Tags: azerbaijan | armenian | genocide

Brownback: State Department Must Act on New Azerbaijan Report

international conflict abroad

Armenian police officers detain protesters during a rally against land transfer to Azerbaijan, in Yerevan - April 27, 2024. Armenian protesters blocked highways, vowing to fight the transfer of land they say is theirs. The protesters were hoping to thwart Armenia's plan to return control of four abandoned Azerbaijani villages - seized during the 1990s. (Karen Minasyan/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 07 May 2024 01:48 PM EDT

Christian Armenians Continue to Suffer Persecution

120,000 Christian Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh fell victim to a campaign of starvation and, ultimately, ethnic cleansing. 

Azerbaijan has joined the ranks of North Korea, Russia, Iran, the People’s Republic of China and Nicaragua, among other authoritarian countries, for their persecution of people of faith.

This is a wake-up call for the Biden Administration to treat Azerbaijan like a rogue state, as it does many other nations on this list.

Recently, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bipartisan federal government entity established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, called on the State Department and Secretary Blinken to designate Azerbaijan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).

Countries that make this unfortunate list are on it because there are serious concerns about the suppression and persecution of entire populations based on their religious beliefs.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has been ruled by the Aliyev Family.

I met the father, Heyday Aliyev, and later attended his funeral.

Its current leader, his son, Ilham Aliyev, has played both sides of major conflicts, allowing Azerbaijan to punch above its weight and ensuring that, before now, it can dodge accountability for its actions.

When Europe tried to cut itself off from Russian gas and increase LNG exports from the United States, Aliyev was there to help fill in the gap – while also acting as a middle-man for Russian gas to be potentially laundered back into Europe.

Aliyev has also taken an offensive stance against the Christians living in the region, finishing what his father started.

All reminiscent of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

The USCIRF's designation of Azerbaijan as a Country of Particular Concern highlights the critical necessity for intervention to safeguard this persecuted group.

Azerbaijan makes this list of countries by USCIRF that blatantly violate human rights because of their recent brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing and military airstrikes targeting the 120,000 residents of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), which Christian Armenians have inhabited since at least the 4th Century.

Azerbaijan's military offensive on Artsakh came after an illegal nine-month blockade of the sole entry and exit point for residents of the region.

During this period, Azerbaijan cut off access to vital necessities such as food, water, fuel, and medicine in an attempt to create unbearable living conditions and coerce the inhabitants to leave.

Miscarriages became commonplace, farmers who tried to tend to their lands were shot at and those with chronic illnesses like diabetes had to ration their lifesaving medication to survive.

Last year saw a mass exodus of these Christian refugees to Armenia proper.

This merciless assault has resulted in countless civilian casualties, with numerous men, women, and children bearing the wounds of violence while simultaneously leading to the capture of Artsakh leaders during this brutal attack.

Today, Artsakh lies in ruin, a ghost land where deserted villages that once were filled with laughter are now razed to the ground.

Azeri soldiers and settlers share videos of themselves harassing the elderly who could not make the journey to Armenia.

They have destroyed gravestones that dare to display the crucifix and demolished churches to hide the influence of Christianity in the region.

Aliyev has unequivocally expressed his intentions to extend beyond Artsakh. He openly aims to invade Armenia and establish what he refers to as "Western Azerbaijan," a land that he believes to be "historically Azerbaijan."

He has already begun his invasion by annexing four Armenian villages and killing Armenian soldiers stationed at the border.

Many have already fled the country in fear of future violence. Turkey and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan supported the Azeri takeover of Armenia, leaving Armenia with few friends in the neighborhood.

It is imperative for the international community, with U.S. leadership, to increase efforts in addressing the escalating crisis in the South Caucasus region and guarantee the safety and well-being of all, irrespective of their religious affiliations.

Already, other democracies like France, India and Greece have activated to guarantee security in the region by supporting Armenia in its struggle for existence.

This report by USCIRF offers hope to those experiencing religious persecution, sparks diplomatic and policy actions to advance global religious freedom, and underscores the United States' dedication to protecting fundamental human rights globally.

This year has been difficult for Christians, with over 360 million Christians around the world living in a country where they suffer some form of persecution, especially in the Middle East and African countries like Nigeria.

For years, the Biden administration and the State Department have ignored the growing authoritarianism and unacceptable actions of the Aliyev Regime.

This recommendation for CPC status by an official U.S. governmental body should be a wake-up call for the United States, a global humanitarian leader, to no longer ignore the geopolitical unrest in the South Caucasus.

The United States must cease weapon sales to Azerbaijan and enact sanctions.

We need to safeguard the persecuted Christian Armenians facing extinction.

Action must be taken to prevent Azerbaijan from invading Armenia with the help of Turkey and the complicity of Russia.

Armenia is the oldest Christian nation on the planet and a young democracy in a tough, strategic region.

We must help them survive.

Samuel Brownback is Former Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom. He alsos served as a U.S. senator from Kansas (1996 to 2011). He was also the 46th governor of Kansas (2011 to 2018). He has extensive experience (inclusive of visits) with respect to Azerbaijan and Armenia.

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The United States must cease weapon sales to Azerbaijan and enact sanctions. We need to safeguard the persecuted Christian Armenians facing extinction.
azerbaijan, armenian, genocide
Tuesday, 07 May 2024 01:48 PM
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