“On December 12, 2022, the Azerbaijani forces blocked the Lachin corridor, the only mountain road that links Armenia and the enclave of Artsakh. Before the blockade, the corridor was used for the delivery of vital supplies, including food and medication. The blockade is creating a humanitarian catastrophe.

On December 13, emboldened by the world’s indifference, Azerbaijan has cut off the gas supply as well, putting the local population in immediate danger of freezing to death.

The events unfolding now in Artsakh remind us of the tragedy of Srebrenica in 1995. Thousands of people died when the lack of a timely reaction to similar provocations and the general inaction of international peacekeepers resulted in the mass murder of civilians in what later became known as the Srebrenica genocide. This must not happen in Artsakh, especially when there are known means to prevent it.

The movements of Azerbaijani forces betray an attempted ethnic cleansing, a genocide on the European continent, and should be treated as such, with no allowance for clemency. Lack of swift and unified reaction on the part of the international community will only convince Azerbaijani government that they can continue with absolute impunity, facing no consequences for their actions. 

History knows several examples of what such dangerous unrestraint might bring, some of them still fresh and painful in our memory, like the tragic fate of the Tutsi ethnic group during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

An international humanitarian airlift should be organized in Artsakh immediately, delivering food and other essentials to the local population and evacuating those whose life is endangered to safety. Among these are several patients of the Republican Medical Centre Stepanakert in grave condition requiring urgent medical care that cannot be adequately provided because of the blockade.

The illegal blockade of Artsakh must be broken by all means necessary. The connection of Artsakh to Armenia and the rest of the world must be restored. Armenians have lived on these lands for thousands of years and should not be subjected ethnic cleansing. 

In the meantime, while the road remains blocked, the humanitarian airlift should help the local population to survive and sustain. There already is an operational airport in Stepanakert, which can be used for this purpose. This will not require any additional efforts on the side of the international community except for those necessary to maintain the airlift and ensure its safety. 

Again, this has been successfully done before. In 1948, a crisis erupted in Berlin, divided and controlled by the Allied forces and the Soviet troops. As Stalin tried to cut of the city and starve it of food, water, and electricity, the only remaining link were the air corridors used by the US forces to ferry supplies to the isolated sectors. 

Helping the people of Artsakh by organizing the airlift falls squarely in the legal doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) stipulating that international community has the responsibility to intervene and take appropriate collective action if the population of an individual state is facing the threat of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. This global political and legal commitment was designed specifically to prevent and diffuse situations like this and must be invoked in this case.

We draw parallels between the Berlin crisis of 1948 and today’s situation because after the World War II, political leaders have taken to saying the phrase ‘Never again.” Albeit a nice sentiment much to the credit of those repeating it, it will remain just that – a sentiment – unless there are some tangible actions to back it up. Artsakh is the world’s chance to prevent a modern genocide, and the consequences of failing to achieve that would be too heinous to even consider this option.

The events of December 2022 in Artsakh have revealed, with stunning clarity, the actual intentions of Aliyev’s government regarding the Armenian residents of Artsakh. Having tried and failed to drive them out of their land by force – or, in his own words, “to chase the residents of Artsakh like dogs,” –President Aliyev is now more than willing to subject them to the torture of slowly freezing to death and starving. He cannot be allowed to do that, nor can he be trusted with any legal rights to rule over them since he has demonstrated a blatant lack of concern.

The case of Hitler, together with several more recent examples, should have taught us that appeasing dictators does not work. They only understand the language of accountability. The sooner the intervention happens, the less force is required to derail their plans and put humanity back on track. Pleading with a dictator or patiently waiting for him to change his mind does nothing but encourage him and prolong the suffering of those he persecutes. President Aliyev must be stopped, and it is the world’s responsibility to make that happen–with utmost urgency.”

Signed by:

Fartuun Adan

2020 Aurora Prize Laureate; Executive Director, Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre

Noubar Afeyan

Co-Founder, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative; Founder and CEO, Flagship Pioneering; Co-Founder and Chairman, Moderna

Jamila Afghani

2022 Aurora Prize Laureate; President, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Afghanistan

Marguerite Barankitse

2016 Aurora Prize Laureate; Founder, Maison Shalom International

Tom Catena

Chair, Aurora Global Movement; 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate; Medical Director, Mother of Mercy Hospital

Lord Ara Darzi

Chair, Aurora Prize Selection Committee; Co-Director, Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London

Mirza Dinnayi

2019 Aurora Prize Laureate; Co-Founder, Air Bridge Iraq

Shirin Ebadi

Member, Aurora Prize Selection Committee; Founder, Defenders of Human Rights Center; 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Ilwad Elman

2020 Aurora Prize Laureate; Program Director, Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre

Leymah Gbowee

Member, Aurora Prize Selection Committee; Founder and President, Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa; 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Bernard Kouchner

Member, Aurora Prize Selection Committee; Co-Founder, Médecins Sans Frontières; former French Foreign Minister and former Minister of Health

Julienne Lusenge

2021 Aurora Prize Laureate; Co-Founder, Fund for Congolese Women

Dele Olojede

Member, Aurora Prize Selection Committee; Writer, Editor and Publisher; Pulitzer Prize Winner

Paul Polman

Member, Aurora Prize Selection Committee; Business Leader, Climate and Equalities Campaigner; former CEO of Unilever

Mary Robinson

Member, Aurora Prize Selection Committee; former President of Ireland

Ernesto Zedillo

Member, Aurora Prize Selection Committee; Director, Center for the Study of Globalization at Yale University; former President of Mexico