". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Ilham Aliyev: The Face of Crimes against Armenians

September 14, 2023

Some years ago, Bob Dylan wrote one of his many grim observations about politics, “We live in a political world where love don’t have any place…we’re living in times where men commit crimes… And crime don’t have a face….” More often than not, Dylan’s words ring true. But right at the moment, one particular political crime does have a face. For the beleaguered Armenian Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, that criminal face belongs to Ilham Aliyev, the Islamist President of Azerbaijan.

At the time of this writing, Aliyev continues to enforce a genocidal siege against Artsakh. With the encouragement of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Aliyev is choosing death by starvation as his weapon of choice against Artsakh’s Armenian Christian enclave. His intention is to reclaim the disputed territory of Artsakh and to relocate Azeri Muslims there.

As I recently reported:

“Today, the Christians in Artsakh are in dire straits. The Lachin Corridor, that sole roadway connecting Artsakh with the most basic necessities, has been blocked for several months, gradually leaving the Christian community without food, medication, electricity, and other basic provisions. And unless international intervention takes place, some 120,000 Christians may either find it necessary to flee their beloved homeland or lose their lives to starvation, violence, or disease.”

For most of us, such a faraway crisis is easily overtaken by everyday life. For example, just yesterday evening, I enjoyed some special family moments when my youngest grandson — 11 months old — took his first steps. We all applauded while he smiled proudly, enjoying the extra attention. But very soon thereafter, I received an email from Anna Grigoryan, an Armenian friend who keeps me updated about the ongoing crisis in Artsakh. Having just shared a happy little celebration with my own family, her news was especially poignant.

Anna’s news had been sent to her by friends in Artsakh — mothers, fathers, and others who are struggling to survive and keep their children alive during the Azeri siege. Not only are they suffering from malnutrition, but they are nearly out of fuel for their vehicles and heating for their homes, and they have been without essential medications and medical care for months.

For example, according to several accounts, the number of miscarriages in Artsakh has tripled since the siege began. Ara and Anush of Stepanakert write that Anush has had several miscarriages during the past two years. Because she needed medical attention to prevent another tragic disappointment, the couple traveled to Yerevan, Armenia in order to get medical help.

But now the family can’t return to Artsakh, where their home is located. Instead, they are going from one house to another, relying on the hospitality of whoever can take them in. Of course, they can only hope and pray for an open Lachin Corridor — and a successful pregnancy.

Gohar and Ishkhan Danielyans, who live in the village of Meth Shen write, “We have a child who is sick at home and we’re out of medicine. My son can’t continue without medication. My sister, who lives in Yerevan, tried sending medicine several times, but was not successful. Canned food, our last food source is already gone, so we go to the forest and bring home whatever is edible. We don’t know how long we can last like this. Now that winter is right around the corner, the food sources from the forest will perish.”

Narine in Stepanakert describes her frightening situation, “My disabled child who is diagnosed with encephalitis can’t get treatment, nor can we take her to Yerevan to get medical help. Fruit and vegetables are only a dream to us now. We eat a chunk of bread and a small amount of rice every day. Soon, there will be no more rice…”

Along with children and their parents, Artsakh’s elderly men and women are also struggling. Valentina in Stepanakert explains, “I am retired, my legs are aching, there’s nothing left to eat. There was one bag of flour that we used bit by bit every day to make bread. Today was the last day of us making bread because there’s no more flour left. There’s no bread or flour at the market. Sometimes it gets restocked at the market and we have to stand in a long line, however, I can’t handle standing in line for hours to get bread or flour. I know a few times where people fainted in the lines. I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow. I have to go to the forest now to find food, so I won’t starve to death.”

Meanwhile, a September 11 report from Reuters is also alarming. “Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of building up troops near their shared border and around Karabakh in the past week, prompting fears among residents of both capitals that war could break out again. Russia has been heavily distracted by its war in Ukraine, raising doubts about its ability to maintain peace despite its assertion that it remains the security guarantor in the region.”

Bob Dylan got it right — we certainly do live in a political world. And it has grown increasingly troubled in recent months. Thankfully, some political voices in the U.S. are beginning to speak out on behalf of Artsakh. This week, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a heartfelt report on the Senate floor about the ongoing ethnic cleansing there. He called for the U.S. and the international community to respond and hold President Aliyev and his regime accountable for their actions in the region, which he said, “bear the hallmarks of genocide.” Menendez stated:

“We need to call out those individuals perpetrating this campaign of ethnic cleansing. We need to target them — including President Aliyev — with sanctions. We need to be cutting off their access to the wealth and oil money they have stashed away at financial institutions around the world, to their yachts and mansions across Europe. The evidence is there and we must preserve it so that Aliyev can be held accountable for these atrocities.”

While this terrible crisis continues, let’s speak up to our U.S. political representatives in Washington, D.C. about Artsakh’s struggling families and individuals. Let’s lift up their dangerous and heartbreaking circumstances in prayer. And let’s keep those innocent children, men and women, and their life-and-death needs in mind when we bless our food, our homes, and our own families.

Lela Gilbert is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council and Fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.