarly attracted a negligible amount of attention by global leaders.

During the September 19 offensive, Artsakh’s defense forces attempted to defend their people, but CNA reported that the region’s military was “vastly outgunned” and completely lacked “outside support,” forcing them to “surrender just one day after the start of the offensive.”

The assault launched by aggressive Azeri forces is predicted to expand beyond the Artsakh region.

Robert Nicholson, who heads up a Christian advocacy group known as the Philos Project, told CNA that “an invasion by Azerbaijan into southern Armenia is very possible” after the decisive defeat of Artsakh’s underprepared defense force.

Despite apparent movements toward a peace agreement between Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Nicholson argued that Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Erdoğan have made it clear they “would like to seize southern Armenia” in order to “reassert Turkic-Islamic international supremacy.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned last month that an invasion of Armenia by Azerbaijan could be imminent and said the administration is determining how best to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its military action.

Regardless, the dramatic situation continues to attract little attention on the international stage compared with the other major military conflicts that have broken out in the mere three years after U.S. President Joe Biden took office.