Another New War? Azerbaijan’s Heroes: Soldiers Who Behead Armenians

Nov 3 2023
  • After Azerbaijan besieged and starved 120,000 Christian Armenians in the Republic of Artsakh in the South Caucuses for nine months, on September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan bombed Artsakh's communities.

  • Hundreds of civilians, including children, were murdered. Almost all the Armenians of Artsakh have fled: they know that after all military raids, Armenians who have fallen into the hands of the Azerbaijani military have been treated with maximum cruelty.

  • Beheading and mutilating Armenians appears to be a long-standing tradition of Azeri soldiers. These actions are promoted and rewarded by the State of Azerbaijan. Azeri soldiers who commit such ISIS-like war crimes not only escape accountability and are never prosecuted, rather they are treated as national heroes by their government.

  • During Azerbaijan's military incursion into Armenia in September 2022, Azeri soldiers raped, mutilated and slaughtered a 36-year-old Armenian woman who served in the Armenian forces. They then posted a video demonstrating their war crime on social media. In it, the dead woman appears naked, with both of her arms and legs dismembered. One of her eyes is gouged out. A severed finger appears to be sticking out of her mouth, and another appears out of her private parts…. The Azeri soldiers videotaping can be heard laughing and joking in the background.

  • So, will the US finally hold the government of Azerbaijan to account? Will it cut US military aid to Azerbaijan? Will it once again watch as Turkey and Azerbaijan massacre more Armenians and invade more Armenian lands?

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on October 13 that in the coming weeks, Azerbaijan could invade Armenia. Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has threatened Armenia with war multiple times.

Meanwhile, pro-Erdogan media outlets in Turkey are also playing their war drums against Armenians. The headline news in the pro-Erdogan newspaper Türkiye on October 3 refers to Armenians in Armenia's Syunik (Zangezur) province as "snakes", "gangs" and "terrorists". One headline reads: "The new nest of the snake is Zangezur". It claims that the Armenians displaced from Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) are receiving military training in "terror camps in Zangezur".

When the Turkish media uses such words, its intent is to prepare the public for an upcoming war against an "enemy".

On November 1, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention issued a Red Flag Alert "due to the alarming potential for an invasion of Armenia by Azerbaijan in the coming days and weeks".

The US government also knows that the next step for Azerbaijan and Turkey is to attack the Republic of Armenia.

After Azerbaijan besieged and starved 120,000 Christian Armenians in the Republic of Artsakh in the South Caucuses for nine months, on September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan bombed Artsakh's communities.

Hundreds of civilians, including children, were murdered. Almost all the Armenians of Artsakh have fled: they know that after all military raids, Armenians who have fallen into the hands of the Azerbaijani military have been treated with maximum cruelty.

Azeri soldiers, since their invasion began, have been uploading videos on social media showing themselves beheading and mutilating Armenians.

The Lemkin Institute of Genocide Prevention on September 23 noted:

"There are stories coming out of Artsakh of the beheading of children and the separation of older boys and men from women and children….. Azerbaijan has routinely treated Armenians with this level of barbarism, especially in the wars of 2016, 2020 and 2022. It is a country is run by people who do not hide their visceral hatred of Armenians."

Beheading and mutilating Armenians appears to be a long-standing tradition of Azeri soldiers. These actions are promoted and rewarded by the State of Azerbaijan. Azeri soldiers who commit such ISIS-like war crimes not only escape accountability and are never prosecuted, rather they are treated as national heroes by their government.

On February 19, 2004, for instance, during a three-month English language class that was part of the Partnership for Peace NATO-sponsored program in Budapest, Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army officer, broke into the dormitory room of Armenian army Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan at night and axed him to death while he slept. Safarov hit Margaryan 16 times on his head and neck with the axe, almost decapitating him.

A court in Budapest convicted Safarov in 2006 of murdering Markaryan and attempting to murder another Armenian participant of the course, Hayk Makuchian, in the same fashion. Safarov was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006. However, when Safarov was extradited to Azerbaijan in 2012, he received a hero's welcome in the capital of Baku.

According to anthropologist Sarah Kendzior:

"On August 31, 2012, Ramil Safarov was extradited to Azerbaijan, where he was greeted as a hero. As an adoring crowd cheered, Safarov walked the streets of the capital draped in an Azerbaijani flag, carrying a bouquet of roses. He was pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev, promoted to the rank of major and given a new apartment and money by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry."

In 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Azerbaijan's actions amounted to the "approval" and "endorsement" of the "very serious ethnically-biased crime" that Safarov committed. The court concluded that "the acts of Azerbaijan in effect granted [Safarov] impunity for the crimes committed against his Armenian victims."

"In addition, the Court finds particularly disturbing the statements made by a number of Azerbaijani officials glorifying [Safarov,] his deeds and his pardon. It also deplores the fact that a large majority of those statements expressed particular support for the fact that [Safarov's] crimes had been directed against Armenian soldiers, congratulated him on his actions and called him a patriot, a role model and a hero."

During an Azeri raid against Artsakh on April 1-5, 2016, a Yazidi member of the Artsakh Defense Army, Kyaram Sloyan, was beheaded and mutilated by Azeri soldiers. Videos and pictures showing Azeri soldiers posing with Sloyan's severed head were posted on social media networks. The Sunday Times called them "shocking souvenir photos of uniformed Azerbaijani soldiers posing with the severed head".

Sloyan was reburied in his father's village in Armenia after the International Committee of the Red Cross retrieved his severed head and returned it to his family.

"When they brought the body, we didn't know that it's headless," Sloyan's grief-stricken father Kyalash told RFE/RL's Armenian service on April 11, 2016. "It was very painful to discover that. They brought the head yesterday."

The Azerbaijani officer who decapitated Sloyan reportedly became a national hero in Azerbaijan. President Aliyev awarded him a medal in May 2016.

The Office of the Human Rights Defender of the Artsakh Republic published an interim public report on the atrocities committed by the Azerbaijani Military Forces during the four- day war in April 2016.

The report noted that both civilians and servicemen were executed and mutilated by the Azeri Army. Some Artsakh soldiers were, "along with other forms of dismemberment, also subjected to beheading," Graphic images of the abuses were also published in the report.

During Azerbaijan's 2020 war against Artsakh, Azeri accounts once again posted videos on Telegram which showed Azeris beheading Armenian civilians, soldiers and prisoners of war. One was Yuri Asryan, a reclusive 82-year-old who had refused to leave his village on October 20, 2020 when the invading Azerbaijani forces approached.

During Azerbaijan's military incursion into Armenia in September 2022, Azeri soldiers raped, mutilated and slaughtered a 36-year-old Armenian woman who served in the Armenian forces. They then posted a video demonstrating their war crime on social media. In it, the dead woman appears naked, with both of her arms and legs dismembered. One of her eyes is gouged out. A severed finger appears to be sticking out of her mouth, and another appears out of her private parts.

The video also includes several other mutilated and beheaded Armenian men. The Azeri soldiers videotaping can be heard laughing and joking in the background.

The words of Kamil Zeynallı, an Azeri athlete with 1.7 million Instagram followers, demonstrate the Azeri path to national "heroism". Zeynalli said in a WhatsApp call later posted on social media:

"Shed the blood of the Armenians. You'll return to our country like a man. You'll be free like a man. Our president [Aliyev] is behind those who behead Armenians.

"Whoever cuts off the heads of Armenians, our esteemed president is by their side."

Azerbaijan tries to spread propaganda in the West about allegedly being a "tolerant" and "multicultural" society. This propaganda is refuted by Azerbaijan's rewarding soldiers who behead Armenians, among many other war crimes they commit against Armenians.

There is no government other than Azerbaijan that so proudly rewards soldiers who behead and mutilate their captives, except perhaps for the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic State (ISIS).

The jihadists' use of beheadings is based on Islamic scriptures and Islamic history:

"So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds…, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah – never will He waste their deeds." – Quran 47:4, Sahih International translation

"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip." – Quran 8:12 : Sahih International translation

Beheadings have been commonly used by Muslims in their jihad (war in the service of Allah) against non-Muslims since the advent of Islam in the seventh century. (For more examples of Islam's use of beheadings and other forms of violence, see here.)

Azerbaijan's war against Armenians is jihadist as well as nationalist. During Azerbaijan's war against Armenians in 2020, Erdogan declared:

"We support Azerbaijan until victory… I tell my Azerbaijani brothers: May your ghazwa be blessed."

"Ghazwa" in Islam means a battle or raid against non-Muslims for the expansion of Muslim territory and/or conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. Erdogan thus openly announced that attacks against the Armenian territory constitute jihad. To fight against Armenians in Artsakh, Turkey was joined in Azerbaijan by mercenary jihadi terrorists from Syria, as well.

During the first Artsakh war (1991-94), which the Armenians won, Dr. Araks Pashayan, an expert on political Islam and Azerbaijan, noted that "mercenaries from Afghanistan, Iran, the United States, Russia and Turkey were included in Azerbaijani army, and particularly Turkey and Iran provided Baku with military instructors."

Mohammad Younas was among the thousands of Afghan fighters that Hezb-e Islami, a major Afghan Islamist party, sent to Azerbaijan in the 1990s to bolster Baku in its war against Armenians.

"If possible, I would again join the Muslims of Azerbaijan to defend them against non-Muslims," Younas told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. "My real motivation in going to Azerbaijan was participating in a jihad, but I also wanted to make some money," he said.

In the face of this barbarity, the world idly watches. Such complacency has allowed Azerbaijan to forcibly displace around 120,000 indigenous Armenians from their homeland of Artsakh. Armenians know what will happen if they try to live under the Azeri regime.

So, will the US finally hold the government of Azerbaijan to account? Will it cut US military aid to Azerbaijan? Will it once again watch as Turkey and Azerbaijan massacre more Armenians and invade more Armenian lands?

It is high time that the West sanctioned the Azerbaijani government and held it accountable for treating Armenians in the most brutal ways. As long as Western governments continue their military and commercial cooperation with Azerbaijan and turn a blind eye to its mass atrocity crimes, they will remain complicit in Azerbaijan's crimes.

Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, a research fellow for the Philos Project, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

RFE/RL Armenian Service – 10/31/2023


Armenian Government Reluctant To Pay Karabakh Pensions

        • Anush Mkrtchian

Armenia - Pensioners and other refugees from Nagorno Karabakh visit a Karabakh 
office in Yerevan, October 18, 2023.

The Armenian government has no plans to pay the pensions and other benefits 
received by residents of Nagorno-Karabakh until their exodus to Armenia, Finance 
Minister Vahe Hovannisian said on Tuesday.

The government had for decades contributed a large part of Karabakh’s budget in 
the form of monthly subsidies officially called “interstate loans.” The figure 
reportedly averaged 12 billion drams ($30 million) per month this year, with 
roughly half of it used for paying public sector salaries, pensions and other 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s administration made clear that it will not pay 
them anymore shortly after more than 100,000 Karabakh Armenians took refuge in 
Armenia following the September 19-20 Azerbaijani military offensive that 
restored Baku’s control over the region. It said that all refugees will instead 
receive 50,000 drams ($125) each in November and December in addition to 100,000 
drams given to them this month.

An exiled Karabakh official told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service earlier this month 
that Yerevan is even reluctant to pay the September pensions and salaries 
despite the fact that the exodus began at the end of last month.

Hovannisian confirmed this, saying that the government has no obligation to meet 
the Karabakh leadership’s last financial obligations.

“We didn’t give pensions to anyone [in Karabakh,]” he told reporters. “We gave 
the government of Nagorno-Karabakh money and it decided to what to do with it: 
pay pensions or make other expenditures.”

“We have no decision not to give [the September pensions,] but I see no reason 
why we should give … We are already paying people sums equivalent to pensions,” 
added the minister.

ARMENIA - Refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh region ride in the back of a truck as 
they arrive in the border village of Kornidzor, September 26, 2023.

A Karabakh office in Yerevan indicated, meanwhile, that the Karabakh pensioners, 
many of whom lack adequate housing, may still be paid for September. It said 
nothing about benefits paid to other categories of Karabakh’s displaced 
population, notably retired military personnel.

Armen Arushanian, a disabled Karabakh veteran of a past war with Azerbaijan, 
still hoped to continue getting his monthly allowance in Armenia when he visited 
the office on Tuesday.

“They told me to forget about military pensions,” Arushanian told RFE/RL’s 
Armenian Service.

Armenian opposition figures and other critics have condemned the government’s 
stance as immoral. They claim that Pashinian is washing his hands of the 
Karabakh refugees after controversially recognizing Azerbaijani sovereignty over 
Karabakh in May.

Pashinian has repeatedly assured the refugees that his government will help them 
settle down and find new livelihoods in Armenia.

The government sparked another controversy last week when it decided to grant 
them “temporary protection” formalizing their status of refugees. It thus made 
clear that it does not consider the Karabakh Armenians as citizens of Armenia 
despite the fact that virtually all of them hold Armenian passports. Government 
officials described their passports as mere “travel documents,” a claim disputed 
by some legal experts.

New Armenian Plant Moved Away From Azeri Border

Armenia - The site of a steel plant that was due to be built in Yeraskh, June 
15, 2023.

Economy Minister Vahan Kerobian confirmed on Tuesday that a U.S.-Armenian joint 
venture has decided, for security reasons, to relocate a metallurgical plant 
which it began building on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan earlier this year.

The construction site in Yeraskh, a border village 55 kilometers south of 
Yerevan, came under fire from nearby Azerbaijani army positions on a virtually 
daily basis in June. Two Indian nationals working there were seriously wounded 
on June 14.

The automatic gunfire began one week after the Azerbaijani government protested 
against the $70 million project. It claimed that building the industrial 
facility without its permission is a violation of international environmental 
norms. The Armenian Foreign Ministry brushed aside Baku’s “false” environmental 
concerns, saying that they are a smokescreen for impeding economic growth and 
foreign investment in Armenia.

Despite making defiant statements, Armenian and U.S. investors behind the 
project suspended work on the plant later in the summer.

A security guard at the Yeraskh construction site and several villagers said on 
September 14 that the GTB joint venture has begun moving construction and 
industrial equipment from the site. The company did not confirm that. An RFE/RL 
crew spotted a new and active construction site near the town of Ararat, several 
kilometers from Yeraskh.

“The Yeraskh metallurgical project continues to be implemented,” Kerobian told 
reporters. He acknowledged that the steel plant is now constructed in a 
different, “nearby” location.

Asked whether that means Armenia has again succumbed to Azerbaijani pressure, 
the minister said: “We are dealing with private investors who decide their 
further actions on their own. Given the geopolitical and regional environment, 
we are trying to be as helpful as possible.”

Armenia’s largest gold mine also located on the border with Azerbaijan was 
likewise targeted by systematic Azerbaijani gunfire this spring. The Russian 
owner of the Sotk gold mine announced in June that it has no choice but to end 
open-pit mining operations there and put many of its 700 workers on unpaid leave.

Drug Trafficking, Abuse Continues To Soar In Armenia

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia - Interior Minister Vahe Ghazarian meets with parliarnent deputies, 

Pro-government lawmakers called for mandatory drug tests in Armenian schools on 
Tuesday in response to a continuing rapid increase in drug trafficking cases in 
the country.

The total number of drug-related crimes recorded by the Armenian police more 
than doubled in the first nine months of this year, continuing an upward trend 
observed in recent years. It is widely blamed on increasingly accessible 
synthetic drugs mainly sold through the internet and, in particular, the social 
media platform Telegram. Links to Telegram channels selling such narcotics can 
now be seen painted on residential buildings and other public areas across 

The alarming trend has prompted serious concern from not only opposition 
politicians but also parliament deputies representing the ruling Civil Contract 
party. The latter again raised their concerns with Interior Minister Vahe 
Ghazarian during a meeting held as part of preliminary parliamentary discussions 
of the 2024 state budget drafted by the Armenian government. They were 
particularly worried about drug trafficking in or around schools, a new 
phenomenon which was virtually non-existent in Armenia several years ago.

One of those lawmakers, Hayk Sargsian, described the growing drug abuse among 
school students as a “national security problem” and called for all teenagers to 
be subjected to drug test by the police at least once a year. Positive test 
results should be communicated to parents and/or lead to “some punitive 
measures,” said Sargsian.

Armenia - A photo by the State Revenue Committee shows packets of heroin 
smuggled from Iran and seized by Armenian law-enforcement authorities, July 2, 

Andranik Kocharian, the chairman of the parliament committee on defense and 
security, said such testing must also be mandatory for police officers and other 
security personnel suspected of involvement in trafficking rings.

Another pro-government lawmaker, Vahagn Aleksanian, said the police should 
instead encourage the parents of underage Armenians and “especially boys” to 
conduct tests at home.

“If the problem is widespread among minors, then there isn’t much the police can 
do,” he said. “Parental control must be the key thing here.”

Ghazarian backed these proposals and called for a broader toughening of the 
fight against the increasingly serious problem. In particular, he said, the 
Armenian authorities must again criminalize drug addiction.

“The more we toughen sanctions against drug trafficking, the more the figures 
will fall,” the interior minister told the parliamentarians.

The rising drug-related cases have been a key factor behind considerable annual 
increases in Armenia’s overall crime rate registered since the 2018 “velvet 
revolution.” The police recorded 29,682 various crimes in January-September 
2023, up by 12 percent year on year. Critics claim that the country is not as 
safe as it used to be because its current government headed by Prime Minister 
Nikol Pashinian is more incompetent and softer on crime than the previous ones.

Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2023 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.


Friedman Secures Crucial Funding for the Burbank Armenian Cultural Foundation’s Renovations

Oct 19 2023

In a significant win for Burbank’s Armenian community, Assemblymember Laura Friedman has successfully secured $100,000 in funding aimed at long-sought renovations and upgrades for the Armenian Cultural Foundation (ACF) Burbank Beshir Mardirossian Youth Center.

The Youth Center, which has been operational for a decade, has positioned itself as not just a staple in the Burbank community but as the central hub for the Armenian diaspora in the area. Despite its prominence, the Center has faced an ongoing challenge of constant renovations to its aging infrastructure. This generous financial boost is expected to conclude these necessary enhancements, allowing the facility to optimize its focus on year-round activities and programming.

The ACF Burbank Beshir Mardirossian Youth Center currently serves as the base for seven Armenian organizations, all of which immensely benefit from the resources, space, and programs it offers. With this infusion of funds, the Center is poised to strengthen its role, ensuring the Armenian legacy and culture remain vividly alive and thriving in Burbank.

Georgia Might Become a New Mediator between Azerbaijan and Armenia

Modern Diplomacy
Oct 13 2023






 Naghi Ahmadov

On October 8, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev paid a working visit to Georgia and met with the Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili. During the meeting various issues relating to the strategic cooperation between the two countries were discussed. Cooperation in the areas of energy, transport, and logistics was among them. Following the one-on-one meeting, the leaders made joint statements for the press. Commenting on the results of President Aliyev’s visit PM Garibashvili noted that Azerbaijan and Georgia are exploring joint opportunities in trade, energy, sustainable and infrastructure development.

One of the important points that the leaders touched on was the normalization between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Georgia’s possible role in the mediation process.  “Georgia has always held a neutral, unbiased position in this process and we stand ready to make our humble contribution through mediation or facilitation – establishment of a friendly format in general,” said by the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili adding that “Tbilisi is always ready to take part in this process. Our future should be peaceful, stable and we – all three countries of the South Caucasus – should be able to decide on our own about the regional affairs and our development ahead.”

In response to this issue, President Aliyev stated: “We must work hard on the peace treaty to be signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. If we succeed in that, and I hope we will, then a completely new political situation will emerge in the South Caucasus”. He further claimed that the South Caucasus countries can start cooperating in a trilateral format in many fields – transport, energy security, trade, mutual investment. Ilham Aliyev, in his speech, reminded that several countries and international organizations are in the role of facilitators in the process of normalization. However, according to President Aliyev, Georgia should participate in the normalization of relations between Baku and Yerevan as it holds an unbiased position regarding the territorial integrity of the countries. He also emphasized that if Armenia expresses consent, then bilateral and trilateral meetings will immediately can begin in Georgia.

During the last 30 years, Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict has sadly turned the region into a hostage of the interests of great powers. Now the fact is that the main problem of the South Caucasus has already been resolved. Azerbaijan has managed to completely restore its territorial integrity and sovereign rights over the Karabakh region. Thus, the major element of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict – “Nagorno-Karabakh” issue which prevented the signing of the peace agreement no longer exists.

It is worth mentioning that until now, the negotiation process has taken place in different places through the mediation of Russia and the West. The later one is called the “Brussels format” and mainly involves meetings mediated by EU Council President Charles Michel. It is true that, at different times, within that format quadrilateral meetings were also held in the United States personally with the mediation of State Secretary Antony Blinken, as well as five-party meetings with the participation of France and Germany. Unfortunately, all these formats have practically failed in achieving a peace deal mainly owing to geopolitical competition among the major mediators that want to dictate their interests in the South Caucasus.

Such platforms, where Russia and the West, which have belligerent relations, are jointly represented, cannot play any role other than the function of geopolitical division. The past proved it. Therefore, it should be noted that due to the France’s destructive position, recently President Aliyev had canceled his visit to Granada, Spain, where a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was to be held with the participation of leaders of the European Union, France, and Germany.

However, Georgia is relatively a small country that does not involve geopolitical ambitions. Both historical-cultural and geographical proximity should be specially evaluated too. Moreover, Tbilisi is no stranger to the negotiation process. Some time ago, the meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Jeyhun Bayramov and Ararat Mirzoyan took place in Georgia.

In this regard, the continuation of the negotiation process in Georgia and the organization of discussions around the peace agreement will definitely change the landscape in the South Caucasus. Unlike the parties that focus on their foreign policy interests rather than solving the problem, Georgia can host thematic negotiations and substantive discussions more effectively.

Georgian Vice Parliament Speaker Gia Volski also said that Tbilisi could “successfully facilitate” talks for peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia due to its “very high reputation”.

Another point that should be regarded in favor of Georgia as a mediator is the fact that many people of Armenian and Azerbaijani origins live in harmony in Georgia. This is an important factor makes Georgia the best venue for negotiations between the parties.

As well known that Azerbaijanis are the single largest ethnic minority in Georgia and they live compactly in five districts in Georgia. Also, ethnic Georgians living in Azerbaijan preserve their identity like other ethnic groups. This itself plays a big role in successfully establishing bilateral relations. To some extent, this model can be applied between Azerbaijan and Armenia after ethnically cleansed Azerbaijani people’s right to return ensured.

To conclude, the South Caucasus is about to enter a new stage. Now the region has got a chance to start a period of peace and stability. If the parties succeed in this endeavour, it will pave the way for the development prospects of the South Caucasus. And as a result, the entire region will become a different geo-economic space. In this regard, Baku sees the current situation as a real opportunity and a decisive moment not only for Azerbaijan, but also for the whole region to establish a new regional order.

In brief, considering the fact that the physical proximity to the conflict zone is a crucial factor affecting Georgia’s genuine interest in peace and urging it to take on specific responsibilities, its mediation initiative must be supported by the international community. As Azerbaijan has already positively responded to this offer, the ball is now in Armenia’s court.

PACE calls on Azerbaijan to ‘prove its goodwill’ towards the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh

Council of Europe
Oct 13 2023


PACE has called on Azerbaijan to “create a climate of trust and the material conditions” for Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh to be able to return to their homeland – including active steps to encourage and reassure them to do so.

In a resolution based on a report by Domagoj Hajduković (Croatia, SOC) following an urgent debate, the Assembly regretted the “long-standing and continuing failure on the part of the authorities of Azerbaijan to reassure the Armenian population of the region of their safety and the full respect of their rights”.

Almost the entire Armenian population of the region had left their ancestral homeland and fled to Armenia “out of a genuine threat of physical extinction, a long-standing policy of hatred in Azerbaijan towards Armenians, and a lack of trust in their future treatment”, the parliamentarians pointed out.

“It is not too late for Azerbaijan to redress the situation and prove its goodwill,” they said, noting Azerbaijan’s promises that the rights and freedoms of Armenian residents will be ensured, and its plans with respect to the reintegration of Armenian residents.

The Assembly also said the massive exodus of almost the entire Armenian population from the region had led to “allegations and reasonable suspicion that this can amount to ethnic cleansing”. Noting Azerbaijan’s strong statements refuting such allegations and suspicions, it called on the authorities to “spare no efforts in proving in deeds and words that this is not the case”.

How Nagorno-Karabakh’s fall shifted the balance of power in the Caucasus

Oct 10 2023
How Nagorno-Karabakh's fall shifted the balance of power in the Caucasus
Ylenia Gostoli

Analysis: Following years of conflict with Azerbaijan and the fall of Artsakh, Armenia has been pivoting away from its traditional ally, Russia, and is undertaking a delicate balancing act with the West.

By the time the last bus carrying ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh arrived in Goris, an Armenian city on the border with Azerbaijan, the scale of the tragedy had become clear.

The 19 September lightning offensive by Azerbaijan ended thirty years of self-rule in the breakaway region, located within its borders but – historically and as a result of the long-running conflict – inhabited almost exclusively by ethnic Armenians.

Over 100,000 people, almost the entirety of the region’s population, streamed through the border and sought shelter in Armenia, whose government – just like the rest of the world – never recognised what the refugees call the Republic of Artsakh, despite being its closest ally.

As a result of the offensive and under pressure from a stifling blockade in place for nearly a year, the government of Artsakh announced it would disband all its institutions by January next year.

"While Azerbaijan has stated it would 'guarantee the rights' of Armenians who want to return to their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenians accuse it of ethnic cleansing"

The territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. In the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh fought a war to secede from Azerbaijan, supported by Armenian forces.

The events of those years saw atrocities on both sides and resulted in the expulsion of more than 700,000 Azeris from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the surrounding territories. An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians were displaced from Azerbaijan.

Peace negotiations led by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group over the years failed to result in a settlement, and a low-intensity conflict continued.

All-out war flared up again in 2020, which saw Azerbaijan – backed by Turkey and strong from its oil boom – recover 80 percent of the territories previously lost, including one-third of Nagorno-Karabakh itself.

The rest of the territory was patrolled by a Russian 'peacekeeping' force following a Moscow-brokered ceasefire. Traditionally a close ally of Armenia, ties between the two countries have become strained over the last year.

Armenia's prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, a former journalist who came to power in 2018 after leading a protest movement against corrupt post-soviet elites, has made several moves, mostly symbolic, distancing his country from Russia.

That tension, as well as Russia's engagement in its war in Ukraine, could be the reason Russian forces on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh failed to prevent the closure of the Lachin corridor connecting the enclave to Armenia in December 2022.

For months, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh had been queueing in breadlines and struggling to procure medicine and other essential items. Malnutrition and exhaustion clearly marked many of the faces of the thousands that crossed into Goris every day.

While Azerbaijan has stated it would “guarantee the rights” of Armenians who want to return to their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenians accuse it of ethnic cleansing.

“It was the latest in a larger escalation,” Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Centre in Yerevan, told The New Arab.

“So the fear in Armenia is Azerbaijan will not stop, will not be satisfied,” he added, explaining that the country is concerned about Russian “either complicity or incapacity”.

In the latest signal of its distancing from Russia, the Armenian parliament has voted to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), which binds the country to arrest Putin over war crimes in Ukraine should the Russian president set foot on its territory.

Yet Armenia remains a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). It also imports over 80 percent of its gas from Russia.

“I think the Armenian government is cutting its losses in terms of Nagorno-Karabakh and challenging the relationship with Russia,” Giragosian said. “But we're smart enough here in Armenia not to see NATO membership as the answer to all of our problems.”

"'It's less about Armenia looking to the West, as the West looking to Armenia'"

Filling the void

After the Azerbaijani offensive, hundreds of opposition protesters rallied in Yerevan. They called on Armenian president Pashinyan to resign over the crisis, calling him a “traitor.”

“This government was actually re-elected despite losing the war in 2020,” Giragosian explained. He believes that frustration over the fall of Nagorno-Karabakh will not topple the government. “I expect much of the frustration to shift away from the government and to target Russia for its inability to defend the Armenians."

Washington and Brussels have been moving to fill the void left by Russia. In January 2023, the EU launched a civilian monitoring mission in Armenia. “It's less about Armenia looking to the West, as the West looking to Armenia,” Giragosian said.

During a visit to Yerevan on 3 October, French foreign minister Catherine Colonna promised to supply military equipment to Armenia.

In response, Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev said that France would be to blame for any new war in Armenia. Aliyev also boycotted a long-planned meeting with Pashinyan in Granada, Spain, in early October, which was attended by EU Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Olaf Scholz.

While some EU politicians have called for sanctions on Azerbaijan, Michel invited both Pashinyan and Aliyev to meet in Brussels by the end of October. On a visit to Tbilisi on 8 October, president Aliyev said Azerbaijan is ready to hold talks with Armenia, indicating Georgia as the preferred host for negotiations.

“This is the most promising moment there has ever been to get to a lasting peace,” said Matthew Bryza, an American diplomat and former co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, which included the US, France and Russia.

The Armenian side has also been signalling its willingness to sit down at the negotiating table. "Endless war is not beneficial for anyone," parliament speaker Alen Simonian told Armenian public television on 25 September.

“Armenia does not have any capacity to wage another war against Azerbaijan. Its military has been decimated in the last war,” said Bryza.


“If there were to be another flare-up of armed conflict, it wouldn't provide any hope to the Armenian side unless the Armenian military completely rebuilt itself. And that's not really something anyone's talking about,” he added.

Still, some analysts warn that disputes over border areas and trade routes could further prolong the conflict.

“The Azerbaijani strategy in this campaign is largely driven by domestic politics,” explained Giragosian.

“I see a father and son dynasty, authoritarian. A family ruling the country for over a quarter of a century, and needing conflict to distract the population from the lack of democracy and corruption.”

Ylenia Gostoli is a reporter currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. She has covered politics, social change, and conflict across the Middle East and Europe. Her work on refugees, migration and human trafficking has won awards and grants

Armenians who fled Turkish rule decades ago despair over Nagorno-Karabakh. ‘This appears to be our fate’

Los Angeles Times
Oct 6 2023


ANJAR, Lebanon — Hilda Doumanian stood in the main hall of the Anjar museum, scanning the glass cases holding items her ethnic Armenian forebears salvaged from their lands before they escaped to Lebanon more than eight decades ago.

“This appears to be our fate: to be forcibly displaced every few decades,” she said, walking up to one of the displays: A collection of rust-encrusted kitchenware and bundles of braided silk from a village loom. Ancient-looking rifles. Religious vessels. Bibles so old their pages appeared more suspended dust than paper.

“The Armenian genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century,” she said, slowly shaking her head in resignation, referring to the 1915 genocide by the Ottoman Empire.

“Now in the 21st century we see the first genocide, and it’s Armenians again.”

A gardener tends to the plants at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in the historic town of Anjar in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley. The memorial commemorates the mass killings of Armenians as part of the genocide under the Ottoman Empire in 1915. (Joseph Eid / AFP via Getty Images)

On Doumanian’s mind was the exodus taking place over the last two weeks from what many Armenians see as their ancestral homelands — a further erasure of their history.

More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians, fearing ethnic cleansing at the hands of their Azerbaijani adversaries, have abandoned their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh, the mountainous enclave inside Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders where they had established their self-declared state.


Amid fury over Nagorno-Karabakh, could Armenia’s government fall next?

Sept. 27, 2023

In the more than 30 years of its existence, the Republic of Artsakh, not formally recognized by any nation, had established the trappings of a country — a government, a standing army, a flag. But it all crumbled before a withering Azerbaijani blitzkrieg last month, with the enclave’s leaders forced to surrender and announce the republic’s dissolution by the end of the year.

Though Azerbaijan’s government offered to integrate Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population as equal citizens, most, unwilling to countenance Azerbaijani rule, fled into Armenia in a refugee convoy that at its peak stretched more than 60 miles. Fewer than a thousand remain behind. Those who fled cite the Azeris’ decades-old animus toward Armenians and the triumphalist rhetoric of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for their distrust, no matter what Azerbaijan says.

For millions in Armenia and the diaspora, the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the long-held dream of constructing a state on Armenian homeland, was a blow. The shock resonates in a personal way in Anjar, whose residents are almost all ethnic Armenians whose ancestors fled here from Musa Dagh, or Moses Mountain, a territory in what is now southern Turkey.

An ethnic Armenian woman from Nagorno-Karabakh carries her suitcase to a tent camp after arriving in Goris, Armenia. (Vasily Krestyaninov / Associated Press)

When the people of Musa Dagh heard of the coming genocidal campaign in 1915, they refused to obey Turkish authorities’ command to leave their houses in the mountains. They resisted for a month and a half, losing 18 people before a French naval vessel rescued and took them to Egypt, where they stayed for four years, returning after the Ottoman Empire’s loss in World War I.

In 1939, when French authorities controlling the area under a postwar mandate handed it to Turkey, the inhabitants of Musa Dagh faced yet another agonizing choice: Accept Turkish control or leave. Fearing a repeat of the bloodshed in 1915, they were escorted out by French troops to settle in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, on land bought from an Ottoman feudal lord.


‘Staying, for us, is impossible.’ Thousands of ethnic Armenians flee Nagorno-Karabakh

Sept. 26, 2023

“We refused to live under the Turks, because we knew they would do the same thing as before,” Doumanian said.

Watching a new wave of displacement hit Armenians brought back memories of long-held pain, said Isabel Kendirjian, a bedridden but alert 90-year-old who still remembers coming to Anjar when she was 6.

“It’s the same thing that happened to us. This is how we felt back then,” she said.

“They gave us eight days to leave Musa Dagh. We took everything we could and went on the buses to here,” she said. “There was nothing. Very few trees. We lived in tents.”

The new Anjaris stayed in those tents for roughly two years while authorities built up the town, organizing it into six neighborhoods, each named after a village in Musa Dagh. The houses the French provided were single-room structures measuring 12 square feet along with a bathroom.

“Four people, 20 people, it didn’t matter. Everyone was in one room,” Doumanian said.”We still call them beit Faransi, a French house, to this day.”

Tensions between Muslim Turks and Christian Armenians date to the days of the Ottoman Empire, but the war for Nagorno-Karabakh was rooted in the fall of a more contemporary empire: the Soviet Union.

In 1988, inside the roiling Soviet landscape, the enclave’s ethnic Armenian majority chose to secede from one Soviet republic, Azerbaijan, and unite with another, Armenia. The move sparked an ethnic conflict with Azeris that saw massacres and pogroms on both sides, and an estimated million displaced people, mostly Azeris.

Six years later, by which time the Soviet Union had collapsed, the ethnic Armenians won. They claimed Nagorno-Karabakh (which Armenians call Artsakh) and its surrounding districts in what other nations viewed as a violation of international law.

Donations poured in from the Armenian diaspora, including from the the late California businessman and philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian, whose largesse helped funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to fund schools and a major highway in the fledgling republic. Stop-start negotiations over the years never got anywhere.

In the meantime, Azerbaijan had used its vast oil and gas riches to retool its army. Armenia’s confidence in its ability to keep the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh, not to mention its contempt for an enemy it had long dismissed as cowardly, meant that it was woefully unprepared when Azerbaijan launched an assault in 2020 and snatched back most of the land it lost.

A cease-fire guaranteed by Russia, Armenia’s main patron, was to be the prelude to a peace treaty. But tensions continued, culminating in Azerbaijan blockading the territory in December, then launching a lightning onslaught last month that routed the Artsakh Republic’s army. Moscow, preoccupied with its war on Ukraine and displeased with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s recent overtures to the West, stood by as Azerbaijan pursued its campaign.

Pashinyan, aware of his military’s limitations and with little diplomatic backing, refused to intervene, infuriating many Armenians.

Varian Khoshian, the mayor of Anjar, feels ashamed at the loss. His passion about the concept of Artsakh runs so deep that he named his son — now an officer in the Lebanese army — after it.

He blamed the rout on Pashinyan and his policy of antagonizing Armenia’s traditional ally, Russia, for the West’s sake, pointing to another sign of fraying ties with Moscow that came Tuesday when Armenia’s parliament ratified the International Criminal Court’s founding Rome Statute.

Because the court in March issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war in Ukraine, the ratification means Armenia would have to arrest Putin if he stepped on Armenian soil. The Kremlin called the decision “incorrect,” a position with which Khoshian agreed.

“We had a strong umbrella. We like the West, sure, but we got a smaller umbrella from America that doesn’t cover us,” he said.

During Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, Khoshian learned to work with groups he didn’t like, but it was for the good of Anjar; Pashinyan should have done the same, the mayor said.

“I don’t love the Russians. But I need them for my homeland,” Khoshian said. “That’s how you have to think. Otherwise you lose.”

Despite all that, he insisted the war for Nagorno-Karabakh was not over.

“I can’t give up. We will come back. We have to,” he said. “Those lands are the property of our ancestors.”

And it was more than just a matter of emotions.

“We know the value of Artsakh, its strategic location for Armenia,” Khoshian said.

Azerbaijan, he continued, was intent on taking parts of southern Armenia for a land corridor linking its territory to Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan’s exclave on Armenia’s southwestern side.

“It’s the first domino. Once Artsakh falls, you’ll find other Armenian cities in the south falling.”

Armenians have been demanding a stronger military response, with protests among diaspora groups in Southern California and frequent demonstrations in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, against Pashinyan and what many see as his capitulation.

In Armenian-dominated neighborhoods in Beirut, graffiti targets Azerbaijan’s president, Aliyev, and his top ally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The stenciled graffiti calls Aliyev a killer and declares that Karabakh will always be Armenian. Lebanon’s main Armenian party held a demonstration in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy that turned violent. In Anjar, high schoolers had their own anti-Turkish protest, carrying placards with Erdogan’s face and chanting their support for Artsakh.

Yessayi Havatian, an agricultural supplies merchant and Anjar historian, wondered whether the future fate of Karabakh Armenians would be to go to war again, or whether they would become like the Armenians of Musa Dagh, cut off from their ancestral lands.

“Our people thought of going back. For 14 years they refused to plant orchards on the land here. Why? Because they said, ‘We’re not going to stay that long.’ They believed they would go home,” Havatian said.

Whatever Karabakh Armenians choose, he added, it was clear that Armenians couldn’t pursue the war as they had in the past.

“We the Armenians made a mistake: We relied on someone other than us to defend us. The world watched our people forcibly displaced and did nothing. And no one will do anything,” he said.

“No one will defend Armenia other than the Armenians. That’s the solution.”

France welcomes Armenia’s ratification of Rome Statute

 16:24, 3 October 2023

YEREVAN, OCTOBER 3, ARMENPRESS. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who is now visiting Armenia, has welcomed the ratification of the Rome Statute by the Armenian parliament.

Saluting the move in a post on X, Colonna said that Armenia is now becoming a participating country in the international criminal court. “The fight against impunity of crimes is one of the conditions for peace and stability,” she said.

Inside the Matenadaran, the Stone Fortress Protecting the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

Popular Mechanics
Sept 29 2023

Since the Middle Ages, scriptoria throughout the world have preserved manuscripts for future generations. Armenia’s Matenadaran continues that tradition.

Ancient manuscripts connect us to our distant past. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to understand our histories, traditions, and knowledge gleaned from many lifetimes of experience. But there’s a big problem: paper and parchment aren’t known for longevity. The reason we can read about the plays of ancient Greeks, understand the wisdom of Eastern philosophies, or even glimpse the yellowing founding documents of entire nations is thanks to legions of archivists throughout history who’ve meticulously restored, protected, and preserved these old (and prone to crumbling) manuscripts for future generations.

Throughout the Middle Ages, scriptoria around the world served as repositories of human knowledge, and in Yerevan, Armenia, the museum and research institute known as the Matenadaran continues that tradition.

Visit the Matenadaran today and you’re greeted by a grand, fortress-like building constructed from gray basalt stone. At the building’s entrance is a large statue of Mesrop Mashtots, a medieval Armenian linguist who’s credited with developing the Armenian alphabet. This imposing structure denotes the importance of the delicate treasures found inside—23,000 manuscripts, with some dating back 1,500 years. Although the Matenadaran is home to the largest collection of Armenian manuscripts in the world, it also houses ancient texts from other civilizations throughout history.

“Matenadaran means the ‘repository of manuscripts,’” Vahe Torosyan, a scientist secretary at the Matenadaran, tells Popular Mechanics. “However, the Matenadaran is not only a storehouse of manuscripts but a research institute and a museum where manuscripts are stored, cared for, restored, studied scientifically, and displayed.”

Albert Mityaev

Restoring these manuscripts requires an intense level of artistry and dedication. Before restorers can even begin repairing battered manuscripts, they first need to clean the surfaces of pages and miniatures (the small illustrations that often accompany medieval texts). This means removing any dust, candle wax, insects, dirt, stains and more that might’ve adhered to the brittle pages over the centuries. Paper and pigments are also examined under a microscope to make sure that paint layers are solid before cleaning can begin.

Restorers then use a special, handmade Japanese paper created from the bark of mulberry trees to repair the pages, whether a small tear or a gaping rip. Using this specialized paper—in various thicknesses and shades—restorers can create a seamless transition between the original document and the restored parts.

“Japanese paper is a unique material and has a special structure,” Gayane Eliazyan, head of the department of restoration, tells Popular Mechanics. “The edges of the paper have long fibers that are easy to connect with the original paper, and the passage from the original manuscript material to the Japanese paper occurs very smoothly.”

Although preserving ancient texts is a centuries-old profession, 21st century technology provides the ultimate protection for these fragile objects. When a document contains undertext, which is writing that’s been replaced by existing text, the Matenadaran uses multi-spectral imaging to capture the manuscript in 28 distinct frames—each frame representing a range of the visual spectrum as well as UV and infrared light. These various light spectra can capture the hidden words hidden beneath the work.

With these digital recreations along with digital scans of other manuscripts, physical texts never leave the safety of the Matenadaran itself.

Preserving this book block is only one part of the restoration process; the restorers also bring that same level of exacting attention to mending a manuscript’s binding, leather cover, and endband (the woven decorative parts found at the upper and lower edges of the book’s spine).

Eliazyan says that the restoration department of the Matenadaran also has a biological laboratory, and like many laboratories around the world, it faces funding challenges. The department needs new equipment to keep up with new restoration techniques.

As Armenian universities still do not have educational programs for certifying restorers, the Matenadaran serves as a teaching center and school for this specialization. Eliazyan hopes that continued support from grantors or the Armenian government will help train the next generations of specialists eager to be keepers of the heritage of human knowledge—past and present.

Darren lives in Portland, has a cat, and writes/edits about sci-fi and how our world works. You can find his previous stuff at Gizmodo and Paste if you look hard enough.