This urgent appeal from scholars at academic institutions calls for U.S. involvement and mediation as an imperative step towards resolving the crisis in the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). We deplore the recent agreement between Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan that Armenia and Artsakh were forced to sign and that circumvents the Minsk Group. Without U.S. engagement, we believe the threat of continued ethnic cleansing and genocide remains. No one can support an agreement dictated by authoritarian leaders under threat of committing further war crimes against additional civilian populations which is exactly what the November 9, 2020 agreement represents.
The attack by Azerbaijan, which began on September 27, 2020, has killed more than 1,300 Armenian defenders, and 50 civilians, displaced half the population of the enclave, about 75,000 people, and inflicted substantial damage to Armenian cultural landmarks. Schools, hospitals, community centers, churches, and homes have been attacked with sophisticated weapons, some of which are banned under international law (see here). The remaining population has been confined to underground shelters or rallied to the front lines to resist the Azerbaijani onslaught.
Independent news sources and human rights organizations have documented the unprovoked Azerbaijani attacks and the refusal to honor three ceasefire agreements. Turkey has been directly involved, providing Azerbaijan with military equipment, personnel, intelligence, and logistical support. Turkish F-16s and sophisticated drones have been deployed. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Turkey has also deployed up to two thousand Syrian jihadists as mercenaries who are engaged in the front lines where they are committing atrocities. The recent agreement fails to require the removal of the jihadists.
The crisis is further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which has left the population of Artsakh doubly vulnerable. The enclave’s medical system is now largely in physical ruin from the bombings and can barely take care of its injured citizens much less provide public health services to its non-combatant population.
Many members of Congress are urging the United States to immediately suspend U.S. security assistance and weapons sales to Azerbaijan as required by Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.
Join us in urging major international actors to condemn the aggression by Turkey and Azerbaijan, and impose sanctions. The Minsk Group should establish a monitoring mechanism to evaluate events subsequent to the agreement between Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
If you are a U.S. citizen, please contact your Congressional representatives and ask that they support a letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by 46 members of Congress (full text here). In part, the bipartisan appeal reads:
In our view, this new round of fighting represents further evidence that the U.S. policy of equivalence between Armenia and Azerbaijan has failed. For far too long, the United States and other members of the Minsk Group have drawn a false equivalence between Armenia and Azerbaijan, even as the latter threatens war and refuses to agree to monitoring along the line of contact. The United States has provided tens of millions of dollars in military assistance to Azerbaijan in recent years, while seemingly remaining unable or unwilling to restrain the Aliyev government from offensive military actions or gross human rights violations. This policy is a failure, and we must choose a different course.
Condemnation combined with sanctions can stop the ethnic and cultural cleansing in Artsakh and set the stage for mediation in which the U.S. takes a leading role.
Signatories (in alphabetical order):
Brook K. Baker, Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law
Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor of Bioethics, NYU Grossman School of Medicine
Cathy Caruth, PhD, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Cornell University
Wendy Chavkin, MD, MPH, Professor of Public Health and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Armen Der Kiureghian, PhD, Taisei Professor of Civil Engineering Emeritus, University of California Berkeley, and Former President, American University of Armenia
John Marshall Evans, Former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia
Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor, Boston University School of Public Health
Judith L. Herman, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Marianne Hirsch, PhD, Professor of Comparative Literature and Gender Studies, Columbia University
Ann R. Karagozian, PhD, Distinguished Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, UCLA
Barry Levine, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Computer Science Department, San Francisco State University
Robert Jay Lifton, MD, Columbia University, author of The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
Mary Papazian, PhD, President and Professor of English, San José State University
David L. Phillips, Director, Program on Peace-building and Rights, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Lawrence H. Pitts, MD, Professor, Emeritus, Neurosurgery, University of California, San Francisco
Paula M. Rayman, PhD, Professor Emerita in Sociology and Founding Director, Middle East Center for Peace, Development,and Culture and Peace and Conflict Studies, UMass Lowell
Susan M. Reverby, PhD, McLean Professor Emerita in the History of Ideas and Professor Emerita in Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College
Barbara A. Sawrey, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, San Diego
Khachig Tölölyan, PhD, Professor of Letters, College of Letters, Wesleyan University
Gina Athena Ulysse, PhD, Professor of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz.