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Museum Statement: Artsakh Crisis

Artsakh, formerly known as Nagorno-Karabakh, has been the site of conflict for decades. Following the most recent war in 2020, this region, with its ethnically Armenian population, exists as an autonomous zone surrounded by Azerbaijan with only a single small land route, the Lachin Corridor, connecting it to the outside world. For almost two months, the Azerbaijani government has blockaded this route, cutting off the electricity and stopping nearly all movement of people and goods either into or out of Artsakh. Children have been separated from their parents, food is being rationed, and medicine and other essentials are in short supply.

As of December, the Azerbaijani government has also cut off the natural gas pipeline into the region, further eroding the ability of the populace to stay safe in the middle of winter. According to the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention in its Red Flag Alert for Genocide, “By cutting access to necessary utilities, more than 120,000 civilians (including children and the elderly), hospitals, schools, universities, and kindergartens have been, deliberately, deprived of gas, heating, and hot water. This, in addition to being a blatant violation of human rights, has created a humanitarian crisis…”

Armenians are now referring to this moment as a “second Genocide”, echoing the atrocities against them by the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. The Illinois Holocaust Museum urges the Biden administration and international leaders to mobilize immediate humanitarian assistance to the Armenians blockaded in Artsakh, as well as lend the full weight of their offices to lift Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor. Once the blockade has ended, the U.S. and international community must continue to engage meaningfully throughout long-promised negotiations to help ensure a lasting and just peace.

Here’s how you can join the Museum and support necessary changes in the region. Reach out to your local elected officials to ask for their support in calling the Biden Administration to:

  1. Publicly condemn Azerbaijan’s closure of the Lachin Corridor, Artsakh’s only humanitarian lifeline to the outside world.
  2. Launch a U.S. humanitarian airlift to Artsakh’s Stepanakert airport and work with USAID to pre-position emergency relief supplies in Armenia for immediate delivery as soon as Azerbaijan lifts its blockade.
  3. Cut off all U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan, fully enforcing Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, investigating Azerbaijani war crimes, and applying Magnitsky and other sanctions against Azerbaijani officials.

A sample phone script is provided below which you can personalize to share why immediate pro-Artsakh U.S. action is important to you.

Hello – I am {Name} from {City, State} I am calling to ask the President to step in to help save the Armenian families of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), who have been brutally blockaded by Azerbaijan for more than a month. Please work with the President to take decisive action to help save the indigenous Christian Armenian population of Artsakh, who are struggling to survive on the frontiers of global freedom: — Publicly condemn Azerbaijan’s closure of the Lachin Corridor — Launch a U.S. humanitarian airlift to Artsakh’s Stepanakert airport — Immediately cut off all U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan. Thank you.

Photo credit: Ghahramanyan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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