“If you are neutral in situations of injustrice, you havve chosen the side of the oppressor.” Desmond Tutu
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, many border and territorial conflicts erupted in the South Caucasus. One of them was the Artsakh Liberation War of 1992-1994 (Nagorno-Karabakh) for an enclave in Azerbaijan, inhabited by predominantly indigenous Armenians. The region is called Artsakh in Armenian and it has been a historical province of Greater Armenia for thousands of years.
On September 27, 2020, an unprovoked, surprise attack by the combined forces of Azerbaijan, Turkey, ISIS jihadists, mercenaries from Syria and Libya, volunteers from Pakistan including Israeli weapon experts initiated a blistering bloody war. The shelling and bombing military posts and civilian quarters of Armenia and Artsakh continued unabated for weeks.
After six weeks of intense fighting an unholy war, a truce was signed on November the 9th by Prime Minister of Armenia, President of Azerbaijan, and the President of Russia to halt hostilities.
Artsakh had to surrender the Azerbaijani regions held by Armenia for a buffer zone, which had been acquired during the 1994 war, lost several important cities, large swaths of land, gave an easement across the Syunik province to Azerbaijan for a transport route from its exclave Nakhitchevan to mainland Azerbaijan.
A tragic war from Artsakh’s standpoint for losing so many soldiers, civilians, structures, infrastructure, and making lopsided concessions to an enemy which is not supposed to violate the ceasefire agreement signed in 1994.
In a way, the aggressor is getting away with murder while the international community is standing by imitating the three monkeys with their hands covering their eyes, ears, and mouths. Yet, humans are considered to be moral beings and one would expect the international community to judge the morality of President Ilham Aliyev’s brutal actions against civilians.
As a member of the Armenian Diaspora, I was devastated like many others as to why we lost the war, what factors, injustices had contributed to the painful loss? To appease my conscience as to what went wrong, an inquiry was in order.
I read many news reports, interviews, commentaries published in the Armenian weeklies such as in the USA Armenian Life Magazine, The California Courier, Keghart.org Newsletter, The New York times, Washington Post, News Now, and other mainstream publications to form a clear picture of what has gone wrong.
Drawing upon some of the events surrounding the hostilities, I came up with some factors that contributed to the disastrous outcome of the war. So, we have a collection of “injustices” relating to the war between Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Both sides will be held responsible for the death and destruction of human life and limb.
One of the major injustices begins with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group’s Co-Chairs of Russia, France, and the United States. So many times Azerbaijan initiated sneak attacks in the past on Armenia and Artsakh and President Ilham Aliyev had gone Scott free for violating the ceasefire agreement of 1994.
Also, during the September 29, war the Minsk Group’s countries have not issued warnings or sanctions to Azerbaijan to stop the killing of the unarmed civilians, their infrastructure, and the barbaric mutilation of the Armenian captive soldiers by beheading and skinning them alive.
The violations of ceasefire reoccurred over and over again in the summer of 2014, April 2016, July 2020, and September 2020. Even during the 2020 war, three separate ceasefires were disregarded by Azerbaijan. Had the Minsk Group disciplined Azerbaijan through their governments with some sort of punitive measures, Azerbaijan would not have continued to kill innocent citizens of Artsakh and Armenia. When a crime is being committed, it would be injustice not to try to stop the criminal act from being perpetrated on innocent people.
Turkey’s involvement had become very obvious when in August of 2020 it had military exercises with Azerbaijan. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated its allegiance and undying support to their “Azerbaijani brothers” by claiming “two states, one nation” slogan. Genocidal Turkey should have refrained from having a major role in turning the tide against the Armenian forces. But, justice is foreign to Mr. Erdogan’s nature who is bent on creating a neo-Ottomanism in the world. Unfortunately, US refused to throw its weight around to stop Turkey’s participation in the war.
Another injustice was that Artsakh had to fight against an “Armada” army. Azerbaijani forces were joined by Turkey, ISIS jihadists, Syrian and Libyan mercenaries, Pakistani volunteer soldiers, and Israeli military weapon experts. All of the civilized world sympathized with the plight of the Armenians against the brutal forces of Azerbaijan and yet failed to translate their attitudes toward justice into action to stop the carnage.
Since PM Nikol Pashinyan’s coming to power in 2018, the new leaders of education, judicial people, businessmen, etc. inherited a corrupt government, which siphoned national revenues for personal gains. To sweep clean decades-long immoral behavior is not easy within a short period of time, but the new government was making headways, without the material support from the business sector of Armenia. It was not fair to let MP Pashinyan alone to fight corruption as a lone ranger. To drain the swamp, it would take any head of state years to succeed.
In the age of robotic warfare, the Armenian soldiers were armed with “muskets” to defend the motherland. Instead of strengthening the Armenian armed forces, the Armenian military officers spent the money on themselves. Armenia had nothing but corrupt former presidents who lived in the lap of luxury and invested heavily in foreign banks. Their selfish acts are the epitome of injustice done to the Armenian people.
In terms of weapons, Armenia was mainly restricted to Soviet arms. PM Pashinyan inherited a relatively poorly-armed and ill-equipped army. For example, Armenia acquired a $42-million anti missile system, which failed to operate as expected. The greatest cost of war is the loss of soldiers.
Therefore, Armenia should purchase modern weapons from the United States just like Turkey and Azerbaijan do at a fraction of their market price. Sending out soldiers to the front without the proper arms is the core of injustice of any civilization.
Israel’s modern weapons, especially the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles dubbed as suicide drones), Turkey’s B-16 fighters, the use of illegal weapons such as phosphorus gas, cluster bombs, and other internationally banned means to kill people have been used on Armenian soldiers as well as on civilians. UN should have intervened on behalf of civilians who were subjected to these illegal deadly weapons. Justice seems be elusive when it comes to Armenians.
Armenia scored a decisive victory over Azerbaijan in 1991-1994 war and captured not only Nagorno-Karbakh, but also seven Azerbaijani regions around it for security zone (i.e., buffer zone). Since then, Armenia became complacent and even Chauvinistic that they could lick Azerbaijan any time in an armed conflict despite the spread of the news that Azerbaijan was seriously stockpiling modern weapons from Russia, Belarus, Israel, including the United States for billions of dollars. Armenians were not concerned or cowed or even disturbed by President Aliyev’s frequent threats, either. The indifference was injustice against the Armenian people for the Armenian forces were ill-prepared against the Azerbaijani blitzkriegs.
Long before PM Pashishyan’s declared in August 2019 that “Artsakh is Armenia” at a Stepanakert rally, Azerbaijan was getting ready to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh militarily on account of Minsk Group’s failure to settle the conflict diplomatically for 30 years. So, it is unfair to blame PM Pashinyan for provoking Azerbaijan to fight by saying “Artsakh is Armenia.”
Bottom of Form Armenia has always gone to bed cozy with the mindset that Russia would come to the rescue anytime the country faces aggression. The psychology of dependence on Russia has cost the Armenian nation a lot of pain and suffering. Most people depended on the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) to, at least, protect Armenia against aggression when Tavush region and Vardenis were bombed. Russia’s late mediation to stop the war is proof of its playing the political game of neutrality for self interest.
During the six-week Artsakh War, Armenia received only a few volunteers from its vast diaspora, especially from Russia, the United States, and France. Sending to the front newly trained volunteer soldiers proved to be disastrous, especially the enemy rained bombs on them with all sorts of weapons. Bewildered, a lot of them retreated from their posts for obvious reasons: The enemy was mightier than what they had expected for the Azerbaijani did not run away from the Armenian soldiers this time as they did during the 1991-1994 war. Miscalculations caused the Armenians a lot of grief to mourn the loss of human lives and territory. This is an injustice to remember for a long time.
The Armenian generals did not know what they had under their command in terms of soldiers and weapons. Also, they should not have been in charge to select arms for they were not weapon experts. Most of the Armenian generals had close ties with the corrupt oligarchs. They were nonchalant about national security issues. In fact, they cultivated a lot of land in Artsakh for personal gains. The result was to end up forming ill-armed and ill-equipped, newly trained soldiers to face a fierce enemy with precision weapons.
Right at the beginning of the 2020 war, Azerbaijan neutralized all hidden weapons of Armenia along the border between it and Azerbaijan. How did Azerbaijan know about the exact hidden defense weapons? Of course, the response is either it was the work of a spy or traitor or both.
PM Nikol Pashinyan’s inexperience or maybe pride for not tapping into the rich resources and know-how of the vast Armenian Diaspora proved to be disastrous. The Diaspora has high-ranking officers such as colonels, generals, brigadier generals, etc. in the United States Armed Forces. Whenever Israel had to face armed conflict with the Arab world about the liberation of Palestine, US military experts and officers would rush to the rescue as Israel called them for help. MP Pashinyan and his predecessors in office have failed to utilize the vast resources of the Armenian Diaspora.
Three major enemies of Armenia are the two former presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan including Mr. Gagig Tsarukyan. Presently, these three individuals have a proxy of 17 political organizations serving as the political opposition of PM Nikol Pashinyan. They are asking for the resignation of PM Pashinyan by trying to create a national crisis within the crisis of losing the war.
It would be a grave mistake to stop PM Pashinyan from realizing his 15-point recovery plans to be completed within a six- month roadmap. The so-called 17 political organizations want to turn the whole country in revolt. These rebels seem to be courting disaster for the country. In the aftermath of the war, this type of behavior is the ultimate injustice against the Armenian nation.
Lack of unity between the church and state has become evident. Just recently, beleaguered Catholicos Karekin II and Catholicos Aram I have joined the foray to force PM Pashinyan to resign. These two high-ranking clergymen have been serving the Armenian oligarchs including the two former presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan by complicating matters further for the nation to survive the painful losses inflicted by the cruel enemy.
Timing is everything; and when the country is trying to cope with the aftermath of the war problems, it would only be fair to expect our religious leaders to be cooperative and collaborative to pick up the pieces as efficiently as possible. Instead, our spiritual leaders are playing politics to the detriment of the country by individuals who should define justice for all of us. Allegedly, during the 2020 war, the 17 political organizations had gone to Artsakh to sabotage the war for the Armenians by colluding with the generals not to arm the volunteers to fight the enemy; as a result, the generals sent the Armenian soldiers to the front as cannon fodders. The intent and the act is one of the worst injustices subjected the Armenian nation thus far. Some of the returning soldiers have reported that they could not fight the enemy without being equipped with arms. It seems that the Armenian generals have also colluded with the opposition political groups to sabotage the war in favor of Azerbaijan with the end result of ousting PM Pashinyan from office. If this were true, then it would be one of the most shameful injustices perpetrated against the Armenian nation.
There are other important factors and injustices behind Armenia’s losses, but suffice it to say that the injustices were done on both sides by the Azerbaijanis and the Armenians on themselves to cause the retreat of our brave soldiers.
This is an inquiry, or if you like a soul-searching journey, into the terrible causes for the devastating toll on Armenian lives, property, and territory. Injustices were committed by the enemy as well as by the Armenians themselves for being negligent and complacent about the change of Azerbaijan from being a cowardly, disorganized slumbering giant into a fiercely efficient war machine.
Heavy Armenian casualties and territorial losses necessitate a national soul searching to be conducted in the aftermath of the war to avoid these mistakes in the future as lessons learned from costly experiences. We can do it by showing unity, courage, and cooperation; by the strength of the mind that makes one able to meet danger and difficulties with firmness. We have to deal with the two Turkish nations covetous of Armenian lands. So, wreaking vengeance during a national crisis by Armenians against Armenians always leads to injustice.
The entire Armenian nation is mourning but not desolate, resolved to defend Artsakh at any cost for we are known to be a resilient people who have survived the Sumerians, the Babylonians, and the Assyrians including calamities almost every century during our long history. Although we have lost some of the battles, we have not lost the war, yet. The need is acute to mobilize the entire Armenian nation for the continuation of the war against the octopus enemy for regaining lost territories of Armenia’s ancestral province of Artsakh.
We can do it through unity; otherwise, the whole shebang becomes a pipe dream. We can do it through cooperation and collaboration by holding hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder to strike the villain enemy out of commission and thus regain the whole of Artsakh, the colorful Armenian “coral reef” of the South Caucasus. Let us not forget, a positive attitude is a powerful force for solving personal as well as national problems.