Tue. Feb 20th, 2024

BEIRUT — The swift fall of the Armenian-majority enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani troops and the exodus of a lot of its inhabitants has surprised the big Armenian diaspora all over the world. Traumatized by a broadly acknowledged genocide a century in the past, they concern the erasure of what they think about a central and beloved a part of their historic homeland.

The separatist ethnic Armenian authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday introduced that it was dissolving and that the unrecognized republic will stop to exist by 12 months’s finish -– a seeming loss of life knell for its 30-year de facto independence.

Azerbaijan, which routed the area’s Armenian forces in a lightning offensive final week, has pledged to respect the rights of the territory’s Armenian neighborhood. Tens of hundreds of individuals — greater than 70% of the area’s inhabitants — had fled to Armenia by Friday morning, and the inflow continues, in response to Armenian officers.

Many in Armenia and the diaspora concern a centuries-long neighborhood within the territory they name Artsakh will disappear.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has termed it “a direct act of an ethnic cleaning.” Azerbaijan’s Overseas Ministry strongly rejected the accusation, saying the departures are a “private and particular person determination and has nothing to do with pressured relocation.”

Armenians overseas additionally accuse European nations, Russia and the US -– and the federal government of Armenia itself -– of failing to guard the inhabitants throughout months of a blockade of the territory by Azerbaijan’s army and a swift offensive final week that defeated separatist forces.

Armenians say the loss is a historic blow. Exterior the fashionable nation of Armenia itself, the mountainous land was one of many solely surviving elements of a heartland that centuries in the past stretched throughout what’s now jap Turkey, into the Caucasus area and western Iran.

Many within the diaspora had pinned goals on it gaining independence or being joined to Armenia.

Nagorno-Karabakh was “a web page of hope in Armenian historical past,” mentioned Narod Seroujian, a Lebanese-Armenian college teacher in Beirut.

“It confirmed us that there’s hope to achieve again a land that’s rightfully ours. … For the diaspora, Nagorno-Karabakh was already a part of Armenia.”

A whole lot of Lebanese Armenians on Thursday protested exterior the Azerbajani Embassy in Beirut. They waved flags of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and burned footage of the Azerbaijani and Turkish presidents. Riot police lobbed tear fuel after they threw firecrackers on the embassy.

Ethnic Armenians have communities round Europe and the Center East and in the US. Lebanon is residence to one of many largest, with an estimated 120,000 of Armenian origin, 4% of the inhabitants.

Most are descendants of those that fled the 1915 marketing campaign by Ottoman Turks wherein some 1.5 million Armenians died in massacres, deportations and compelled marches. The atrocities, which emptied many ethnic areas in jap Turkey, are broadly considered by historians as genocide. Turkey rejects the outline of genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and that these killed have been victims of civil conflict and unrest throughout World Warfare I.

In Bourj Hammoud, the primary Armenian district in Beirut, recollections are nonetheless uncooked, with anti-Turkey graffiti widespread. The red-blue-and-orange Armenian flag flies from many buildings.

“That is the final migration for Armenians,” mentioned Harout Bshidikian, 55, sitting in entrance of an Armenian flag in a Bourj Hamoud cafe. “There isn’t a different place left for us emigrate from.”

Azerbaijan says it’s reuniting its territory, declaring that even Armenia’s prime minister acknowledged that Nagorno-Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan. Although its inhabitants has been predominantly ethnic Armenian Christians, Turkish Muslim Azeris even have communities and cultural ties to the territory, notably the town of Shusha, famed as a cradle of Azerbaijani poetry.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh got here beneath management of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian army in separatist combating that led to 1994. Azerbaijan took elements of the realm in a 2020 conflict. Now after this month’s defeat, separatist authorities surrendered their weapons and are holding talks with Azerbaijan on reintegration of the territory into Azerbaijan.

Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow on the Carnegie Europe assume tank, mentioned Nagorno-Karabakh had turn out to be “a sort of new trigger” for an Armenian diaspora whose forebearers had suffered the genocide.

“It was a sort of new Armenian state, new Armenian land being born, which they projected a lot of hopes on. Very unrealistic hopes, I’d say,” he added, noting it inspired Karabakh Armenians to carry out in opposition to Azerbaijan regardless of the shortage of worldwide recognition for his or her separatist authorities.

Armenians see the territory as a cradle of their tradition, with monasteries relationship again greater than a millennium.

“Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh has been a land for Armenians for a whole bunch of years,” mentioned Lebanese legislator Hagop Pakradounian, head of Lebanon’s largest Armenian group, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. “The folks of Artsakh are being subjected to a brand new genocide, the primary genocide within the twenty first century.”

The autumn of Nagorno-Karabakh is not only a reminder of the genocide, “it’s reliving it,” mentioned Diran Guiliguian, a Madrid-based activist who holds Armenian, Lebanese and French citizenship.

He mentioned his grandmother used to inform him tales of how she fled in 1915. The genocide “is definitely not a factor of the previous. It’s not a factor that may be a century previous. It’s truly nonetheless the case,” he mentioned.

Seroujian, the teacher in Beirut, mentioned her great-grandparents have been genocide survivors, and that tales of the atrocities and dispersal have been talked about at residence, college and locally as she grew up, as was the reason for Nagorno-Karabakh.

She visited the territory a number of occasions, most not too long ago in 2017. “We’ve grown with these concepts, whether or not they have been romantic or not, of the nation. We’ve grown to adore it even once we didn’t see it,” she mentioned. “I by no means considered it as one thing separate” from Armenia the nation.

A diaspora group referred to as Europeans for Artsakh plans a rally in Brussels subsequent week in entrance of European Union buildings to denounce what they are saying are human rights abuses by Azerbaijan and to name for EU sanctions on Azerbaijani officers. The rally is timed forward of an Oct. 5 summit of European leaders in Spain, the place the Armenian prime minister and Azerbaijani president are scheduled to carry talks mediated by the French president, German chancellor and European Council president.

In the US, the Armenian neighborhood within the Los Angeles space -– one of many world’s largest -– has staged protests to attract consideration to the scenario. On Sept. 19, they used a trailer truck to dam a freeway for a number of hours, inflicting main site visitors jams.

Kim Kardashian, maybe the best-known Armenian-American, went on social media to induce President Joe Biden “to Cease One other Armenian Genocide.”

A number of teams are gathering cash for Karabakh Armenians fleeing their residence. However Seroujian mentioned many really feel helpless.

“There are moments the place personally, the household, or amongst buddies we simply really feel hopeless,” she mentioned. “And once we speak to one another we kind of lose our minds.”


Related Press writers Emma Burrows in London, Kareem Chehayeb and Fadi Tawil in Beirut, Angela Charlton in Paris and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed.

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