The crisis in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) has reached a critical point, with tens of thousands of Armenian refugees fleeing to Armenia following a military operation by Azerbaijan. This article delves into the dual nature of this crisis, examining it as both an exodus and an ethnic cleansing, as the region faces the grim possibility of being emptied of its original Armenian inhabitants.
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Artsakh, an Armenian-majority enclave, was annexed to Azerbaijan by Soviet authorities in 1921. The region declared its independence in 1991, with Armenia’s support, setting the stage for decades of ethnic and territorial conflict.
The Exodus: A Mass Departure
The Immediate Crisis
Azerbaijan’s recent military operation in Artsakh led to the killing of over 400 people on both sides and triggered a mass exodus of Armenians. Armenia has received over 50,000 refugees, a number that continues to rise.
A fuel depot explosion exacerbated the crisis, killing at least 68 people and wounding 290 others. Over 100 people are still missing, adding to the chaos and suffering.
The Strain on Armenia
Armenia, with a population of 2.9 million, is struggling to provide shelter and resources for the influx of refugees. Despite preparations to receive 40,000 refugees, only 2,850 have been sheltered, indicating a humanitarian crisis.
Ethnic Cleansing: A Deliberate Act
Ceasefire and Control
The ceasefire agreement put Artsakh under Baku’s control. Azerbaijan has detained key figures like Robin Vardanyan, who led the separatist government, raising questions about its intentions for the Armenian population.
The mass departure of Armenians and the Azerbaijani control of Artsakh point towards a deliberate effort to change the region’s demographic makeup, which can be characterized as ethnic cleansing.
International Legal Implications
Ethnic cleansing carries legal and moral implications under international law, making it crucial for international bodies to intervene and investigate.
The Dual Nature of the Crisis
The situation in Artsakh is both an exodus, a mass departure often caused by untenable conditions, and an ethnic cleansing, a deliberate effort to remove a particular ethnic group. The region faces the prospect of being emptied of its original Armenian inhabitants, making it essential to address both aspects of the crisis.
International Response and Future Implications
Germany and the United States have called for international observers and humanitarian aid. The crisis has led to public dissatisfaction in Armenia and could have broader geopolitical implications, including strained relations with Russia.
The crisis in Artsakh is a grim reminder of the region’s troubled history and presents a complex situation that is both an exodus and an ethnic cleansing. Immediate international intervention is necessary to provide humanitarian aid, monitor the situation, and ensure that justice is served.