“Passion of the Christ” director Mel Gibson has made an impassioned appeal on behalf of Armenian Christians fleeing the breakaway Republic of Artsakh after being routed by Azerbaijani troops in recent days.
“History tragically repeats itself as we witness a modern-day genocide, yet the media silence on this issue is deafening,” Gibson said. “The Armenian people, who have endured centuries of persecution because of their faith, are once again facing a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing.”
What is the background?
The Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is a region in the Caucasus that lies within the borders of Azerbaijan. Although it is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan – whose close ally Turkey, the former Ottoman Empire –
killed 1.5 million Armenians This was the first genocide of the 20th century, in which the region’s predominantly Armenian population did not recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial claims.
The region became autonomous in 1923, while Armenia lost its population
93% Christiansand Azerbaijan, whose population is 97.3% Muslimswere both still members of the former Soviet Union, reported CNN.
Two wars have been fought over the area in the last 30 years.
The first of these wars began with the collapse of the USSR, when Artsakh representatives passed a resolution to annex Armenia in 1988. Around 30,000 people died in the ensuing conflict.
In the second war, which took place in 2020, Turkey helped destroy the Armenian separatists within 44 days. Reuters
stated that at least 6,500 people were killed in the fighting.
Since then, 2,000 Russian peacekeepers have tried to maintain peace and prevent Azerbaijan from further incursions.
Deteriorating relations between Armenia, the world’s oldest official Christian country, and Russia, its protector for three decades, appear to have presented an opportunity for Azerbaijani nationalists.
CNN found that in December 2022, Azerbaijan-backed militants blocked the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting the enclave with Armenia, preventing access to food, fuel and medicine.
These and other provocative measures brought tensions to a boiling point this year.
Claiming that a mine had killed two Azerbaijani soldiers without specifying the exact location, the Muslim nation launched a blitzkrieg against Artsakh on September 19.
Hikmet Hajiyev, a foreign adviser to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev,
told Reuters reported last week that the Turkish-backed nation wanted to restore its full sovereignty and that negotiations were contingent on outright surrender.
While the Azerbaijani military is 64,000 strong and has 300,000 reserve forces, the Armenian force in Artsakh numbered no more than 5,000 souls.
Two hundred ethnic Armenians and 192 Azerbaijani soldiers reportedly died before Russia finally negotiated a ceasefire that required the ethnic Armenians to disband their armed forces.
The Associated Press
stated that Artsakh’s government indicated on Thursday that it would dissolve and abandon its decades-long struggle for independence.
“The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) will cease to exist from January 1, 2024,” reads a decree from Artsakh President Samvel Shakhramanyan.
Shakhramanyan noted that Azerbaijan would allow the “free, voluntary and unhindered return” of ethnic Armenians to Armenia under the terms of a September 20 agreement.
Ethnic Armenians began their exodus into Armenia on Sunday about 50 miles from the city of Stepanakert in Artsakh.
As of Thursday, over 78,300 people had fled to Armenia, accounting for over 65% of Arsakh’s population. KABC TV
stated On Friday, an Armenian border town reported an influx of almost 100,000 migrants.
For some, the journey was interrupted by blood and fire.
During the evacuation, a fuel depot near Stepanakert
exploded200 people were injured and over 68 civilians were killed.
Rev. David, an Armenian priest who traveled to Kornidzor to provide spiritual support to those now fleeing,
told Reuters: “This is one of the darkest pages of Armenian history. The entire Armenian history is full of hardships.”[. …] The blow we are receiving now is one of the hardest.”
The priest stated that Azerbaijani forces desecrated and/or destroyed hundreds of Armenia’s holy sites during their last invasion.
“The monasteries are threatened with destruction,” said Rev. David. “We had cases of this in the 44-Day War.”
Azerbaijan has reportedly indicated that ethnic Armenians who remain in the region can practice their faith; However, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan noted that “in the coming days there will no longer be any Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Associated Press reported.
“This is a direct act of ethnic cleansing and depriving the people of their motherland, exactly what we did.” [been] to tell the international community about it,” Pashinyan said.
Azerbaijani officials rejected Pashinyan’s proposal, claiming that “the current departure of Armenians from Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region is their personal and individual decision and has nothing to do with forced relocation.”
Christian Solidarity International, a group that criticizes anti-Christian aggression committed by Azerbaijan, Sudan and Egypt,
“In the spheres of influence of Azerbaijan and Turkey, countless Armenians are enduring unspeakable horrors: loss of life, forced displacement, starvation and isolation from essential supplies,” Gibson said. “These are the same Armenians whose roots run deep in a land they have called home for generations.”
The actor and director called on the international community to “act quickly, extend a helping hand to the Armenian people, provide them with the protection they urgently need and create a humanitarian corridor for their safe passage.”
Gibson concluded by imploring Armenians not to lose heart, emphasizing: “God is with you.”
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