According to several experts who have spent time on the ground in Armenia, the Christian community in Nagorno-Karabakh is facing genocide.
“The situation is extremely urgent and existential,” Robert Nicholson, president of the human rights group the Philos Project, said in June.
“This is the oldest Christian nation facing again for the second time in only about a century the possibility of a genocide,” Nicholson added.
Commentators say international intervention is needed immediately to allow food and necessities to get to the Armenians trapped in Nagorno-Karabakh.
What is the blockade about?
In 2020, with the backing of Turkey, Azerbaijan reignited the long-simmering conflict by invading Nagorno-Karabakh. A six-week conflict ended in Azerbaijan seizing control of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The war killed 6,800 combatants, displaced 90,000 people, and left over 100,000 Armenian Christians cut off from the rest of Armenia. A narrow road less than four miles long, called the “Lachin Corridor,” connects Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and is the only way to get food and supplies to the Armenians living there.
In December 2022 pro-government Azerbaijanis, ostensibly protesting Armenian environmental violations, began blockading the Lachin Corridor, cutting off all access to aid. In April, the protests ended after Azerbaijani troops, defying warnings from the international community, established a military checkpoint on the road, continuing the blockade.
How is the blockade threatening Christian lives?
Since the start of the blockade in December 2022 the plight of the 120,000 Christian Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh has steadily worsened.
Lusine Stepayan, project manager at the Catholic relief group Caritas Armenia, told CNA in February that the blockaded population includes 30,000 children, 20,000 elderly people, and 9,000 people with disabilities.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
“The blockade of the Lachin corridor has left Nagorno-Karabakh without food, medicine, electricity, or natural gas,” Simon Maghakyan, a Denver-based researcher and human rights advocate, told CNA.
“The situation for the entire population is dire,” Maghakyan said. “They are on the brink of mass starvation. But the goal is psychological terror: to make the indigenous Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, who have lived in the region for 2,500 years, feel helpless and hopeless and leave at the first opportunity [when the blockade is lifted] for good.”
What does the pope have to say?
In his Dec. 18, 2022, Sunday Angelus remarks, Pope Francis voiced his worries about the situation in the Lachin Corridor.
“I ask everyone involved to commit themselves to finding peaceful solutions for the good of the people,” the pope said.
“In particular, I am concerned about the precarious humanitarian conditions of the populations, which risk further deterioration during the winter season,” Francis added.