Author: Gonca Sönmez-Poole
October 25, 2020
Today marks the 30th day of the war in Nagorny Karabakh. In other words, it has been exactly one month since the country of Azerbaijan — encouraged and supported by the aggressively nationalist government of Turkey — has been waging war on the Armenians of NK, trying to reclaim the Azeri lands that Armenia won after earlier fighting that cost thousands of Armenian and Azeri lives, in addition to displacing tens of thousands of people, most of them Azeri refugees. Over the past four weeks, I have read and watched any and all articles and academic panels related to this nightmare (because that is exactly what war is, wherever it happens anywhere in our universe) since I wanted to know the facts (historical, sociological and legal) behind this mountainous region, with its undeniable majority of Armenian population, and yet internationally recognized as Azeri territory.
Yes I do know what Turkey and its ally Azerbaijan wants the world to know: that NK is indeed Azeri territory and that after the fighting in the early nineties, the international community has accepted that Armenia is in fact occupying seven different regions belonging to the country of Azerbaijan. I know that the Minsk group (US, Russia and France) of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) formed to help mediate negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan some 28 years ago, has basically failed at securing an end to the conflict, leaving big questions behind for the international community to dissect while attempting to balance the issues of territorial integrity versus self-determination.
And yet, I have been wracking my brain for an entire month trying to truly grasp what is at stake here, particularly on the Armenian side, with a sense that there is something beyond all the legalese, the consideration of boundaries, the military maneuvers, the mere facts and figures. I’ve come to understand that the conflict cannot be fully understood without expanding the scope to include the trauma that the Armenians of the world have been living with for over 100 years, the Armenian Genocide.
What may look like a refusal to give up, or an intransigence to acquiesce to some kind of negotiated settlement enforced by the international community, is in fact an appeal to something beyond legislation, negotiation or mediation…it is an appeal to a whole other dimension, to the sense of morality and humanity in the world that we live in. If we believe in social justice, we have to believe in the reality of what an Armenian in NK feels when a country that refuses to recognize the Genocide that happened back a century ago is now helping Azerbaijan send drones to attack their civilians and destroy their places of worship. The unresolved events of the distant past remain alive and present and cannot be separated from the course of these current events. There are some things in this world that go beyond what the international community may discuss at length and decipher in big conference rooms…and until we understand the core of what is driving the intense emotions that are pushing the world’s Armenians to make their voices heard in full force 24/7, we will never quite fully understand what the world has been watching (or maybe not watching) since September 27.