Some 120,000 Armenians, including 30,000 children, have spent two months under a blockade imposed by Azerbaijan’s dictator Ilham Aliyev, says Sohrab Ahmari in The New Statesman. They’re surviving on “meagre amounts” of food and medication brought to them by the Red Cross. But Aliyev’s regime has threatened to shoot down planes transporting humanitarian aid and “periodically shuts off” their gas supply as they struggle with freezing temperatures. The victims inhabit Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that has been home to Armenian Christians for centuries. It’s where the Armenian alphabet was developed and where the movement for independence from the Soviet Union was born. Having partially seized the territory in 2020, Aliyev is attempting to starve the rest of it into submission.
“The geopolitical winds are at the Azerbaijanis’ backs.” Armenia’s historic protector, Russia, is preoccupied fighting Ukraine. Europe is “desperate for natural gas”, which Aliyev gladly offers, so turns a blind eye to his human rights abuses. In the US, Azerbaijan’s lobbyists – and conservative, anti-Russian think tanks like the Hudson Institute – are working hard to frame the country as a “pro-Israel bulwark against Iran”. The result is that ever since the Azerbaijan regime began persecuting Armenians, the West has been “decidedly mute”. The victims are refusing to accept Aliyev’s offer to surrender and become “ordinary citizens” of Azerbaijan; they’ve seen videos of the dictator’s forces torturing captured Armenian soldiers, and decided they “would sooner die than submit en masse”. So unless the West intervenes, there’s an “all too real danger of humanitarian catastrophe”.