22 Sep,2023 | Announcements

Safe YOU’s Statement on recent military aggression and risk of ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh


Safe YOU Armenia

Safe YOU’s Statement on recent military aggression and risk of ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh

Yerevan, 22 September 2023

On the 19th of September, the state of Azerbaijan launched an unprovoked military attack against the breakaway disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), populated by indigenous Armenians. This military aggression was the culmination of a 10-month-long blockade of the Lachin (Berdzor) corridor and forced starvation imposed on the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, ignoring the order of the International Court of Justice as of 22nd February, 2023.  

For 24 hours straight, Azerbaijani military forces heavily shelled and bombarded the entire territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Evidence from the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh shows that the bombardment between the 19th and 20th of September 2023 was much heavier and more intense than during any day of the 2020 war.

Based on the data published as of now:

  • While the Azerbaijani Government declared its actions as “counterterrorism'” measures, claiming that it was exclusively targeting ‘’legitimate military targets using high-precision weapons’’, it is clear this was not the case. Azerbaijani troops targeted the entire territory of Nagorno-Karabakh: Stepanakert and other civilian settlements came under intense and indiscriminate shelling with use of missiles, heavy artillery, combat UAVs and aviation, including prohibited cluster munition.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh has seen at least 200 deaths, including 10 civilians (5 children), and more than 400 injuries, including 40 civilians (13 children).
  • More than 10,000 people have been displaced, and the fates of thousands of people remain uncertain.
  • Thousands of families are unable to contact and locate their children and relatives. Armenian social media channels are full of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh searching for their children or relatives. 
  • Azerbaijani social media channels are full of calls to find the missing children and women, to rape them, dismember and feed them to dogs. Azerbaijani users are sharing the profiles of Armenian women from Nagorno-Karabakh on social media making bids on who will get those women to rape, when they are taken under Azerbaijani custody.
  • Azerbaijan has taken control of several territories in Nagorno-Karabakh region, including the historic Amaras Monastery (dating back to the 5th century), the first place in which the Armenian language was taught. 
  • Most peaceful settlements are physically cut off from Stepanakert, with Azerbaijani military controlling the roads.
  • The Healthcare system in Nagorno-Karabakh is paralyzed due to the shortage of medicine and power supply.

The disgraceful acts of the past months by the state of Azerbaijan and the recent military attack had a clear goal of depopulating and ethnically cleansing Nagorno-Karabakh, sending a clear message to the Armenian population: either obey or leave.

Although the United States, France, the EU, and other western actors responded to the situation through statements and called on Azerbaijan to immediately stop the hostilities, no urgent actions followed those statements. 

To ensure the physical security of the civilian population, the de facto leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh had to agree to the terms of the Russia-brokered ceasefire, which overall stipulates the secession of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan. In violation of the negotiated ceasefire statement, as of the evening of the 21st of September, it was reported that Azerbaijan again continued shootings.  

In this critical situation, where Russia has factually failed in its peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh, and where Turkey is fully supporting all actions of  Azerbaijan, it is imperative that the rest of the world takes proactive steps in relieving the already dire humanitarian crisis in the region.

The world cannot accept that a complex conflict negotiated within the OSCE Minsk Group for more than thirty years has been declared ended by a dictator through the violation of the UN Charter, the use of force, and ethnic cleansing. Closing our eyes to the actions of Azerbaijan and tolerating the use of force challenges the efficiency of all international major actors, especially the UN.

In the face of the dire situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, and in the light of the statements made by various states in the UN Security Council meeting convened on the 21 September we urge  the international community to stand together and apply any possible international mechanisms to stabilize the situation. More specifically we urge the following:

  1. Immediate Peacekeeping Deployment: Mobilize an international peacekeeping contingent to Nagorno-Karabakh to safeguard the lives and security of its civilian population.
  2. Sanctions on Azerbaijan: Impose meaningful sanctions on Azerbaijan to hold it accountable for its actions and deter further aggression. 
  3. Humanitarian Aid: Provide urgent humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict, including medical supplies, food, and shelter. Prioritize the safety and security of women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities who are particularly vulnerable in this situation. Mobilize humanitarian assistance specifically tailored to the needs of these vulnerable groups, including medical care, psychosocial support, and specialized services.
  4. UN Oversight: Strengthen the role of the United Nations in overseeing the peace process and upholding international law. Increase international monitoring and reporting mechanisms to hold accountable those responsible for violations against civilians, especially vulnerable individuals. 
  5. Media Coverage: To raise global awareness of the situation and its humanitarian consequences, ensure access of international media to the zones affected by the conflict for accurate and comprehensive media coverage of the situation.

Inaction is not an option. The international community must unite to prevent further suffering and to work towards a peaceful and just resolution for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. This will inevitably lead to stability in the region and contribute to global peace.

On a final note, as an organization with a mission to combat the global pandemic of gender-based violence, we would like to remind all actors in the field: if we tolerate violence at the state level, and remain silent, our efforts to eliminate violence at the societal or family level will fail and our mission will be meaningless.